Executive Book Club

Stacey Abrams on the books that have impacted her career the most

Former House Democratic Leader and Democratic nominee for Governor Stacey Abrams meets with Georgia voters in Metter, Monday November 5, 2018.
Melina Mara | The Washington Post | Getty Images

In addition to being a Yale-trained lawyer, entrepreneur and politician, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is an award-winning author who has written eight romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery.

Those novels, in total, have sold more than 100,000 copies. Her latest book, "Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change," is part memoir, part self-help book and scored a spot on the New York Times bestseller list.

As a political leader who has accomplished a lot in her career, Abrams says there is one collection of books that has had the most impact on her professional journey.

"I actually have spent the most time reading Robert Caro's compendium on Lyndon B. Johnson," she tells CNBC Make It at The Riveter Summit. "I think President Johnson was an extraordinary leader and a deeply flawed man who made terrible mistakes and did extraordinary things."

Abrams says Caro's collection "The Years of Lyndon Johnson," (which includes four books: "The Path to Power," "Means of Ascent," "Master of the Senate" and "The Passage of Power") taught her that "the best way to be a leader — whether it's in politics, or in business, or in life — is to recognize that very few people are one dimensional."

"We are often comprised of tremendous capacity and terrible fears and failures," says Abrams. "I've used his journey to really help remind me of how to be a better person, but also, what are the stakes and how far can we reach?"

Abrams says Caro's books have also taught her about "the power of redemption." Johnson was "an avowed racist who helped put in place the architecture that created the opportunity for me to sit where I sit and to stand where I stand," says Abrams.

The 36th president has a controversial legacy: He was known to use racially offensive language, and his presidency was marked by failures around the Vietnam War, and racial strife. Yet Johnson also signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (making it unlawful to discriminate based on race, among other things) and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (which prohibited racial discrimination in the voting process). He also ushered in multiple war on poverty programs that still exist today.

Abrams, who gained national attention in 2018 when she ran as Georgia's democratic candidate for governor, understands the impact of Johnson's work and has since used her own platform to continue the fight for equal access to voting.

Shortly after losing the Georgia governor's race to Republican Brian Kemp, Abrams started her voting rights group Fair Fight. According to the organization's website, its mission is to "promote fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourage voter participation in elections, and educate voters about elections and their voting rights."

At the Lesbians Who Tech & Allies summit earlier this year, Abrams spoke about the role she believes voter suppression played in her election outcome last year. "Voter suppression, it works by convincing people in practice that they don't count," Abrams said as she talked about the need to bring more awareness to the issue. "We need to talk about voter suppression the way we talk about the Kardashians ... with such insistence that people have to respond."

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