Here are some of my favorites – let me know about yours.
- Paul T. David, et al., The Politics of National Party Conventions, Vintage Books: 1964 – This is a condensed Brookings Institution Study that provides a comprehensive analytical account of the nominating conventions from 1832 to 1960. (There is a 1972 update.)
- Douglas E. Egerton, Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln and the Election that Brought on the Civil War, Bloomsbury Press: 2010– an excellent account of the presidential election of 1860, including Lincoln’s suprise nomination at the Republican Convention and the five “Democratic Party” conventions, which – as southern fire-eaters had planned – split the Democratic Party, ensured Lincoln’s election, and provided the excuse for succession.
- Ralph G. Martin, Ballots & Bandwagons: The Exciting Events behind Five Major Party Conventions, Rand McNally & Co., 1964 – very interesting accounts of the Republican Conventions of 1900, 1912, and 1920 and the Democratic Conventions of 1932 and 1956.
- Steve Neal, Happy Days are Here Again: The 1932 Democratic Convention, the Emergence of FDR – and How America Was Changed Forever, William Morrow: 2004 – it’s a fascinating story because FDR needed 2/3 – and people including Al Smith, William Randolph Hearst, and Harry Byrd didn’t want him to get it.
- Norman Mailer, Miami and The Siege of Chicago, Signet: 1968 – A good first hand account of the 1968 conventions and one of many on the debacle that was the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago.
- Richard Reeves, Convention, Hardcourt Brace: 1977 – the 1976 Convention, including wrangling for credentials.
- Jeff Berman, The Magic Number: Inside Obama’s Chase for the Presidential Nomination, Ordway House: 2012 – Obama’s chief delegate counter provides a fascinating account of the 2012 race, including a behind the scenes look at the Denver convention.
- Stan M. Haynes, The First American Political Conventions: Transforming Presidential Nominations, 1832-1872, McFarland: 2012 – A good overview – political parties were more fluid in the 19th Century, the vast majority of these conventions took place in Baltimore, and watch out for pickpockets.
The excellent folks at DemConWatch have reprinted and added a couple of additional recommendations – http://www.demconwatchblog.com/diary/5468/best-convention-books
Here’s one: Charles Peters, “Five Days in Philadelphia”, about Wilkie and the 1940 convention.