Books are good for the soul.

I have read, as of today, 55 books this year. I know, but I have had some free time. Books are fun, books are good for the soul. Books never judge you, books never leave you. This year, I have not gone more than one week without getting through another book.

Among those books are some from Obama White House staffers — "Chasing Light" by Amanda Lucidon, "An Intimate Portrait" by Pete Souza, "West Winging It" by Pat Cunnane, "The World as It Is" by Ben Rhodes, "Yes We (Still) Can" by Dan Pfeiffer, and the recently-released-and-already-halfway-through "From the Corner of the Oval" by Beck Dorey-Stein.

Sidenote: Are there even more out there? Honestly, I could read every book that comes from that White House, so do share any you may see. I have not yet ordered "Becoming," but you know I have plans to be there when doors open the day that one gets released.

The other day, I found "From the Corner of the Oval" and was instantly confused. How did I not know this book had come out? I had never even heard the name. Nonetheless, the book went onto the very long wishlist I have. I finished what I had been reading — "The Miseducation of Cameron Post," for anyone curious — went into Chapters, and grabbed the Dorey-Stein memoir. Not only was the book discounted heavily — because Chapters regularly discounts bestsellers, not because the book was bad — but the copy I purchased was even autographed. Cool deal.

I have already sped through several chapters and, like most political memoirs, I find myself mentally traveling back through time, stopping around summer last year. Working directly for the prime minister, I regularly interacted with many characters that float through these memoirs — security officers, advance staffers, personal assistants. 

 The men and women who work around the clock and across the country to protect the prime minister are some of the toughest people I have ever met.  They do their jobs very well. That said, they were also some of the nicest people I spent time around and always made sure I was able to do my job well, too.

The men and women who work around the clock and across the country to protect the prime minister are some of the toughest people I have ever met.  They do their jobs very well. That said, they were also some of the nicest people I spent time around and always made sure I was able to do my job well, too.

This world is called the bubble for a reason, but as I look around, admiring each person in the staff cabin, I see the opposite of a container, even if we are on a highly protected 747 flying several hundred feet above the Earth.

The thousands of people who enable the president to travel are far too expansive for a bubble, with webs and branches interconnecting in inexplicable ways.

From the pilot, who can turn the plane on its side should we come under attack, to the local police officers redirecting traffic when we land, to the flight attendants, there embassies, the valets, the medical unit, the carpet guys—you won’t hear about them at the rallies.

The worker bees disappear when the bright lights come on and the music plays. But the infinite threads of endless work and invisible sacrifice are what I’ve come to appreciate the most.
— Beck Dorey-Stein

The above quote, found about 100 pages into the book, stood out to me. I only spent about four months with them, sure, but the countless staffers working for and around Trudeau were warm, inclusive, and fun. I saw firsthand how dedicated they were. I saw how hard they worked. I saw the hours they put into every event. They were always around, always helpful.

Advance staffers are geniuses. They are the ones you make sure you know. They are the experts, they know what you are looking for. They can share where the bathrooms are. They can let you know where you can find food. Most importantly, they know where I, the photographer, could go and where I could not go.

These books share tales like this. They also often note the pins they wore, pins that told guards they worked there and that they could stand near Obama. I had a pin too. People often saw the pin and asked, "What does that mean?" The pin meant I could venture around ropes and get the photos I wanted without security worrying, because I was known and vetted.

I often joked the pin was the one and only thing that prevented security officers from subduing or shooting me, and my mom would often say the pin should have been made larger, considering its importance. That was not the worst idea, since there were times when my lanyard or jackets would cover the pin.

 Can you spot the pin here? If you zoom in very closely, and I highly recommend that you do not, you'll see it's on my lapel. Imagine this person running through crowds or down hallways with his cameras bouncing around, however, and ask yourself whether you would be able to see that same pin and discern that I'm allowed to be there before bodychecking me to the ground. Thanks, as always, to Adam Scotti for needing a subject to test his remote camera on and providing me with the photo.

Can you spot the pin here? If you zoom in very closely, and I highly recommend that you do not, you'll see it's on my lapel. Imagine this person running through crowds or down hallways with his cameras bouncing around, however, and ask yourself whether you would be able to see that same pin and discern that I'm allowed to be there before bodychecking me to the ground. Thanks, as always, to Adam Scotti for needing a subject to test his remote camera on and providing me with the photo.

Many, many people around political leaders and are not seen nor heard. Advance staffers work extremely hard, always ensuring events operate smoothly and properly. These staffers deserve to be thanked, loudly and regularly. They make everyone look good. They make everyone look prepared. Thank you, thank you, thank you thank you thank you.

That makes these books even more fun: I have been there, I have seen what they have seen. Sort of, kind of. They have also made me want to keep some notes. I wrote about three chapters, then stopped. I have those three chapters saved, and may head back and read through them and add more, but those words are less for the world and more for me — and only me.

I would never, and could never, cook up an actual book worth your time. And take your money, too? Never. I drafted those chapters because, with time, looking back without help gets harder. My memory cannot last forever, that much I know. 

I often catch myself saying, "That reminds me of this time last summer." Those tales never get old. Those four months last year were worth every groan I hear when I speak those words. I may never stop saying them, even when I need to consult my "memoir" from time to time.

Riley Lange