There’s nothing like a long campaign season to weaken our faith in language. Transformative political speech is so rare that we weep to hear it—as many did when Michelle Obama spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Her account of waking up in a house built by slaves and watching her daughters play outside on the White House lawn was unforgettable. It left an image in our minds that has the potential to change us by reshaping our perspective.

Much of what we hear during political campaigns does not stir our imaginations. At best, many of the phrases we hear lack potency, and at worst, they leave our ears ringing with a high-pitched whistle meant to awaken old fears and hatreds. Unkeepable campaign promises tilt into magical thinking: “I alone can fix this.” The words are as empty as soap bubbles, but they have real consequences.

As we move into the campaigns’ last months, we need an antidote to the weightless, reckless words crowding the atmosphere. The beach books of summer, with their solvable mysteries, won’t do. We need language that anchors us in more difficult mysteries.