Winter Reading, Vol. 1

Ladies and Gentlemen: Here's the first half-day's pickings from NewsGroup participants as to what to read this winter.  Fifteen of you responded with 40-plus suggestions!  I tried to create a uniform format, but gave up after the first couple of pages.  Bon appetite.  

- Ken Jensen

From Mari Banks: The Revolt of the Masses by Jose Ortega y Gasset.  Written in 1930, its very apropos for us and this age of anxiety.  

Also from Mari Banks: Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville; The Rights of Man/The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine; Meditations by Marcus Aurelius; Ethics by Benedictus de Spinoza

From Collum Clark: A truly outstanding book with an unusual perspective on the War of the American Revolution is Piers Mackesy's War for America. Mackesy tells the story from the perspective of Britain's grand strategy, with special emphasis on the political and organizational challenges posed on the home front by Britain's effort to wage a global war in at least five theaters. Written at the time of the Vietnam War, it has a good deal of resonance for U.S. foreign policy today.

From Ronald Cole: Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer by Tracy Kidder. This book affects international foreign policy since it describes the fundamental shift that has taken place in addressing infectious disease in the developing world. It is a remarkable book, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Also from Cole:  A Future Perfect : The Challenge and Promise of Globalization by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.  This book provides a detailed and involved argument for globalization. It discusses the counter arguments, and the realities of dealing with international bodies such as the IMF. It is extremely well written by two authors of the Economist magazine.

From Rachel Ehrenfeld: Rachel Ehrenfeld, Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It.

From Amb. Donald Gregg: C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters; C.P. Snow, Science and Government

From Mel Graves: James Michener, The Source

From Bill McGeehan: The Clash of Civilizations & The Remaking Of World Order by Samuel Huntington.  8-10 years old but still pertinent.  The term "The Clash of Civilizations" has become something of a buzz word and this puts a lot of meat on that bone.

From Joe Manguno: Okay, Ken, here's one you're not likely to get from anyone else: The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco. A superbly crafted novelization of the international race to find the prime meridian in the 17th Century, with all the implications for world trade and shipping, intertwined with much larger questions about life, God and man's purpose.

From Richard Millett: Wesley Clark's Waging Modern War.  (Better than his second book-and a study of the problems of dealing with modern tyrants)

 

Joe Nye, The Paradox of American Power  (for the present and future)

 

Dana Priest, The Mission  (Note especially the sections on Kosovo after intervention and the awful moral ambiguities

 

Richard Haass, Intervention  (Should have been required reading on Pennsylvania Avenue)

 

Russell Weigley, The American Way of War  (A history of American strategy with real implications for the present as well as the past)

 

Leslely Byrd SImpson, Many Mexicos  (Old but still fascinating  The best one volume history of any country I have ever read-and my students all loved it)

 

Tina Rosenberg, Children of Cain: Violence and the Violent in Latin America (uneven, but disturbing and at times insightful)

 

 And now two more off the wall ideas.

 

Keith Devlin, Goodbye Descartes.  A book on the end of logic and on much more.

 

Richard Neustandt and Ernest May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers  (The title says it all.)  

From William Norris: Franklin and Winston by John Meacham, Random House, 2003 - An interesting, often poignant, historical review of the two allied leaders in the era leadiing up to and during World War II.

 

Also from Norris: The Paradox of American Power by Joseph S. Nye, Oxford University Press, 2002 - Counterpoint to hard power, neo-conservatives and unilateralism

 

Also from Norris: The Ideas that Conquered the World by Michael Mandelbaum, Public Affairs (Perscus Book Groups), 2002 - How did we get here and the interplays of peace, democracy and free markets in the new world of today

From R. Prince: Old books worth looking at in light of current events:

Howard's The Partition of Turkey. for those of you familiar with Fromkin's work (Peace To End All Peace), this is of the same genre. mostly diplomatic history of the period before and after WWI. Found it a pearl.

Antonius' The Arab Awakening. Again, although written in 1938, and a book that has been the focus of much criticism by contemporary scholars (Dawisha comes to mind), for its time it is a fine carefully argued interesting book. worth reading if only to see what current Middle Eastern scholars are criticizing.

Zora Neale Hurston's Go Gator and Muddy The Water. retrieved writings of the Black novelist and anthropologist whose revival is due in large measure to Alice Walker who rediscovered her and paid to have a tomb stone placed on her unmarked grave. These are her anthropological writings about Florida that were done for the Federal Writers Project during the 1930s. Expunged from the record at the time, and Pamela Bordelon, it is a wonderful study of cultural history, about as good as it gets. Hurston was trained by Boas.

From Richard Slaughter: I recommend any one of three works by the Nobel laureate economic historian Douglass C. North.  I cite these in increasing order of theoretical sophistication, to be selected in light of the reader's background in political and economic history.

I offer these because of a deeply held belief that the ability of a society to function politically and economically is heavily impacted, if not determined, by its institutional structure (and history). Ergo, within can be found strategies through which to address many of the state-building issues of the day (through which one avoids violence associated with disaffected populations, failed states, etc.).

Caveat:  Successful economic and political development requires a secular state.  North does not have an answer to the problem presented by theocracy, wherein the state is an instrument of religious control and, in Bernard Lewis' terms, social dissatisfaction can be expressed only by creating a new sect.

The books are:

The Rise of the Western World.  Cambridge Univ. Press 1973.

Structure and Change in Economic History.  W.W. Northon 1981.

Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance.  Cambridge Univ. Press 1994.

From Richard Siegel: I am enjoying the D`Emilio biography of Bayard Rustin, a great inside look at the pacifist and civil rights movements. My students greatly like both Charles Kupchan , The End of the American Era, and Samantha Power on A Problem From Hell.  The latter is a very readable overview on the response of the international community to genocide and the former is a fairly balanced take on the way to view the past, present and future of U.S. foreign policy. I also liked Aryeh Neier`s autobiographic look at the origins of the human rights organizations, Taking Liberties.

From Bob Taichert: 20/21 Vision: Lessons of the 20th Century for the 21st by Bill Emmott, Editor in Chief of the Economist.  I found it terrific, informative and prescient.

Also from Bob Taichert: Edith Grossman's new translation of Don Quixote.

From Bob Wehrle: If you want to know why we are hated so much in the Middle East, read All the Shah's Men  by Stephen Kinzer, a new 2003 book.  It is about our government's involvement in the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadgh in Iran in 1953 and the reinstallation of our puppet, Reza Pahlavi, as the Shah.   Our Middle East policies have been a disaster ever since the Dulles brothers got involved.  If this book intrigues you, then read The Game of Nations by Miles Copeland, a 1969 out-of-print book, that follows up on the shenanigans of some of the same CIA operatives such as Kermit Roosevelt