Just in time for holiday shopping, we asked some of our Just Security editors to help put together a reading list, partly with the incoming Trump administration in mind.
We asked them: What are some books you’d recommend to help start thinking about the next four years? They don’t have to pertain to Donald Trump or his ideas necessarily, but could address looming national security threats or ongoing conflicts. Or they could just offer great opportunities to escape for a little bit.
Here are their suggestions, with a special section at the bottom on books written by Just Security editors that are very timely.
Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes — “In a riveting account that weaves history with fast-moving reportage and insider accounts from the Afghanistan war, Sarah Chayes identifies the unexpected link: corruption.” — Amazon
Rape during Civil War by Dara Kay Cohen — A meticulous analysis of conflict-related sexual violence, demonstrating that rape is not inevitable in conflict. — Fionnuala
Peaceland by Sevrinne Autesserre — Thoughtful, original and insightful analysis of why international peace interventions fail. — Fionnuala
Law’s Fragile State: Colonial, Authoritarian and Humanitarian Legacies in Sudan by Mark Fathi Massoud — Reflective analysis of contemporary state-building failures and the lessons that could be learnt from zealous rule of law export. — Fionnuala
Intimate Enemies by Kimberly Theidon — The limits of human rights accountability in the aftermath of atrocity crimes. — Fionnuala
The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis — “How a Nobel Prize–winning theory of the mind altered our perception of reality.” — Amazon
Anger and Forgiveness by Martha C. Nussbaum — “In this wide-ranging book, Martha C. Nussbaum, one of our leading public intellectuals, argues that anger is conceptually confused and normatively pernicious.” — Amazon
East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity by Philippe Sands — “A moving personal detective story, an uncovering of secret pasts, and a book that explores the creation and development of world-changing legal concepts that came about as a result of the unprecedented atrocities of Hitler’s Third Reich.” — Amazon
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance — “From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class.” — Amazon
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates — “In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.” — Amazon
Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism by David Kilcullen — “A wide-angle view of the current situation in the Middle East and analyzes how America and the West ended up in such dire circumstances.” — Amazon
The Terror Years: From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State by Lawrence Wright — “Here, in ten powerful pieces first published in The New Yorker, [Wright] recalls the path that terror in the Middle East has taken, from the rise of al-Qaeda in the 1990s to the recent beheadings of reporters and aid workers by ISIS.” — Amazon
Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency by David Greenberg — “A vibrant history covering more than one hundred years of politics—presidential historian David Greenberg recounts the rise of the White House spin machine, from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama.” — Amazon
Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher — “Authoritative, timely, and provocative, this deeply researched biography of Donald Trump provides a complex portrait of the man.” — Amazon
The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen — “A chilling and unflinching portrait of one of the most fearsome figures in world politics.” — Amazon
The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith — “This clever and accessible book shows that the difference between tyrants and democrats is just a convenient fiction.” — Amazon
Journalism After Snowden: The Future of the Free Press in the Surveillance State Edited by Emily Bell and Taylor Owen — A fascinating and provocative collection of essays that throws into sharp relief the challenge that mass surveillance presents to journalism, to engaged citizenship, and even to democracy. Not out until February. — Jameel
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson — Both employ magical realism to convey the horrors of slavery and North Korea, respectively. — Beth
The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam — A novel about love and the consequences of war in Sri Lanka. — Beth
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson — A fictionalized account of the challenges faced by the U.S. ambassador in Nazi Germany in the 1930s during the rise of Hitler. — Beth
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan — About a doctor in a prisoner-of-war camp on the famous Thai-Burma Railway during WWII. — Beth
The Death of the Adversary by Hans Keilson — About a young man who watches powerlessly, but with utter fascination, as an unnamed demagogue rises to power in 1930s Germany. — Beth
City of Thieves by David Benioff and Euphoria by Lily King — Both go in the “escape from the reality of everything” category and both are amazing reads. — Jennifer
Books by Just Security Editors:
Justice at War: The Men and Ideas that Shaped America’s War on Terror by David Cole — “How did America become a nation that tortured prisoners, spied on its citizens, and gave its president unchecked powers in matters of defense?” — Amazon Read this book, and find out.
Engines of Liberty:The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law by David Cole — “Engines of Liberty, especially in its coverage of how civil society organizations resisted Bush’s abuses in the war on terror, offers a reason for hope and a prescription for action in the Trump era.” — David Cole
Torture, Power, and Law by David Luban — With the endorsement of President-elect Trump, the ‘torture debate’ is back on the national agenda. Scott Horton writes, “If there is but one book to pick from the shelf dealing with the US political crisis over the use of torture, then clearly it is David Luban’s.” The chapters cover the morality of torture, the abuse of ticking-bomb arguments, the legal ethics of torture memos, and accountability for torture. –
American Spies: Modern Surveillance, Why You Should Care, and What to Do About by Jennifer Granick — “Weaving the history of American surveillance – from J. Edgar Hoover through the tragedy of September 11th to the fusion centers and mosque infiltrators of today – the book shows that mass surveillance and democracy are fundamentally incompatible.” — Amazon It just won the 2016 Palmer Civil Liberties Prize.
Law and Morality at War by Adil Ahmad Haque — “This superb book asks how morality and law can get a purchase on the violence of war. Law and Morality at War combines philosophical sophistication with a deep knowledge of the law, and that makes it uniquely valuable.” –– David Luban (It’s available in the UK in January and the US in February.)
The Drone Memos: Targeted Killing, Secrecy, and the Law by Jameel Jaffer — “For we should all be as fully aware as possible of the power to kill by remote control that has been bequeathed to Donald Trump as of January 20.” –– David Cole Jameel’s book is also one of The Guardian’s “Best Books of 2016” list, where Teju Cole calls it “a nice counterweight to the hosannas ushering Obama from office.”