Just Security’s Recommended Holiday Reads

As we look ahead to next week, we’re starting to daydream about what books we might finally find the time to read during the holidays. Here are a few recommendations from Just Security’s editors … the books we wrote, the books we loved, and the books we’re planning to read next.

New Books by Just Security Editors:

 

The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World, by Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro

Law and Morality at War, by Adil Ahmad Haque

American Spies: Modern Surveillance, Why You Should Care, and What to Do About It, by Jennifer Stisa Granick

The Oxford Handbook of Gender and Conflict, Edited by Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Naomi Cahn, Dina Francesca Haynes, and Nahla Valji

Books We Loved:

 

Recommended by Fionnuala Ní Aoláin:

The Hunt for KSM: Inside the Pursuit and Takedown of the Real 9/11 Mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, by Terry McDermott and Josh Meyer

This is an ‘old’ book that I read this year prior to my visit to the Expeditionary Legal Complex at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for the pre-trial hearings in the 9/11 trial. It is face-paced, gripping, exceptionally well-written and gives insights into the life of KSM, as well as the process that ultimately enabled his capture. If you missed this in 2013, it is well worth adding to your 2017 reading list.

The Writing On the Wall: Rethinking the International Law of Occupation, by Aeyal Gross; A Half-Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine and the World’s Most Intractable Conflict, by Gershon Shafir

As we reach the half-century of Israeli occupation two books published this year offer insights and compelling analysis.

International Law and New Wars, by Christine Chinkin and Mary Kaldor  

For a gripping feminist analysis of new wars, this is a must read.

Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren

For sheer enjoyment, and deep insight into the effect of global warming and increased industrialization, read this book. It is based on the life story of a female scientist, with the added bonus of compelling descriptions of plant biology and trees.

Intercourse, by Andrea Dworkin; Feminism Unmodified, Catherine MacKinnon; Sexual Politics, by Kate Millett; The Subjection of Women, by John Stuart Mill

Given the contemporary #metoo moment it seems a good time to revisit some feminist (and other) classics.

Recommended by Joshua Geltzer:

Dark at the Crossing, by Elliot Ackerman

A gripping tale of the continuing cycles of violence in Syria, the spillover effects just beyond the border in Turkey, and the social, political, and psychological ramifications of brutal conflict.

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder

A decidedly worrisome encapsulation of trends that signal the emergence of tyranny, with all too much resonance for the past year in America.

The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, by Joseph Ellis

A powerful exposition of how key Founding Fathers who rebelled against a centralized government quickly found the need to build one to ensure that the fruits of their revolution lasted.

The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information, by Frank Pasquale

A fascinating exploration of the role that impenetrable algorithms increasingly play in shaping how we live and how information about us is used–often against our best interests.

Recommended by Jennifer Granick:

Underground Airlines, by Ben Winters

“The novel tackles the thorny subject of racial injustice in America. It takes place in a contemporary United States where the Civil War never happened, and slavery remains legal in four states, and it’s narrated by a former slave who has paid a steep moral price for his freedom,” writes Alexandra Alter in the New York Times.

Recommended by Beth Van Schaack:

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, by Hisham Matar

A memoir of someone who lost his father in Libya’s infamous Abu Salim prison.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, by Arundhati Roy

A novel set against the backdrop of the dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Say You’re One of Them, by Uwem Akpan

Poignant and brutally realist short stories set in West Africa.

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

A delightful novel about the crumbling, and evolution, of the aristocracy at the time of the Russian Revolution.

Recommended by Adil Ahmad Haque:

Ali: A Life, by Jonathan Eig

A clear-eyed and comprehensive biography of the greatest athlete of the 20th Century, a champion whose opposition to militarism and white supremacy polarized his own society and made him a global icon.

Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, by Kate Manne

This timely work of practical philosophy argues that misogyny is not defined by any private emotion or motivation—such as hostility or hatred toward women—but rather by a social function—controlling and punishing women who challenge male dominance while rewarding women who reinforce the status quo.

Philosophy in the Islamic World: A history of philosophy without any gaps, Volume 3, by Peter Adamson

A lively yet sophisticated history of philosophy in Muslim-majority societies, from their earliest days through the twentieth century, encompassing the ideas of Jewish, Christian, and female Muslim thinkers.

The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, by Frances FitzGerald

A past winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Bancroft Prize traces the American Evangelical movement from the Puritan era through the 2016 presidential election.

Violence and Restraint in Civil War: Civilian Targeting in the Shadow of International Law, by Jessica A. Stanton

Drawing on both quantitative analysis and case studies, Stanton demonstrates that both State armed forces and non-State armed groups exercise restraint during hostilities, largely avoiding violence against civilians in compliance with international law, in order to to win political support from domestic and international actors.

Recommended by John Reed:

It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis

The classic 1936 novel on how a populist presidential candidate brings fascism to the United States. At moments throughout 2017, I’ve found myself feeling like we’re using parts of this fiction as our national playbook. Often described as “not much of a novel” but nonetheless Lewis’ “best work.” The author himself labelled the book as “propaganda for only one thing: American democracy,” which he quickly penned amidst a rise in public support for populist, authoritarian ideas and figures — including Nazism — in a United States wracked by the Great Depression.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larsen

The experience of Bill Dodd, the U.S. ambassador to Germany between 1933 and 1937, and his family as they watched Hitler consolidate his rule after being democratically elected as chancellor of Germany. A terrifying look at a Western democracy’s descent into authoritarian fascist rule and of warnings ignored.

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, by Masha Gessen

Her biography of Putin and her firsthand view of how he seized total control of what had been a flawed yet democratic Russia. This is a solid resource for understanding the undemocratic techniques being unleashed on the U.S. from both domestic actors with authoritarian/autocratic tendencies and the Kremlin.

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by Jane Mayer

Every American should read this book. It’s an in-depth look at the 40-plus-year campaign by a small group of ultra-wealthy individuals, including the Kochs and Mercers, to essentially dismantle the U.S. government and our democracy as we’ve known it. The similarities behind the tactics used by this cadre of ultra-libertarians and Putin’s clique are also striking, especially when it comes to media manipulation and weaponized information/disinformation.

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, by George Packer

A look at all of the different places and experiences in America where it has become increasingly hard to get by since the 1970s. A portrait of a country on the economic edge, the type of edge that breeds an anxiety, which too often brings out the worst in our fellow humans.

Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia, by Karen Dawisha

It’s the best book I’ve read so far on Putin and his KGB associates’ rise to power. This book by a University of Miami of Ohio professor explained much to me about how the Russian elite came to be. According to Dawisha’s treatment, the KGB saw by the late ‘1970s that communism and the Soviet Union were on track to crumble and began playing a long game for power and wealth, which has borne fruit. It’s a useful read for insight into their game and outlook.

 

Books We Can’t Wait to Read:

 

From Kate Brannen:

Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom, by Thomas E. Ricks

This dual biography of George Orwell and Winston Churchill is at the top of my reading list. I imagine both men could teach me a lot about how to navigate the Trump era.

The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson

With North Korea in the news daily, I’ve added this novel to my growing pile of things to read. “In making his hero, and the nightmare he lives through, come so thoroughly alive, Mr. Johnson has written a daring and remarkable novel, a novel that not only opens a frightening window on the mysterious kingdom of North Korea, but one that also excavates the very meaning of love and sacrifice,” wrote Michiko Kakutani for the New York Times.

Collusion, by Luke Harding

The book that puts it all together. Harding, a reporter for the Guardian and its former Moscow bureau chief, tells the tale (or at least what we know so far) of the relationships between the Trump team and the Kremlin.

East West Street: On the Origins of “Genocide” and “Crimes Against Humanity,” by Philippe Sands

This book was recently recommended to me on a trip to Israel and now, I can’t wait to read it. “The bulk of Sands’s book deals with the parallel histories of two Jewish thinkers born at about the same time (1897 and 1900) in the same disputed patch of Eastern Europe (now parts of Ukraine and Belarus). His protagonists are indefatigable champions of rights who fought for their entire lives, indeed to their last breath, to produce a philosophy that led to the Nuremberg trials and then, decades later, to the possibility that not all of the mass murderers of our time will pass away peacefully in their sleep,” wrote Bernard-Henri Lévy for the New York Times.

 

Image: Getty 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Kate Brannen

Deputy Managing Editor of Just Security Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council former Senior Reporter covering the Pentagon for Foreign Policy Follow her on Twitter (@K8brannen).