Just Security’s Summer Reading List

During these final days of summer, hopefully some of you are able to take a break and relax a little before gearing up for what lies ahead this fall. And what a great time to squeeze in some reading … To help you out, here are some recommendations from the Just Security team.

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Less by Andrew Sean Greer. Summer is a time for fiction, and Less is an immediately engaging, surprisingly funny, and very smart novel about the connection between one’s writing and one’s identity. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. — Joshua Geltzer

LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media by P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking (Out Oct. 2, 2018). I’ve had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of LikeWar, and it’s a must-read for anyone interested in how the Internet is changing the nature of conflict and how the dynamics of conflict are changing the Internet. — Joshua Geltzer

The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney. This is Heaney’s translation of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, telling the story of the wounded hero marooned on a Island during the siege of Troy. Perfect reading for those thinking deeply about the conflict between personal integrity and political expediency. — Fionnuala Ni Aolain

Wars of Law, Unintended Consequences in the Regulation of Armed Conflict by Tanisha M. Fazal. A great and counterintuitive read on the modern implementation of international humanitarian law by my colleague at the University of Minnesota. — Fionnuala Ni Aolain

Journey to Extremism in Africa by UNDP. For those wanting a serious policy read on the drivers to violent extremism and radicalization, this is, in my view, the most substantial and well-researched work on the topic currently available. A weighty but accessible study with much to say not only about radicalization on the African continent but beyond as well. — Fionnuala Ni Aolain

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi. Written around the rubble-strewn streets of U.S.-occupied Baghdad, this is the story of a scavenger who builds a modern day Frankenstein.  It is a dark and satirical gothic tale, an extended metaphor for the interminable carnage in Iraq but also a gloriously funny read about the traction of the human spirit in the midst of it all. Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. — Fionnuala Ni Aolain

Destroying the Caroline: The Frontier Raid That Reshaped the Right to War by Craig Forcese. Why on earth do so many international lawyers think that an isolated incident from 19th century North America provides the legal test for whether the United States can legally bomb Iran, or North Korea, or launch a massive military campaign against ISIS in Syria? Forcese’s sophisticated and beautifully written book places the Caroline incident in its historical and legal context, and explains how it was later transformed and transplanted into the modern law of interstate force. — Adil Ahmad Haque

American War By Omar El Akkad — Set in the closing decades of the 21st century and the opening ones of the 22nd, El Akkad’s novel recounts what happened during the Second American Civil War between the North and South and its catastrophic aftermath. It is a story that extrapolates the deep, partisan divisions that already plague American politics and looks at where those widening splits could lead. — Jennifer Granick

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. Novel about a young book editor’s affair with (a barely fictionalized) late-in-life Philip Roth, and then it segues into the story of an Iraqi Kurdish American economist stuck in security holding at Heathrow Airport while en route to try to find his brother, who has gone missing in Iraq. A page-turner; I’m still thinking about, weeks after finishing it. — Laura Rozen

Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht. Spare, elegant and understated spy novel, about a young American woman working for the CIA in Argentina ahead of a military coup in the 1960s. — Laura Rozen

Tangerine by Christine Mangan. A young, newly wed British woman living in Morocco gets a visit from an old American college friend…in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley). — Laura Rozen

Messing With the Enemy by Clint Watts. A must-read chronicle of how social media morphed from connecting people, to connecting terrorists, to now dividing Americans. Watts describes how platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have allowed out enemies to coordinate with each other and infiltrate our social fabric in plain sight. — Asha Rangappa

Political Tribes by Amy Chua. Chua explains how America’s blindness to the power of bonding based on race, religion, and other fundamental identifications has often led it astray in creating foreign policy — and how those same “tribal” pulls are polarizing American society and potentially creating our own greatest Achilles heel. — Asha Rangappa

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou. I could not put this book down. It’s an incredible feat of investigative reporting about a sham of mind-boggling proportions. If you think you know about Theranos, the blood-testing startup exposed for its pervasive fraud in 2015, you have no idea how bad it actually was on the inside until you read this book. — Kate Brannen

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer. I read this when it first came out in 2014 and loved it. At the time, I saw it as a lookback at how the country had reached its current state, but now I see it as a foreshadowing of what was to come. With profiles of Newt Gingrich and Andrew Breitbart, Packer had his finger on exactly which forces at play were shaping our future. I think it’s a good time to revisit it. — Kate Brannen

Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

 

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