Booklist | Best Reads 2011 for Diplomacy and International Affairs

In 2011 the lessons of US conflict, financial meltdowns, and ongoing political cycle made for a whole lot to think about.  These books are moving to the top of my booklist for better insights into diplomacy and international affairs–not because I have read them, but because they come highly recommended and touch on what I see as important topics.  Feedback is welcome.


  • ARGUABLY: Essays by Christopher Hithens.  With his passing the world has lost an estimable writer, debater, and a formidable foe for all who believe in God.
  • CATHERINE THE GREAT: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie.  Because you can never read enough Russian history.
  • GEORGE F. KENNAN: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis.  The most important biography for students of diplomacy and foreign policy of the year by an estimable giant in the field.
  • MORE THAN GOOD INTENTIONS by Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel.  Is foreign aid all bad? Here comes a third way for thinking about international development.
  • PAKISTAN: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven.  An inside look at a critical country that many fail to fully understand, especially with very high stakes, including nuclear weapons, strained military/civilian relations, and regional conflicts.
  • THE GREAT BIG BOOK OF HORRIBLE THINGS by Matthew White.  An amateur’s major contribution to documenting war.  In the broad sweep of history, we can see more clearly the impact and depths of humanity’s inhumanity–and also better understand by comparison of how many people were lost in each.
  • THINKING FAST AND SLOW by Daniel Kahneman.  Treading in the footsteps of Malcolm Gladwell, this Nobel recognized psychologist presents his life’s work addressing decision making, intuition, and what it means for persuasion.
  • THE SWERVE: How The World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt.  The debate over modernity continues–but it warrants consideration as to how the West arrived here.
  • THE QUEST: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World by Daniel Yergin.  His earlier book explained the world of energy and this one shows how policy should be directed in this critical area.
  • THE UNQUIET AMERICAN: Richard Holbrooke in the World by Derek Chollett and Samantha Power.  A review of the one of the most important American diplomats of the past thirty years.
  • TO END ALL WARS: A Story Of Loyalty And Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild.  A new perspective by a writer with a social conscience the “great war” that explores its supporters versus detractors, rather than necessarily looking at it from the sides of various combatants.
  • THE INFLUENCING MACHINE by Brooke Gladstone, illustrated by Josh Neufeld.  Who are the media and what does it mean for “great journalism” in the face of multiplying online content, amateur writers, and emerging forms for conveying information?
  • WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR by Karl Marlantes.  With Iraq scaling down and Afghanistan still ongoing, our need to better understand the horror and lasting effects of conflict remains high.
  • WHY THE WEST RULES–FOR NOW: The Patterns of History, and What they Reveal About the Future by Ian Morris.  Focus for a moment on the most important nexus of international politics–the east/west axis.



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