Booklist | Diplomacy and International Affairs Holiday List 2012

Thanks to Matthew Carr at for a list of “23 new books I wish Obama and Romney would read “.  Recommended highlights include:

2. ‘The Invisible Arab: The Promise and Peril of the Arab Revolution,’ by Marwan Bishara.  Al Jazeera English political analyst and editor Marwan Bishara has written a straightforward, concise account of an “Arab Spring” long in the making. “The Invisible Arab” counters the misleading stereotypes and oversimplifications sometimes found in Western media narratives about the uprisings.

3. ‘Private Empire: Exxon Mobil and American Power,’ by Steve Coll. This is an important exposé of Exxon Mobil, an unelected private company that is accountable to no one but enjoys a staggering amount of influence on domestic and international policy decisions.

5. ‘There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra,’ by Chinua Achebe. The author of the celebrated “Things Fall Apart” has written a powerful postcolonial take on the Nigerian-Biafran War, Great Power proxy interventionism, and UN impotence in the face of humanitarian crisis. This book blends memoir, poetry, historical analysis and meditations on the role of the artist in this uniquely personal take on the history of a state still engaged in postwar nation-building. (Check out the Monitor review here.)

9. ‘Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power,’ by David E. Sanger. Just how much of a foreign policy hawk is President Barack Obama? In some surprising ways, as this book shows, he has gone further and become more secretive than his predecessor. This is necessary reading for anyone trying to understand Obama’s first-term

10. ‘Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent,’ by Matthew Carr. What are the humanitarian consequences of European strategies to protect their own borders? This book provides contemporary and historical context and contends that European immigration policies and so-called “hard borders” have a role in explaining instability and border conflicts in poorer states.

12. ‘Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point,’ edited by Subhankar Banerjee. “Arctic Voices” is a sprawling collection of essays about environmental catastrophe and the dangers of global warming, with contributions from writers and photographers as well as indigenous and environmental activists.

14. ‘Exit the Colonel: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution,’ by Ethan Chorin. How did the US end up supporting Libyan rebels in 2011 when it had pursued rapprochement with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi just a few years earlier? How did Western realpolitik exacerbate the suffering of average Libyans before the revolution, and what barriers stand in the way of democratic transformation now? “Exit the Colonel” fills some of the gaps in Western media coverage

16. ‘Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750,’ by Odd Arne Westad. “Restless Empire” is a history of Chinese international relations over the past 250 years. Countering dominant historical narratives about the subject that focus on Chinese nationalism and centrality, this book considers the ways in which hybrid identities and cultural changes have shaped foreign policy.

17. ‘Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire,’ by Deepa Kumar. Deepa Kumar, author and Rutgers University professor of Media Studies and Middle East Studies, offers a counter to the fear-mongering and stereotypes that she believes comprise much of Western discourse about an Islamic threat.

19. ‘Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State,’ by David Patrikarakos. In “Nuclear Iran” journalist David Patrikarakos attempts to demystify the 50-plus years of history behind Iran’s nuclear program, including its origins in Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program and the US-backed Pahlavi dynasty’s autocratic efforts to remake Iran in the image of the West. This book is a must-read for those seeking to understand Iran’s contemporary nuclear crisis.

20. ‘Games without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan,’ by Tamim Ansary. Scheduled for release in November, “Games without Rules” explains longstanding problems and internal difficulties encountered in efforts toward nation-building in Afghanistan and shows how great power politics (and invasion) have been stalling the process for the past two centuries.

21. ‘China Goes Global: The Partial Power,’ by David Shambaugh. Scheduled for release in January 2013, “China Goes Global” is a clear, accessible take on China in the age of capitalist globalization. This book addresses China’s role in the world economy as well as in global politics and diplomacy.

23. ‘The Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe,’ by Marci Shore. “The Taste of Ashes,” scheduled for release in January 2013, chronicle of the end of totalitarianism in Eastern Europe and its discontents through interviews and historical analysis.

via Foreign affairs: 23 new books I wish Obama and Romney would read – ‘Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent,’ by Matthew Carr –

And another list of books–with my picks listed below–and the FP top global thinkers who recommended it, where helpful:

  • Pinker, The Better Angles of our Nature on the decline of global violence from a renowned sociolinguist.  Controversial, debated and important.
  • Acemoglu and Robinson, Why Nations Fail is the top IR book of the year for updating the development debate with loads of data.
  • Isaacson, Steve Jobs since Apple is more profitable that many nations combined and the leadership lessons from the genius/tyrant warrant consideration.
  • Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow took this Nobel Laureate a lifetime to distill. Critical look at the individual and decision-making.
  • Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo (No. 62), recommended by Jocelyn Wyatt
  • The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt (No. 98), recommended by Norman Ornstein
  • The World America Made, by Robert Kagan (No. 50), recommended by Hussain Haqqani, former Ambassador of Pakistan to the US.
  • It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein (No. 46), recommended by Jonathan Haidt, to help explain how the US arrived at this point.
  • 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami (No. 49), recommended by Scott Sumner for fiction and futurism from one of Japan’s most important living writer.
  • Joseph Anton: A Memoir, by Salman Rushdie (No. 33), recommended by Ruchir Sharma because learning to live under a fatwa makes the rest of us feel a little more grateful for the simplicity and freedom of our lives.

via The Global Thinkers’ Book Club | Foreign Policy.


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