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Summer Reading List

Squeezing in a few more books before the school year starts? FSI faculty share their recommendations.

Walter Falcon

FSI senior fellow at the Center on Food Security and the Environment and the Helen Farnsworth Professor of International Agricultural Policy in Economics (Emeritus).

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance
Been meaning to learn more about the Rust Belt? This memoir is a chance to hear stories of working class Americans. Graduating from Yale Law School might look like upward mobility, but Vance shows how his family still struggled with abuse, alcoholism, poverty, trauma and the demands of new middle-class life.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
After he is named an unrepentant aristocrat in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to life in a luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin. As he watches some of Russia’s most tumultuous decades unfold, Rostov experiences the shift from a life of unfeeling luxury to emotional discovery and purpose. For an updated view on the Russian experience, be on the lookout for Kathryn Stoner’s upcoming book, Resurrected? Russia’s Return as a Global Power, in 2018.

Photo by Anna Om/Getty Images

Amy Zegart

FSI senior fellow and co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation.

Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick
You can never learn too much about our early history, but who knew that there were fresh takes left on the Battle of Bunker Hill? Philbrick manages to find new characters and new aspects of the familiar ones.

Raven Rock by Garrett Graff
Feel like the Cold War is coming back to haunt us? Those of us on the street might not survive a nuclear attack, but the U.S. government plans to. Raven Rock reveals secret plans to evacuate top leaders to bunkers and round up foreigners and dissidents in the event of nuclear war.

Destined for War by Graham Allison
China and the U.S. are heading toward a war neither wants, according to Allison. When a rising power challenges a ruling one, war is almost inevitable. It’s known as Thucydides’ Trap, and it’s happening again. For a preview, listen to World Class’s podcast, War with China, with Graham Allison and Niall Ferguson.

Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom by Condoleezza Rice
Becoming a democracy isn’t easy, and many scholars worry that this mode of government is in decline. Rice examines the road to democracy and the freedoms associated with it, both in the U.S. and around the world. Read an excerpt and hear Rice discuss the book with FSI faculty on World Class.

The Ideas Factory by Daniel Drezner
Through the foibles of pessimists, partisans and plutocrats, Drezner describes how traditional intellectuals have come to be replaced by thought leaders. This book may play a role in Zegart’s upcoming course, “Does Facebook Need a Foreign Policy?”

Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto
About the Dutch founding of Manhattan, Shorto’s narrative shows how the colony set the stage for New York’s immigrant culture and the American melting pot. Through two men’s perspectives, it examines the role of corporations and governments in American history. This book joins The Ideas Factory as a player in Zegart’s course, “Does Facebook Need a Foreign Policy?”

Eileen Donahoe

Executive director of the Global Digital Policy Incubator at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law.

The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce
A statement on the weakening of western hegemony, this book explores the crisis of liberal democracies. Luce projects the consequences of the Trump administration and the rise of European populism, and he analyzes how we can defend enlightenment values in the coming years. For more on democracy’s decline, check out Larry Diamond’s recommendations to keep it from spiraling further. And for a more optimistic perspective, look to Didi Kuo’s discussion of democracy innovation.

A World in Disarray by Richard Haas
To Haas, it seems the world as we know it is falling apart. He argues for a world order 2.0 that accounts for globalization and responsibilities countries have to one another.

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
Son of a mother “stolen” to Pyongyong and a father who runs a work camp for orphans, Pak Jun Do must navigate the mysterious world of North Korea. After managing which orphans eat first and which will perform manual labor, he rises quickly through the ranks to find himself a professional kidnapper and a rival to Kim Jong Il. For a more global view of North Korea today, listen to FSI experts unpack the current crisis on World Class.

Photo by manhhai

Paul Wise

FSI senior fellow at Stanford Health Policy and the Richard E. Behrman Professor of Child Health and Society.

Civil Wars: A History in Ideas by David Armitage
You’d think a civil war would be easy to recognize, but Armitage tells a more contentious history. Perspective plays a key role in engaging help from other countries, from the American Revolution to the Iraq War. Daedalus also examines policy responses to civil wars through a variety of FSI scholars.

Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden
It seems the Cold War is creeping back into our collective psyche. This book focuses on the Tet Offensive as a turning point for the Vietnam War. Through viewpoints on both sides, Bowden paints a full picture of the Battle of Hue.

The Riders by Tim Winton
Fred Scully peers at the arrival gate, eager to see his wife and daughter. He can’t wait to start their new life in the Irish countryside. But when the door finally opens, his wife is nowhere to be found, and their idyllic life begins to go down in flames.