Summer is a season made for travel and long days spent lolling beach- or poolside. It's the perfect time to cross that book you've been meaning to read off your list. And if you're short on reading material, don't worry: We've got you covered. In our second annual summer reading list, we recommend books to keep you engrossed — and informed — during those extra daylight hours.
The Red Web
Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan
A timely book for today's worldwide political maelstrom, Red Web documents Russia's surveillance systems through the years. Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan catalogue the uses of surveillance, cyber-capabilities and information warfare from the Soviet era through President Vladimir Putin's early tenure. The tools are among the Kremlin's most powerful and effective means not only to maintain control over Russia but also to expand its influence abroad. The authors showcase their wealth of knowledge — based on interviews with important figures in the cyber and information sectors — by carefully outlining the differences among Moscow's various surveillance tactics, among the conflicting actors in the Russian political landscape and among their political motives. Soldatov and Borogan's book is a must read for anyone who wants to push past the media hype to understand Russia's capabilities and constraints.
American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America
The United States is a vast country whose diversity transcends mere geography. In American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, Colin Woodard tries to make sense of the many invisible borders and cultural legacies that overlay the United States. The author defines 11 distinct zones in the country, describing the identities and values that define them. From the "Left Coast" of Washington, Oregon and California to the hollers of Appalachia, Woodard masterfully captures the history of each region and its importance to U.S. politics today.
Sudan: The Failure and Division of an African State
Sudan is a fascinating and complex country in the midst of a foreign policy overhaul. Richard Cockett lays out the internal and external geopolitical challenges that the state has reckoned with since its independence in Sudan: The Failure and Division of an African State. By treating the capital, Khartoum, as a city-state surrounded by the rest of the country, Cockett provides a compelling framework for understanding Sudan's many contradictions. He also addresses the country's relations with the outside world through the decades, describing how foreign powers have tried to gain leverage there for their own ends, and the sometimes unintended consequences of their actions. As Sudan pursues closer ties with the West and approaches an eventual power transition, Cockett's work offers a comprehensive and comprehensible primer for readers looking to better understand the country.
War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft
Robert D. Blackwill & Jennifer M. Harris
Money is power, or so the saying goes. Robert D. Blackwill and Jennifer M. Harris reveal the truth underlying the cliche in War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft. Examining the ways countries use economic policy to advance their foreign policy agendas, Blackwill and Harris conclude that the United States is falling behind in the new global battle underway. And unless it changes tack, it could cede its position as a global superpower.
Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea
Teffi, trans. Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Anne Marie Jackson and Irina Steinberg
As the centennial anniversary of the Russian Revolution approaches, the memoirs of Nadezhda Aleksandrovna Lokhvitskaya — an author and playwright of the time who published under the nom de plume Teffi — offer insight into the tumultuous era. Teffi recounts her travels from her home in St. Petersburg (then Petrograd) to Moscow before fleeing the Bolsheviks to Odessa, Crimea and, finally, Paris. A century later, her memoirs present a deep and personal look at Russia during a critical period of its history — and one that shares characteristics in common with the contemporary era.
A Splendid Exchange
Covering the history of global trade from the Silk Road to the World Trade Organization, William Bernstein's book is an ambitious one. The end result is a fascinating account, rife with well-chosen anecdotes, that reads almost like a novel. (Readers game for a more granular academic approach may also enjoy Power and Plenty by Kevin O'Rourke and Ronald Findlay.)
The World of Yesterday
Stefan Zweig, trans. Anthea Bell
In the 1920s, Stefan Zweig was one of Europe's most popular authors. The Austrian writer mixed with the intellectual and creative heavyweights of his day, including Sigmund Freud, Richard Strauss and H.G. Wells. When the Nazis came to power in Germany, he fled his home country, seeking haven in the United Kingdom, the United States and then Brazil, where he and his wife committed suicide at the height of World War II. Zweig's autobiography, The World of Yesterday, provides not only a fascinating view of the author's life and times, but also an eloquent first-person account of the rise of fascism in Europe. Fans of his writing may also be interested in Zweig's novel, Beware of Pity, as well as his collections of short stories.
Geopolitics, Geography and Strategic History
One of several recent books on the subject, Geoffrey Sloan's work briefly introduces the concepts of geopolitics and the history of the field. The author then delves into case studies that explore how the perception and scope of geographic interests can change over time. Sloan emphasizes that geography is not deterministic and debunks criticisms of geopolitics as an excuse for imperialist policy or as an outdated field of study in the age of modern technology. And by relying on a narrative style to address the interaction between geopolitics and policy around the world, Geopolitics, Geography and Strategic History manages to make an academic subject accessible to a wide audience.