Category: News

Title: SSP Recommended Reading, Viewing, and Listening, Summer 2021

Most years, we ask the SSP community what books they would recommend to students who want to keep their minds busy over the summer. For 2021, we’re changing things up! We asked our students, alumni, and faculty what fiction books, movies, television shows, and podcasts they would recommend. The only thing not allowed? Nonfiction books. Their responses range from space operas to think tank podcasts, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Missing the nonfiction? Don’t worry. There’s plenty of that to be found in our 2020 recommendations and our 2019 recommendations.


Cover of 2034: A Novel of the Next World War

2034: A Novel of the Next World War

By Admiral James Stavridis and Elliot Ackerman
About: US National Security, International Relations, Military Operations, Technology or Cybersecurity, Nuclear Issues, Regional Issues, Contemporary Issues

“A fascinating look at a potential future for the United States if our technological advancements slow, and if brinkmanship increases.” — Sophia Gatsios (SSP’20)

“Scarily plausible (at least I thought so).” — Prof. Bruce Hoffman

Cover of The Day the Sun Died

The Day the Sun Died

By Yan Lianke
About: Regional Issues, Politics

“This title is banned in Lianke’s home country of China. It offers a striking, metaphoric depiction of life in the Chinese countryside under CCP rule. The differences in translation make it difficult to follow at times. However, if you look past the translation issue, it makes for a very compelling read.” — Kevin Ryan, SSP’23

Cover of Leviathan Wakes, book 1 in the Expanse series

The Expanse series

By James S. A. Corey
About: International Relations, Politics

“One of the most well-researched science fiction space operas out there. The Expanse explores near-future space colonization but without the ‘United humanity’ trope typically found in sci-fi, which results in an incredibly well-written sci-fi of how people explore the unknown while still grappling with the same conflicts we have today.” — Caleb Yip, SSP’23

Cover of Ghost FleetGhost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War

By P. W. Singer & August Cole
About: US National Security, International Relations, Military Operations, Technology or Cybersecurity

“This book provides an intriguing look at what a kinetic conflict would look like between the United States and China in the ‘near future’. Its narrative form makes it an easy, compelling, and informative read.” — Kevin Ryan, SSP’23

Cover of Pantheon


By KR Paul
About: US National Security, Military Operations, Technology or Cybersecurity, Women in the Military, Special Operations, Sexual Assault

“Great military science fiction book that masterfully merges great characters, military special operations, special powers, international operations, sexual assault, friendship, and romance. A fantastic first novel by an accomplished woman in the military herself.” — Marta Kepe, SSP’14

Cover of Queen & Country

Queen and Country

By Greg Rucka
About: Terrorism, Intelligence, International Relations

Queen and Country is a great look at the operational unit of a fictionalized MI-6 that foregrounds bureaucratic politics and issues of alliance management over traditional action set pieces (though there are certainly some of those as well). Series creator Greg Rucka weaves at-the-time contemporary political issues through the various arcs lending the affair a greater degree of reality. A spiritual sequel to the equally tremendous British tv series The Sandbaggers (which I also recommend if you can track it down), Queen and Country is a great diversion from the traditional intelligence service material and offers a nice break from pages of dense text without fully shutting off your brain.” — Jake Howry, SSP’17

Cover of the Red Sparrow Trilogy

Red Sparrow Trilogy

By Jason Matthews
About: Intelligence, US National Security, International Relations, Technology or Cybersecurity, Regional Issues, Contemporary Issues, Politics

“The Red Sparrow trilogy is both a page-turning novel worthy of a summer getaway and a fascinating insight into the world of espionage. Written by Jason Matthews, who spent 33 years as a CIA operations officer, the trilogy follows a CIA officer and a Russian intelligence officer (a beautiful ex-ballerina “sparrow” trained to elicit information through seduction) whose professional and personal lives become increasingly intertwined over the course of this engrossing narrative. For those who have seen the film adaptation, it pales in comparison to the written work. Matthews, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year, was our generation’s John Le Carré: That rare combination of a beautiful storyteller with one who has lived his subject matter. Over the course of his career, he specialized in denied area operations and served as Chief of Station in various locations. Those interested less in intelligence per se and more in national security generally will find palace intrigue from the towers of the Kremlin to halls of U.S. Congress. SSP students, alumni, faculty, and staff looking for an excellent combination of escapist spy thriller with a realistic look behind the curtain of human intelligence operations, look no further for your next summer read.” — Austin Dahmer, SSP’23

Cover of The Traitor Baru Cormorant

The Traitor Baru Cormorant

By Seth Dickinson
About: Intelligence, International Relations, Military Operations, Politics

“For those seeking escapism in fiction, look elsewhere. This secondary-world/geopolitical fantasy novel is a brutal exploration of soft power, influence in all its forms, and revolutionary subversion. Also a pretty fun guide to economic warfare. Highly recommend.” — Matt Finkel, SSP’23

“This is a hard fantasy book, but the plot hinges on the economics of colonization and rebellion and the protagonist is an accountant for the colonizing state. The politics, both internationally and domestically, are realistic and fascinating.” — Kara Joyce, SSP’23

Movies and TV

Poster for April 9th

April 9th

About: International Relations, Military Operations, History

“This certainly didn’t win any Oscars and it’s in Danish, but if you’re interested in the parts of WWII that tend to get a little less attention, April 9th is a unique perspective on the German invasion of Denmark. Take away from it what you will, but for me the futility of resisting the Wehrmacht on bicycles gives a real sense of the hopelessness that must’ve been felt in the beginning of the war. It’s also a stellar anecdote for explaining why countries have to align themselves together—especially smaller ones with larger ones.” — Peter Mihalopoulos, SSP’23

Poster for The Bureau

The Bureau

About: Terrorism, Intelligence, Technology or Cybersecurity, Nuclear Issues, Regional Issues

“A series that depicts an intelligence service that isn’t the CIA or MI6 and does so with a reasonable limit to its artistic license.” — Brian Hayes, SSP’18

Poster for Dark


“A German post-apocalyptic science-fiction show, Dark ruminates on time, existence, and memory like a graduate class in Philosophy.” — Dr. Elizabeth Grimm

Poster for Rogue One

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

About: Intelligence, Technology or Cybersecurity

“Legend has it that after watching this movie, Darth Vader force-choked his CIO and said, ‘I find your lack of cybersecurity disturbing.’

Rogue One is about a galactic hegemony which fails to protect the confidentiality of information regarding its critical infrastructure, the Death Star. From flawed HR policies leading to insider threats, to a lack of security controls such as authentication, the Empire’s problems with information systems security and incident response caused the Death Star schematics to fall into the hands of Rebel scum, who later weaponized the information in A New Hope.” — Yue En Koh, SSP’21

Poster for The Night Manager

The Night Manager

About: Intelligence, Arms Trafficking

“Six episodes and based off great material.” — SSP Alumnus

The Night Manager proves that television is the ideal format to bring [John] le Carré’s novels to life. This mini-series is tightly paced, suspenseful and boasts strong performances from the likes of [Tom] Hiddleston, [Hugh] Laurie, [Olivia] Colman and [Tom] Hollander. With any luck, this series will open the doors for more of le Carré’s classic spy tales to make their way to the small screen.” — Jesse Schedeen, IGN

Poster for Watchmen


About: US National Security, Military Operations, History, Contemporary Issues

“Oh my goodness, Watchmen is the best TV show I have seen in a long time. Though it is based on the graphic novel of the same novel, this TV show starts from the backdrop of the Tulsa Race Massacre and examines buried racial trauma (and the ultra-nationalist originators of that trauma). This is not just a show about superheroes: It is a show about environmental degradation, fascism, and white nationalism. It is incredible.” — Prof. Elizabeth Grimm


Podcast cover for Kerning Cultures

Kerning Cultures

About: Contemporary Issues, Terrorism, Politics, Middle East

“Compelling stories from the Middle East.” — Christina Kindlon, SSP’23

Kerning Cultures tells stories from the Middle East that reflect the depth and richness it has to offer. The best way I can put it is that this is a This American Life for the Middle East. It’s that good. The episodes are beautifully woven together, exploring the different aspects of Middle Eastern culture and the individuals that live there.” — Rowan Slaney, The Guardian

Podcast cover for Russian Roulette

Russian Roulette (CSIS) and Why it Matters (CFR)

About: US National Security, International Relations, Military Operations, Technology or Cybersecurity, Nuclear Issues, Regional Issues, Politics

“Literally all of the CSIS and Council On Foreign Relations podcasts are outstanding but especially these two. They’re highly informative while still being interesting. Neither podcast sounds overly scripted, the guests and hosts flow through their conversation.” — Samantha Pembrook, SSP’23

Podcast cover for Throughline


About: Terrorism, Intelligence, US National Security, International Relations, Military Operations, Regional Issues, History, Contemporary Issues, Politics

“Each week, Throughline digs into the history of a different topic of modern relevance. Episodes cover everything from the detention of Uyghers in China and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to the Black Panthers and the history of policing in the U.S. Highly recommended for a deeper look into topics you might not know about—and in some cases, topics you didn’t even realize you were missing out on.” — Jordan Moeny, SSP Director of Events and Communications

Podcast cover for Wind of Change

Wind of Change Podcast

About: Intelligence, History, Politics, Information Operations

“An enthralling story about the German rock band Scorpion, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and a rumor that the CIA wrote their smash single ‘Wind of Change.’ Superb podcast that keeps you in the action from start to finish.” — Chris Mercado, SSP’16

Plus one other recommendation…

Entrance of the US Army Museum

Make site visits to battlefields, monuments, and museums

“You will better appreciate the context of security studies by visiting battlefields (Gettysburg, Bladensburg, Yorktown), military service museums (USMC in Quantico, US Army’s new museum at Ft. Belvior, the Navy Museum at the Navy Yard), and the major monuments in DC (compare the DC WWI monument with the Vietnam wall, or the recognition of allied participation on the Korean War monument with the lack of it on the WWII memorial).” — Bill Rogers, SSP’04