SSP Recommended Reading, Summer 2019

Woman reclining and reading a book on the beach

Every year, SSP polls our faculty to see what books they think students should sink their teeth into over the summer. Here’s what they said this year.

Do you have a recommendation for us? Submit it here and we’ll add it to the list! You can also join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #SSPBeachReads.

Recommended by SSP Core Faculty

The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced By War
By Andrew Bacevich
Recommended by: Elizabeth Stanley
Topics: Intelligence, US National Security, Military Operations, History, Politics, Civil-Military Relations
Why read it? “One of the best arguments for why civil military relations works as it does in the US today.” ―Dr. Elizabeth Stanley

Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower
By Michael Buckley
Recommended by: Keir Lieber
Topics: US National Security, International Relations
Why read it? “Beckley demonstrates that no country is poised to upend American primacy, not economically, not militarily, and not technologically…. The evidence he assembles should be part of any serious debate about where we are headed.” ––Zachary Karabell, The New York Times

Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan
By Steve Coll
Recommended by: Daniel Byman
Topics: Terrorism, Intelligence, US National Security, Regional Issues
Why read it? “Great review and assessment of US policy in the post-9/11 era.” ―Dr. Daniel Byman

The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA’s Clandestine Service
By Henry A. Crumpton
Recommended by: Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault
Topics: Intelligence, US National Security
What’s it about? “It is the story of how he entered the CIA and the work he did as a case officer.” ―Dr. Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
By Patrick Radden Keefe
Recommended by: Bruce Hoffman, Sandra Grady, and SSP Alumna Shannon
Topics: Terrorism, Intelligence, International Relations, Regional Issues, History
Why read it? “One of the best concise histories of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, 1969-1998, that is also a riveting murder mystery. And one of the great books on terrorism.” Dr. Bruce Hoffman

The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities
By John Mearsheimer
Recommended by: Keir Lieber
Topics: International Relations
Why read it? “A thought-provoking and bleak worldview.” ––Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

The Things They Carried
By Tim O’Brien
Recommended by: Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault
Topics: US National Security, Military Operations, History
Why read it? “It is probably the best book ever written about Vietnam.” ―Dr. Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault

An Economist Walks Into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk
By Allison Schrager
Recommended by: Rebecca Patterson
Topics: Risk
Why read it? “Allison Schrager’s An Economist Walks Into a Brothel is the best, most readable, most informative, most adventurous, and most entertaining take on risk you will find.” Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics at George Mason University

The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy
By Stephen M. Walt
Recommended by: Keir Lieber
Topics: US National Security, International Relations
Why read it? “A scholarly yet accessible read. Anyone interested in American foreign policy will want to reflect on Walt’s thesis.” ––Daniel Blewett, Library Journal

Recommended by SSP Adjunct Faculty

The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris
By Peter Beinart
Recommended by: Robert Friedman
Topics: International Relations, History
Why read it? “Why do we succumb to hubris? Peter Beinart has written a highly intelligent and wonderfully readable book that answers the question by looking at a century of American foreign policy. As with everything Beinart writes, it is lucid, thoughtful and strikingly honest.” ―Fareed Zakaria

1877: America’s Year of Living Violently
By Michael A. Bellesiles
Recommended by: Tom McNaugher
Topics: History
Why read it?Explodes many of the comfortable myths about the US that we learn growing up. A good beginning to understanding the real history of the United States.” ―Dr. Tom McNaugher

Presidents of War
By Michael Beschloss
Recommended by: Joseph J. Collins
Topics: US National Security, Politics, Presidential decision-making on going to war
Why read it? “War is the extension of politics. Presidential decisions convert political factors into policies which generate campaigns, battles, and engagements. The process is a lot more messy than you would like it to be. Beschloss is a good read from the days of Monroe to Lyndon Johnson.” ―Dr. Joseph Collins

Grant
By Rob Chernow
Recommended by: Tom McNaugher
Topics: History, Biography, Military Operations
Why read it? “Explodes many of the comfortable myths about the US that we learn growing up. A good beginning to understanding the real history of the United States.” ―Dr. Tom McNaugher

How to Feed the World
Edited by Jessica Eise & Ken Foster
Recommended by: Meredith Burkart
Topics: Food Security, Climate Change, Technology
Why read it? “This book is an excellent primer on current and near-future global food and water supply challenges. Almost every chapter either directly or tangentially refers to how these challenges impact global security and conflict. Even more interesting is the way the book is organized. Subject matter experts developed and baselined several large global challenges that, if only two of them were solved, could have a significant impact on global food and water supply challenges. I’ve recommended this book to many of my colleagues in the cybersecurity industry and policymaking circles. It has helped us think in new ways about how we develop strategy, categorize action plans, and baseline threats in the cyber domain.” ―Meredith Burkart

Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II
By Arthur Herman
Recommended by: Kathryn Harris and Chris Taylor
Topics: US National Security, Military Operations, Technology, History
Why read it? “A great history of what the private sector can do to support national security.” ―Chris Taylor

Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century
By Jonathan House
Recommended by: John Gordon
Topics: Military Operations
Why read it? “It is great background material on air-ground military operations, very readable for novices.” ―John Gordon

Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality
By Jaron Lanier
Recommended by: Gary Shiffman
Topics: Technology, Cybersecurity
Why read it? “Let’s think about 5G and augmented reality and the impact on Security!” ―Gary Shiffman

Fooled by Randomness; The Black Swan; Skin in the Game; Antifragile
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Recommended by: Andrew Herr
Topics: How to Think
Why read them? “These books pull back the curtain on huge failures in thinking that are critically important to national security. If I were the Director of SSP, I would not let you graduate without reading these. Reading Kahneman is good, but it does not exempt you from reading these. You’ll note quickly that the author relishes being an iconoclast, but if you laugh with him, you’ll see he’s mostly right to.” ―Andrew Herr

Recommended by Students, Alumni, and Friends of SSP

Operation Jedburgh: D-Day and America’s First Shadow War
By Colin Beavan
Recommended by: Tom B.
Topics: Intelligence, Military Operations, History
Why read it? “Riveting story of WWII commandos parachuting into occupied France in the days and weeks before D-Day. They paved the way for modern special forces.” ―Tom B.

Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security
By Sarah Chayes
Recommended by: Mike Sullivan
Topics: US National Security, International Relations, Contemporary Issues
Why read it? “A profound and eye opening look at the systematic practice of corruption.” ―Mike Sullivan

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
By Yuval Noah Harari
Recommended by: SSP Student Caroline Nutt
Topics: Technology or Cybersecurity, Contemporary Issues
Why read it? “I think Harari’s book is very relevant to how technology (particularly AI) could potentially impact our lives in the coming years. Harari predicts techno-humanism may end up downgrading humans, even if we succeed in upgrading our bodies and our brains. When Dataism conquers the world, Harari foresees humanity turning out to just a ripple within the cosmic data flow. From a security lens, it offers a unique (and somewhat dramatized) prediction into how powerful technology might become.” ―Caroline Nutt

Red Star over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy
By James R. Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara
Recommended by: James Doherty
Topics: US National Security, Military Operations, Regional Issues
Why read it? “An insightful accounting of the ups and downs of U.S.-Russian relations during the Obama years and the prospects for the future.” ―James Doherty

From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia
By Michael McFaul
Recommended by: Stephen Flanagan
Topics: International Relations, Nuclear Issues, Regional Issues
Why read it? “An insightful accounting of the ups and downs of U.S.-Russian relations during the Obama years and the prospects for the future.” ―Stephen Flanagan

I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad
By Souad Mekhennet
Recommended by: A future Georgetown LLM
Topics: International Relations, Nuclear Issues, Regional Issues
Why read it? “An enthralling and sometimes shocking blend of reportage and memoir from the centers of jihadi networks in the Middle East and North Africa. Mekhennet has a singular perspective on the modern crisis of terrorist violence, intimate and constantly questioning.” ––Alexis Okeowo, The New Yorker

Books by SSP Faculty

How the Gloves Came Off
By Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault
Topics: Terrorism, Intelligence, US National Security, International Relations
Why read it? “Arsenault’s book provides a much-needed historical context for the torture policy that emerged during the post-9/11 years. It is comprehensive, well researched, and, at the same time, digestible.” ―Karen J. Greenberg, Director, Center on National Security at Fordham Law School

Your Country, Our War: The Press and Diplomacy in Afghanistan
By Katherine A. Brown
Topics: International Relations, Regional Issues, Politics, International Communications & Media
Why read it? “Grounded in years of interviews with journalists and political actors in Afghanistan and the US…it is a complex argument worthy of reflection, debate, and another book.” ––Bruce Gregory, GWU Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication

The Cybersecurity Dilemma: Hacking, Trust and Fear Between Nations
By Ben Buchanan
Topics: US National Security, International Relations, Technology or Cybersecurity
Why read it? “Ben Buchanan provides a carefully researched and balanced account of the increasing intrusions into cyber networks. He also suggests some practical steps to mitigate the effects. This is an important analysis of the difficult problem of cyber insecurity we all face.” ––Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Distinguished Service Professor, Harvard University

Road Warriors: Foreign Fighters in the Armies of Jihad
By Daniel Byman
Topics: Terrorism, Intelligence, US National Security, Regional Issues, History
Why read it? “Byman’s unique study of the phenomenon of foreign fighters is the prism through which he provides a thorough and fascinating story of the origins and evolution of both al Qaeda and the most important jihadist battlefields over the course of the last thirty-plus years.” ―Mitchell D. Silber, Former Director of Intelligence Analysis, New York Police Department

Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War
By Christine Fair
Topics: Military Operations, Contemporary Issues, International Relations
Why read it? “A magisterial exegesis of how military culture influences strategy and policy.” Dr. Bruce Hoffman

Strategic Warning Intelligence: History, Challenges, and Prospects
By John A. Gentry and Joseph S. Gordon
Topics: Intelligence, US National Security, History, Contemporary Issues, Politics
Why read it?Strategic Warning Intelligence is an important new study of the critical problem of intelligence warning. This book is a welcome successor to Cynthia Grabo’s classic Handbook of Warning Intelligence, and it should be read by students, by professionals in intelligence and national security, and by everyone seeking to understand the many challenges facing the intelligence community today.”—Erik Dahl, Naval Postgraduate School

Leap of Faith
By Michael Mazarr
Topics: US National Security, International Relations, Regional Issues, History
Why read it? “An excellent, cleareyed study that does not look for villains but rather lessons for a possible future situation in which ‘a government is in thrall to a moralistic sense of rightness.’” ―Kirkus Review

The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder
By Sean McFate
Topics: Terrorism, Intelligence, US National Security, International Relations, Military Operations, History, Contemporary Issues
Why read it? “Stunning. Sean McFate is a new Sun Tzu.” ––Admiral James Stavridis (retired), former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO

Al-Qaeda’s Revenge: The 2004 Madrid Train Bombings
By Fernando Reinares
Topics: Terrorism, Intelligence, Contemporary Issues
Why read it? “A must-read for counterterrorism authorities and concerned citizens alike.” ―Andrew Moravcsik, Foreign Affairs

Clausewitz: His Life and Work
By Donald Stoker
Topics: US National Security, International Relations, Military Operations, History, Contemporary Issues, Politics, Biography
Why read it? “This is a well-written and valuable addition to the Clausewitz library, but it also serves as a useful history of the Napoleonic Wars, as Stoker draws on Clausewitz’s sharp observations to illuminate some of the most important military engagements of that period.” ―Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs