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For the final entry in this series of posts listing suggested reading, I’m not going to try to create an underlying theme. Here is a diverse mix of theoretical and practical works.
Prof. John Burgess — who teaches Fletcher courses on international mergers and acquisitions and international finance, in addition to his day job at a Boston law firm — recommends, “Benn Steil’s The Battle of Bretton Woods, which deftly combines geopolitics, economic theory and practice, and personalities to describe the history of the Bretton Woods Conference and its implications for the post-war world. A great combination of diplomatic history, biography and analysis.”
Prof. Jes Salacuse told me, “One recent book that might be of interest is Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty.”
Prof. Bill Martel suggests, “One work I assign in my Decision Making and Public Policy and my Evolution of Grand Strategy, which incoming students would benefit from reading, is Jonah Lehrer’s How We Decide.”
Two professors who followed my instruction to include their own recent work among their suggestions are Prof. Joel Trachtman, who recently published The Future of International Law: Global Government, and Prof. James Forest, who noted that his The Terrorism Lectures, is “good prep for my Modern Terrorism and Counterterrorism class, and an inexpensive book as well.”
A suggestion from Prof. Leila Fawaz came with an apology that she wasn’t supplying more suggestions. She told me to point readers “back to an old but reliable one, Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples.”
Prof. Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church said that “anyone interested in the NGO sector and donors to it” should read Uncharitable by Dan Pallotta, which will connect to NGO Management and to her DME module series.
And, finally, because Fletcher students will all, ultimately, need to go beyond reading and do some writing themselves, Prof. John Perry suggests, Jacques Barzun, Simple and Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers.
Happy reading (and writing) everyone!
Continuing the reading list theme, I would nonetheless be remiss if I didn’t first tell you about the beautiful late spring day we’re experiencing today. The sky is completely cloud free — so beautiful I couldn’t resist snapping a photo. See for yourself:
If I weren’t at work, it would be a perfect day to grab a book and read. Before I go ahead and list more suggestions for your summer reading, I want to take a step back and provide a more complete explanation of why I’m including the faculty book picks in the first place. I generally try not to post information that is relevant only to one subset of blog readers, and the blog is not, in fact, the most efficient way for us to reach incoming students. But some of the people who will be joining us for Orientation in August check the blog, and some of those are interested in a little pre-Fletcher reading. And if you’re not an incoming student this year? Well, you may still want to read something recommended by our professors. So back to the list.
Today’s amazing list comes from a single source. Prof. Bridget Conley-Zilkic, the research director for the World Peace Foundation, offered up at least a season’s worth of options, explaining, “Given that we’re talking about summer reading, I’ll do my best to keep it to the more narrative-focused texts. Granted, many of these are atrocity focused.” Even those who may never interact with the WPF might want to read about these still-relevant international events. Here’s the list:
Chinua Achebe, Girls at War (short stories, Nigerian civil war)
Deborah Scroggins, Emma’s War (non-fiction, Sudan)
Sven Lindquist, Exterminate All the Brutes (non-fiction, colonial Africa)
Kang Chol-Hwan, The Aquariums of Pyongyang (non-fiction, North Korea)
Jason Stearns, Dancing in the Glory of Monsters (non-fiction, DRC)
Sheri Fink, War Hospital (non-fiction, Bosnia)
Clea Koff, The Bone Woman (non-fiction, Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo)
Semezdin Mehmedinovic, Sarajevo Blues (poetry, Bosnia)
Aleksander Hemon, The Question of Bruno (short stories, former Yugoslavia)
Courtney Angela Brkic, The Stone Fields (fiction, Bosnia)
Anything by Slavenka Drakulic (fiction & non-fiction, Croatia)
Bob Shacochis, The Immaculate Invasion (non-fiction, Haiti)
James Dawes, That the World May Know: Bearing Witness to Atrocity (non-fiction, human rights)
Wade Davis, Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest (history, UK, WWI and, obviously, Mt. Everest).
And for anyone who can handle theory by the beach: Judith Butler, Frames of War and Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (these two are best read together), and just about anything by Hannah Arendt or Jacques Rancière.
As promised, I’m ready today to start a series of posts with suggested materials that an incoming student might want to read. I emphasize “might” because you are not under any obligation to read anything! Still, to get your intellectual juices flowing, you might want to check out a few of the professors’ picks.
I’ll start with the request I sent to the faculty. I pointed them toward past reading lists that can be found in the blog archives (which is a good resource for current readers, as well) and then I asked them to send a suggestion that would fit one of these descriptions.
- A book that you assign for your class and that incoming students might benefit from reading at a leisurely pace in the summer;
- A book that provides good contextual explanation of your field;
- Fiction or popular non-fiction that provides context for your field;
- Articles or blogs that incoming students may not already know about;
- A newly published book of your own that provides general context.
I hope that sharing my request to the professors will make it clear why their suggested books/articles/blogs take many forms. This post will kick off the lists with a couple of picks for the economics folks (actual or aspiring) out there. First, Prof. Michael Klein recommends After the Music Stopped by Alan Blinder, which he thinks is the best book on the economic crisis, and which relates to his classes on International Finance and Finance, Growth and Business Cycles.
For general background, Prof. Dan Richards (whose primary position is in the Economics Department, but who also teaches at Fletcher) says, “They’re both a little older, but either Freakonomics or SuperFreakonomics are still good reads that give a decent presentation of how economists approach problems — if not always the answers that all economists agree on. There is also the Freakonomics blog.”
Read these choices or not, blog friends — it’s totally up to you. More reading suggestions will be coming soon!
Returning to the subject of two weeks ago, pre-Fletcher preparatory summer reading, I thought I’d point you toward a few of the professors’ own works.
Among recent books and articles are:
Prof. Jacque‘s, Global Derivative Debacles: From Theory to Malpractice. He assures us that, “It is written for a broad audience and not overly technical.”
Prof. Martel‘s, Victory in War. Note that this is a revision of the book, originally published in 2007. (And significantly revised, from what I hear from Prof. Chayes, who made sure her colleague received due recognition.)
Prof. Salacuse sent me several links. First there’s his new book, The Law of Investment Treaties. And then there are two articles: “The Emerging Global Regime for Investment,” in the Harvard International Law Journal, and “Opening Moves – They Can Make or Break Any Deal,” in Tufts Magazine.
And Prof. Forest (visiting Fletcher this past year) points us toward his new book: Influence Warfare.
This is only a small sampling — whatever crossed my email at the end of the semester — but you can find a more complete list of student and faculty publications in the News and Media section of the Fletcher website.
It’s a hot day around here — a good one for thinking about summer reading, even though spending a day with a book isn’t on the Admissions Office agenda. For blog readers, the first suggestion list-within-a-list for today comes from Prof. Hess, who’s got you covered if you may be taking his DHP D260 or D267 class this September. Prof. Hess suggests:
Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979, by Thomas Hegghammer
The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East, by Timur Kuran
The Iran Primer: Power, Politics, and U.S. Policy, by Robin Wright
Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History, by Thomas Barfield
A World Without Islam, by Graham E. Fuller
How Capitalism Was Built: The Transformation of Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia, by Anders Aslund
Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War, by Thomas de Waal
In response to my request, Prof. Perry told me the first book that came to mind is Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, which he said is, “appropriate for Fletcher because it is cross-disciplinary — an anthropologist takes up an historical subject — and because it is jargon-free, a relief from so much that students must read.”
Finally (for today), Prof. Chayes keeps her recommendation in the family, by “heartily” recommending The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban, by Sarah Chayes. She notes that, “It has been much used by military and civilians alike in Afghanistan.” And then Prof. Chayes offers an antidote for all this serious reading — a fiction selection: Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. “Fascinating on the intrigues of government in the era of Henry VIII — much has not changed!”
Next week, I’ll point you toward some new work by the professors themselves.
In an annual ritual, a few weeks ago I asked the Fletcher faculty to recommend books for those who may want to pack a little preparatory reading into their pre-Fletcher summer. There’s really no obligation to cast aside your beach-worthy paperbacks! But, for those who want to feel more firmly on the grad school train, I’m happy to pass along some picks from the professors.
I’ll start with Prof. Uvin, who always comes through with some out-of-the-box choices. He wrote:
The best books I have read this year are Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (a novel of the Vietnam War that brings war to life in a direct way I have never read before) and K Blows Top by Peter Carlson (a hysterically funny non-fiction book of Khrushchev’s visit to the U.S. in 1959 — pure Vonnegut, but all real!). I am currently reading The Information by James Gleick, which is a stunningly ambitious, well-written and interesting book so far. I am drowning in information already, and yet this book is a true pleasure in getting me to think differently about the flood I am in….
Next, even before I asked the professors, students were asking, and I happened to see the response of Prof. Fawaz to an inquiry about books on Syria’s politics, foreign policy, or history. (Timely reading for any of us right now.) Rather than provide a limited book list, Prof. Fawaz pointed the student toward several authors: Abdul-Karim Rafeq, Hanna Batatu, Patrick Seale, Raymond Hinnebusch, and Steve Heydeman.
And, in response to my request, Prof. Blackhurst (who teaches in Fletcher’s GMAP program) reaffirmed a choice from last year, Pop Internationalism by Paul Krugman. Prof. Blackhurst calls it “easy-to-understand economics,” and said, “Every essay in the book is very relevant to the Fletcher program.”
I’ll pass along the remaining suggestions in the next week or two. Meanwhile, you can find previous years’ lists in the archives: 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007. (There is more than one post in some years. You can scroll through all the choices by going to the Our Faculty category.)
I’ve been putting together summer reading lists for the blog for the last few years now. Scroll down through the posts in the Our Faculty category and you’ll see the previous compilations. I hasten to add that you are not, in any way, obligated to do any summer reading! Feel 100% comfortable sitting on the beach with your favorite Calvin and Hobbes collection! But I know that some students want a little something more, and my goal is to provide it.
This year, I may have presented the professors with a tougher assignment than I realized. I had thought it would be a nice complement to previous lists if we went with a new theme. I gave them two choices: to suggest something newly published; or to suggest a work of fiction. I think that’s where I lost them. Even several reminders didn’t (with a few exceptions) shake works of fiction out of their collective brains. So here’s the short list I was able to pull together this year.
First, on the new publications theme, Michael Klein came through right away, writing, “There have been a spate of books this year about the financial crisis. I would recommend: Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin; and In Fed We Trust, by David Wessel. I’ve not read Simon Johnson’s book 13 Bankers, but it has gotten a lot of press, and is less complimentary of the efforts to combat the crisis than the other two books. I also enjoyed the book The Myth of the Rational Market by Justin Fox, which is more broadly about the development of the field of financial economics.”
Sticking with new non-fiction, Kim Wilson suggests an upcoming book on which she served as co-editor: Financial Promise for the Poor: How Groups Build Microsavings, along with 2009′s Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day.
And then, after a wee bit of pestering on my part, I did receive a trickle of fiction suggestions. None other than Dean Stephen Bosworth came through for me with a few picks. On the fiction side, he suggests a series of North Korea-centered mysteries by James Church, which he describes as “written by a westerner but one with a remarkable feel for life in North Korea.” Dean Bosworth also threw in a non-fiction selection: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick. Finally, he wrote that “students interested in Asia might enjoy the book I wrote with Morton Abramawitz: Chasing the Sun, a series of essays on the U.S. and East Asia.”
John Perry suggested a book that was later suggested by a student and included in the list I posted earlier. He told me, “I would recommend Vermeer’s Hat, by Timothy Brooks. It is a beautifully written account, using some of Vermeer’s paintings to provide a window into the world of the 17th century. Both Andy Hess, as I hear, and I are using it in classes.”
And, last, Bill Martel, who so kindly stopped by the office to apologize for failing to send me a selection, not knowing that I would bar the door until he came up with something. He finally chose The Kite Runner, for its portrayal of society in Afghanistan.
So that’s this summer’s list from the professors. Next year, I’ll define their assignment differently so that I can develop a longer list. Meanwhile, a little bit of fiction could be just the thing for a summer day.
Students here pursue all the usual procrastination activities, but occasionally they delay their work with yet other scholarly interests. Early in May, when everyone surely had all they needed on their plates already, Josh Gross (since graduated) presented just such a distraction via the student elist:
Want to procrastinate? I know I do. Wouldn’t it be cool (in the way that can only be cool within these walls) to have a “Best of Fletcher Homework” list? Send along your favorite assigned books or articles from the last year or two. It might be a nice reflection of what makes us all tick collectively, and an opportunity to get a window into all of the classes that we wanted to take, but couldn’t. At the very least, it will make for good summer reading. I’ll start the ball off with Michael Glennon: “The Blank-Prose Crime of Aggression.”
And thus started the conversation that Josh called “What was your favorite reading at Fletcher? OR I got an MA in Law in Diplomacy and all I got was this lousy PDF,” but which another student (who nonetheless contributed his own choice) relabeled “Keeping Josh Gross’ nerdy thread alive…” Around here, we all embrace our inner nerd!
So, future students and friends, here are the procrastination results — links to books and articles, with the students’ comments included, but with their names omitted:
I am adding a couple of suggestions to the list, just so that Josh doesn’t feel too lonely: 1) Michael J. Glennon (yet again): “How International Rules Die” and 2) Johan Galtung: “Violence, Peace and Peace Research”.
I love this idea! I highly recommend these books: A Crime So Monstrous by E. Benjamin Skinner; Seeing Like a State, by James C. Scott (esp. chapters 1 and 9); The Mystery of Capital, by Hernando de Soto.
For a little MIB perspective, on the morality of microfinance, I recommend: “Chu vs. Yunus – Is it Fair to do Business with the Poor?” Also, as a more basic overview of the role of finance in development, and in particular, whether firm size matters, I quite like Levine et al. “Finance, Firm Size and Growth”. Go Finance Go!
At the risk of sounding like a psychopath, Hugo Slim’s Killing Civilians: Method, Madness, and Morality in War was one of my faves. Not to be read after dark!
Timothy Brook: Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World — my pick for book of the year. The author deciphers Johannes Vermeer’s paintings to reveal how the 17th century world was already globally connected. For a starter: Why was Jean Nicollet, a French explorer, wearing a Chinese robe when he met the chief of the Winnebago native Americans in 1634? Read chapter two to find out.
“Electoral Systems and Conflict in Divided Societies,” by Ben Reilly and Andrew Reynolds in International Conflict Resolution After the Cold War. This is one of the clearest, most comprehensive pieces about electoral systems I’ve ever read. If you ever want to know how electoral design can mitigate or exacerbate conflict, this is the piece you want. Not surprisingly, it’s from Professor Babbitt’s Conflict Resolution Theory class.
I liked “Judgement under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases” by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, which Prof. Gideon assigned in Analytic Frameworks. Behavioral economics is pretty hot right now, and this is one of the founding documents.
There you have it, blog readers. The students’ picks for your summer reading. Is this required for those of you about to start your Fletcher studies? Definitely not! (Unless, of course, you’re at work and want to procrastinate.) But I hope the list gives you a sense of the breadth of students’ interests, as well as their engagement with the subject matter. Happy reading!
By alphabetic coincidence, today’s list of book picks includes two on economic issues — but also two books perfect for airplane reading.
Laurent Jacque suggests When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management, by Roger Lowenstein.
Michael Klein also points us toward books that can help us understand the current economy. He wrote: “I hesitate a bit to recommend anything on the financial crisis, since it is such a fluid situation, but a good background to it can be gained by reading Financial Shock: Global Panic and Government Bailouts — How We Got Here and What Must Be Done to Fix It, by Mark Zandi. Also, at this time when finance is seen as a problem, it is useful to remember how well-functioning financial markets can help, so I also recommend Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists by Raghuram G. Rajan and Luigi Zingales.”
As I said in the first picks post, there’s something here for everyone, even if you want to rest your brain this summer. (Though I also hasten to add that NOTHING is required and brain-resters need not worry.) I’d love to hear your reaction to the list. Post your comments — which books have you read? Any that you particularly recommend to fellow students? Chime in!
Doing a little pre-Fletcher reading doesn’t mean you need to lock yourself in the library. Some of the professors’ picks are beach-worthy! No matter where (or whether) you decide to read, here’s Part II of the professors’ suggestion list.
Michael Glennon offers an array of choices, from a variety of time periods and genres. Something for every reader! He lists:
1. Groupthink, by Irving Janus.
2. The Arrogance of Power, by J. William Fulbright
3. The Metaphysical Club, by Louis Menand
4. Memoirs: 1925-1950, by George F. Kennan
5. West with the Night, by Beryl Markham
6. Age of Extremes, by Eric Hobsbawm
7. Imperium, by Robert Harris
I’m going to try to pick up West with the Night for my daughter — looks like her kind of book, and I might well borrow it back from her.
Donald Gonson not only makes suggestions but provides context for the choices: “I have two books that might be good for your summer reading list. One is The New Financial Order: Risk in the 21st Century by Robert J. Shiller. The focus of corporate governance is increasingly about management of risk these days. Corporate failure to manage risk has not only put the existence of business institutions in jeopardy, but has threatened the entire global financial system! With his usual prescience — he wrote widely read and widely admired books about the dot.com and housing bubbles before they burst — Shiller looks at the challenge of managing risk in the modern world. Other books focus on the specific issues of the current market meltdowns, but this book is useful in that it provides a broader context for our current difficulties. (It also suggests extremely relevant reforms which could have mitigated our current crisis, if only….)
“The other book I recommend is Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. This is a fascinating look at the evolution of societies, politically and economically, from earliest days. In fact, the book could well have been subtitled “Early History as a Study in Political Economy,” although that would have been a surprise for two reasons: Diamond is an anthropologist, and the book is too much fun for such a sober title. It presents a great analysis of the rise of the rule of law and of the economic forces that shape the law (both very relevant to the study of corporate governance).”
The last picks for today come from Hurst Hannum. His first suggestion is Farhad Manjoo’s True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. His second suggestion is possibly the most intriguing of this year’s list. He chooses The Plague by Albert Camus. Certainly a book you can slip in your bag and that will engage you while you wait for your vacation flight.
The final selections, from professors whose last names start with I through Z, will appear next week. Stay tuned!
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