Our around-the-office conversation last week about book choices led to a different idea. I asked some members of our faculty (randomly selected on the basis of who is currently in town) what they would recommend to new students who said they would like to do some preparatory reading, but only had time for one book. Some of the professors linked the book to their courses. Others provided a more general recommendation. These might not be the books you would want to take to the beach this summer, but here are some of the professors’ ideas for useful preparation.

Ian Johnstone, one of our international lawyers recommended Foundations of International Law and Politics (edited by Oona Anne Hathaway and Harold Hongju Koh) for his International Organizations course (ILO L220), and Understanding Peacekeeping, written by Alex J. Bellamy, Paul Williams, and Stuart Griffin for his Peace Operations course (ILO L224).

Another member of the law faculty, Joel Trachtman makes a general recommendation: Research Handbook in International Economic Law (by Andrew T. Guzman & Alan O. Sykes), which he notes has a number of excellent papers introducing various topics in international economic law.

Switching to a different Fletcher division, historian Leila Fawaz suggests: Between Memory And Desire: The Middle East In A Troubled Age (by R. Stephen Humphreys). She adds that Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village (by Elizabeth W. Fernea) is “a wonderful very old book” that is useful for beginners in the field.

Covering a different part of the world, Alan Wachman notes that future students interested in “understanding the narrative of modern China” could begin with In Search of Modern China (by Jonathan D. Spence), while those wishing to focus on Chinese international relations and strategy could look at Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History (by Alastair Iain Johnston). His last suggestion for those interested in China, particularly modern China’s history of territorial disputes in Asia, is Imperial Rivals: China, Russia, and their Disputed Frontier (by S.C.M. Paine). But his suggestion for general knowledge is that “every student of international politics ought to read Thucydides’s history of the Peloponnesian Wars.”

As for warfare in a more modern setting, Richard Shultz recommends Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (by Rupert Smith), which he calls an “interesting walk through the 90s, up to the present” dealing with the changing nature of war.

Last, Alan Henrikson suggests a book that he has, in fact, told his students to start this summer, though they won’t take his course until the spring semester: Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (by Tony Judt). He tells me it’s long (“Tolstoian” is how he refers to it) but that it’s a “perfect book for serious students in international relations and history to read for background” and not only for those interested in Europe.

More suggestions may be coming later in the summer. Rest assured — there’s no required pre-Fletcher reading. But this list may give you a sense of the type of material out there to help you prepare for your graduate studies. Happy reading!

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