Sunday, March 9, 2008

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March (and February... um, January too) books of the month

So far, 2008 has been a slow year for book club posts -- a fact that has not gone unnoticed in your humble blogger's mailbag. I, for one, blame this on a combination of heavier-than-usual travel and severe a bitter infighting within the blog staff [F$%& you!!--ed. No, f%$# you!.]

In an effort to make up for lost time, however, here are three IR books and three general interest books:

International Relations:

1) John Bolton, Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations. You might find this a surprising choice, as I've blown hot and cold about Bolton on this blog. However, his memoir is a wonderful read. This is not because Bolton is terribly incisive or insightful. Rather, Bolton's massive inferiority-complex-masking-as-aggression is plastered across every page than one cannot read this book without becoming fascinated about the psyche that produced it.

2) Benn Steil and Robert Litan, Financial Statecraft: The Role of Financial Markets in American Foreign Policy. What a difference two years make. Steil and Litan's book came out in early 2006 as an analysis of how the U.S. could deploy financial statecraft to advance its foreign policy ends. Now, with the rise of sovereign wealth funds, one wonders if people in Bejining, Moscow, and Abu Dhabi are reading this excellent primer on the subject.

3) Fred Kaplan, Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power. A chronicling of how the ideas that informed George W. Bush's grand strategy went off the rails. What's great about Kaplan's book is that he really does trace the genealogy of these ideas back to their origins. He also nails the most toxic combination -- Rumsfeld's faith in the revolution in military affairs, Cheney's staunch nationalism, and the neoconservative faith in democracy promotion.

General Interest:
1) Dana Milbank, Homo Politicus: The Strange and Scary Tribes that Run Our Government. This book basically consists of the choicest anecdotes concerning recent DC episodes of bad behavior. Milbank has a sadistic streak that I occasionally find unsettling. That said, this is an excellent paper collection of stuff you've read about in the blogosphere for the past few years. Plus, the index is priceless.

2) Tyler Cowen, Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist. Simply put, there is no other economics book out there that contains this much useful knowledge but can be read as quickly, as Cowen's latest.

3) Steven Teles, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law. Most books don't contain glowing blurbs from both Al Gore and AEI president Christopher DeMuth. Teles' account of how the conservative legal movement successfully challenged liberal orthodoxy manages to pull off this extraordinary feat.

Go check them all out!!

posted by Dan on 03.09.08 at 05:08 PM


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