Saturday, January 7, 2017

2017 Book-a-Week Club



The book-a-week club has begun again for 2017, and here is what we will explore each month.

January will be a month of power. Let’s look at:
  • The Cold War — Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram” followed by the 1947 adaptation published in Foreign Affair, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct.” Follow Kennan’s thoughts in sequence with the 1950 “NSC 68” report during the Truman administration and the 1953 “NSC 162/2” during the Eisenhower administration.
  • Power and Policy by Thomas Finletter, published in 1954. If you can get your hands on a 1954 copy, trust me, you will enjoy this powerful piece.
  •  Soft Power by Joseph Nye. If you can get his Foreign Policy essay of the same title from 1990, you can get the gist of his power thesis.
  • One week open to suggestions
February will be a month of Hannah Arendt. Arendt gives us a particular look into the nature of human tendencies, especially since the beginning of the 20th Century.
  • The Life of the Mind
  • The Human Condition
  • The Origins of Totalitarianism 
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem: a Report on the Banality of Evil
March will be a fun month of fictions. Arendt can be kind of heavy, so a break from reality can help us prepare for some reality. In the spirit of CrossFit, we will call these functional fictions.
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  • The Ugly American by Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer 
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
April will begin a three-part series that might be a little uncomfortable, but I can assure you, it will be insightfully introspective. Let’s look at the impact of religions: Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam. Part one is Holy Reform Part I.
  • The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbons. An abridged version is perfectly acceptable
  • City of God by Saint Augustine
  • 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church
  • Open to suggestions
May will continue with more holy reform.
  • 95 Theses by Martin Luther
  • Something on the 30 Years War — still trying to nail down a good reference
  • The Peace of Westphalia treaties
  • Something else, but I’m not yet sure what that something is

June is another holy reform.
  • The Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun
  • The Arab Awakening by George Antonius, published in 1939
  • The Second Arab Awakening by Marwan Muasher, published in 2014 
  •  An Introduction into Islamic Law by Joseph Schact from 1964
July is a good time to revisit the period surrounding World War I.
  • The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark
  • The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
  • The War That Ended Peace by Margaret MacMillan
  • The World Crisis by Winston Churchill, abridged version is perfectly applicable because he can say a lot about a lot.
August — after several months of context, let us look at thoughts that underpin those contexts. This month will have a lot of options, so pick and choose.
  • Readings from Immanuel Kant
  • The Anarchical Society by Hedley Bull
  • The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  • Patterns of Conflict by John Boyd
  • The Scientific Way of Warfare by Antoine Bousquet
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Khun
In September we should look more closely at the thoughts of some specific people. How about a month of biographies?
  • Biography of Otto von Bismark. I haven’t narrowed the selection here, so I am open to suggestions.
  • Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant
  • Atatürk: The Rebirth of a Nation by Lord Patrick Kinross
  • George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis
At the moment, October-December are open to ideas. I think another month of fictions could be useful. I also think a month of antiquities could be useful, such as revisiting Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. Somehow, we will weave in a classic of strategy like The Campaigns of Napoleon by David Chandler. In fact, why don’t we dedicate a month to strategists: Napoleon, Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Saul…as in Saul Alinsky. Since we began the year with power, I think it would be fitting to end the year with peace. December will likely be a month to look at beautiful works like Anna Badkhen’s Peace Meals: Candy-Wrapped Kalishnikovs and Other War Stories

So, there you have it. Hopefully, you will notice the thread of global changes that will help us think our way through a year that I am sure will be marked by global change. Let us begin.