There's an election year—and the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks—around the corner, but fall's big books are too preoccupied to notice. They're looking East. The mood is wistful; the emphasis is on American vulnerability and waning influence in a changing world; and many books are trying to unravel one central riddle.
Pakistan, our enigmatic adversary-cum-ally, looms large in our collective imaginations. The Future of Pakistan, edited by Stephen Cohen, examines the tensions boiling within Pakistan's borders and evaluates several future scenarios. John R. Schmidt's indispensable The Unraveling: Pakistan in the Age of Jihad explains how various Pakistani regimes long nurtured extremist groups only to find themselves under attack from this same explosive element. Ken Ballen and Peter Bergen take us deeper into the world of these fundamentalists in Terrorists in Love, with intimate profiles of six radicals, their motivations and deadly missions.
When it comes to our own missteps in the region, you won't find a more shocking, saddening—and yes, hilarious—account than Peter Van Buren's We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, the State Department insider's firsthand account of how the U.S. is bungling the reconstruction of Iraq with symbolic rather than substantive efforts to provide relief (Van Buren's image of the U.S. outfitting a local school with computers—rather than electricity—is unforgettable).
On domestic immoderation and lack of regulation, William Arkin and Dana Priest explore the vast, shadowy, impossible-to-monitor ecosystem of security agencies that sprang up after September 11 in Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.
And, of course, the season sees the blooming of the usual perennials: polemics by the likes of Pat Buchanan, Christine O'Donnell, and Michael Moore. The ever-sardonic Thomas Frank skewers the right in Pity the Billionaire: The Unexpected Resurgence of the American Right, in which he investigates why the current recession precipitated the resurgence of conservatism.
Colin Woodard explains away partisanship in American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, which makes the provocative claim that our culture wars are inevitable. North America was settled by groups with distinct political and religious values—and we haven't had a moment's peace since.
But if you're interested in our commonalities not our differences, Republic, Lost: A Declaration for Independence will allow you to distribute your indignation more evenly. Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig argues that the greatest threat to democracy isn't radical Islam, hanging chads, or a camera-phone in the hands of a congressman. It's the money that corrupts democratic processes.
Thomas Friedman returns to argue that perhaps the world isn't quite so flat. His latest, the rueful That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back, a collaboration with foreign policy analyst Michael Mandelbaum, argues that the U.S. is being fast outpaced by its competitors, India and China.
And what of India and China? They've long had Burma to buffer their outsize populations and ambitions. As Burma itself develops, the two behemoths will encounter each other, and Where China Meets India: Burma and the Closing of the Great Asian Frontier by Thant Myint-U examines the political, economic, and cultural consequences of the coming moment.
PW's Top 10 Politics
The Future of Pakistan
Edited by Stephen Cohen. Brookings Institution, Oct.
Pakistan in the Age of Jihad
John R. Schmidt. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept.
Terrorists in Love:
The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals
Ken Ballen and Peter Bergen. Free Press, Oct.
We Meant Well:
How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People
Peter Van Buren. Metropolitan, Sept.
Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State
William Arkin and Dana Priest. Little, Brown, Sept.
Pity the Billionaire: The Unexpected Resurgence of the American Right
Thomas Frank. Metropolitan, Jan.
A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America
Colin Woodard. Viking, Sept.
A Declaration for Independence
Lawrence Lessig. Hachette, Oct.
That Used to Be Us:
How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back
Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept.
Where China Meets India: Burma and the Closing of the Great Asian Frontier
Thant Myint-U. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept.
Atlantic Monthly Press
Worm: The Story of the First Digital World War by Mark Bowden (Oct., hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-8021-1983-4). The bestselling author of Black Hawk Down and The Best Game Ever delivers a dramatic cyber crime story that explores the Conficker computer worm, a devastating computer virus and a potential weapon in war.
Buckley: William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism by Carl T. Bogus (Oct., hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-1-59691-580-0). A groundbreaking biography of the man who created the formula for modern conservatism, and the story of how he built the political movement that reshaped America.
Brookings Institution Press
The Future of Pakistan, edited by Stephen Cohen (Oct., paper, $32.95, ISBN 978-0-8157-2180-2). Led by one of the Western world's foremost experts on South Asia, analysts present and evaluate several scenarios for how Pakistan will develop, evolve, and act in the near future.
The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin by Joe McGinniss (Sept., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-307-71892-1). The author of The Selling of the President presents his already controversial investigative chronicle of Sarah Palin, the state that has produced her, and the country she believes she is destined to lead.
Untitled White House Memoir by Condoleezza Rice (Nov., $30, ISBN 978-0-307-58786-2) follows up on her bestselling memoir of her upbringing, Extraordinary, Ordinary People, with the long anticipated chronicle of her years in the Bush administration as national security adviser and secretary of state.
Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President by Eli Saslow (Oct., $25.95, ISBN 978-0-385-53430-7) is a moving look at the struggles and the dreams of average Americans, viewed through the lives of 10 citizens who wrote letters to President Obama.
Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide by Joshua S. Goldstein (Sept., hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-525-95253-4) shows how peacekeeping efforts are working: large-scale looting, sexual assault, and genocidal atrocities are being halted, and we are in the midst of a general decline in armed conflict that is extraordinary in human history.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum (Sept., hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-374-28890-7). Friedman (The World Is Flat) and analyst Mandelbaum argue that political paralysis is preventing America from competing internationally. They call for a renewal in values and the creation of a third party.
Where China Meets India: Burma and the Closing of the Great Asian Frontier by Thant Myint-U (Sept., hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-374-29907-1). As the frontier between China and India vanishes—the forests are being cut down, insurgencies are being quashed—the two superpowers will be exposed to each other as never before. This timely study examines the consequences of this encounter for commerce, politics, and culture.
The Unraveling: Pakistan in the Age of Jihad by John R. Schmidt (Sept., hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-374-28043-7) untangles the chilling story of the rise of radical Islam in Pakistan: how and why did these jihadist groups emerge, and what do they want?
Terrorists in Love: The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals by Ken Ballen and Peter Bergen (Oct., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4516-0921-9). A window into the world of violent extremism, the book contains intimate profiles of six terrorists, focusing on their lives, loves, frustrations, and deadly missions.
Facebook Nation by Lori Andrews (Jan., hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-5051-8). Employers routinely reject applicants because of information found on social networks. Cops use photos from people's profiles to charge them with crimes—or to argue for harsher sentences. Andrews proposes a Constitution for the Web, to protect us in this wild new frontier.
Untitled by Michael Moore (Sept., $26.99, ISBN 978-0-446-53224-2). The documentary maker, author of Dude, Where's My Country, and professional gadfly takes on the major issues of our society, showing with great clarity and persuasiveness that the two sides are really not as far apart as everyone assumes on what we conventionally view as the most divisive issues.
Republic, Lost: A Declaration for Independence by Lawrence Lessig (Oct., hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-446-57643-7). The Harvard Law School professor investigates the most vexing problem in American democracy: how money corrupts our nation's politics, and the critical campaign to stop it.
Pity the Billionaire: The Unexpected Resurgence of the American Right by Thomas Frank (Jan., hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-8050-9369-8). From the bestselling author of What's the Matter with Kansas? comes an insightful and sardonic look at how the worst economy since the 1930s has brought about the revival of conservatism.
The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources by Michael T. Klare (Dec., hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-8050-9126-7), a renowned expert on natural resource issues, takes us from a Russian submarine planting the country's flag under the North Pole to the large-scale buying up of African farmland by Saudi Arabia, as countries compete for the world's dwindling natural resources.
We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People by Peter Van Buren (Sept., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-8050-9436-7). From a State Department insider, a firsthand account of our blundering efforts to rebuild Iraq—a shocking and rollicking true-life tale of Americans abroad.
Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State by William Arkin and Dana Priest (Sept., hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0-316-18221-8). The top-secret world that the government created in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks has become so enormous, so unwieldy, and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, or exactly how many agencies duplicate work being done elsewhere.
Torture and the Forever War by Mark Danner (Oct., hardcover, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-262-01553-0) is an unflinching meditation on how we became a country that sanctions torture and what might set us on a new course.
Constitution Cafe: Jefferson's Brew for a True Revolution by Christopher Phillips (Aug., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-393-06480-3). The author of the Socrates Cafe trilogy hits the road once again, this time to inspire a new, nationwide constitutional convention.
The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics by Kathryn Sikkink (Sept., hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-393-07993-7) examines the important trend of holding political leaders criminally accountable for human rights violations.
My Name Is Victoria: The Extraordinary Story of One Woman's Struggle to Reclaim her True Identity by Victoria Donda, trans. by Magda Bolin (Sept., paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-59051-404-7). During Argentina's coup d'etat in 1976, hundred of babies born to pregnant political prisoners were taken and given to collaborators of the regime. At the age of 27, Victoria Donda discovered that she was one of them. This is her story, from her abduction to Donda's election to Parliament.
Oxford Univ. Press
The Struggle for Egypt by Steven A. Cook (Oct., $27.95, ISBN 978-0-19-979526-0) traces Egyptian history from the officers' revolt over 50 years ago up to today before offering a broad-ranging and balanced portrait of contemporary Egyptian politics and society.
Uncompromised: The Rise and Fall of an Arab-American Patriot in the CIA by Nada Prouty (Nov., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-230-11386-2) is the shocking story of a CIA agent falsely accused of passing information to Hezbollah. Prouty, dubbed "Jihad Jane" by the New York Post, was stripped of her citizenship and cast as a terrorist mastermind. She tells her story in a bid to restore her name and reputation.
Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico's Drug Wars by Sylvia Longmire (Sept., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-230-11137-0) offers an up-close and terrifying look at the massive crime organizations behind Mexico's drug cartels, and what their growing power means for the United States.
The March to Freedom: Fighting Tyranny in Africa and Around the World by George B.N. Ayittey (Oct., hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-230-10859-2). A leading voice in the African political debate looks at why the continent is so prone to dictatorships, and what Africa needs to do to establish democracy.
America the Vulnerable: New Technology and the Next Threat to National Security by Joel Brenner (Sept., hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-59420-313-8). A former top-level National Security Agency insider goes behind the headlines to explore America's next great battleground: digital security. the wakeup call identifies our foes, unveils their methods, and charts the consequences for government, business, and individuals.
Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers by Ellen E. Schultz (Sept.; hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-59184-333-7) details an exposé of the ways corporations manipulate retirement plans at employee expense.
Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War by Leymah Gbowee and Carol Mithers (Sept., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN978-0-9842951-5-9). The organizer of all-women demonstrations—and a national sex strike—Gbowee was instrumental in bringing peace to Liberia after 14 years of war.
The Dictator's Handbook by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith (Sept., hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-1-61039-044-6) provides a provocative exploration of the truth at the heart of politics: the difference between tyrants and democrats is just a convenient fiction; leaders don't care about the "national interest"—or even their subjects—unless they have to.
The Unquiet American: Richard Holbrooke in the World by Derek Chollet and Samantha Power (Nov., hardcover, $28.99, ISBN 978-1-61039-078-1). Holbrooke, who died in December 2010, was a pivotal player in U.S. diplomacy for more than 40 years. Renowned for his capacity to charm and offend in equally colossal measure, he is remembered in this book by his friends and colleagues.
Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to McCain-Obama by Jim Lehrer (Sept., hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-4000-6917-0). The "Dean of Moderators" offers an absorbing, inside story of American politics and politicians through the lens of the presidential debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain.
Ben-Gurion: A Political Life by Shimon Peres and David Landau (Oct., hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-8052-4282-9). As told by Israel's current president, protégé of Israel's first prime minister, here is a dramatic insider's account of the man who was instrumental in creating the Jewish state.
Rutgers Univ. Press
Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation Is Remaking America by Morley Winograd and Michael Hais (Sept., hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-8135-5150-0). Winograd and Hais investigate how the beliefs and practices of the Millennials are transforming American culture, from education to entertainment and business to politics.
Seven Stories Press
Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order by Noam Chomsky (Aug., paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-888363-82-1) reveals the roots of the present financial crisis, tracing the history of neoliberalism through an analysis of free trade agreements of the 1990s, the World Trade Organization, and the International Monetary Fund.
Skyhorse Publishing/Arcade Publishing
Socialism: Past and Future by Michael Harrington (Nov., paper, $16.95, 978-1-61145-335-5) is the author's monumental study of—and paean to—socialism, updated and reissued.
Soft Skull Press
Slingshot to the Juggernaut: Total Resistance to Secrecy and War Is Total Love for the Truth by Sander Hicks (Sept., paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-59376-423-4). In the 10 years since September 11, a grassroots truth movement has sprung up that unites the best elements of the right and left.
St. Martin's Press
Trouble Maker: Let's Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again by Christine O'Donnell (Aug., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-312-64305-8). The 2010 candidate for Senate, self-professed "troublemaker," and Tea Party heroine offers a memoir–cum–political manifesto.
Thomas Dunne Books
Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? by Patrick J. Buchanan (Oct., hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-312-57997-5). Buchanan's latest polemic (and his first since Obama's election) exposes the risks America faces today and what those dangers will mean for the country's future.
A Decade of Hope: Stories of Grief and Endurance from 9/11 Families and Friends by Dennis Smith (Aug., hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-670-02293-9). On the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks comes a portrait of tragedy, survival, and healing from the author of the New York Times bestseller Report from Ground Zero.
American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard (Sept., hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-670-02296-0). North America was settled by immigrants with distinct religious and political beliefs who created regional cultures that have been at odds with one another ever since. Woodard identifies 11 of these nations and leads us on a journey through their rivalries and alliances from the Civil War to the present blue state/red state divide.
Yale Univ. Press
Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life by Vivian Gornick (Sept., $25, ISBN 978-0-300-13726-2). An installment in the Jewish Lives series, this is a biography of the anarchist, labor organizer, and modern radical who believed that inner liberation is the first business of social revolution.