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Project on Government Oversight

POGO's 2013 Summer Reading List: 10 Books That Matter

2013 Summer Book header

If you're like us, there's always too many books on your summer reading list. Well, get ready to add a few more titles to your tablet or nightstand. POGO's 2013 Summer Reading List includes some of the top non-fiction books published in the last year. These works look at the military industrial complex, questionable Wall Street practices and the limits of U.S. foreign policy. As always, we're looking for books that not only identify problems but explore solutions. While we might not agree with every point the authors make, we think these books are an excellent starting point for important public debate. So without further ado, we present to you our Summer Reading List.

(The books on this list have all been published within the last year and have not appeared on our previous reading lists.)

Use the buttons below to share the books you most want to read and use the hashtag #SummerReading on Twitter and Facebook to see what everyone else is saying about theses important books.

National Insecurity

National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism by Melvin A. Goodman

City Lights Publishers (March 5, 2013)

"In this impassioned expose of the astronomical costs of America’s defense policy, former CIA analyst Goodman demonstrates how post–cold war neoconservatives . . . promoted a pugnacious militarism that has led to a string of foreign policy debacles and unprecedented levels of military spending. Few will finish this precisely argued polemic without the uneasy feeling that military spending is out of control." -Publishers Weekly

NY Journal of Books
Truth Out

 
Dirty Wars

Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield by Jeremy Scahill

Nation Books (April 23, 2013)

"There is no journalist in America, in the world, who has reported on what the war on terror actually looks like under the Obama administration better than [Scahill]. This book is an unbelievable accomplishment. [W]hatever your politics, you should read this book. It is incredibly carefully reported. People who come to this book expecting a polemic, I think will be surprised to a find a book that really...lets the facts speak for themselves. What this book does is show a side of our unending wars that we haven't seen... I think every member of Congress should read this book." -Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes

The Guardian
Democracy Now

 
The Secretary

The Secretary: A Journey with Hilary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power by Kim Ghattas

Times Books (March 5, 2013)

"Kim Ghattas has written a terrific book--not just our first intimate portrait of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, but also a riveting personal story about what it's like to be a journalist, and a Lebanese woman at that, living in the Clinton bubble. Ghattas is very smart about the nuances of American policy and the patient intelligence that is required for creative diplomacy, and she has made it all come alive in compelling, page-turning fashion." -Joe Klein, TIME columnist

Democracy Journal
US News
 
The Bankers' New Clothes

The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It by Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig

Princeton University Press (February 24, 2013)

"Professor and journalist Admati and economic researcher Hellwig argue that it is possible to have a well-balanced banking system without any cost to society; weak regulations and lax enforcement is what caused the buildup of risk unleashed in the crisis. Here, they aim to demystify banking and expand the range of voices in the debate; encouraging people to form opinions and express doubts will ensure a healthier financial system as people understand the issues and influence policy...The authors push for aggressive reform by outlining specific steps that can be taken to change our banking system for the better." -Publishers Weekly

Wall Street Journal
Business Week

 
After the Music Stopped

After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead by Alan S. Blinder

The Penguin Press HC (January 24, 2013)

"Highly readable... Mr. Blinder draws on the work of many... reporters in his account. But if large portions of After the Music Stopped feel familiar, the book nonetheless benefits from its wide-angle perspective, as well as from its vantage point in time, now that it's possible to assess the fallout of decisions that were being made on the run by White House and Treasury officials under extraordinary pressures. It also benefits from Mr. Blinder's clear-eyed prose and nimble gifts as an explainer — gifts that sometimes approach those of Bill Clinton, when it comes to making complicated economic issues and policies understandable to the lay reader. Direct and concise, Mr. Blinder tells it as he sees it." -Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

The New York Times
The Washington Post

 
The Payoff

The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins by Jeff Connaughton

Prospecta Press (September 18, 2012)

"You'd think that after destroying the world's economy with dodgy trades and double-dealing, at least somebody (other than the taxpayer) who was responsible might get thrown in jail. But you'd think wrong because Wall Street essentially "owns" both political parties, thereby making accountability impossible." -Inc. Magazine

Forbes
Rolling Stone

 
Plutocrats

Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland

Penguin Press (October 1, 2012)

"Rising inequality is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Chrystia Freeland's Plutocrats provides us with a glimpse of the lives of America's elites and a disquieting look at the society that produces them. This well-written and lively account is a good primer for anyone who wants to understand one extreme of America today." -Joseph Stiglitz, author of The Price of Inequality; University Professor, Columbia University

TED
USA Today

 
Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America’s House in Order by Richard N. Haass

Basic Books (April 30, 2013)

“Haass persuasively shows that United States continues to be the indispensable nation.... Haass’s writing style is straightforward and uncluttered by jargon. My academic colleagues will not find reference to ‘hegemonic transition theories’ or ‘postmodernism,’ which makes the book much more accessible to a wider readership.... Whether Haass chooses to run for office one day or not, a presidential candidate would do well using his realism as a platform.” -National Interest

The New York Times
Council on Foreign Relations

 
Acts of Congress

Act of Congress: How America’s Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn’t by Robert G. Kaiser

Knopf (May 7, 2013)

“Mr Kaiser depicts the gruesome business of legislating in the wickedly honest fashion only a journalistic veteran, liberated from the restraints imposed on daily reporters, could get away with…[he] names names and spares no one.” -The Wall Street Journal

NY Journal of Books
The Brookings Institution

 
The Dispenable Nation

The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat by Vali Nasr

Doubleday (April 16, 2013)

“In The Dispensable Nation, Nasr delivers a devastating portrait of a first-term foreign policy that shunned the tough choices of real diplomacy, often descended into pettiness, and was controlled ‘by a small cabal of relatively inexperienced White House advisers.’… The Dispensable Nation constitutes important reading as John Kerry moves into his new job as secretary of state. It nails the drift away from the art of diplomacy — with its painful give-and-take — toward a U.S. foreign policy driven by the Pentagon, intelligence agencies and short-term political calculus. It holds the president to account for his zigzags from Kabul to Jerusalem….The Dispensable Nation is a brave book. Its core message is: Diplomacy is tough and carries a price, but the price is higher when it is abandoned.” -Roger Cohen, New York Times

JHU Gazette
The Washington Post

 


Author Spotlight

Melvin Goodman

Interview: Melvin Goodman, author of "National Insecurity"

In his sixth book on international security issues, Melvin Goodman breaks down America’s military and intelligence failures stretching back to the Eisenhower administration.


Kim Ghattas

Interview: Kim Ghattas, author of "The Secretary"

BBC corespondent Kim Ghattas was right there with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she traveled nearly a million miles to more than 100 different countries.

Chrystia Freeland

Interview: Chrystia Freeland, author of "Plutocrats"

Chrystia Freeland describes how wealth is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a historically tiny number individuals, who live a lifestyle many people can barely imagine.

Previous Book Lists

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