Books That Matter: POGO's 2014 Winter Reading List

In case the cold weather wasn't enough of an excuse to stay inside and read a book, we'll give you 10 more reasons with our 2014 Winter Reading List. Our list includes some of the top non-fiction books published in the last year that examine how government works (or doesn't work, as the case may be). The books on this winter's list range from a revealing look at the U.S. government's secrecy industry to wild stories of excess on Wall Street and inside the Capitol beltway. As always, we're looking for books that not only identify problems but explore solutions, and 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, stay inside, curl up next to the fire and read a book.

(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 #WinterReading on Twitter and Facebook to see what everyone else is saying about theses important books.

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, The Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser

Penguin Press HC (September, 2013)

“Easily the most unsettling work of nonfiction I've ever read, Schlosser's six-year investigation of America's ‘broken arrows’ (nuclear weapons mishaps) is by and large historical—this stuff is top secret, after all—but the book is beyond relevant. It's critical reading in a nation with thousands of nukes still on hair-trigger alert... Command and Control reads like a character-driven thriller as Schlosser draws on his deep reporting, extensive interviews, and documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act to demonstrate how human error, computer glitches, dilution of authority, poor communications, occasional incompetence, and the routine hoarding of crucial information have nearly brought about our worst nightmare on numerous occasions.” Michael Mechanic, Mother Jones

The New York Times
The Guardian


Hedge Hogs: The Cowboy Traders Behind Wall Street’s Largest Hedge Fund Disaster by Barbara Dreyfuss

Random House (May, 2013)

“Regulators, legislators and judges inclined to sympathize with the industry ought to rush out and buy a copy of Barbara Dreyfuss’s Hedge Hogs, a wonderfully instructive tale about Amaranth Advisors. . . . Dreyfuss, a Wall Street analyst turned investigative journalist, not only plowed through what turned out to be a treasure trove of official records and transcripts, but supplemented it with plenty of her own reporting. She manages to organize it all into a tight, riveting and understandable yarn.” Steven Pearlstein, The Washington Post

The Washington Post


They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars: The Untold Story by Ann Jones

Haymarket Books (November, 2013)

“Soldiers often say the experience of war can never be fully appreciated by those who haven’t lived through it. This seems difficult to doubt. But journalist Ann Jones knows the shooting and killing endured in battle is relatively short-lived compared to the pain, suffering and violence that follow veterans home.” Alexander Reed Kelly, Truthdig

Huffington Post


Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry by Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady

Wiley (April, 2013)

"An intense journey down the rabbit hole of U.S. government secrecy. They have written an adrenaline-fueled, fast paced spy story that will change the way our society views its government. As I read Deep State, I had to continually remind myself that what I was reading was not a novel. There will be some in the chambers of power who do not want this book published, and there will be others in the dark corners of Washington's world of covert ops who read it to understand the secret apparatus they actually help run. Deep State is the must-read book of 2013." Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army

The Week


This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus Plenty of Valet Parking- in America’s Gilded Capital by Mark Leibovich

Blue Rider Press (July, 2013)

This Town is as entertaining for the broader picture it paints of a capital that corrupts even the most incorruptible as it is for the salacious gossip that dominated early reviews. Books like Leibovich’s are important resources for historians who, a century from now, will use This Town as a trove of background information for a pivotal period when our politics became poisonous.” Reid Wilson, The National Journal

New York Magazine
The New York Times


Successes and Failures of Whistleblower Laws by Robert C. Vaughn

Edward Elgar Publishing (February, 2013)

"Unlike other books on whistleblowing that simply describe and analyze whistleblowing laws, Robert Vaughn s new book provides an in-depth and unique historical account of the roots of the whistleblowing movement in such disparate events as the Mai Lai massacre, the civil rights movement, and the experiments of Stanley Milgrim. As important, he then uses that history to illuminate the competing perspectives and pressures that influenced the passage and interpretation of modern whistleblower laws. Vaughn provides a first-rate account of the varied and complex reasons for the successes and failures of these laws during the last forty years." Richard Moberly, University of Nebraska College of Law

Corporate Governance


Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces by Radley Balko

PublicAffairs (July, 2013)

“Mr. Balko manages to avoid the clichés of both right and left, and provokes genuine outrage at the misuse of state power in its most brutal and unaccountable form: heavily armed police raiding the homes of unarmed, non-violent suspects on the flimsiest of pretexts, and behaving more like an occupying army in hostile territory than guardians of public safety. “Rise of the Warrior Cop”, Mr. Balko’s interesting first book, explains what policies led to the militarisation of America’s police. To his credit, he focuses his outrage not on the police themselves, but on politicians and the phoney, wasteful drug war they created.” The Economist

Huffington Post
The Economist


In Bed With Wall Street: The Conspiracy Crippling Wall Street by Larry Doyle

Palgrave McMillan (January, 2014)

“In his new book, Larry Doyle serves as an expert guide down the deep, dark canyons of our financial crisis. Holding well-needed light to Wall Street and Washington, Doyle pulls no punches. In Bed with Wall Street is required reading in any honest attempt to understand how our financial system failed.” David P. Weber, Former Assistant Inspector General for Investigations of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and SEC Whistleblower

Sense on Cents


The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be by Moisés Naím

Basic Books (March, 2013)

“Who is in charge? This book says nobody. The monopolies of coercion that characterized states, the potency of advanced militaries, the media organizations that controlled information, and the religious institutions that defined orthodoxy are all losing control. Readers may disagree; they will be provoked.” Financial Times

Foreign Affairs
The Wall Street Journal


Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets by Peter Schweizer

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade (October, 2013)

“This isn’t Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. This is Mr. Smith threatens his constituents, then uses the money they cough up to take his family sailing on a yacht in Europe for a month, while smoking cigars lit by $100 bills…It won’t make you feel better about the future of our country. But it does do an excellent job of diagnosing one of the reasons why our government seems so broken at the moment. And as any good medical professional would tell you, knowing what is wrong is a vital first step to curing the patient.” Money News Now

New York Times
Wisconsin Public Radio


Author Spotlight

David Brown

Interview: David Brown, author of "Deep State"

Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry reveals previously unknown government secrets and analyzes how preventing leaks became an all-out war.

Barbara Dreyfuss

Interview: Barbara Dreyfuss, author of "Hedge Hogs"

Dreyfuss uses her investigative and analytic skills to give readers an insider look at the high-stakes, high-ego culture of Wall Street.

Previous Book Lists

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