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POGO’s 2016 Summer Reading List

Summer is coming to an end but there’s still time to reenergize yourself with a book that matters! Even with a long break or vacation, this summer has felt particularly tiring. Maybe it’s the extreme heat or maybe it’s the current election cycle…There are lots of reasons to walk away from this summer feeling more tired than before, but you don’t have to!

Make the most of what is left of summer by diving into a book. Trust us, these are not choices that you can put down easily. Our reading list includes the latest on nuclear policy, national security, and government oversight (or in some cases, lack thereof). While we are not endorsing every position taken in the books, we are very excited to share with you the complex problems that these authors are trying to contextualize and the solutions they are exploring.

(The books on this list have not appeared on our previous reading lists.)

If you feel tempted to pick up one or more of these books, let us know on Twitter and Instagram with “#POGOReads” and by sharing on our Facebook page!

Book cover: Deep State by Mike Lofgren The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government

By Mike Lofgren

Viking, January 2016

“With the 2016 campaign season in full swing, [Lofgren] argues that there are actually two governments in D.C.: the one everybody sees and the Deep State that operates off the grid and with an agenda that never really varies despite which party is in control.” — Star Telegram

Book cover: How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything by Rosa Brooks How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon

By Rosa Brooks

Simon & Schuster, August 2016

“Brooks writes with clarity and epigrammatic wit... In impressive and often fascinating detail, she documents that the boundaries between war and peace have grown so hazy as to undermine hard-won global gains in human rights and the rule of law.” — The New York Times

Book cover: Power without Constraint by Chris Edelson Power without Constraint: The Post-9/11 Presidency and National Security

By Chris Edelson

University of Wisconsin Press, May 2016

“A clear and powerfully argued direct comparison of the policies and rhetoric of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, demonstrating that they are more alike than different in their approaches to combating terrorism.”— Michael A. Genovese, author of The Power of the American Presidency

Book cover: The Profiteers by Sally Denton The Profiteers: Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World

By Sally Denton

Simon & Schuster, March 2016

“Denton, the author of several books of American history and investigative reporting, uses the term ‘revolving door’ more than once to describe Bechtel’s personnel exchanges with Washington… Denton strikes at the very conundrum that worried Madison — the relationship between corporate power and government in a political democracy.” — The New York Times

Book cover: The War on Leakers by Lloyd Gardner The War on Leakers: National Security and American Democracy, from Eugene V. Debs to Edward Snowden

By Lloyd C. Gardner

Viking, January 2016

“By threatening aggressive investigatory journalism, by shielding government malpractice, by violating the separation of powers doctrine, intelligence agencies have done more, [Gardner] writes, to undermine our democracy than to make us safe.” —  Kirkus Reviews

Book cover: Almighty by Dan Zak Almighty: Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear Age

By Dan Zak

Blue Rider Press, July 2016

“Zak’s narrative is a perfectly measured blend of biography, suspense and history. He skillfully uses the small, finite story of the Y-12 protest to explore our national identity as a people whose culture is now intimately connected with things nuclear. Our bomb culture has not come cheap; the environmental costs have been devastating for many communities. And even though scores of governments — but not our own — are on record supporting a treaty that would ban nuclear weapons, Zak shows this is still an outlier dream.” — The New York Times

Book cover: The Pentagon's Brain by Annie Jacobsen The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency

By Annie Jacobsen

Little, Brown and Company, September 2015

“A fascinating and sometimes uneasy exploration of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the high-tech incubator responsible for stealth technology, tank simulators and the M-16 rifle — as well as data-mining programs and the research behind harsh interrogation techniques used after 9/11.” — The Washington Post

Book cover: The Burn Pits by Joseph Hickman The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America's Soldiers

By Joseph Hickman

Hot Books, February 2016


“Based on clusters of similar cases, scientific studies and expert opinions, author Joseph Hickman proposes in ‘The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers’ that US service members in Iraq and Afghanistan confronted more than one unexpected enemy that followed them home. Many soldiers complain of respiratory issues relating to their burn pit exposure. But others likely developed more life-threatening conditions such as cancers, Hickman contends, because of what the burn pits were built on top of: the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons program.” — The Guardian

Book cover: The Devil's Chessboard by David Talbot The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government

By David Talbot

Harper, October 2015

“Talbot offers a portrait of a black-and-white Cold War-era world full of spy games and nuclear brinkmanship, in which everyone is either a good guy or a bad guy. Dulles—who deceived American elected leaders and overthrew foreign ones, who backed ex-Nazis and thwarted left-leaning democrats—falls firmly in the latter camp.” — Mother Jones

Book cover: Los Alamos by Chuck Montano Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths

By Charles “Chuck” Montaño

Desert Tortoise Publishing, April 2015

“The book takes a critical look at the lack of accountability at LANL, the nation’s premier nuclear development facility, whose role has somewhat shifted these days, Montaño says, from creating nuclear warheads to now safeguarding them and keeping them up to snuff in a post-Cold War era.” — Santa Fe Reporter

Book cover: Lords of Secrecy by Scott Horton Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America's Stealth Warfare

By Scott Horton

Nation Books, January 2015

“And the book focuses on an important question: what does the fact that so much money is lavished on black-box agencies, so many actions of government are hidden from scrutiny and so many people are beyond the reach of elected lawmakers actually mean for democracy and society?” — Financial Times

Book cover: Nobody by Marc Lamont Hill Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond

By Marc Lamont Hill

Atria Books, July 2016

“In our hyper-partisan era, Hill might not be able to persuade many readers who aren’t already on the political left. But ‘Nobody’ is a sincere effort to do just that, and even those who disagree with him should concede that he’s the kind of social commentator — passionate but rarely hyperbolic, well-informed yet respectful of other points of view — whose ideas are worthy of our attention.” — The Kansas City Star

Book cover: Lucifer's Banker by Bradley C. Birkenfeld Lucifer's Banker: The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy (Coming soon)

By Bradley C. Birkenfeld

Greenleaf Book Group Press, October 2016

“A page-turning real-life thriller, Lucifer's Banker is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the secret Swiss high-net-worth banking industry and a harrowing account of our government's justice system. Readers will follow Birkenfeld as they will share his outrage with the incompetence and possible corruption at the Department of Justice, and they will cheer him on as he ‘hammers’ one of the most well-known and powerful banks in the world.” — Publisher’s blurb

Topics: Government Accountability, Open Government, Whistleblower Protections, Energy and Natural Resources, National Security, Financial Sector, Public Health and Science, Contract Oversight

Related Content: Books, Improper Influence, Congressional Oversight, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Checks and Balances, Los Alamos National Lab, Media Criticism, Financial Oversight, Competition in Federal Contracting, Waste, Government Secrecy, Conflicts of Interest, Energy & Environment, Information Access, Revolving Door, Government Privatization, DOD Nuclear Weapons, Defense, Ethics, Politicization, Lobbying, Contractor Accountability, Nuclear Weapons Complex Oversight, Nuclear Security, Democracy, Transparency in Contracting, Inspector General Oversight, Y-12 /Oak Ridge National Lab, Department of Energy (DOE), Intelligence, Cronyism, Contractor Misconduct

Authors: Iulia Gheorghiu

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