History and Current Events
Armed in America: A History of Gun Rights from Colonial Militias to Concealed Carry by Patrick J. CharlesWhat it is: a sweeping survey of gun ownership -- and gun control -- in the United States from colonial times to the present day. Author Patrick Charles avoids taking a position on either side of the controversy, and provides a “fascinating and thoroughly researched history” (Publishers Weekly).
Why you should read it: Guns, gun violence, and the NRA are always hot-button political issues. This objective, in-depth analysis will bolster your knowledge on these topics.
Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Steve CollWhat it's about: Picking up where his Pulitzer-Prize winning Ghost Wars left off, author Steve Coll examines American intelligence activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan post-9/11 and the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Coll pays particular attention to the complicated relationship between the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI).
Reviewers say: Well written and exhaustively researched, Directorate S is a “journalistic masterpiece” (Kirkus Reviews) and “an essential work of contemporary history” (Booklist).
The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook by Niall FergusonWhat it's about: Acclaimed, bestselling historian Niall Ferguson tackles collisions between established hierarchies and upstart networks throughout history, arguing that they have led to political and social change. From ancient Rome to the current day, Ferguson looks at various networks such as the 18th-century Illuminati and Facebook.
Further reading: For another thought-provoking and bold rethinking of change throughout time, try Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels by Ian Morris.
A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller and Ken ArmstrongWhat it's about: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong examine the ways in which rape cases are investigated in the United States. Rather than looking at sexual assaults as a whole, the authors focus on one particular case, that of a teenage victim who was accused of false reporting, resulting in an eye-opening look at how cases can be handled, mishandled, and later resolved.
Is it for you? Readers with an interest in women’s rights, true crime, and criminal justice will want to check this one out
Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson's White House by Joshua ZeitzWhat it is: a highly detailed examination of U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s vision for a “Great Society,” which included programs like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare, and Head Start. Historian Joshua Zeitz pays close attention to how LBJ’s inner circle -- including Jack Valenti, Bill Moyers, and Joe Califano -- helped to bring about these reforms.
You might also like: Robert Caro’s multivolume biography of LBJ, especially The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson.
Focus on: Business and Economics
Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah BergerWhat it's about: Author Jonah Berger has drawn on detailed research to discuss why some trends, products, and ideas take off -- and some don’t. He identifies six key ingredients that work together to promote word-of-mouth popularity and uses real-world examples (the "hit" song "Friday," the Atkins diet, Apple products) as evidence. Surprisingly, he argues that the Internet has less influence than you might expect.
Related reading: Try Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath.
Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael LewisWhat it's about: At the outset, Flash Boys exposes how post-crisis Wall Street was rigged through computerized stock exchanges. However, the heart of this exciting narrative is the four “Wall Street guys” who figured this out separately -- working independently at different firms -- and then banded together to reform the financial markets.
Reviewers say: Bestselling author Michael Lewis does a “superb job of explicating the inexplicable in his lucid, absorbing account” (Publishers Weekly).
Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local -- and Helped... by Beth MacyWhat it's about: In the mid-1990s, when Chinese companies began flooding American markets with cheaper goods, furniture-making was one of the hardest hit industries. But John Bassett III of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture refused to bow to pressure, fighting to keep his employees through increased efficiency and legal maneuvers, and even traveling to China to expose price-fixing practices.
Why you should read it: Beyond the furniture industry, Factory Man is also a vivid portrait of small-town Bassett, Virginia, and its fascinating inhabitants.
The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David SaxWhat it's about: Just when you think the world has been overtaken by digital content and products, statistics arrive showing sales of tangible goods like vinyl records are up -- way up. But why? Journalist David Sax examines the surprising reasons why some consumers opt to limit their screen time and purchase printed books, Moleskine notebooks, and film cameras instead.
Reviewers say: “Compulsively readable” (Booklist).
This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America's Middle Class by Elizabeth WarrenWhat it is: Outspoken and impassioned U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren shares her views on how the American middle class is under siege -- and offers strategies on how to save it. She shares the story of her own working-class family in 1960s Oklahoma and discusses why things have changed since the 1980s. Warren also describes her battles in the U.S. Senate on behalf of the shrinking middle class.
Further reading: Saving Capitalism by Robert Reich.
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