As apparent by the rising temperatures, summer is now in full swing here in Washington. Which means it’s the perfect time to relax with a good book that has been waiting patiently on the shelf or to catch up on some good music or podcasts. Have the time but need some inspiration for where to start? Find out what some our colleagues here at the ICRC in Washington are diving into in our annual Summer List. (Program Liaison Rachael Dollar even created a special Summer Vibes music playlist just for you!) You'll also find a list of recommendations by others, including NPR Music's Songs of the Summer, Foreign Policy's The Bookshelf, Podcast suggestions, and Bill Gates. Enjoy!
Pete Evans, Armed Forces Delegate (and Charlie's Dad) and his trusty four-legged companion, Charlie
Destined for War by Graham Allison
Dis is da wery interwesting book, about how China and Amewica can live togevver in da future. Mr Allison finks that China is a wising power that will take over fwom Amewica. But neiver countwy wants a war, so they need to learn fwom historwy to see how they can be happy. Dis will need clever people who can fink about new stwategies to make sure that the two countwies do not fall into Fwucydides Twap. I weally enjoyed weading the historwy and the ideas for how hoomans can learn to live wivvout having to have a war. I fink this is wery important for da economy, for da jobs and for da global good of everwyone.
Having lived in both China and the United States, I was excited to read Professor Allison's latest book. It is a fascinating volume; part historical analysis, part assessment of the current geo-political situation and part policy debate. Looking at how the United States should adapt to the rise of China, Allison draws lessons from Thucydides, whose "Trap" refers to the risk of war between an established power and a rising power, from a range of historical cases and from an analysis of cultural and policy perspectives from the two countries today. Despite the fact that over the past 500 years war has been the outcome of 12 out of 16 cases where a rising power has confronted an established power, in this case he concludes, war is not inevitable. Allison's conclusions may help policy makers struggling with this crucial issue for the 21st century, but in developing his ideas, he has written a wonderful book spanning two and a half thousand years of history, strategy and policy.
Andrea Harrison, Deputy Legal Advisor
I should probably preface any book recommendation by saying I'm obsessed with the Man Booker Prize, so I tend to read anything shortlisted for that prize. His Bloody Project is no exception. I read it in 24 hours despite the fact that it's rather depressing and set in the 1860s, which are two qualities I rarely equate with real "page turners." What is so gripping about this book is the motivation of its characters, especially the central character, Roderick Macrae, who is accused of brutally murdering three persons from his tiny village in the Scottish Highlands.
The book is a compilation of the personal memoirs of the main character, as well as statements and other evidence provided by the local villagers (most of which have a strong opinion either way about Macrae's guilt or innocence), and newspaper clippings taken from the time of the events in question. The author provides this information in such a way as to force the reader to try and figure out which witnesses/victims/perpetrators to believe, and in doing so, forces us to reveal our own prejudices. Perhaps why I found it so compelling was that it reminded me of many of the true crime series we see now, such as Netflix's Making a Murderer, which offer up abundant but inconclusive information and lets the viewer reach his or her own conclusions. I'm still not convinced it's a great storytelling technique for a real crime story in which there are real-life victims, but for the fictional one described in His Bloody Project, it was spot on.
Another quick summer read that packs a punch, City of Thieves is a fictional account of the Nazis' siege of Leningrad. I'm not sure how to describe the genre of this novel - perhaps Dostoyevsky meets Charlie Brown. The setting is bleak and hopeless, and many of the events that take place reflect the truly savage nature of humans surviving on the brink of starvation and destruction, but the two protagonists of the story - Lev and Kolya - are two of the most ridiculous anti-heroes to walk the pages of historical fiction.
The two meet after being locked up for trivial and rather arbitrary "crimes," and are then sent on a wild goose chase through the dangerous streets of Leningrad and beyond its walls on the whim of high-level official who is determined to have a dozen eggs for his daughter's birthday cake. In addition to the aforementioned cake, this story has it all - snipers, ice skating, cannibals, brothels and dead chickens. If I haven't sold you yet, did I mention it was written by the co-creator of Game of Thrones?
Mackenzie Chernushin, Assistant to the Armed Forces Delegates & the Legal Advisors
I have always been fascinated with nutrition so I recently picked up The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and the World by John Robbins. Published in 2001, Robbins was one of the first to challenge the Standard American Diet and encouraged his readers to think about the negative health effects of eating genetically modified foods and animal products of all kinds. As Robbins writes, “I was learning that the same food choices that do so much to prevent disease — that give you the most vitality, the strongest immune system, and the greatest life expectancy — were also the ones that took the least toll on the environment, conserved our precious natural resources, and were the most compassionate toward our fellow creatures.”
Erika Moyer, Inter-American Affairs Assistant
A little after the Women's march in DC, my family sent me three books on the life of my favorite role models. Currently reading Elizabeth Warren's A Fighting Chance, Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices and Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik. I'm also never not reading a Harry Potter book, currently finishing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for the umpteenth time.
As for podcasts, when I'm not listening to Intercross the Podcast* (and no, I'm not just saying that. It really is a great podcast!) I really enjoy Politico's Women Rule: Backstage with Bosses in Politics and Policy.
*She was a guest host on Intercross too! Listen to Erika on the podcast speaking to Hirad Abtahi on IHL and Star Wars.
Anna Nelson, Head of Communication and Public Affairs
During my recent staycation, I devoured Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy. It's a riveting thiller that offers insightful commentary on wealth and privilege, and reveals the violence and desperation driving so many migrants to flee their homes in Central America. Next on my e-reader list is When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning, who delves into the stories that American soldiers carried with them as they took to the battlefields of World War II.
Chris Daniell, Detention Doctor
Delightfully wrought insights into the souls of a disjointed Irish family trying again to come together for a last Christmas.
Classic oldie that I'm glad I finally chased up. Fascinating almost biography chronicling Gary Gilmore's mixed up life (and detention) in Utah and surrounds to his eventual execution.
Rachael Dollar, Program Liaison
I'm in a book club (along with our colleague Mackenzie) and we've just selected a fiction novel, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. The story sounds fascinating and whimsical. The setting takes place in Russia, just after the revolution in 1922. A Russian aristocrat is living under house arrest in a luxury hotel (Hotel Metropol - a structure still standing in Moscow) for more than thirty years. His character is rather carefree and witty, a strong juxtaposition to Soviet culture and the only thing that comes to my mind is how similar it sounds to the Wes Anderson film,The Grand Budapest Hotel. I am looking forward this summer read!
Since we're at the ICRC and we can always hear a glimmer of French conversation in the hallways, I wanted to create a playlist that will 1) help me understand French better and 2) have something different to listen to this summer. Many of the songs are relatively new and they give me feelings as if I were at a discothèque or sur la plage. Hope you enjoy!