Gift-buying season is upon us. And so are books-of-the-year lists. Here are some new books that have not necessarily made it on to any book list, but which are nonetheless good reads and good gifts:
WINNING THE WAR ON WAR by Joshua Goldstein
This is the most important political book of the year. It deserves substantial attention and is worthy of awards. Goldstein, a professor emeritus at American University, shows in meticulous detail that Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia are terrible exceptions to what is otherwise a trend of steady decline in incidence, intensity and severity of human combat. Cable news creates an impression of general carnage: yet with each passing year, nations and tribal groups harm each other less, both directly through war and indirectly through conflict. “Book trailers” are a mixed blessing; the trailer for “Winning the War on War” is worth watching.
Steven Pinker, a better-known writer, also published a book this autumn about the decline of violence. Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature” is also worth reading or giving. Pinker concentrates on the evolution of morality (how violence has gradually come to be seen as wrong), whereas Goldstein’s focus is politics (the policy choices that reduce conflict and prevent harm).
Either way, you should read both books. The decline of war and violence is the no. 1 overlooked story in the international media.
JOIN THE CLUB by Tina Rosenberg
Everyone complains about the malevolence of peer pressure – what about its positive uses? Drawing on examples and interviews from around the world, Rosenberg, whose “The Haunted Land” won the 1995 National Book Award, shows how positive peer pressure has been employed by educational reformers, public health officials, entrepreneurs and nonviolent “velvet” rebellions against dictatorship. A wise, noteworthy book with clear applications both for protest movements and business administration.