Naples Council
on
World Affairs
NCWA
Our mission is to educate, inspire and engage our community in international affairs and critical global issues
 

NCWA Book Club 2017-2018 

Chair: Bill Korstad


Members and Associate Members are invited to join our book club. You do not have to register to attend, just show up. For more information, please contact Bill Korstad at bkorstad@mac.com or 303-887-7116.

Location:  Stratford, 5601 Turtle Bay Drive, Naples, FL 34108. Second floor club room (stairs are to the right of the entrance). To gain access to the building, press 000#; as a backup, call Bill's cell phone 303-887-7116.


Our next NCWA book club meeting is scheduled for December 11, 2017 at 1:30 PM at which time we’ll discuss The Invention of Russia: The Rise of Putin and the Age of Fake News by Arkady Ostrovsky. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: UPDATED PAPERBACK EDITION  PUBLISHED JULY 7, 2017. Make sure you get the exact as title shown above. 

The breakup of the Soviet Union was a time of optimism around the world, but Russia today is actively involved in subversive information warfare, manipulating the media to destabilize its enemies. How did a country that embraced freedom and market reform 25 years ago end up as an autocratic police state bent once again on confrontation with America? A winner of the Orwell Prize, The Invention of Russia reaches back to the darkest days of the cold war to tell the story of Russia's stealthy and largely unchronicled counter revolution. Click on title above to read more. 

It’s an timely book on an important subject. Amazon readers rate this book 4½ stars, 400 pages, published July 7, 2017. Winner of the Orwell Prize, Winner of the Cornelious Award, Finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize, Financial Times Book of the Year.

NCWA Book Club Selections - 2017-2018 Season

IMPORTANT NOTE: The scheduled January and February readings have been swapped to more closely align with Great Decision topics. The corrected schedule is shown below

NOVEMBER 13, 2017
China and the United States are headed towards a war neither wants.The reason is Thucydides’s Trap, a deadly pattern of structural stress that results when a rising power challenges a ruling one. This phenomenon is as old as history itself. About the Peloponnesian War that devastated ancient Greece, the historian Thucydides explained: “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” Over the past 500 years, these conditions have occurred sixteen times. War broke out in twelve of them. Today, as an unstoppable China approaches an immovable America and both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promise to make their countries “great again,” the seventeenth case looks grim. Unless China is willing to scale back its ambitions or Washington can accept becoming number two in the Pacific, a trade conflict, cyberattack, or accident at sea could soon escalate into all-out war. In Destined for War, the eminent Harvard scholar Graham Allison explains why Thucydides’s Trap is the best lens for understanding U.S.-China relations in the twenty-first century. Through uncanny historical parallels and war scenarios, he shows how close we are to the unthinkable. Yet, stressing that war is not inevitable, Allison also reveals how clashing powers have kept the peace in the past — and what painful steps the United States and China must take to avoid disaster today. Amazon 4½ stars, 384 pages, published May 30, 2017.  Financial Times, NY Times Editor's Choice. Recommended by Bill Korstad

DECEMBER 11, 2017

IMPORTANT NOTE: UPDATED PAPERBACK EDITION  PUBLISHED JULY 7, 2017. Make sure it has the exact title shown above. 
 
The breakup of the Soviet Union was a time of optimism around the world, but Russia today is actively involved in subversive information warfare, manipulating the media to destabilize its enemies. How did a country that embraced freedom and market reform 25 years ago end up as an autocratic police state bent once again on confrontation with America? A winner of the Orwell Prize, The Invention of Russia reaches back to the darkest days of the cold war to tell the story of Russia's stealthy and largely unchronicled counter revolution. 

A highly regarded Moscow correspondent for the Economist, Arkady Ostrovsky comes to this story both as a participant and a foreign correspondent. His knowledge of many of the key players allows him to explain the phenomenon of Valdimir Putin - his rise and astonishing longevity, his use of hybrid warfare and the alarming crescendo of his military interventions. One of Putin's first acts was to reverse Gorbachev's decision to end media censorship and Ostrovsky argues that the Russian media has done more to shape the fate of the country than its politicians. Putin pioneered a new form of demagogic populism --oblivious to facts and aggressively nationalistic - that has now been embraced by Donald Trump. In his new paperback preface, Ostrovsky will explore how Putin influenced the US election, the Trump Putin access, and will consider how Putin's methods - weaponizing the media and serving up fake news - came to enter American politics.. Amazon 4½ stars, 400 pages, published July 7, 2017. Winner of the Orwell Prize, Winner of the Cornelious Award, Finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize, Financial Times Book of the Year. Recommended by David Walker.
  
JANUARY 8, 2018
Insightful and harrowing . . . lucidly expounds on the erosion of the West's middle classes, the dysfunction among its political and economic elites and the consequences for America and the world."―Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

In his widely acclaimed book Time to Start ThinkingFinancial Times chief US columnist and commentator Edward Luce charted the course of America's relative decline, proving to be a prescient voice on our current social and political turmoil. In The Retreat of Western Liberalism, Luce makes a larger statement about the weakening of western hegemony and the crisis of liberal democracy―of which Donald Trump and his European counterparts are not the cause, but a terrifying symptom. Luce argues that we are on a menacing trajectory brought about by ignorance of what it took to build the West, arrogance towards society's economic losers, and complacency about our system's durability―attitudes that have been emerging since the fall of the Berlin Wall. We cannot move forward without a clear diagnosis of what has gone wrong. Unless the West can rekindle an economy that produces gains for the majority of its people, its political liberties may be doomed. The West's faith in history teaches us to take democracy for granted. Reality tells us something troublingly different. Combining on-the-ground reporting with intelligent synthesis of the literature and economic analysis, Luce offers a detailed projection of the consequences of the Trump administration, the rise of European populism, and a forward-thinking analysis of what those who believe in enlightenment values must do to defend them from the multiple onslaughts they face in the coming years. Amazon 4½ stars, 226 pages, published June 6, 2017. Amazon Best History Book of the year so far. Recommended by Bill Korstad.

FEBRUARY 5, 2018 
From the end of World War II until 1980, virtually no American soldiers were killed in action while serving in the Greater Middle East. Since 1990, virtually no American soldiers have been killed in action anywhere else. What caused this shift? Andrew J. Bacevich, one of the country’s most respected voices on foreign affairs, offers an incisive critical history of this ongoing military enterprise—now more than thirty years old and with no end in sight. During the 1980s, Bacevich argues, a great transition occurred. As the Cold War wound down, the United States initiated a new conflict—a War for the Greater Middle East—that continues to the present day. The long twilight struggle with the Soviet Union had involved only occasional and sporadic fighting. But as this new war unfolded, hostilities became persistent. From the Balkans and East Africa to the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, U.S. forces embarked upon a seemingly endless series of campaigns across the Islamic world. Few achieved anything remotely like conclusive success. Instead, actions undertaken with expectations of promoting peace and stability produced just the opposite. As a consequence, phrases like “permanent war” and “open-ended war” have become part of everyday discourse. Connecting the dots in a way no other historian has done before, Bacevich weaves a compelling narrative out of episodes as varied as the Beirut bombing of 1983, the Mogadishu firefight of 1993, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the rise of ISIS in the present decade. Understanding what America’s costly military exertions have wrought requires seeing these seemingly discrete events as parts of a single war. It also requires identifying the errors of judgment made by political leaders in both parties and by senior military officers who share responsibility for what has become a monumental march to folly. This Bacevich unflinchingly does.  A twenty-year army veteran who served in Vietnam, Andrew J. Bacevich brings the full weight of his expertise to this vitally important subject. America’s War for the Greater Middle East is a bracing after-action report from the front lines of history. It will fundamentally change the way we view America’s engagement in the world’s most volatile region. Amazon 4 1/2 stars. recommended by Michael Finkel

FEBRUARY 5, 2018
MARCH 5, 2018
The first serious book to examine what happens when the ancient boundary between war and peace is erased. Once, war was a temporary state of affairs—a violent but brief interlude between times of peace. Today, America’s wars are everywhere and forever: our enemies change constantly and rarely wear uniforms, and virtually anything can become a weapon. As war expands, so does the role of the US military. Today, military personnel don’t just “kill people and break stuff.” Instead, they analyze computer code, train Afghan judges, build Ebola isolation wards, eavesdrop on electronic communications, develop soap operas, and patrol for pirates. You name it, the military does it. Rosa Brooks traces this seismic shift in how America wages war from an unconventional perspective—that of a former top Pentagon official who is the daughter of two anti-war protesters and a human rights activist married to an Army Green Beret. Her experiences lead her to an urgent warning: When the boundaries around war disappear, we risk destroying America’s founding values and the laws and institutions we’ve built—and undermining the international rules and organizations that keep our world from sliding towards chaos. If Russia and China have recently grown bolder in their foreign adventures, it’s no accident; US precedents have paved the way for the increasingly unconstrained use of military power by states around the globe. Meanwhile, we continue to pile new tasks onto the military, making it increasingly ill-prepared for the threats America will face in the years to come. By turns a memoir, a work of journalism, a scholarly exploration into history, anthropology and law, and a rallying cry, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything transforms the familiar into the alien, showing us that the culture we inhabit is reshaping us in ways we may suspect, but don’t really understand. It’s the kind of book that will leave you moved, astonished, and profoundly disturbed, for the world around us is quietly changing beyond recognition—and time is running out to make things right. Amazon 4 stars, 480 pages, published April 6, 2016. Long listed for the National Book Award. Recommended by Richard Newton.
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APRIL 2, 2018
How only violence and catastrophes have consistently reduced inequality throughout world history. Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes. Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return. The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world. Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization. Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality. The "Four Horsemen" of leveling―mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues―have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich. Scheidel identifies and examines these processes, from the crises of the earliest civilizations to the cataclysmic world wars and communist revolutions of the twentieth century. Today, the violence that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished, and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the prospects for a more equal future. An essential contribution to the debate about inequality, The Great Leveler provides important new insights about why inequality is so persistent―and why it is unlikely to decline anytime soon. Amazon 4 stars, 528 pages, published January 24, 2017. .Shortlisted for the 2017 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award. Recommended by Bill Korstad
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