What the Foreign Policy staff are reading while trapped in the blizzard:
Preeti Aroon: “War in Iran: British Join Soviet Allies,” on
page 39 of the Jan. 26, 1942, issue of Life magazine. Google Books let’s
you browse old issues of Life, and it’s fun checking out the old
photos and advertisements.
Rebecca Frankel: "Unrolled, Unbridled and Unabashed." While it's not likely to "steam
up" your wintry day, this NY Times review by Edward Rothstein of the
Museum of Sex's latest exhibit, "Rubbers: The Life, History &
Struggle of the Condom," will certainly peak your interest. The details
range from that of romantic legend to obscure tidbits about venereal
disease. The inventor of the condom has never been confirmed but
apparently, history's most infamous ladies man, Cassanova was an avid
user of what he called he called "English frock coats" that
appreciatively "[saved] the fair sex from anxiety." What a dream boat.
Blake Hounshell: The Greatest Trade Ever: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of How John
Paulson Defied Wall Street and Made Financial History, by Gregory Zuckerman. John Paulson was never thought of as a titan of Wall Street
before the subprime mortgage meltdown, but the hedge-fund manager used the
crisis to score record-shattering returns of nearly 600% in 2008. In reviewing
the book, Malcolm Gladwell concocted a dubious theory that successful businessmen are actually not huge risk
takers, but Zuckerman’s reporting doesn’t support that theory: It
was touch and go all the way, and there was a good chance the government or a
consortium of bankers would wise up before Paulson could reap the rewards of
his foresight. Highly recommended.
Joshua Keating: A Little War That Shook the World: Georgia, Russia, and the Future of the West, by Ronald Asmus. The newsiest bit of this book is the revelation that the Bush administration considered military action to counter the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008. But more broadly, Asmus, a former deputy assistant secretary of state under the Clinton administration, argues that the West allowed the situation in the South Caucasus to deteriorate to the point where war was inevitable. While not letting Mikheil Saakashvili off the hook for the disastrous decision to attack South Ossetia on Aug. 7, Asmus convincingly explains why it seemed the prudent course of action at the time. It's a fascinating tick-tock though certainly not the last word on the subject.
Christina Larson: Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by
Peter Hessler recounts his 7,000 mile roadtrip through the Middle
Kingdom. On a day when the capital of the free world has been shut down
by snow, it's nice to imagine zipping across the backroads of rural
China with Hessler, the author of Oracle Bones and longtime Beijing
correspondent for The New Yorker. Moreover, in the midst of a blizzard
of recent headlines about rising U.S.-China political tensions, it's nice
to be taken into the lives of ordinary Chinese people whom Hessler
meets, and to be reminded how much hope, serendipity and muddle still
define the interior landscape of the rising superpower.
Annie Lowrey: In honor of Snowpocalypse 3...well, really, just because
it is good, I'm in the midst of reading Moe Tkacik's 8,000-word
of the major financial crisis books in the new Baffler. The question
remains whether Tkacik's brilliant article will recommend any of them.
Britt Peterson: As a huge fan of Scandinavian detective novels, I'm
eagerly awaiting the next installment in the Stieg Larsson Millennium
Trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest. I'm told by globetrotter friends who've managed to get copies of the British
translation that it's better than the somewhat preachy and
disappointing second installment, while not quite as good as the
gripping, morally complex, if a little bizarre and overstuffed first
installment. Not surprisingly, the parts I love the best are the
magazine-nerd scenes of daily editorial life at Mikael Blomkvist's
muckraking journal, Millennium: decisions about when to pull and when
to run pieces, staffing problems, difficult writers, confrontations
with sources, etc.
What are you reading?