The best books on history relevant to the present and near future

Reed Hundt Author Of A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions
By Reed Hundt

The Books I Picked & Why

The Cold War: A World History

By Odd Arne Westad

The Cold War: A World History

Why this book?

This book describes the life of Baby Boomers everywhere in the world – well, more precisely, the way the world was arranged by powers great and small during their lives. Lucidly and concisely written, the narrative is both familiar and revealing at the same time. To those alive during some or all of the major events of the Cold War, this book stitches together scattered memories to produce an integrated whole that in turn begs the question of whether people or fate drive history.


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Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World

By Adam Tooze

Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World

Why this book?

This book was a fortunate complement to the theme of my own book, and exceeds everything else written about the financial crisis of 2007-9 in its integration of finance as well as European and American decision-making. I suspect it will need further editions as more documentary evidence comes into the public domain, but already it stands as a polite but severe commentary on the memoirs of various actors.


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Britain's War: Into Battle, 1937-1941

By Daniel Todman

Britain's War: Into Battle, 1937-1941

Why this book?

Book 1 of these 2 is perhaps a better read because it explains, as the young Jack Kennedy famously wrote, “Why England Slept,” and that topic is more intriguing than the tactics of the Second World War itself, treated in Book 2. Nevertheless, if you have time read both books. You’ll conclude that Kennedy (and his ghostwriter) didn’t know what was up, and you’ll wonder if the United States is now repeating Britain’s history as its status as a great power is put under pressure by the rise of China.


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The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution

By Eric Foner

The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution

Why this book?

Being “woke” at a profound, historical level is just one of the consequences of reading Eric Foner’s superb explication of how the Supreme Court, supported by other powerful forces, undid the country’s monumental decision not only to end slavery but to give the formerly enslaved truly fair participation in society and equality before the law. This book should be required study for all members of the current Court.


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The Plot Against America: A Novel

By Philip Roth

The Plot Against America: A Novel

Why this book?

Philip Roth’s counterfactual historical fiction set in the 1930s and 1940s surely resembles in style the period from 2016-20. It’s much better written, of course, than the stuff presented for consumption by so-called real life in this recent four-year stretch of crude, mad, and lethal public expression of the darkness in some people’s souls.


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