The best books for understanding borders in a globalized world

The Books I Picked & Why

Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security

By Todd Miller

Book cover of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security

Why this book?

Miller makes the case that border security is an issue that applies to nearly every American—even if they don’t realize it. He paints a vivid picture of how pervasive Border Patrol has become in our national culture and economy, as the largest law enforcement agency in the country with jurisdiction over two-thirds of Americans and biometric data on 250 million citizens already stored away in the agency’s surveillance database. 


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Wall Disease: The Psychological Toll of Living Up Against a Border

By Jessica Wapner

Book cover of Wall Disease: The Psychological Toll of Living Up Against a Border

Why this book?

We know a lot about the hot-button issues surrounding borders – family separations, deportation, smuggling but borders also have wildly underestimated psychological effects on individuals. Wapner impressively synthesizes data and research collected on the effects of border barriers from some of the most volatile regions in the world including India and Pakistan, Mexico and the U.S., and both sides of the peace lines of Northern Ireland. The mental health issues caused by militarized borders are alarming and almost entirely unrecognized in today’s world; Wapner brings these shocking and revelatory dynamics to light.


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The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

By Francisco Cantú

Book cover of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

Why this book?

Melding his time as a Border Patrol agent with memories of exploring the Mexico-U.S. border region as a child with his mother, Cantú provides a dynamic mash-up of a book: one part insider account from within the agency, detailing his encounters with violent criminals as well as desperate migrants, and one part personal meditation on the border region, searching for meaning and understanding when it comes to the landscape and complicated histories of the U.S. southern border region. 


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Border Hacker: A Tale of Treachery, Trafficking, and Two Friends on the Run

By Levi Vonk

Book cover of Border Hacker: A Tale of Treachery, Trafficking, and Two Friends on the Run

Why this book?

Vonk and Kirschner tell their riveting story of meeting on a Viacrucis Migrante – known to most as a “caravan” of migrants traveling from Central America, up through Mexico. Kirschner is a world-class hacker and his skills lead him and Vonk on an absolutely fascinating journey into the world of human traffickers, anti-government guerillas, and corrupt government officials not to mention corrupt priests. This book will disrupt everything you thought you knew about the migrant caravans, why people decide to join these journeys, and the realities they face along the way.


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The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

By Greg Grandin

Book cover of The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

Why this book?

Grandin makes a masterful argument that “frontier” is the defining American obsession, from Manifest Destiny to 21st Century capitalist imperialism. According to Grandin, it is America’s sense of an ever-expanding frontier that guides so much of our decision-making on an individualistic and national scale. His thesis gives clarity to all of the energy and enthusiasm that has gone into the idea of building an impractical, impossible 2,000-mile-long barrier along the U.S. southern border. 


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