The most unusual books about conflict, war, and peace

Why am I passionate about this?

Born of refugee parents, I grew up stateless in occupied, cold war-era Berlin, Germany. It is perhaps not surprising that the how and why of war, and the economic deprivation and poverty it produces, came to be my professional interest. I earned a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame (USA) and became a professor of economics with specialties in development economics and the economics of conflict, war, and peace. I like “grazing” along disciplinary boundaries and have written on economic aspects of military history, the economics of the firearms market, the impact of war on nature, and the economics of genocides and other mass atrocities.

I wrote...

War and Nature: The Environmental Consequences of War in a Globalized World

By Jurgen Brauer,

Book cover of War and Nature: The Environmental Consequences of War in a Globalized World

What is my book about?

The inherent dangers of war zones constrain even the most ardent researchers with the consequence that little has been known about the effects of war on nature. War and Nature sifts through the available data to ask how differences in conflict type, technology, location, and duration produce different environmental harms (and sometimes none). The book produces numerous unexpected insights and concludes with a practical agenda for collecting and evaluating scientific evidence in future wars and suggestions about what the world's nature conservation organizations can do to help protect nature in war.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Stable Peace

Jurgen Brauer Why did I love this book?

In his heyday, Kenneth Boulding was among America’s leading intellectuals across the natural and social sciences. A cofounder of the fields of ecological economics and of peace economics, he also wrote poetry.

Well-known books of his include The Image and Conflict and Defense, but I like the little Stable Peace the best. Just 143 pages long, it takes peace seriously, not as a utopian ideal but as a practical policy option. Boulding asks: as a scientific matter, what might it take to reach stable peace?

If nothing else, you will enjoy both the power of his concepts and of his writing. If phrases like “policy is social agriculture” don’t stop and engage you, what will?

By Kenneth Ewart Boulding,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stable Peace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The human race has often put a high value on struggle, strife, turmoil, and excitement. Peace has been regarded as a utopian, unattainable, perhaps dull ideal or as some random element over which we have no control. However, the desperate necessities of the nuclear age have forced us to take peace seriously as an object of both personal and national policy. Stable Peace attempts to answer the question, If we had a policy for peace, what would it look like?

A policy for peace aims to speed up the historically slow, painful, but persistent transition from a state of continual…

Book cover of Micromotives and Macrobehavior

Jurgen Brauer Why did I love this book?

This is the most unusual among my unusual books. On the surface, this is not even a book about conflict. (For his research on conflict, especially his 1960 book The Strategy of Conflict, Schelling would later be awarded the Nobel Prize in economics.)

But if you think of conflict as being unwilling or unable to cooperate, then a study of cooperation is, simultaneously, a study of conflict. In this book Schelling asks what are the principles by which people’s individual choices coalesce into society-wide, seemingly cooperative, aggregate outcomes. A master observer of human behavior and master storyteller, Schelling’s answers will amuse and surprise you.

By Thomas C. Schelling,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Micromotives and Macrobehavior as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Schelling here offers an early analysis of 'tipping' in social situations involving a large number of individuals." -official citation for the 2005 Nobel Prize

Micromotives and Macrobehavior was originally published over twenty-five years ago, yet the stories it tells feel just as fresh today. And the subject of these stories-how small and seemingly meaningless decisions and actions by individuals often lead to significant unintended consequences for a large group-is more important than ever. In one famous example, Thomas C. Schelling shows that a slight-but-not-malicious preference to have neighbors of the same race eventually leads to completely segregated populations.

The updated…

Book cover of Nonmilitary Aspects of Security: A Systems Approach

Jurgen Brauer Why did I love this book?

Most people in most countries grow up learning to think of security in terms of the use, or threat of use, of military force against actual or potential adversaries. But can security not also be achieved by nonmilitary means?

For one thing, the idea of security is not limited to security from military attack. Threats to physical survival, health, economic wellbeing, environmental resources, and political rights all illustrate a larger version of the security we seek.

A master of well-structured, systemic thinking, in this book Fischer introduces a powerful way to apply a simple concept taken from engineering science to creatively address pressing human problems.

By Dietrich Fischer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nonmilitary Aspects of Security as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Current agreements and negotiations on disarmament have clearly economic implications. Their effect abnd their perception remain inadequately known and uncertain. Based on the analysis of the actual disarmament process, this book questions a number of "sacred cows" frequently encountered in international fora and thinking on economic aspects of disarmament. The long debated link between disarmament and development for example is critically examined. Similarly the very idea that disarmement would yield automatic returns - the famous peace dividend - is called into question. At the same time, conversion also has its cost. For the purpose of the research which led to…

Book cover of The Logic of Violence in Civil War

Jurgen Brauer Why did I love this book?

Inter- and intrastate war are commonplace. News media play up the human drama and transmit the impression that much war is irrational, and that violence is dished out indiscriminately.

Scholars have long since discarded the notion of irrationality of and in warfare. Nonetheless, in their studies of the causes, conduct, and consequences of violence, they tend to treat violence itself as an unexamined entity. Enter Kalyvas who, in this book, disassembles violence into its components, much like natural scientists have disassembled molecules into atoms and atoms into subatomic particles.

With the constituent elements in hand, Kalyvas then proceeds to build a theory of (civil war) violence that is starkly logical, or rational. The hope is that once this logic is understood, better policy intervention tools to prevent violence may be designed. 

By Stathis N. Kalyvas,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Logic of Violence in Civil War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By analytically decoupling war and violence, this book explores the causes and dynamics of violence in civil war. Against the prevailing view that such violence is an instance of impenetrable madness, the book demonstrates that there is logic to it and that it has much less to do with collective emotions, ideologies, and cultures than currently believed. Kalyvas specifies a novel theory of selective violence: it is jointly produced by political actors seeking information and individual civilians trying to avoid the worst but also grabbing what opportunities their predicament affords them. Violence, he finds, is never a simple reflection of…

Book cover of Handbook of Defense Economics

Jurgen Brauer Why did I love this book?

In this two-volume collection you will find magisterial, if dated, surveys on an array of topics in conflict, war, and peace economics, all written by leading scholars in their respective fields of knowledge. I say “dated,” and yet I remain surprised by how current many of the 35 chapters in this collection are.

To pick just one example, the essay on economic sanctions, written in 2007, foretells on purely theoretical grounds most of the difficulties experienced when Western countries, led by the USA, imposed economic sanctions on Russia in response to that country’s invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2022. 

By Keith Hartley (editor), T. Sandler (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Handbook of Defense Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This Handbook provides a self-contained survey of the current state of defense economics in the form of chapters prepared by leading specialists on various aspects in the field. The volume summarizes not only received results but also newer developments, from recent journal articles and discussion papers. Theoretical analysis, econometric techniques, and policy issues are addressed. The chapters fall into two essential categories: surveys and conceptual studies. Survey chapters present a synthesis, interpretation, and evaluation of the literature for particular subfields of defense economics, whereas the conceptual chapters elucidate the analysis of specific topics. Both types of chapters provide directions for…

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The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

By John Winn Miller,

Book cover of The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

John Winn Miller

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The Hunt for the Peggy C is best described as Casablanca meets Das Boot. It is about an American smuggler who struggles to rescue a Jewish family on his rusty cargo ship, outraging his mutinous crew of misfits and provoking a hair-raising chase by a brutal Nazi U-boat captain bent on revenge.

During the nerve-wracking 3,000-mile escape, Rogers falls in love with the family’s eldest daughter, Miriam, a sweet medical student with a militant streak. Everything seems hopeless when Jake is badly wounded, and Miriam must prove she’s as tough as her rhetoric to put down a mutiny by some of Jake’s fed-up crew–just as the U-boat closes in for the kill.

The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

By John Winn Miller,

What is this book about?

John Winn Miller's THE HUNT FOR THE PEGGY C, a semifinalist in the Clive Cussler Adventure Writers Competition, captures the breathless suspense of early World War II in the North Atlantic. Captain Jake Rogers, experienced in running his tramp steamer through U-boat-infested waters to transport vital supplies and contraband to the highest bidder, takes on his most dangerous cargo yet after witnessing the oppression of Jews in Amsterdam: a Jewish family fleeing Nazi persecution.

The normally aloof Rogers finds himself drawn in by the family's warmth and faith, but he can't afford to let his guard down when Oberleutnant Viktor…

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