The most recommended public policy books

Who picked these books? Meet our 99 experts.

99 authors created a book list connected to public policy, and here are their favorite public policy books.
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The Poison Squad

By Deborah Blum,

Book cover of The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Andrew Amelinckx Author Of Satellite Boy: The International Manhunt for a Master Thief That Launched the Modern Communication Age

From the list on narrative non-fiction that interweave crime and history.

Who am I?

I’ve been enthralled with history since childhood thanks to my late father, a college professor with a passion for the past. Our house was always filled with history books of all types and my father was a veritable encyclopedia who enjoyed answering my questions. When I became a crime reporter in the early 2000s, my predilection for history merged with my interest in crime and I ended up writing four books centered around historical crimes ranging in time from the 1700s to the 1960s. 

Andrew's book list on narrative non-fiction that interweave crime and history

Why did Andrew love this book?

In The Poison Squad, Deborah Blum explores the era in American history before food and drugs were regulated, a wild time indeed when many patent medicines contained not only morphine or cocaine but a plethora of poisonous substances that killed many users.

Even worse, unregulated candy containing adulterated ingredients led to many children’s deaths. Blum not only does a wonderful job breaking down the science and politics involved in this fascinating story but gives a vivid picture of the late 19th century and early 20th in the U.S.

Today, when many are calling for deregulation, The Poison Squad is even more relevant. 

By Deborah Blum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Poison Squad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Notable Book 

The inspiration for PBS's AMERICAN EXPERIENCE film The Poison Squad.

From Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times-bestselling author Deborah Blum, the dramatic true story of how food was made safe in the United States and the heroes, led by the inimitable Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, who fought for change

By the end of nineteenth century, food was dangerous. Lethal, even. "Milk" might contain formaldehyde, most often used to embalm corpses. Decaying meat was preserved with both salicylic acid, a pharmaceutical chemical, and borax, a compound first identified as a cleaning product. This was…

Youth to Power

By Jamie Margolin,

Book cover of Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use It

Tanja Hester Author Of Wallet Activism: How to Use Every Dollar You Spend, Earn, and Save as a Force for Change

From the list on to equip you to fight for change.

Who am I?

I have spent 20+ years working on the question of how social and environmental change happens, from my long-time career in progressive politics to my current work writing about the most pressing issues of our time through an economic lens, and occasionally talking about them on my podcast, also called Wallet Activism. So I know well how intimidating it can feel to get involved, whether it’s worrying your voice isn’t needed (trust me, it is!) or not knowing the nuts and bolts of where to start. But we have so much power when we act collectively, and I want you to feel personally invited to take action.

Tanja's book list on to equip you to fight for change

Why did Tanja love this book?

Ignore the word “youth” in the title, because this is not just a book for kids and teens! Jamie is a young, queer activist who has achieved some impressive activism victories at a young age, but best of all, she combines real activist know-how with a sense of hope and optimism that’s hard to find in older activists. This book is an excellent guide to getting involved and staying involved anywhere from the local level up to a global scale. This is a must-read for people who are fired up to take action but don’t know where to start.

By Jamie Margolin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Youth to Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 1963 Children's March in Birmingham, Alabama. Tiananmen Square, 1989. The 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests. March for Our Lives, and School Strike for Climate. What do all these social justice movements have in common? They were led by passionate, informed, engaged young people. Jamie Margolin has been organizing and protesting since she was fourteen years old. Now the co-leader of a global climate action movement, she knows better than most how powerful a young person can be. You don't have to be able to vote or hold positions of power to change the world.

In Youth to Power, Jamie…

Undocumented Lives

By Ana Raquel Minian,

Book cover of Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration

Paul Spickard, Francisco Beltrán, and Laura Hooton Author Of Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity

From the list on the history of race, ethnicity, and colonialism in the US.

Who are we?

Paul Spickard wrote the first edition of Almost All Aliens. He invited Francisco Beltrán and Laura Hooton, who worked under Dr. Spickard at UC Santa Barbara, to co-author the second edition after working as research assistants and providing suggestions for the second edition. We are all historians of race, ethnicity, immigration, colonialism, and identity, and in our other works and teaching we each think about these topics in different ways. We did the same for this list—this is a list of five books that talk about topics that are important to Almost All Aliens and approaches that have been influential in how we think about the topic.  

Laura's book list on the history of race, ethnicity, and colonialism in the US

Why did Laura love this book?

For readers interested in undocumented immigration, especially from Mexico, Minian’s book provides important and necessary historical context for present-day issues. In particular, the book explains how undocumented immigrants were caught in the middle of economic and political policies in the United States and Mexico. As the title implies, the lives of these immigrants are at the heart of the story, including how these much broader systems impacted their individual lives.

By Ana Raquel Minian,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Undocumented Lives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frederick Jackson Turner Award Finalist
Winner of the David Montgomery Award
Winner of the Theodore Saloutos Book Award
Winner of the Betty and Alfred McClung Lee Book Award
Winner of the Frances Richardson Keller-Sierra Prize
Winner of the Americo Paredes Book Award

"A deeply humane book."
-Mae Ngai, author of Impossible Subjects

"Necessary and timely...A valuable text to consider alongside the current fight for DACA, the border concentration camps, and the unending rhetoric dehumanizing Mexican migrants."

"A deep dive into the history of Mexican migration to and from the United States."
-PRI's The World

In the 1970s, the Mexican…

Wretched Refuse?

By Alex Nowrasteh, Benjamin Powell,

Book cover of Wretched Refuse?: The Political Economy of Immigration and Institutions

Ilya Somin Author Of Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom

From the list on migration rights and democracy.

Who am I?

Ilya Somin is a Professor of Law at George Mason University. He is the author of Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom, Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter, and The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London, and the Limits of Eminent Domain. Somin has also published articles in a variety of popular press outlets, including The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, CNN, The Atlantic, and USA Today. He is a regular contributor to the popular Volokh Conspiracy law and politics blog, affiliated with Reason.

Ilya's book list on migration rights and democracy

Why did Ilya love this book?

Perhaps the strongest argument against expanded migration rights is the fear that too many of the “wrong” kind of immigrants might kill the goose the laid the golden egg that makes a country attractive to migrants in the first place. If immigrants have harmful cultural values, vote for dangerous political leaders, or otherwise undermine the political and economic system, they could degrade the host nation’s institutions. In the extreme case, they might even replicate the same awful conditions that led them to flee their country of origin. Wretched Refuse is the most thorough analysis and refutation of such concerns. Nowrasteh and Powell use both historical and modern evidence to show that institutional concerns about immigration are largely misplaced and that migrants strengthen liberal democracy far more than they undermine it.

By Alex Nowrasteh, Benjamin Powell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wretched Refuse? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Economic arguments favoring increased immigration restrictions suggest that immigrants undermine the culture, institutions, and productivity of destination countries. But is this actually true? Nowrasteh and Powell systematically analyze cross-country evidence of potential negative effects caused by immigration relating to economic freedom, corruption, culture, and terrorism. They analyze case studies of mass immigration to the United States, Israel, and Jordan. Their evidence does not support the idea that immigration destroys the institutions responsible for prosperity in the modern world. This nonideological volume makes a qualified case for free immigration and the accompanying prosperity.

Education for Extinction

By David Wallace Adams,

Book cover of Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928

Farina King Author Of The Earth Memory Compass: Diné Landscapes and Education in the Twentieth Century

From the list on U.S. Indian boarding school experiences.

Who am I?

My Diné (Navajo) family stories drew me into history including studies of Indigenous experiences in boarding schools. Two of my uncles were Navajo Code Talkers, and I loved asking them about their life stories. My uncle Albert Smith often spoke about his memories of the war. I was struck by the irony that he was sent to a boarding school as a child where the Navajo language was forbidden, and then he later relied on the language to protect his homelands. I then became interested in all my relatives' boarding school stories, including those of my father, which led me to write my first book The Earth Memory Compass about Diné school experiences. 

Farina's book list on U.S. Indian boarding school experiences

Why did Farina love this book?

Adams’s book exposed the Indian boarding school agenda and system as genocide for many readers. His book was one of the first publications that I read about Indian boarding schools as it represents a significant historiographical shift and approach to Indigenous experiences in boarding schools since the first writings of Native American boarding school students such as Zitkála-Šá, Charles Eastman, and Luther Standing Bear. The revised edition of his book could not have come at a better time with the announcement of the Federal Indian Boarding School Truth Initiative that followed about a year later in June 2021.

By David Wallace Adams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Education for Extinction as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The last 'Indian War' was fought against Native American children in the dormitories and classrooms of government boarding schools. Only by removing Indian children from their homes for extended periods of time, policymakers reasoned, could white "civilization" take root while childhood memories of 'savagism' gradually faded to the point of extinction. In the words of one official: 'Kill the Indian and save the man.'

This fully revised edition of Education for Extinction offers the only comprehensive account of this dispiriting effort, and incorporates the last twenty-five years of scholarship. Much more than a study of federal Indian policy, this book…

The Hamlet Fire

By Bryant Simon,

Book cover of The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives

Thomas F. Jackson Author Of From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice

From the list on racial and economic justice movements in the US.

Who am I?

Growing up middle-class, white, progressive, and repeatedly exposed to the mediated crises and movements of the Sixties left me with a lifelong challenge of making sense of the American dilemma. My road was long and winding–a year in Barcelona as Spain struggled to emerge from autocracy; years organizing for the nuclear freeze and against apartheid; study under academics puzzling through the possibilities of nonviolent and democratic politics. My efforts culminated in the publication of a volume that won the Organization of American Historians Liberty Legacy Award, for the “best book by a historian on the civil rights struggle from the beginnings of the nation to the present.”

Thomas' book list on racial and economic justice movements in the US

Why did Thomas love this book?

Though this book is not a study of movement organizing, it shows just how necessary the task of political and economic empowerment remains, if people are to escape cycles of low wages, dangerous work, persistent racism, and public neglect. This book inspired me, and even more so my students, for the connections it uncovered in a declining North Carolina railroad town: a growing, fiercely competitive, and radically unsafe poultry processing industry; persistent neighborhood segregation and racial disrespect, despite the widespread integration of Blacks and women into workplaces; the exclusion of Blacks and poor whites from local political power; the growth of mother-only and time-pressed poor families increasingly reliant on low wages and cheap food to get by. These are only a few of the topics Simon compressed into his lucid and readable portrait of the tragedy of chicken and the unfinished business of our time.

By Bryant Simon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Hamlet Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For decades, the small, quiet town of Hamlet, North Carolina, thrived thanks to the railroad. But by the 1970s, it had become a postindustrial backwater, a magnet for businesses in search of cheap labor and almost no oversight. Imperial Food Products was one of those businesses. The company set up shop in Hamlet in the 1980s. Workers who complained about low pay and hazardous working conditions at the plant were silenced or fired. But jobs were scarce in town, so workers kept coming back, and the company continued to operate with impunity. Then, on the morning of September 3, 1991,…

Earth System Governance

By Frank Biermann,

Book cover of Earth System Governance: World Politics in the Anthropocene

Oran R. Young Author Of Governing Complex Systems: Social Capital for the Anthropocene

From the list on global environmental governance.

Who am I?

I have spent my professional life exploring the roles social institutions play in guiding interactions between humans and the natural environment in a variety of settings. Along the way, I pioneered research on what is now known as global environmental governance, devoting particular attention to issues relating to the atmosphere, the oceans, and the polar regions. Although I come from the world of scholarship, I have played an active role in promoting productive interactions between science and policy regarding matters relating to the Arctic and global environmental change.

Oran's book list on global environmental governance

Why did Oran love this book?

The dramatic growth in human populations and the extraordinary increase in human capacities to affect the environment has led to a transformation of the setting in which issues of environmental governance arise.

The result is the onset of a new era commonly described as the Anthropocene and the rise of the idea of Earth system governance. The biophysical conditions that control the Earth’s climate system or the diversity of life on the planet play critical roles as determinants of human well-being.

But human actions also are now critical forces in determining the character of the climate system and the future of biological diversity on the planet. There is still a need for regimes dealing with specific environmental concerns, such as transboundary air pollution, persistent organic pollutants, or the spread of plastic debris.

At the same time, there is a critical need to focus on arrangements designed to sustain key planetary…

By Frank Biermann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Earth System Governance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new model for effective global environmental governance in an era of human-caused planetary transformation and disruption.

Humans are no longer spectators who need to adapt to their natural environment. Our impact on the earth has caused changes that are outside the range of natural variability and are equivalent to such major geological disruptions as ice ages. Some scientists argue that we have entered a new epoch in planetary history: the Anthropocene. In such an era of planet-wide transformation, we need a new model for planet-wide environmental politics. In this book, Frank Biermann proposes “earth system” governance as just such…

The Edge of Disaster

By Stephen Flynn,

Book cover of The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation

A.H. Hay Author Of Before the Storm: Exploring Protection Planning and Security Integration

From the list on operational resilience and why it's important.

Who am I?

I practised risk, resilience, and protection of infrastructure systems for 35 years. Mid-career, I became frustrated that we could deliver highly successful projects yet didn't deliver their ultimate purpose. This difference is particularly pronounced in war zones and the developing world, where most of my work has been. My research at the University challenged what I knew: it was as if someone had taken my heuristic understanding and cast the components like a pack of cards into the wind. I have shared some highlights in my journey to gather the cards. I hope you like them.

A.H.'s book list on operational resilience and why it's important

Why did A.H. love this book?

More than any other writer, Flynn explained the value and need for resilient critical infrastructure. He distinguished between foreseeable and unforeseeable threats, and made clear that we can reduce the risk and impact of both. Since 9/11, anything purporting to discuss protection/security and resilience was skewed to terrrorism, giving scant consideration to more fundamental changes in our world. Flynn brought this broader perspective to the fore, and I would like to believe he influenced political and academic thinking. I fear he was the Cassandra to the business community, who are only now starting to understand the risks they face. I made this book core reading for all the infrastructure courses I teach. It is clear, simple, and sets each concept in context with an unambiguous call to action.

By Stephen Flynn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Edge of Disaster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do we remain unprepared for the next terrorist attack or natural disaster? Where are we most vulnerable? How have we allowed our government to be so negligent? Who will keep you and your family safe? Is America living on borrowed time? How can we become a more resilient nation?

Americans are in denial when it comes to facing up to how vulnerable our nation is to disaster, be it terrorist attack or act of God. We have learned little from the cataclysms of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. When it comes to catastrophe, America is living on borrowed time–and…

Poverty, by America

By Matthew Desmond,

Book cover of Poverty, by America

Pamela Haag Author Of The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture

From Pamela's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Contrarian Humanist Editor Cultural custodian of the analog world

Pamela's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Pamela love this book?

Desmond describes in searing and vivid terms what it means to be poor today, and posits that poverty continues for the simple reason that some in America benefit from it.

Desmond manages the challenge of synthesizing an impassioned critique with facts and ethnography while crafting a narrative. Among other brilliant interventions, he reminds us, at a time when the social safety net gets routinely trashed, that the War on Poverty actually worked to diminish poverty.

His last chapter articulates an argument that I’ve often made: living with forms of inequality hurts all of us. It hurts those who suffer most immediately from them the most, of course. Might we imagine a world where we all benefit from not having to confront glaring inequalities every day?

By Matthew Desmond,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Poverty, by America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted reimagines the debate on poverty, making a “provocative and compelling” (NPR) argument about why it persists in America: because the rest of us benefit from it.

“Urgent and accessible . . . Its moral force is a gut punch.”—The New Yorker
ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2023: The Washington Post, Time, Esquire, Newsweek, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Elle, Salon, Lit Hub, Kirkus Reviews

The United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow…

Book cover of Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland

Heidi Daniele Author Of The House Children

From the list on Irish industrial schools and mother baby homes.

Who am I?

I am first generation American - my mother is from Ireland and my father is from Germany. I’ve always had an interest in my heritage and developed a passion for genealogy. My curiosity led me to researching Industrial Schools and Mother Baby Homes in Ireland. I’ve read many books about these institutions and also wrote a book of my own based on stories of former residents of St. Joseph’s Industrial School in Ballinasloe, Galway.

Heidi's book list on Irish industrial schools and mother baby homes

Why did Heidi love this book?

Moira J. Maguire has written a book that could be used by academics yet still fascinates a curious reader. Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland gives a full view of the system implemented to care for needy children. The study examines the roles of religion and state involved in providing services. Maguire references documents and quotes from reports to give the reader an authentic view of how destitute, abused, and illegitimate children were cared for. 

By Moira J. Maguire,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This fascinating study reveals the desperate plight of the poor, illegitimate, and abused children in an Irish society that claimed to cherish and hold them sacred, but in fact marginalized and ignored them. It examines closely the history of childhood in post-independence Ireland, and breaks new ground in examining the role of the state in caring for its most vulnerable citizens.

Maguire gives voice to those children who formed a significant proportion of the Irish population, but have been ignored in the historical record. More importantly, she uses their experiences as lenses through which to re-evaluate Catholic influence in post-independence…

Climate Justice

By Mary Robinson,

Book cover of Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future

Tara Shine Author Of How to Save Your Planet One Object at a Time

From the list on climate change and sustainability.

Who am I?

I am an environmental scientist with over 25 years experience working on climate change and sustainability. 20 of those years were spent working internationally on environmental policy in developing countries, advising the World Bank and the OECD, and being a climate change negotiator in the UN. I am a thought leader who advised the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice and The Elders Foundation. In 2018 I co-founded my business, Change by Degrees, which works with people and organisations to transform business for good. I am passionate about fairness between people and between people and the planet and enjoy communicating in a hopeful and positive way about the future we can choose.

Tara's book list on climate change and sustainability

Why did Tara love this book?

Mary Robinson is the former President of Ireland, an advocate for a people-centred and rights-based approach to climate action and my former boss.

In her book she tells the story of her own journey to climate justice and allows many of the people who influenced and informed her to tell their own stories.

Their experiences of the injustice of climate impacts on small islands, farmers, women, and workers make a compelling case for urgent, rights-based climate action.

By Mary Robinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'As an advocate for the hungry and the hunted, the forgotten and the ignored, Mary Robinson has not only shone a light on human suffering, but illuminated a better future for our world' BARACK OBAMA


Holding her first grandchild in her arms in 2003, Mary Robinson was struck by the uncertainty of the world he had been born into. Before his fiftieth birthday, he would share the planet with more than nine billion people - people battling for food, water, and shelter in an increasingly volatile climate. The faceless, shadowy menace of…

Dead Wake

By Erik Larson,

Book cover of Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Jan Cullinane Author Of The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life, 3rd edition

From Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Retirement expert Avid tennis player World-wide Traveler Happy mother/spouse/grandmother/sibling/aunt Reader

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Jan love this book?

It’s a true story that reads like a mystery, thriller, and yet was an actual historical event.

There were so many little things that could have gone differently that would have changed the ultimate outcome for the Lusitania. It’s like a metaphor for life – small differences can result in huge outcomes…sometimes wonderful, sometimes terrible.

I loved it because of the intrigue, the rich character descriptions, and how it reminded me of Greek tragedies with the “hubris” of many of those involved in the ship’s ultimate fate. I was immersed in a fascinating history lesson, story, and character study all in one well-researched and well-written book. It was a nonfiction book that read like a thriller.

By Erik Larson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Dead Wake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era's great transatlantic "Greyhounds" and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover,…

Five Times Faster

By Simon Sharpe,

Book cover of Five Times Faster: Rethinking the Science, Economics, and Diplomacy of Climate Change

Mark A. Maslin Author Of How To Save Our Planet: The Facts

From the list on helping you save our beautiful precious planet.

Who am I?

The world around us is an amazing and beautiful place and for me science adds another layer of appreciation. I am a Professor of Earth System Science at University College London - which means I am lucky enough to research climate change in the past, the present, and the future. I study everything from early human evolution in Africa to the future impacts of anthropogenic climate change.  I have published over 190 papers in top science journals. I have written 10 books, over 100 popular articles and I regularly appear on radio and television. My blogs on the 'Conversation' have been read over 5.5 million times and you might want to check them out!

Mark's book list on helping you save our beautiful precious planet

Why did Mark love this book?

The subtitle of this book is rethinking the science, economics, and diplomacy of climate change. And trust me Simon does that for you and more.

Because the world is facing multiple disasters with heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods, and massive storms becoming more common and more deadly. But there is an underlying optimism in this book – things are changing and we are reducing carbon emissions, pollution, and destruction of the natural world.  But the message Simon is giving us is that we are not doing it quick enough.

The way our economic and political systems are set up means we are slow to respond – and as Simon eloquently points out with facts and figures we need to do everything 5 times faster.  The question is, will we?

By Simon Sharpe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Five Times Faster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We need to act five times faster to avoid dangerous climate change. As Greenland melts, Australia burns, and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, we think we know who the villains are: oil companies, consumerism, weak political leaders. But what if the real blocks to progress are the ideas and institutions that are supposed to be helping us? Five Times Faster is an inside story from Simon Sharpe, who has spent ten years at the forefront of climate change policy and diplomacy. In our fight to avoid dangerous climate change, science is pulling its punches, diplomacy is picking the wrong…

FDR and the Jews

By Richard Breitman, Allan J. Lichtman,

Book cover of FDR and the Jews

Rebecca Erbelding Author Of Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America's Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe

From the list on the Holocaust and the United States.

Who am I?

I’m a historian who specializes in the American response to the Holocaust. Growing up, I remember being confused—it seemed like the United States knew nothing about the Nazi persecution and murder of Europe’s Jews—or it knew everything!—but either way, the US didn’t do anything to help. And that didn’t make sense with what I knew about the United States, a country that never speaks with one voice on any issue. And as I dug in, I learned that this is a fascinating, infuriating, nuanced history full of very familiar-sounding struggles over whether and how the country will live up to the ideals we claim for ourselves. 

Rebecca's book list on the Holocaust and the United States

Why did Rebecca love this book?

Anytime I give a talk, someone asks, “Well, what was really going on with FDR? Why didn’t he do anything?” And the answer to that is always: it’s complicated. But Breitman and Lichtman do a great job explaining how FDR could be both beloved by the Jewish community in the 1930s and 1940s and blamed today for not welcoming Jewish refugees escaping Hitler. And the answer is partly our expectations. We want him to have been a humanitarian, but he was a politician who did some things when he could, but ultimately prioritized recovery from the Great Depression and victory in World War II. You’re going to leave the book more frustrated than when you started, but maybe that’s the answer? It was complicated.

By Richard Breitman, Allan J. Lichtman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked FDR and the Jews as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nearly seventy-five years after World War II, a contentious debate lingers over whether Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned his back on the Jews of Hitler's Europe. Defenders claim that FDR saved millions of potential victims by defeating Nazi Germany. Others revile him as morally indifferent and indict him for keeping America's gates closed to Jewish refugees and failing to bomb Auschwitz's gas chambers.

In an extensive examination of this impassioned debate, Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman find that the president was neither savior nor bystander. In FDR and the Jews, they draw upon many new primary sources to offer an…

Social Security Pensions

By Colin Gillion (editor), John Turner, Clive Bailey, Denis Latulippe

Book cover of Social Security Pensions: Development and Reform

John A. Turner Author Of Sustaining Social Security in an Era of Population Aging

From the list on fixing social security.

Who am I?

As an economist with a PhD from the University of Chicago, I have focused my research on fixing Social Security and pension policy. I have researched and written about these issues for the U.S. and other countries around the world, as well as consulting on these issues in a number of countries. My career has included working at policy research offices in the Social Security Administration the Department of Labor (pensions), the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland, AARP, and heading the Pension Policy Center. 

John's book list on fixing social security

Why did John love this book?

This book takes a broader perspective and analyzes social security policy around the world.

It surveys the social security programs in each of the major areas of the world. It argues for social security pensions based on social insurance rather than on funded individual accounts. It also discusses other issues of importance in some countries, such as contribution evasion. It proposes ways of extending Social Security coverage to more workers.

There also are Japanese and Spanish editions of this book. Including the three editions, this book is one of the most widely cited in this field.

By Colin Gillion (editor), John Turner, Clive Bailey, Denis Latulippe

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a valuable reference for anyone concerned with reforming or establishing pension programs and for those looking to understand the practicalities and structure behind various pension schemes. By providing a balanced assessment and factual review of what various countries around the world have done, this book assists decision-makers in forming effective, viable pension policy. Discussing not only the current situation in pension schemes, the book also considers the analytical, social, and economic consequences which arise from different pension structures. In what sometimes is a heated debate, this study avoids taking sides, but instead illustrates what has worked and not…

Civic Fusion

By Susan L. Podziba,

Book cover of Civic Fusion: Mediating Polarized Public Disputes

Lawrence E. Susskind Author Of Good for You, Great for Me: Finding the Trading Zone and Winning at Win-Win Negotiation

From the list on negotiating for mutual advantage.

Who am I?

I am a Professor at MIT and co-founder of both the inter-university Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and the not-for-profit Consensus Building Institute that provides help in resolving some of the most complex resource management disputes around the world. I have been teaching negotiation and dispute resolution, doing research about the circumstances under which various negotiation strategies do and don’t work, and offering online training for more than four decades. Given the many negotiations I've observed, I’m convinced that negotiating for mutual advantage is the way to go -- avoid unnecessary conflict, get what you want in all kinds of negotiating situations, and walk away with good working relationships and a solid reputation.

Lawrence's book list on negotiating for mutual advantage

Why did Lawrence love this book?

Susan has helped a lot of people come together to work out their differences and achieve a common goal, even in the face of deeply-held conflicting values. She calls the kinds of processes she helps to design: civic fusion. Because she is a skilled mediator who has worked in all kinds of situations in many places, she is able to explain and illustrate how adding a “neutral” facilitator can overcome fundamental obstacles to agreement. The cases that she talks about, like a city that has gone bankrupt, thrown out its elected leaders and had to write a new charter to redefine the kind of democracy it wanted to be, actually pulled that off. 

She played a role in bringing together pro-life and pro-choice leaders for a private dialogue in which they were able to find common ground. Passion, power and conflict generate energy; Susan describes ways of channeling that energy…

By Susan L. Podziba,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Civic fusion occurs when people bond to achieve a common public goal, even as they sustain deep value differences. This book offers proven strategies for moving polarized parties to consensus solutions based on the author's 25 years of mediation and negotiation experience, including working with pro-life and pro-choice leaders after fatal shootings at women's health clinics, crane industry and union representatives to develop federal worker safety regulations, and citizens of a failed city that reclaimed their democracy by writing a consensus charter.

Using these and other real-world examples, Civic Fusion guides readers through a provocative discussion about what mediators aspire…

Spectacular Realities

By Vanessa R. Schwartz,

Book cover of Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-De-Siècle Paris

Mark D. Steinberg Author Of Russian Utopia: A Century of Revolutionary Possibilities

From the list on the modern history of cities.

Who am I?

I grew up in San Francisco and worked in New York City in the 1970s as a taxi driver and printing apprentice, and, after getting a doctorate at UC Berkeley, taught at Harvard, Yale, and the University of Illinois. Most of my publications and teaching have been about Russian history—I've written books on labor relations, working-class writers, the Russian Revolution, St. Petersburg, and utopias. I've been teaching comparative urban history for several years and am writing a new book on urban storytelling about street life, nightlife, and morality in Soviet Odessa, colonial Bombay, and New York City in the 1920s and 1930s. I recently retired and live in New York City and Turin, Italy.

Mark's book list on the modern history of cities

Why did Mark love this book?

Among so many brilliant authors on city life – if I could have chosen 10 books, I would have surely also have given you books by critics like Walter Benjamin and Marshall Berman, and writers like James Joyce, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Charles Baudelaire. One of the pleasures in reading Vanessa Schwartz’s book is that she knows and draws on so much of this older work to think about the astonishing spectacle of late 19th-century Paris. Here is life on its boulevards; sensational stories of the city as presented in mass-circulation newspapers; the morgue (!) as a place for both science and entertainment; the wax museum, the panorama, and the cinema. A sensationalized version of everyday life is what most fascinates the author, and us as readers, making us think about what is “real” and what is important to understand, public and private life, commercialism, modern ways of seeing…

By Vanessa R. Schwartz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

During the second half of the nineteenth century, Paris emerged as the entertainment capital of the world. The sparkling redesigned city fostered a culture of energetic crowd-pleasing and multi-sensory amusements that would apprehend and represent real life as spectacle. Vanessa R. Schwartz examines the explosive popularity of such phenomena as the boulevards, the mass press, public displays of corpses at the morgue, wax museums, panoramas, and early film. Drawing on a wide range of written and visual materials, including private and business archives, and working at the intersections of art history, literature, and cinema studies, Schwartz argues that "spectacular realities"…

Torn Apart

By Dorothy Roberts,

Book cover of Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families--And How Abolition Can Build a Safer World

Roxanna Asgarian Author Of We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America

From the list on how our systems are failing vulnerable children.

Who am I?

I’m an investigative journalist and author, and a decade ago I began digging into the child welfare system—what we call the patchwork web of child protection agencies around the country. The more I learned, the more I realized how this system, which is ostensibly to help children in need, is actually perpetrating deep and lasting harm on generations of children and families. These books have helped me understand how we punish poor people instead of helping them, and how our racist systems harm Black and Indigenous children. They’ve also helped me to sit with the reality of child abuse, and begin to see a different way of preventing harm and healing those who’ve been hurt. 

Roxanna's book list on how our systems are failing vulnerable children

Why did Roxanna love this book?

Dorothy Roberts is the foremost expert on the harms of the child welfare system, which she terms the family policing system.

Her first book on the subject, Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare was published in 2001 and was way ahead of the curve in naming the racist practices of a system that’s in theory designed to help children. Torn Apart is a really important update, published in 2022, that allows for a new generation of readers to grapple with a harmful system and to wrap their minds around the need for a completely different approach.

By Dorothy Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An award-winningscholarexposes thefoundational racismof thechild welfare systemand calls for radical change 
Many believe the child welfare system protects children from abuse. But as Torn Apart uncovers, this system is designed to punish Black families. Drawing on decades of research, legal scholar and sociologist Dorothy Roberts reveals that the child welfare system is better understood as a “family policing system” that collaborates with law enforcement and prisons to oppress Black communities. Child protection investigations ensnare a majority of Black children, putting their families under intense state surveillance and regulation. Black children are disproportionately likely to be torn from their families and…

The Apache Diaspora

By Paul Conrad,

Book cover of The Apache Diaspora: Four Centuries of Displacement and Survival

Sarah Deutsch Author Of Making a Modern U.S. West: The Contested Terrain of a Region and Its Borders, 1898-1940

From the list on reimagining our mythic American West and its cast.

Who am I?

At some point I decided that if I was going to teach US history, I better have a good sense of what the place looked like. So I drove across the country—and then back again—and then again, and then once more, each time at a different latitude. I drove through North Dakota and South Dakota, Montana and Idaho, Nebraska and Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas, up and down California, Oregon and Washington, and on and on. I got addicted to seeing the landscape in all its amazing variety and vastness, and seeing the landscape made the histories come alive. 

Sarah's book list on reimagining our mythic American West and its cast

Why did Sarah love this book?

When we think of slavery in American History, we mostly think of African Americans enslaved by white settlers. Paul Conrad tells a different story. Focusing on the Apache and through the often poignant stories of particular Apache women and men over the course of four centuries, he details their experience as shifting webs of alliance led to their enslavement by the Spanish and the Mexicans on the North American mainland and Cuba, and imprisoned and held in unfreedom by the United States through the 1880s, and yet still holding onto their identity as a distinct people with a distinct culture.

By Paul Conrad,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Apache Diaspora as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Across four centuries, Apache (Nde) peoples in the North American West confronted enslavement and forced migration schemes intended to exploit, subjugate, or eliminate them. While many Indigenous groups in the Americas lived through similar histories, Apaches were especially affected owing to their mobility, resistance, and proximity to multiple imperial powers. Spanish, Comanche, Mexican, and American efforts scattered thousands of Apaches across the continent and into the Caribbean and deeply impacted Apache groups that managed to remain in the Southwest.
Based on archival research in Spain, Mexico, and the United States, as well Apache oral histories, The Apache Diaspora brings to…

Torture and Democracy

By Darius Rejali,

Book cover of Torture and Democracy

Andreas Killen Author Of Nervous Systems: Brain Science in the Early Cold War

From the list on the history of torture.

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by this topic ever since the first newspaper stories exposing American involvement in torture began to appear in the early years of the so-called War on Terror. This fascination has persisted up to the present, as it remains clear – given recent accounts of Ron DeSantis’ time at Guantanamo – that this story refuses to die. Equally fascinating to me have been accounts revealing the extent to which this story can be traced back to the origins of the Cold War, to the birth of the National Security State, and to the alliance between that state and the professions (psychology and behavioral science) that spawned “enhanced interrogation.”

Andreas' book list on the history of torture

Why did Andreas love this book?

In many ways the best account of the history of modern torture.

As Rejali shows, this has all too often been mis-remembered as the history of Soviet and Nazi torture. Torture, in his account, has been widely practiced by modern democracies.

He identifies the French (in the context of the Algerian War of Independence) as the real innovators in the field of modern “stealth” or invisible torture, ie. torture designed not to leave marks: waterboarding and electro-torture.

I particularly like this for the way it explodes many of the myths surrounding the history of modern torture.

By Darius Rejali,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the most comprehensive, and most comprehensively chilling, study of modern torture yet written. Darius Rejali, one of the world's leading experts on torture, takes the reader from the late nineteenth century to the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, from slavery and the electric chair to electrotorture in American inner cities, and from French and British colonial prison cells and the Spanish-American War to the fields of Vietnam, the wars of the Middle East, and the new democracies of Latin America and Europe. As Rejali traces the development and application of one torture technique after another in these settings, he…