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The Zenpundit Summer Reading List


I frequently post about what I am reading and even more often, get involved in discussions of books with various blogospheric cronies on their blogs, social media networks or via email. Some of the books discussed end up becoming full-blown  roundtables, others find their way into the Antilibrary or even fall by the wayside. Time is finite and the number of good books exceed the time available. At least my time.

In an effort to be a little more efficient in my reading this summer, I decided to compose what I am sure is a wildly overambitious reading list for the next three months. The method will be to discipline myself to put in a minimum of two hours of book reading a day, seven days a week. While like most bloggers, I read a large volume of information daily, too much of it is online – listservs, blogs, email, PDFs, twitter, e-zines and so on. This gives my reading a scattered, “searchlight” quality as opposed to a drill-down focus of a “laser beam”. The former habit has its cognitive virtues, but so does the latter and it is good for the brain to periodically dive back into “old school” reading of physical books. It will also help whittle down the ominously growing pile of unread books.

There is not any particular order in mind here, except that The Anabasis of Cyrus and Accidental Guerilla are high priorities, the former due to the upcoming roundtable discussion at Chicago Boyz. I have all of the books at hand on the shelf, ready to go and a stretch of time ahead of me that is freer than usual. I may omit books as time passes and add others, but I will give a formal report of my reading after Labor Day weekend.

Without further ado, THE SUMMER READING LIST:

Military History and Strategy

Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century – PW Singer (Finish, currently reading)
The Anabasis of Cyrus (Agora) – Xenophon
The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One – David Kilcullen
The Scientific Way of Warfare: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity
 – Antoine Bousquet
The Culture of WarMartin van Creveld
Certain to WinChet Richards

Science, Futurism, Networks, Economics and Technology

How the Mind Works – Steven Pinker
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets
 – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
 – Steven Johnson
The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
 – Ray Kurzweil
The Hyperlinked Society: Questioning Connections in the Digital Age (The New Media World)
Lokman Tsui


Ho Chi Minh: A Life William J. Duiker

Philosophy and Intellectual History

The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 1: The Spell of Plato
The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2: Hegel and Marx – Karl Popper
The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of ReasonCharles Freeman

What will you be reading this summer ?


It occurred to me that I left out an important category….


Pattern Recognition – William Gibson
On the Road (Penguin Classics)Jack Kerouac

15 Responses to “The Zenpundit Summer Reading List”

  1. Sgt. T Says:

    Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational is worth your time.  Or if you want to harvest the bigger nuggets you can watch his TED piece.  Just starting Fooled by Randomness.  Thus far it feels a bit less precise than The Black Swan.

  2. Adrian Says:

    2 books by Sudhir Venkatesh – "Gang Leader for a Day" and "Off the Books" which are on the underground economy in a Chicago ghetto
    Stephen Biddle: "Military Power"
    John Keegan: "History of Warfare"
    Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein: "Nudge"
    Stathis Kalyvas: "The Logic of Violence in Civil War"
    some sci-fi stuff by Vernor Vinge

    Those are books I got for my b-day that are sitting on the shelf.  I also plan on going out and getting "Animal Spirits" by Akerlof and Shiller, "Nixonland" by Rick Perlstein, and "Cop in the Hood" by Peter Moskos.

  3. Robert Colot Says:

    Wired for War is strongly recommended as is  Brave New War by John Robb.

  4. Scott Newell Says:

    Brave New War by John Robb is a must read also.

  5. zen Says:

    I agree that Brave New War is a great read for anyone who has not read it yet. Looking forward to John putting out his book on resilient communities in the future.

  6. Selil Says:

    Be sure and post some book reviews. I’ve got about five of your picks in the hopper to be read.  I strongly suggest "Baghdad at Sunrise" by Mansoor; and "The Unforgiving Minute" by Mullaney. 

  7. zen Says:

    Hi Sam
    I’ve heard good things re: the Unforgiving Minute – forsee that almost as a future motion picture. Did not know Mansoor had a book out though. There will be reviews and probably a lot of twitter ranting along the way.
    Thanks also to Adrian and Sgt. T. for their suggestions!

  8. Eddie Says:

    I am on a summer kick to hopefully inoculate myself in my higher anthro classes this fall from foolish dogma:

    Before the Dawn (Wade)
    Constant Battles: The Myth of The Noble Savage (LeBlanc)
    The first two I have finished in the past three weeks, both are excellent!
    War Before Civilization (Keeley)
    Non-Zero (Wright)

    In other areas:
    Kostof’s "The City Shaped" & "The City Assembled"
    Richards’ "Certain To Win"
    Mollica’s " Healing Invisible Wounds"
    Fischer’s "Albion’s Seed"
    Anderson’s "Imagined Communities"
    Gress "From Plato To NATO"

    And if anyone has any suggestions or favorites in the realm of urban studies… I would greatly appreciate it for my fall reading campaign.

    A lot of interesting books circulating in this post… "The Unforgiving Minute" joins a number of great books from this generation of warriors and their chroniclers (Nathaniel Fick, Andrew Exum, Bing West’s "No True Glory") and I hope Hollywood doesn’t go near it b/c they’ll twist it & subvert it in vain hopes of adding complexity and balance to it. "Wired For War" is an intriguing read, leaving a lot more questions than answers after its over largely b/c Singer takes a pass on many of the hard Q’s in order to keep it a streamlined, interesting work that doesn’t get bogged down in hypotheticals and counterpoints.

  9. James F Says:

    Kilcullen’s book is excellent.  Also, while it could have been half the length, The Gamble is a great look at the recent institutional change in the US Army – http://www.amazon.com/Gamble-Petraeus-American-Adventure-2006-2008/dp/1594201978/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1244455963&sr=8-1

  10. Adrian Says:

    Eddie, for urban studies you should definietly read one of the Venkatesh books.

  11. Lexington Green Says:

    Mark, Kilcullen’s book is brilliant.  The phrase "must read" is overused.  But this one really is. 

    As to my program, I want to focus on work this summer.  So now non-work reading program is planned.  I will just read stuff as I feel like reading it.

    I will certainly finish the ones I am reading now.

    Xenophon, The Anabasis of Cyrus — to be followed by the roundtable.
    Bernard Fergusson, The Watery Maze: The Story of Combined Operations
    B. Raman, The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane
    Christopher Dawson, Medieval Essays: A Study of Christian Culture

    I just finished Paul of Tarsus by Joseph Holzner, with only a few weeks left in the Pauline Year.  http://tinyurl.com/lyd4lw

    I have been picking at:

    Peter Spufford, Power and Profit: The Merchant in Medieval Europe 
    Peter Hall, Cities in Civilization

    Reading one chapter and putting it down for a while.  Both are very good.

    I stalled out on

     Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy

    But I will probably finish it this summer.

    Eddie:  Albion’s Seed and From Plato to NATO are two favorites of mine.  I am interested to hear what you think about Keeley and Kostof.  I have been wanting to read Wade and LeBlanc as well.  Agreed about The Unforgiving Minute.  On urban studies, you may like the Peter Hall book.

  12. historyguy99 Says:

    My list as of today.

    Accidental Guerilla..currently reading and dittos to being excellent.
    Anabasis-just finished and will re-read in late summer for roundtable.
    Unforgiving Minute
    Masters and Commanders
    The Assent of George Washington
    Before the Dawn
    What Hath God Wrought
    Henry Clay
    Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution

  13. Eddie Says:

    Adrian, I read "Gang Leader for a Day" last year. Fun read, if not a bit more morbidly depressing than I expected after taking into consideration the consequences of decades of failure in urban communities.Lex,I ordered the Hall book, it definitely looks well-worth my time. I am going to post book reviews and discussions this summer or expire over my keyboard trying. This year there has been just way too much school writing going on for me to want to type anything longer than a few sentences outside of class most days. I have no idea how people do it. Thanks again for the rec!

  14. Lexington Green Says:

    AsiaTimes review of the Singer book on robots:


  15. The Anchoress — A First Things Blog Says:

    […] has a list of fascinating titles, and the bio of Ho Chi Minh caught my eye, […]

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