I am a New York Times addict. Every morning I hear the telltale thwack
on my front porch that lets me know my daily tonnage (or thereabouts) of newsprint
has arrived. But no matter how long or in-depth the article purports to be
I am usually still left wondering. Keeping track of terminology, political
positions, and the history of any one country can be difficult. I invariably
turn to our collection of books for a deeper understanding. Most of the books
I read in this category are written by journalists. I find their style and
depth of writing focused on the reader like me interested, but not learned.
about International Affairs
Wakes by Nicholas
Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Written by two journalists in alternating chapters, this book preserves the
individuality of each author's insights while presenting the reader a more diverse
view of this country. It is a picture of a country undergoing a transformation
process which seems out of control.
Two about Russia by David Remnick
Remnick looks at another country reinventing itself and seemingly out of control,
Russia, in his book Lenin's
Tomb. Like a Russian novel, this book is filled with characters larger
struggles on an epic scale, and, of course, a coup and counter coup. Unlike
a Russian novel, he also wrote a sequel, Resurrection.
Thank God Remnick is there to help me keep my cast of characters straight.
He is an adroit guide who steers us through this landscape, explaining the
sights and history as it happens.
Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas
I recommend reading this book about once every five years. Check out what
has changed and, more sadly, what has not in the Middle East.
Road to Kosovo: A Balkan Diary by Greg
I am currently making my way through this one for the same reason that I picked
Friedman's book ten years ago I'm bewildered by the complexity of the
situation and need to better understand the history of the region. Campbell
has written a book that grabs you from its dedication and keeps you immersed
in a story that is tragic and compelling.
Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories
from Rwanda by Philip
I urge everyone to read this book. The cover shows a picture of serenity,
a scene from the beach of Lake Kivu in Rwanda. The landscape is devoid of
human beings and an empty chair sits on the sand. The title in red stands
out starkly from this backdrop.
The juxtaposition of beauty and brutality is a perfect introduction to this
volume. As Robert
Stone says, "Like the greatest war reporters, he [Gourevitch] raises the
human banner in hell's mouth, the insignia of common sense, of quiet moral
authority, of blessed humor." The message from this book is amazingly hopeful.
Having a rough day? Read this book and be reminded of the worst and best that
humans do to each other.
The good news for us New York Times readers is that Kristof and WuDunn
are correspondents for the Times in Japan and Friedman writes on foreign
affairs. So when I hear that thwack on the porch, there's always the chance
that I'll be reading something by these authors whom I consider fellow travelers
on the road to understanding. And there is also the rush of adrenaline knowing
that the latest daily puzzle has arrived. Where else do I get to exercise
my command of obscure English and fit the word "etui" into four little spaces?