Every June Book Expo America brings the nation’s publishing houses together with book wholesalers, retailers, and marketers in New York. The event provides an opportunity to collect an unwieldy amount of free as-yet-unpublished books (pro tip: they’re not really free if you end up paying for an extra checked bag). Equally important, it offers an advanced look at the topics that this most trend-conscious of industries believes will interest the American public six months hence. In the wider genre of global affairs, several titles stand out from the previews of fall and winter releases.
Coming just a few months after an election dominated by fake news and claims of foreign meddling, Book Expo in 2017 was unsurprisingly replete with ruminations on the bleak state of democracy. This theme continued into 2018, but with more specific inquiries into the drivers of our fractured politics.
- In Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, September 11) Stanford professor Francis Fukuyama, who will speak to a Council audience on September 10, considers the thorny issue of identity politics, and asks why group identity has become such a powerful force in western politics.
- President Obama’s attorney general for national security John Carlin describes the vulnerability of America’s democracy and infrastructure to cyber-attack in The Code War: America’s Battles Against Russia and the Rising Global Cyber Threat (Public Affairs, October 9).
- And former Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger reflects on the changing state of journalism and its implications both within and without the industry in Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why it Matters Now (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, November 27).
This fall also marks the tenth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the onset of the great recession, an event that the publishing industry arguably did a better job of capitalizing on than many others. Most of the major players in those dizzying events of 2008 long ago published their best-selling recollections, and so the ten-year anniversary books are focused more on the legacy of the crash, and whether any lessons have been learned.
- Nicola Gennaioli of Italy's Bocconi University and Andrei Schleifer of Harvard take a behavioral economics look at the concept of risk and ask why so many regulators, bankers, and investors failed to anticipate the coming crash in A Crisis of Beliefs: Investor Psychology and Financial Fragility (Princeton University Press, September 15).
- In Noncompliant: A Lone Whistleblower Exposes the Giants of Wall Street (Nation, October 16) former Federal Reserve Bank of New York examiner Carmen Segarra reveals an ongoing culture of corruption and lax regulation in the financial sector.
- And Kathleen Day of Johns Hopkins Business School journeys through the history of financial crises to understand why taxpayers repeatedly bare the cost of excessive risk taking by banks in Broken Bargain: Bankers, Bailouts, and the Struggle to Tame Wall Street (Yale University Press, January 2019).
And if you want to dive deeper into this topic, two of the key protagonists - former FDIC chair Sheila Bair and former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson - will join Bloomberg's David Westin on September 27 to consider what lessons were learned during the fateful fall of 2008.
In the realm of US foreign policy the titles previewed at Book Expo offer constrasting reactions to a year of America First. Authors appear to be split into two camps on the question of whether the liberal international order that the United States created after World War II has failed, is worth trying to save, and what global strategy might replace it.
- The University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer argues that America’s assertive post-Cold War foreign policy has been costly and often counter-productive in The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities (Yale University Press, September 25). Council President's Club members can hear the author make the case for a more restrained US foreign policy at a live taping of WBEZ's Worldview on October 16.
- In The Jungle Grows Back: The Case for American Power (Knopf, September 18) Brooking’s Robert Kagan, who will present his thesis at the Council on October 9, contends that America’s retreat from leadership will invite dangerous, rival powers to challenge its interests and influence, returning the world to a “jungle” state of chaos.
- Council president Ivo Daalder and CFR’s James Lindsay’s The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership (Public Affairs, October 16) takes a long view of the unraveling of the international order created by the United States after World War II. They argue America has lost its appetite to lead and President Trump has capitalized on this complacency, with worrying implications for international peace and prosperity. Hear from them in conversation with WBEZ's Steve Edwards on the Council's stage on October 25.
- And Mearsheimer's erstwhile collaborator Stephen Walt of Harvard’s Kennedy School offers a robust, realist critique of liberal hegemony in The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of US Power (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 16). He'll share his views with a Council audience on November 19.
Beyond the urgent policy questions of how, where, and when America should engage with the world, Book Expo also presented several books exploring developments that have tended to be obscured by a crazed news cycle.
- Journalist Snigdha Poonam travels among India’s youth to paint a portrait of an ambitious generation scrambling to escape poverty and provincialism in Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing the World (Harvard University Press, August).
- In Catch 67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six Day War (Yale University Press, September) author Micah Goodman examines the conflict's long and divisive shadow over Israeli politics and the prospects for peace in the Middle East.
- Wendy Sherman’s Not for the Faint of Heart: Lessons in Courage, Power, and Persistence (Public Affairs, September 4) is part memoir, part look inside the world of high-stakes, face-to-face diplomacy from someone who sat across the nuclear negotiating table from senior Iranian and North Korean officials.
- Investigative journalist Bethany McLean, who joins the President's Club for a roundtable on November 9, describes the surprisingly far-reaching geopolitical effects of the US shale gas revolution in Saudi America: The Truth About Fracking and How It’s Changing the World (Columbia Global Reports, September 11).
- Morgan Stanley’s head of investment management Ruchir Sharma once again unpicks the economic data to illuminate world-shaping trends in The 10 Rules of Successful Nations (WW Norton, January 2019).
While the general mood of global affairs titles at Book Expo 2018 was gloomy, this fall will also see the release of major titles from two of the nation’s most compelling historians, which each describe America’s successful (and somewhat reassuring) passage through moments of historic peril.
- Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Leadership in Turbulent Times (Simon & Schuster, September 18) focuses on four presidents—Lincoln, Johnson, and the Roosevelts—as they confront moments of national, and personal, tumult.
- And Michael Beschloss’s Presidents of War: The Epic Story, from 1807 to Modern Times (Crown, October 9) provides an intimate look at America’s past presidents as they took the nation to war. The author joins a members-only program on October 15.
Happy reading! And if you like to buy locally, our partners at The Book Cellar will be happy to help you out with any of these titles.