June 29, 2018

Podium Notes: The Council's Summer Reads

By Iain Whitaker, Director, Strategic Content

After a tumultuous year in global affairs just staying on top of the latest events has almost become a full time job. At the Council—where this is our full time job—we’ve been fortunate to host a number of exceptional authors whose writing gets behind the headlines and explains the bigger forces driving this age of change. Whether your summer plans take you to Singapore or Saugatuck we hope you find some time to relax, disconnect, and dive into the Council’s summer reading list.

If you prefer to shop locally our good friends at The Book Cellar are always happy to help you out.

Fascism: A Warning

Madeleine Albright (HarperCollins)

There is nothing historically exceptional about the recent surge of populism and illiberalism across the West, argues former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In a crowded field of recent books on the topic, Albright’s comes with the added weight of personal experience—from escaping Nazi-occupied Europe as a child, through her efforts to cultivate democracy from the highest perch of US diplomacy. Albright draws discomforting parallels between the interwar period and today, but also illuminates those lessons from history that might guide us to a different outcome.

Secretary Albright joined Ivo Daalder for an exclusive members-only conversation in April. Watch the video.


Our Time Has Come: How India is Making Its Place in the World

Alyssa Ayres (Oxford University Press)

Over the past quarter-century India’s growth has vaulted it into the ranks of the world’s emerging major powers. The size of its economy and population alone mean that for a host of global issues—from security and trade, to climate change—what India does very much matters. Alyssa Ayres’ new book asks the all-important question of what sort of global power India is becoming. Its diversity, democracy, experience of colonialism, and the legacy of non-alignment, make India unlike any other nation, the Council on Foreign Relations scholar argues, and understanding this uniqueness is key to plotting its future course.

Alyssa Ayres joined our panel to mark 70 years of India’s independence in February. Watch the video.


The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos

Christian Davenport (Public Affairs)

Elon Musk wants to take humans to Mars, Richard Branson will blast well-heeled tourists into low-earth orbit, and Jeff Bezos invests a cool $1 billion of his own Amazon fortune each year into his space company. Washington Post space reporter Christian Davenport’s book provides an eye-opening look at the astronomical resources and ambitions of these space barons. And it’s worth getting to know them, with NASA increasingly reliant on envelope-pushing billionaires, and corporations, to enable humanity’s future forays to the final frontier.

Christian Davenport joined our Young Professionals panel on the commercialization of space in April. Watch the video.


The Tower and the Square: Networks and Power from the Freemasons to Facebook

Niall Ferguson (Penguin Press)

Any lingering skepticism about the power of social networks in the digital age was surely evaporated by the recent Cambridge Analytica revelations. For his latest, grand, dot-connecting exposition Niall Ferguson illuminates the overlooked role that networks have played throughout history. The Stanford professor contends that the fluctuations and friction between webs of connection, and more hierarchical systems of power, shaped key turning points in history from the Reformation to Brexit. It's an intriguing lens through which to view the ascent of Facebook.

Niall Ferguson spoke at the Council in March. Watch the video.


The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism

Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak (Brookings Institution Press)

Division and dysfunction in Washington, DC, obscure a remarkable story of progress taking place in our cities, argue urban experts Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak. As national governments struggle to tackle big social, economic, and environmental challenges, cities are developing their own creative solutions. The book is a blueprint for how city governments, the private sector, and civic institutions can share the lessons of this “new localism” —lessons that could make cities better places to live, and just might provide an antidote to the populism of the day.

Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak spoke with the Council’s Juliana Kerr in April. Watch the video.


The Peacemakers: Leadership Lessons from Twentieth Century Statesmanship

Bruce Jentleson (WW Norton)

President Trump returned from meeting supreme Leader Kim Jong-un with claims that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat. History will ultimately judge whether Trump should join the ranks of the peacemakers profiled by Bruce Jentleson: those leaders who took risks, deescalated, and rewrote the zero-sum script at moments when war seemed more likely than peace. By exploring the motivations of leaders like FDR, Gorbachev, and Rabin, and offering practical lessons from their experiences, the Duke professor provides a timely reminder of the weight of responsibility carried by those who practice statecraft. 

Bruce Jentleson joined CFR’s Paul Stares and Council nonresident fellow Cecile Shea in June. Watch the video.


The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom is in Danger and How to Save It

Yascha Mounk (Harvard University press)

It would be hard to have missed Yascha Mounk’s incisive commentary on the crisis of democracy over the past year, such is the extensive media coverage he’s received, and we’ve been fortunate to host him twice. In his latest book Mounk describes a growing conflict at the heart of liberal democracy, between individual rights and the popular will. The emergence of a system of rights without democracy has given way to populists offering democracy without rights. Mounk provides a diagnosis and proscribes the radical steps necessary to reverse democracy’s retreat. 

Yascha Mounk joined WBEZ Worldview’s Jerome McDonnell on our stage in March. Watch the video.



The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. We convene leading global voices and conduct independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization. All statements of fact and expressions of opinion in blog posts are the sole responsibility of the individual author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council.


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