Category Archives: Book reviews

Jean-Bedel Bokassa and the early years of the Central African Republic

I am currently working through Martin Meredith’s mammoth volume, The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence. While I am only half-finished (the paperback version is nearly 700 pages), my impression is that Meredith does an excellent … Continue reading

Posted in Book reviews, Central Africa, Central African Republic | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book review: “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa” by Jason Stearns (2011)

“Africa has the shape of a pistol, and Congo is its trigger.” Jason Stearns borrows this prescient utterance from Frantz Fanon, a fiery anti-colonial philosopher of the 1950s and 1960s, to open a chapter of his impressive chronicle Dancing in … Continue reading

Posted in Book reviews, Central Africa, DRC, Rwanda | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book review: “Restless Valley: Revolution, Murder, and Intrigue in the Heart of Central Asia” by Philip Shishkin (2013)

Mao Zedong, the notorious and brutal father of China’s Communist Party, once wrote: “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, … Continue reading

Posted in Book reviews, Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Middle East and North Africa, Syria, Uzbekistan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book thoughts: “The Dispensable Nation” by Vali Nasr (2013)

A Middle East scholar and former aide to the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke at the State Department, Vali Nasr holds back no punches. His latest book, The Dispensable Nation, rips into the Obama administration—particularly the White House—on one foreign policy … Continue reading

Posted in Afghanistan, Book reviews, Central Asia, Iran, Middle East and North Africa, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Asia, US policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book thoughts: “Instant City” by Steve Inskeep (2011)

“This was Karachi…destination of pilgrims and home of the poor, a field of operations for the makers of buildings and bombs. The instant city mixed the good and the bad, battering people with the impartiality of a typhoon.” (p. 141) … Continue reading

Posted in Book reviews, Pakistan, South Asia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book thoughts: “Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present” by Max Boot (2013)

Max Boot’s recent book, Invisible Armies, takes an interesting dive into history to extract lessons from past wars—though of a different kind than we are used to reading about in textbooks. Boot’s gargantuan volume (567 pages, plus another 150 of … Continue reading

Posted in Al Qaeda, Book reviews, General, terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Book thoughts: “The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia” by Gregory Johnsen (2013)

Most counterterrorism wonks know the basic story of al-Qaeda’s rise: the brainchild of a rich and charismatic Saudi (Osama bin Ladin) and an Egyptian doctor-cum-theologian and terror organizer (Ayman al-Zawahiri); jihad against the Soviets in 1980s Afghanistan; the move to … Continue reading

Posted in Book reviews, Middle East and North Africa, terrorism, Yemen | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments