2017 wasn’t just about Trump. The ladies turned up and out to talk about foreign policy – from Russia to cyber and national security; energy to borders. The Middle East was a popular topic, with several great books on Syria.  And how delighted we were to download Mary Beard’s Women and Power to round out the year. There is a plethora of expertise here. Let’s dive in:



Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda, and the War on Terror by Helen Epstein

In this powerful story of Uganda and its war-torn neighbors in eastern and central Africa, journalist Helen Epstein chronicles how America’s naïve dealings with African strongmen and single-minded focus on the War on Terror have themselves becomes sources of terror, short-circuiting the power Ugandans might otherwise have over their own destinies.


A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa by Alexis Okeowo

In this debut, Okeowo weaves together four narratives that form a powerful tapestry of modern Africa: a young couple, kidnap victims of Joseph Kony’s LRA; a Mauritanian waging a lonely campaign against modern-day slavery; a women’s basketball team flourishing amid war-torn Somalia; and a vigilante who takes up arms against the extremist group Boko Haram.



Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Helene Cooper

The harrowing, but triumphant story of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, leader of the Liberian women’s movement, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the first democratically elected female president in African history.







Red at Heart: How Chinese Communists Fell in Love with the Russian Revolution by Elizabeth McGuire

This is the multigenerational history of people who experienced Sino-Soviet affairs most intimately: prominent Chinese revolutionaries who traveled to Russia in their youths to study, often falling in love and having children there.



Sold People: Traffickers and Family Life in North China by Joanna Ransmeier

Trade in human lives thrived in North China during the Qing and Republican periods. Families at all social levels participated in buying servants, slaves, concubines, or children and disposing of unwanted household members. Johanna Ransmeier shows that these commonplace transactions built and restructured families as often as it broke them apart.




Cyber and Tech


The Chessboard and the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World by Anne-Marie Slaughter

From a renowned foreign-policy expert, a new paradigm for strategy in the twenty-first century.





Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest by Zeynep Tufekci

A firsthand account and incisive analysis of modern protest, revealing internet-fueled social movements’ greatest strengths and frequent challenge.







Windfall: How The New Energy Abundance Upends Global Politics and Strengthens America’s Power by Meghan O’Sullivan

As a new administration focuses on raising American energy production, O’Sullivan’s Windfall describes how new energy realities have profoundly affected the world of international relations and security.






The NGO Game: Post-Conflict Peacebuilding in the Balkans and Beyond by Patrice McMahon

In most post-conflict countries nongovernmental organizations are everywhere, but their presence is misunderstood. In The NGO Game Patrice McMahon investigates the unintended outcomes of what she calls the NGO boom in Bosnia and Kosovo.





The Taste of Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food shaped the Modern World by Lizzie Collingham

A history of the British Empire told through twenty meals eaten around the world.





Latin America



All the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands by Stephanie Elizondo Griest

In All the Agents and Saints, Elizondo Griest weaves seven years of stories into a meditation on the existential impact of international borderlines by illuminating the spaces in between and the people who live there. 





Middle East


Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal al-Sharif

A ferociously intimate memoir by a devout woman from a modest family in Saudi Arabia who became the unexpected leader of a courageous movement to support women’s right to drive.




The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Flight by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy

From September 11, 2001 to May 2, 2011, Osama Bin Laden evaded intelligence services and special forces units, drones and hunter killer squads. The Exile tells the extraordinary inside story of that decade through the eyes of those who witnessed it: bin Laden’s four wives and many children, his deputies and military strategists, his spiritual advisor, the CIA, Pakistan’s ISI, and many others who have never before told their stories.



Generation Revolution: On the Front Line Between Tradition and Change in the Middle East by Rachel Aspden

Generation Revolution unravels the complex forces shaping the lives of four young Egyptians on the eve and in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, and what their stories mean for the future of the Middle East.



The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria by Alia Malek

Alia Malek weaves a lyrical narrative around the history of her family’s apartment building in the heart of Damascus, the many lives that crossed in the stairwell, and how the fates of her neighbors reflect the fate of her country.




Jihad & Co: Black Markets and Islamist Power by Aisha Ahmad

Why have some ideologically-inspired Islamists been able to build state-like polities out of civil war stalemate, while many other armed groups have failed to gain similar traction? What makes jihadists win? In Jihad & Co., Aisha Ahmad argues that there are concrete economic reasons behind Islamist success.



Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen

Blending memoir, journalism, and history, and deeply attuned to the voices of those she met on her travels, Notes on a Foreign Country is a moving reflection on America’s place in the world.




I Was Told To Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhnnet

In this compelling and evocative memoir, we accompany Mekhennet as she journeys behind the lines of jihad, starting in the German neighborhoods where the 9/11 plotters were radicalized and the Iraqi neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shia turned against one another, and culminating on the Turkish/Syrian border region where ISIS is a daily presence.




Pipe Dreams: The Plundering of Iraq’s Oil Wealth by Erin Banco

A fascinating and revealing dive into the murky world of oil contracts that shape power and politics in Iraq.





Political Islam in Tunisia: The History of Ennahda by Anne Wolf

Political Islam in Tunisia uncovers the secret history of Tunisia’s main Islamist movement, Ennahda, from its origins in the 1960s to the present. Banned until the popular uprisings of 2010-11 and the overthrow of Ben Ali’s dictatorship, Ennahda has until now been impossible to investigate. This is the first in-depth account of the movement, one of Tunisia’s most influential political actors.



Purifying the Land of the Pure: A History of Pakistan’s Religious Minorities by Farahnaz Ispahani

In Purifying the Land of the Pure, Farahnaz Ispahani analyzes Pakistan’s policies towards its religious minority populations, beginning from the time of independence in 1947.




We Crossed A Bridge and It Trembled: Voices From Syria by Wendy Pearlman

Reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, an astonishing collection of intimate wartime testimonies and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians whose lives have been transformed by revolution, war, and flight.




The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen

In The Future Is History, Gessen follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own–as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers, and writers, sexual and social beings.




October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Mieville

On the centenary of the Russian Revolution, China Miéville tells the extraordinary story of this pivotal moment in history.



Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine by Anne Applebaum

In 1929 Stalin launched his policy of agricultural collectivization, which forced millions of peasants off their land and onto collective farms. The result was a catastrophic famine, the most lethal in European history. In Red Famine, Anne Applebaum argues that more than three million of those dead were Ukrainians who perished not because they were accidental victims of a bad policy but because the state deliberately set out to kill them.







Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy

Code Girls reveals a hidden army of female cryptographers, whose work played a crucial role in ending World War II.



Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Samuel M. Katz

A revelatory account of the cloak-and-dagger Israeli campaign to target the finances fueling terror organizations–an effort that became the blueprint for U.S. efforts to combat threats like ISIS and drug cartels.



The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World by Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro

The post-war liberal order was underpinned by a movement to make the waging of aggressive war illegal. Two American academics argue that this principle is now seriously under threat. 




The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

An oral history, first published in 1985 but only now translated into English, as told by women who enlisted in the Soviet army straight from school, learning to kill and die before they learned to live or give life. By one of the most gifted writers of her generation.





The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic

In The H-Spot, Filipovic argues that the main obstacle standing in-between women and happiness is a rigged system. In this world of unfinished feminism, men have long been able to “have it all” because of free female labor, while the bar of achievement for women has only gotten higher.



Testoserone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society by Cordelia Fine

In Testosterone Rex, psychologist Cordelia Fine wittily explains why past and present sex roles are only serving suggestions for the future, revealing a much more dynamic situation through an entertaining and well-documented exploration of the latest research that draws on evolutionary science, psychology, neuroscience, endocrinology, and philosophy.



Veil: Object Lessons by Rafia Zakaria

The veil can be an instrument of feminist empowerment, and veiled anonymity can confer power to women. Starting from her own marriage ceremony at which she first wore a full veil, Rafia Zakaria examines how veils do more than they get credit for.



Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

At long last, Mary Beard addresses in one brave book the misogynists and trolls who mercilessly attack and demean women the world over, including, very often, Mary herself. In Women & Power, she traces the origins of this misogyny to its ancient roots, examining the pitfalls of gender and the ways that history has mistreated strong women since time immemorial