The summer ahead promises new books from veteran foreign correspondents, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, and a former secretary of state -- plus, theoretically, some vacation time to be able to read them. From a dissection of the marketing strategies of U.S. brands like KFC and Pizza Hut in China to a revelatory report on secret clashes between the United States and Iran to a satirical novel about religious and class-based discrimination in Pakistan, here are 12 titles from the world of foreign policy to add to your summer reading list.
1. China Airborne, James Fallows (May 15)
Amid the ever-growing crowd of commentators tracking China's rise, Atlantic national correspondent James Fallows has homed in on a single industry - aviation -- as a crucial test case for the country's efforts to modernize and compete with the United States. With 2,600 modern aircraft, China's commercial fleet is now second only to America's (though still only about half as large). Fallows reports that two-thirds of airports under construction today are in China, and as part of its 12th Five-Year Plan, announced last year, the country pledged a quarter trillion dollars to its aerospace industry -- not a guarantee of success, but a commitment worth watching nonetheless. As the New Yorker's Evan Osnos summarizes, "Instead of pretending to encapsulate this contradictory country and place, [Fallows] unpacks one industry with great skill ... and uses it as a persuasive metaphor for measuring China's progress toward its own aspirations."
2. What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism, and China's Modern Consumer, Tom Doctoroff (May 22)
What does it take for a Western brand to win over China's 1.3 billion consumers? It's not a question of converting them, argues Tom Doctoroff, a longtime advertising executive and commentator who has spent more than a dozen years in mainland China; it's about finding ways for Western products to become "vessels of Chinese culture" in their own right, acknowledging the family and nation as the "eternal pillars of identity" in the country. That means promoting consumer goods more for the status and ambition they signal than their monetary worth, and ensuring that they offer external as well as internal payoffs -- marketing Skippy for its "delicious peanut taste" as well as its "intelligent sandwich preparation," for instance. "Even beer must do something," Doctoroff writes. "In Western countries, letting the good times roll is enough; in China, pilsner must bring people together, reinforce trust and promote mutual financial gain."
3. Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America, Charles H. Ferguson (May 22)
In the two years since Charles Ferguson's Academy Award-winning documentary Inside Job portrayed the "systemic corruption" in the financial services industry that led to the 2008 crisis, anti-corporate sentiment has grown, most notably during the Occupy Wall Street protests that flooded city squares last fall. Now, Ferguson has written a book expanding on the film's themes. He traces the financial collapse back to early deregulation efforts in the 1980s, while also pointing the finger at the Clinton-era "dismantling" of regulatory policies like the Glass-Steagall Act, as well as George W. Bush's tax cuts for the rich. "Over the last thirty years, the United States has been taken over by an amoral financial oligarchy," Ferguson writes, echoing Occupy rhetoric. "The American dream of opportunity, education, and upward mobility is now largely confined to the top few percent of the population."
4. It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, Colin Powell with Tony Kolts (May 22)
Colin Powell is the latest of George W. Bush's administration to publish a memoir, following Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice last year and Bush himself the year before that. Powell's book recounts the lessons he's learned throughout his life, beginning with his childhood in the Bronx through until his time as a four-star general and ultimately as secretary of state. His discussion of his role in the war in Iraq is likely to garner the most attention. Powell, who famously argued before the U.N. Security Council that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, says in the book that he was unaware at the time that the evidence he presented had been prepared by the vice president's office, rather than the National Security Council. On the war itself, Powell says he thinks U.S. troops "did quite well," but notes, "there was an assumption ... that this was all going to snap back in place," and "it became obvious early on that was not going to be the case."
5. Our Lady of Alice Bhatti Mohammed Hanif (May 29)
Acclaimed for his first novel, 2008's A Case of Exploding Mangoes, Pakistani writer Mohammaed Hanif has returned with a second book of satirical fiction. At the center of the novel's lively mix of characters is the protagonist, Alice, a young Christian recently released from a women's jail and now working as a nurse in a Catholic hospital. While humorous -- Alice's husband is a Muslim bodybuilder named Teddy Butt -- the book also explores the deep-rooted discrimination against Pakistan's poorest, among which Alice and her father, a janitor, count themselves. As Hanif explained in a recent interview, the prejudices Alice encounters are "not just because she is Christian; these prejudices are basically because she's a woman, and ever more important, these prejudices exist because she is poor."