War and Peace (1869) is a novel that follows the lives of several aristocratic families during the French invasion of Russia and the Napoleonic Wars. It explores themes of love, war, politics, and the human condition, and is considered one of the great works of literature.
Sapiens (2015) traces the evolution of our species – from the rise of our most ancient ancestors to our current place in the modern, technological age. How have we, a species of hairless, tailless ape, managed to completely dominate the entire planet? These blinks show you the developments and trends that have allowed Homo sapiens to rise to the top.
Originally published in 1946, Man’s Search for Meaning details the harrowing experiences of author and psychologist Viktor Frankl during his internment in Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. It offers insights into how human beings can survive unsurvivable situations, come to terms with trauma, and ultimately find meaning.
The Iliad (c. eighth century BC) is one of the oldest and most important works of Western literature. Attributed to ancient Greek poet Homer, the epic poem recounts the final days of the Greek siege of Troy. At the center of the story is Greek war hero Achilles, who has to beat back the Trojan enemy, struggle against meddling gods, and vie for recognition among his fellow Greeks.
The 33 Strategies of War (2006) distills the essential lessons of military strategy into a series of memorable vignettes. Drawing on ancient and modern sources, this wide-ranging study of tactical masterstrokes and follies offers fascinating insights into human psychology and motivation.
The Pope at War (2022) follows the first years of Eugenio Pacelli’s papacy. Based on documents released by the Vatican in 2020, the book reveals the never-before-told story of the pope’s secret negotiations with Hitler.
Saved (2023) is the gripping and timely account of a war correspondent’s near-fatal brush with combat in Ukraine in March of 2022 – and the extraordinary effort to save his life and bring him home.
Mayflower (2006) tells the epic story of the 1620 voyage to establish a colony of religious separatists on North American shores, and the astonishing aftermath of their fateful trip. From life-or-death struggle to peaceful coexistence with native peoples to devastating war just a half century later, it tells the unvarnished truth of the people and politics that went on to shape a nation.
On War (1832) is widely considered to be a landmark book on the subject of war. In its serious and thoughtful consideration of why and how states engage in warfare, it continues to be an influential piece of writing centuries later.
The Lessons of History (1968) gives an overview of more than 5,000 years of human history. It covers changes in morality, religion and governmental systems like socialism and capitalism, and traces the historical trends of war. Along the way, it offers a variety of lessons on what history means for the present.
The Song of Achilles (2011) is a creative retelling of Homer’s Iliad. The epic tale of the Trojan War is transformed into a moving love story, told from the perspective of Patroclus, the beloved companion of the Greek hero Achilles.
Raising Men (2016) is a powerful exploration of life-changing military lessons, emphasizing the importance of boldness, accountability, and bonding. Via real-life stories from Navy SEALs, this captivating narrative will teach you how to build strong relationships with your son and raise him with discipline, leadership, and grace.
Slouching Towards Utopia (2022) examines the “long century” between 1870 and 2010, during which technological progress, globalization, and the advent of social democracy opened a new horizon of human progress. Barring the horror years of World Wars I and II, humanity seemed to be on a slow, uneven crawl toward utopia. But in 2010, the tables turned. Economic progress in the Global North ground to a halt.
Hiroshima (1946 and 1985) is journalist John Hersey’s classic account of six survivors of the 1945 atom bomb attack on Japan. Amid the wreckage, these six lived to offer their accounts of the devastating experience.
These blinks will make you re-examine what you thought you knew about the Mongols of the twelfth century. They’ll show you why it’s unfair to imagine them as uncivilized barbarians. Indeed, the Mongol army under Genghis Khan and his descendants brought trade, civilization and order – the Mongol Empire contributed to the making of the modern world.
In Bloodlands (2010), author Timothy Snyder tells the tragic story of the people caught in the crossfire between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II. The victims of the “bloodlands,” or territories that after the war became the Eastern Bloc, were pushed and pulled by two ruthless powers and treated like pawns both before the conflict and afterward.
World Order (2014) is a guide to the complex mechanisms that have governed international relations throughout history. These blinks explain how different countries conceive of different world orders and how they are held in balance or brought into conflict.
Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers takes a fresh look at the outbreak of the First World War, focusing on the alliances established among Europe’s nations in the years leading up to 1914. In his compelling and masterful account, Clark examines the decisions, both big and small, that led to the outbreak, and investigates the common belief that the war was an inevitability.
Empire (2003) offers a compelling overview of the highs and lows of the British Empire, from its late-to-the-game beginnings in the seventeenth century to its ultimate collapse in the twentieth century. Through the many disgraces and unparalleled achievements, you’ll learn how Great Britain came to control close to a quarter of the world, and how we’re still coming to terms with this legacy.
The Nazi Conspiracy (2023) tells the thrilling true story of the first meeting between the leaders of the Allied forces during the height of World War II – and the top-secret Nazi plot that almost changed the course of history. Full of drama, twists, and political intrigue stretching all over the world, it shows how the three leaders – Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin – defied all odds, and arranged one of the most pivotal events in the entire war.
Read to you by Marston York.
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2004) tells the fascinating story of Genghis Khan, the man who founded the great Mongol Empire. Today, he’s remembered as a ruthless, violent conqueror who thrived on bloodshed and destruction. What has largely been forgotten, though, is how he united disparate peoples, fostered trade and modernization, and advanced democracy – and in so doing, ushered in the modern world.
Killing the Killers (2022) takes you deep into the global war on terror. As it examines the role of Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, it moves through all the theaters of action including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Iran, and Afghanistan. It’s the eleventh book in the best-selling Killing series.
Why Don't We Learn from History? (1944) is a meditation on the nature of history and on why so few heed its lessons. First published near the end of World War Two, this thoughtful treatise contains many insights still relevant today.
The Diary of a Young Girl (first published 1952; this edition 1977) tells the story of Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who went into hiding with her family during the Second World War. It offers a remarkable portrait of a maturing young woman forced into an unbelievable situation but rising to the occasion. In her diary, Anne shares her thoughts and dreams, revealing a remarkable talent that was tragically taken from the world, along with millions of other lives during the Holocaust.
The Volunteer (2019) is an account of Witold Pilecki’s extraordinary life and death. A patriotic Pole, Pilecki volunteered to be sent to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp. Not only did he bear witness to the camp’s atrocities; he smuggled out reports of what he’d seen, alerting the world to the horrors of the Holocaust.
The Forgotten 500 (2007) tells the story of Allied airmen who were trapped behind enemy lines in World War II and the courageous citizens of Yugoslavia who risked everything to help them get home. For political reasons, the story remained classified for decades until the 1980s. But now, the events leading to the largest rescue operation of the war are available to us all.
The Middle East today is a hotbed of violence and war. Whether the civil war in Syria or the intractable Arab-Israeli conflict, peace in the region seems a far-off dream. Yet how did the Middle East become so unstable? In A Peace to End All Peace (1989), you’ll learn that European colonial ambitions during World War I were the catalyst that led to today’s modern crises.
A River in Darkness (2000) is the harrowing true story of one man’s life in and eventual escape from the brutal dictatorship of North Korea. Born in Japan, Masaji Ishikawa was one of hundreds of thousands of Koreans who moved to the country between the 1950s and 1980s. His memoir chronicles the life of drudgery, terror and endless hardship that awaited them.
Killing the Rising Sun (2016) tells the story of the Pacific War, which took place between 1941 and 1945, and its main belligerents, the United States and Japan. From the attack on Pearl Harbor to bloody invasions of Japan to the development of the world’s first atomic bomb, the book portrays the brutality of World War II from a US perspective, and describes how the war was eventually won.
The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine (2020) is a detailed and rigorous look at one of the most misunderstood regions of the world. This timely text chronicles Palestinian history from the perspective of Palestinians.
And There Was Light (2022) is a biography of Abraham Lincoln that takes a nuanced look at a complex leader. Focusing especially on Lincoln’s evolving views on and actions around slavery, it’s a picture of a man who wrestled with his moral convictions while attempting to hold together a divided nation. Echoes of that struggle still ring out today, making it essential to keep Lincoln’s story at the forefront of American consciousness.
The Happiest Man on Earth (2020) is the true story of one man, who survived inconceivable horrors during the Holocaust, and afterward made it his mission to change the world for the better. Eddie Jaku saw first-hand how a Fascist regime could spark anti-Semitic hatred, and turn former friends and neighbors into killers. In talking about what happened, he shares how love and kindness helped him to survive one of the worst atrocities in human history.
The True Believer (1951), published in the aftermath of World War II, is an exploration of mass movements and the means by which they attract followers. These blinks will take you on a walk through history – showing how, under certain circumstances, be they right or wrong, anyone can become a true believer.
The Nightingale (2015) is a historical novel telling the often-neglected story of those left behind when soldiers go off to war. Set in northwestern France during World War II and told through the eyes of two sisters, this sweeping saga reveals the hidden horrors, and heroism, of the survivors.
Team of Rivals (2005) charts the tumultuous events that took place during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. These blinks show how Lincoln was able to successfully keep the North united while putting an end to slavery and, eventually, the Civil War, by making his political rivals his closest advisors.
The Gates of Europe (2015) offers a compelling overview of the history of Ukraine, a nation which lies between the East and the West. Due to this unique geographic position, Ukraine has been fought over and subjugated by a long line of imperial forces throughout history. Indeed, the history of Ukraine is one of the most important facets in the history of Europe.
Powers and Thrones (2021) is a comprehensive history of the Middle Ages. Tracing time from the fall of the western Roman Empire to the Protestant Reformation, these blinks reveal how forces such as global networks, climate change, mass migration, pandemics, and technological innovation, as well as political leaders, the clergy, and knights, shaped the medieval world.
Israel (2016) offers a big-picture historical overview of the small but mighty country. From its improbable beginnings to its controversial wars with neighboring Arab states, Israel’s evolution is a story of change, tragedy, and victory.
War (2020) is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of human conflict. It considers war from different angles, examining what causes it, how we think about it, and how it affects us. By making an effort to understand war, we become better prepared to avoid it.
Red Team (2015) gives insight into the military and security strategies that try to anticipate the adversary’s next move. Covering events from the capture of Osama bin Laden to mysterious break-ins operated through warehouse skylights, this book is a reminder of everyday vulnerability and what to do about it.
The Peloponnesian War (2003) tells the fascinating tale of a decades-long conflict among Greeks that would forever change how battles were fought and wars were won. It took warfare away from organized battlefields and put the strength of naval forces at the forefront. It also turned allies into enemies and became a struggle between democracy and oligarchy.
Killing Lincoln (2011) tells the story behind the assassination of president Abraham Lincoln, which took place in 1865, shortly after the Confederate army had surrendered, effectively putting an end to the US Civil War. Learn all about the conspirators who plotted the killing, what their motives were and the details surrounding the fateful night at Ford’s Theater.
The Mosquito Bowl (2022) tells the story of American football stars going to war and playing one more game when they get there. It details a nation divided by bigotry but united by sport and a common enemy.
The Revolutionary (2022) offers a nuanced look at one of the most central figures in the lead-up to the American War of Independence. It reveals a man of character and contradiction, whose revolutionary thinking and deep commitment to civil liberties came to define a revolution.
Presidents of War (2018) is a panoramic study of eight US presidents and the conflicts into which they led their country. Detailing each POTUS’ motivations for war, their decisions once hostilities began, and the mood of the press and public at home, these absorbing portraits of wartime leaders look at American history on the grandest of scales – from the War of 1812 to Vietnam.
A Woman of No Importance (2019) sheds light on the shadowy world of wartime espionage and the career of one of the Allies’ most effective spies in the battle against Nazi Germany – Virginia Hall. In these blinks, we’ll follow Virginia from her Maryland home to the jazz clubs of interwar Paris and the warren-like streets of Lyon, the city in which she learned her trade. Along the way, you’ll discover how the “limping lady” dodged Gestapo agents, martialled the French resistance and revolutionized spycraft.
The Great Leveler (2017) takes a look at the inequality faced by different societies throughout history. It highlights war, plague and other major catastrophes as a leveler of the unequal distribution of power and property, prompting the question: can equality be achieved in a non-violent manner?
The Splendid and the Vile (2020) is a meticulously researched account of Winston Churchill’s first year of leadership. Beginning in 1940, he led the country through France’s surrender, the miraculous rescue at Dunkirk, and the Nazi air force’s bombing blitz of the UK, which killed over 44,000 Brits. Through it all, he retained his sense of humor and charming eccentricities that ensure him a fond place in our collective memory.
The Vietnam War is remembered as one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts of the twentieth century. At the end of 1967, the US government was assuring the public the war was almost won; by February 1968, that was no longer the case. In Hue 1968 (2017) Mark Bowden examines the battle in the city of Hue which changed the way the American public viewed the war.
Nothing to Envy (2010) presents fascinating first-hand anecdotes from North Korean defectors, giving intimate insights into the lives of North Koreans under the rule of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un. The thousands of refugees who arrive in South Korea each year bring with them stories of famine, repression and an isolated nation that has fallen out of touch with the developed world.
Why The West Rules – For Now (2010) is a treatise on Western rule. It examines what “the West” is and how its current dominance came about. Starting with the earliest development of humankind, it rules out racist genetic beliefs and theories of cultural superiority. It describes how East and West have been locked neck and neck in a race for advancement up to the present day. And, of course, it goes on to address the question: will the West’s dominance last?
Code Girls (2017) is about the thousands of American women who worked as code breakers during World War II. Informed by interviews with over 20 surviving women, archived documents, and recently declassified oral histories, author Liza Mundy details the unprecedented lives of female code breakers in Washington, DC and beyond as well as the American intelligence that led to the success of the Allied war efforts.
Arabs (2021) is a deep dive into the 3,000-year history of the people we know as Arabs. It’s an exploration of the forces that gave birth to the idea of Arabs as a group – and the forces that have kept them apart ever since.
The Code Book (1999) lays out the long and intriguing history of secret communication. These blinks will take you on a journey from Ancient Greece to the modern-day NSA, detailing innumerable stories of cunning, determination and deceit along the way.
Ordinary Men (1992) tells the disturbing tale of how a group of men went from “ordinary” to brutal, hardened killers executing the Nazi mission during the Holocaust. It examines in detail the evolution of these men’s attitudes, from the beginning when most experienced disgust at the gruesome tasks they were asked to carry out, through to the end when almost all had become accustomed to the cruelty and some even came to delight in it. Above all, it is a warning and a reminder of what humanity is capable of in its darkest moments.
A Spy Among Friends (2014) details the life of Kim Philby, a highly respected operative who rose through the ranks of the British secret services during World War II and the Cold War. Though a seeming paragon of British values, he actually spent his career working as a double agent for the Russians.
Agent Sonya (2020) is the biography of a respectable housewife, who also just happened to be one of Soviet intelligence’s most intrepid and high-ranking spies. The book traces the life of Ursula Kuczynski, code-name Sonya, from her birth in Berlin, through her radicalization as a communist and her career as a spy who both foiled the Nazis and arguably kicked off the Cold War.
All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days (2021) offers a deeply intimate look at individuals who risked their lives by establishing an anti-Nazi resistance movement in Germany. With years of research, and access to letters and declassified documents, this is a detailed story about people who have often been overlooked in the fight against fascism.
A Long Way Gone (2007) is a story of how, as a young boy in Sierra Leone, the author found himself caught in a civil war and recruited as a child soldier. You’ll travel alongside during his harrowing journey, eventual rescue and recovery guided through the kindness and grace of loving people.
The American War in Afghanistan (2021) is an in-depth look at one of the defining conflicts of the twenty-first century. This exhaustively-researched analysis dives into the details of this protracted and complex military occupation.
Saving Aziz (2023) is the story of how one man’s daring rescue of his friend and brother-in-arms turned into a multi-organizational effort that has resulted in rescuing over 17,000 allies from Afghanistan.
ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (2015) charts the rapid rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, from its early beginnings to its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Grippingly told, the story of ISIS’s domination over al-Qaeda in Iraq and its slow but ruthless push in Syria also shines light on the failings of the West in dealing with this fanatical yet disciplined jihadi group.
A People Betrayed (2000) is a masterful, in-depth look at the international community’s failure to intervene in one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes since the Holocaust. Through selfish and racist policies, the UN and its Security Council dithered and denied its way through three months of genocidal slaughter. As a direct result of their inaction, an estimated one million civilians were brutally murdered.
Black Flags (2015) tells the origin story of the infamous terror organization known as the Islamic State or ISIS. These blinks detail a history that begins with a fledgling insurgency in Iraq following the US invasion in 2003 and ends with one of the most powerful and frightening terrorist groups of all time.
The Light of Days (2021) tells the thrilling and harrowing story of the Jewish women in Nazi-occupied Poland who served as resistance fighters during World War II. These women took up arms in ghetto uprisings and served as important couriers on dangerous missions to transport guns and supplies across a hostile territory.
In Man, the State and War, Kenneth Waltz develops a groundbreaking analysis of the nature and causes of war, offering readers a wide overview of the major political theories of war from the perspective of political philosophers, psychologists and anthropologists.
Modern Warriors (2020) is a collection of gut-wrenching yet heartfelt stories about US war veterans’ years in service. These tales expose the harsh realities of combat, as well as the cherished moments of love and companionship that saw these soldiers through the hardest times.
Sea Power (2017) provides an enlightening look at the role Earth’s oceans have played over the course of human history. From early voyagers who sailed into the vast unknown, to the tens of thousands of commercial ships now traversing the globe on a daily basis, our oceans have always been a powerful force that we’ve longed to tame and control. While we’ve come a long way, we still find ourselves faced with immense challenges that we’ll only overcome by working together.
Modern technology and globalization have made it possible for one man to wage war against an entire country and win. Although it might seem unbelievable, it’s not.
Technological advances like the internet have made it possible for groups of terrorists and criminals to continuously share, develop and improve their tactics. This results in ever-changing threats made all the more dangerous by the interconnected nature of the modern world, where we rely on vital systems, like electricity and communication networks, that can be easily knocked out. Brave New War (2008) explores these topics and gives recommendations for dealing with future threats.
Command and Control (2013) uncovers the disturbing truth behind the troubled and accident-prone US nuclear weapons program. Find out what’s really been going on since World War II, when the first nuclear bomb was invented, and how lucky we are to still be here despite numerous accidents and close calls that could have kicked off Armageddon. If you think the stockpile of nuclear weapons in the United States has always been safely stored under lock and key – think again!
Florence Nightingale (1951) tells the legendary story of the “Lady with the Lamp,” the famed nurse who arrived to soothe the souls of those wounded in the Crimean War. It chronicles her journey to the conflict’s horrific medical barracks, and how she used her experiences to forever change the way hospitals are run and how the sick are treated.
Hannibal and Me details the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal’s quest to conquer Rome. The author Andreas Kluth draws from Hannibal’s biography valuable lessons on strategy, coping and finding the meaning of life.
The Daughters of Kobani (2021) tells the riveting, edge-of-your-seat tale of a group of Syrian Kurdish women who took up arms against the terror group ISIS. Brimming with pathos and unimaginable courage, it’s a story of women fighting evil and winning, against all the odds. But it’s equally about women defying a culture that would deny them their rights – and striving toward a better one.
The Crisis Caravan (2011) is about the complexities and pitfalls that come with delivering humanitarian aid to conflict zones. Though aid is usually provided with nothing but good intentions, there are political, social and economic obstacles that can cause it to do more harm than good. These blinks outline the reasons aid work often fails, and offer advice on how we can improve it.
To Stop a Warlord (2019) is an inspiring account of a remarkable mission: the quest to bring to justice one of the world’s most notorious war criminals – Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Packed with insights into Africa’s longest-running conflict, this account tells how Shannon Sedgwick Davis helped assemble an unlikely alliance between philanthropists, the Ugandan military and a South African mercenary to take on Kony’s army across four countries. While that coalition might not have achieved its primary objective of bringing Kony to justice, it did help tip the balance in favor of peace.
Causes of Rebellion in Waziristan (2015) takes the reader on a journey into the rocky terrain of this tiny South Asian region whose geopolitical influence reaches far beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. These blinks explore how the region became such a hotbed of insurrection and what can be done about it.
First They Killed My Father (2006) is Loung Ung’s memoir of her childhood experiences living under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia during the 1970s. She begins her story as the Khmer Rouge take power, forcing her family to flee the country’s capital, Phnom Penh, only to find themselves living as slave laborers, in constant fear that they would be personally targeted by the regime.
War! What Is It Good For? takes a look at the history of conflict and comes to a startling conclusion: while wars are horrible for those who endure them, postbellum societies enjoy the positive consequences of war, namely peace, prosperity and organization.