The post-COVID world this week: We’re not in the clear yet, so here’s what to read while you wait

The future is here: A guide to the post-COVID world 07/31/2021

In place of the usual analysis, here are some summer reading suggestions for the beach, mountains, or backyard. In keeping with the theme of this newsletter, some are thoughts about the future—scenarios, predictions, utopias, and dystopias. We think of the future in many ways: Some are big ideas about the world, some are about the nature of our world today and how we got here, and some are inspirations.

The suggestions are based on recommendations submitted by our highly literate and deeply thoughtful staff at the Atlantic Council. The links are to the site, which offers you the possibility to support local bookstores in the United States or the United Kingdom by shopping online. Many will be also available in bookstores internationally.

In case this list still leaves you seeking ideas, I will be posting more book recommendations on the Atlantic Council website next week. The newsletter will resume as normal on Saturday, September 11.

BIG IDEAS: Fuel for the mind.

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I am fascinated by any discussion about how our world endures when faced with disorder and challenges, particularly systems that actually gain from disorder. (Arun Iyer)

Anthro-Vision by Gillian Tett. This is such a cool book. Written by an anthropologist who started her career doing fieldwork in Central Asia—and who later became a journalist with the Financial Times—it will help you see the world in very new ways. (Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili)

Extremism by J.M. Berger. A really great, easy read on what drives people to adopt (and act on) beliefs, whether religious, political, or otherwise, that the mainstream would view as extremist. (Jennifer Counter)

Factfulness by Hans Rosling. This book is full of interesting facts that contradict our view of the world and allow us to see things more clearly. (Amjad Ahmad)

The Delusions of Crowds: Why People Go Mad in Groups by William J. Bernstein. Read this book to understand the craziness of our present predicament. A psychological assessment of end-times delusions from misinterpreted Biblical prophecies to financial contagions and their similarities. (Robert Manning)

Think Again by Adam Grant. A book for everyone! “Discover the critical art of rethinking: how questioning your opinions can position you for excellence at work and wisdom in life.” (Defne Arslan)

First Principles: What America’s Founders Learned from the Greeks and Romans and How That Shaped Our Country by Thomas Ricks. The January 6 Capitol riot was eerily similar to the conspiracy that foreshadowed the fall of Rome. It compelled us to understand the Greek and Roman principles that influenced the founders of the United States, as well as how renewing them can help us find our way through dark times. (The Cyber Statecraft Initiative team)

The World America Made by Robert Kagan. This slim volume can be read in a single day at the beach—and it reportedly had a major effect on then US President Barack Obama’s thinking when it was first published in 2012. Kagan’s historical analysis and insights are as timely as ever. On balance, US global engagement has been a force for good in international affairs over the past seventy-five years. Washington must continue to lead on the world stage or else other hostile actors, such as Russia and China, will fill the power vacuum—with potentially disastrous consequences. (Matthew Kroenig)

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I recommend this one in audiobook form. Narrated by the author, whose voice is super soothing, it brings a different perspective to our relationship with nature and other human beings. (Adriana Lacerda)

THE FUTURE IS HERE: What happens next? Imagination and forecasts.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. I loved this book because it envisions a future that changes our conception of what it means to be a human on Earth; because of its innate optimism about the power of science; and because it was just an awesome, breezy, and extremely interesting and enthralling read. (Barry Pavel) As I wait for seats on Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic rocket ships to be available for the masses, I read this (and everything else by Weir) because his science is mostly solid and his characters make me laugh. (Stefanie H. Ali)

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam. A family goes on a Hamptons vacation. One day, the rented house’s owners knock on the door and say there’s been a disaster in Manhattan and that they have to hunker down together. This promises to be a window into how people survive in lockdowns and cling to ideas of normalcy—sound familiar? (Katherine Walla)

Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence by James Lovelock with Bryan Appleyard. Sweeping and far-seeing, I loved this book by the brilliant James Lovelock because it posits the end of the current Anthropocene era in which humans are the dominant actors on earth and suggests that the next era will be dominated by artificial intelligence… which will save the planet. (Barry Pavel)

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi. I truly believe Emezi is one of the most revolutionary writers of this decade: through Pet, they imagine a world in which trans kids are given the care and respect they deserve, structural change has been made, and justice leads to true reconciliation. It reminds readers that if we don’t take time to remember, teach new generations, and make the consistent choice to be better, we won’t be able to keep moving forward. (Alyssa Harvie)

Severance by Ling Ma. A young woman navigates a nearly apocalyptic world post-pandemic. Hilarious but also terrifying. It was an A+ read last summer, when COVID-19 seemed like a short-term thing. (Katherine Walla)

The End of October by Lawrence Wright. I loved this book because it foretells what a global pandemic might do to the modern world if one befell us… before COVID-19 came on the scene. (Barry Pavel)

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s both science-fiction—a scary projection of what the devastating effects of climate change could be—and a guide to policy—explaining ways mankind might be able to collaborate in order to avoid the worst-case scenario. (Sandy Vershbow)

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu. It’s a Chinese sci-fi masterpiece on how the world gets ready for an encounter of the third kind. (Ben Haddad)

This is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth. Nicole, one of the New York Times’s leads on cyber, writes about cyber leaks and attacks, and her book could not be better timed as our world is beset by malicious hacks and ransomware strokes seemingly every week. (Brian O’Toole)

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino. Tolentino tackles the illusions and self-delusions we have constructed to continue existing in a social and political state that is as fundamentally backward as it is mandatory. Her writing speaks to the fundamental conflicts present in our modernity and gives voice to the restlessness it can inspire. (Jared Holt, also recommended by Andrea Snyder)

In Harm’s Way by John Cleveland and Peter Plastrik. “There are seven capacities that communities need to develop so they can undertake effective preparation for climate change,” the authors write. This book lays out those seven. (Andrea Snyder)

INSPIRATION: Lives, words, and stories to uplift

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Katharine K. Wilkinson and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. The collection of poems, art, and essays sets out to highlight a wide range of women’s voices in the environmental and climate movement. It is a contemporary representation, and it’s beyond the way we wonks think about climate. (Kathy Baughman McLeod)

The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris. I’ve chosen to read it because I love autobiographies and have long held a sneaking suspicion that she and I have many things in common and am reading to confirm my hunch! I find her personal and professional life interesting and want to learn how she ascended to her former role as US senator from California. (Clintandra Thompson)

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. This one was on my to-read list for a long time. It is a terrific book, very timely for the years we are living in. The author talks about anxiety and personal struggle with a raw truth to it, and yet it is still comical! Highly recommended. (Fernanda Meirelles)

Here, Right Matters: An American Story by Alexander S. Vindman. As the child of a father who fled the Soviet Union in pursuit of a better life for his family, Vindman was raised with the values I believe make America special and resonate with so many of us, and I’m excited to read his tale of moral courage and determination in a unique moment in history. (Shelby Magid)

His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by Jon Meacham. The gripping story of how a poor Alabama sharecropper’s son helped change America. (Stephen Grand)

The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts. This is the most complete and informative book detailing the LGBTQI civil-rights movement during the second half of the twentieth century, with a specific focus on the life, career, and murder of Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay people elected to political office in the United States. (Zachary Strauss)

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. Just enlightening—after reading it, I became much more understanding, patient, and tolerant with people who have different points of view than my own. I consider this essential for those of us working on diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. I think every person in the world should read this book. (That’s how much I liked it!) (Adriana Lacerda)

Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World. The editor, Zahra Hankir, also teamed up with MENASource to publish a photo essay capturing the explosion in Beirut. (Samantha Treiman)

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Janet Mills and Don Miguel Ruiz. This continues to be a great code of conduct guide and is as relevant today as it was when first released. With all of life’s changes that we’ve been experiencing, this book has helped keep me grounded and focused on being impeccable with my own words, not take things personally, not make assumptions, and to always do my best. (Kadiatou Cesaire)

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I like her take on different issues, this time on being feminist. (Tigest “Tea” Frew)

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Comic strip classic. Has there ever been a more inspiring couple? (Stephanie Wander)

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I picked up this book to learn how to write short stories. (Tigest “Tea” Frew)

The Wild Muir by Lee Stetson. Twenty-two of famed conservationist John Muir’s greatest adventures. For the mountains of California. (Stephanie Wander)

Andrew Marshall is the Vice President of Communications for the Atlantic Council. He leads the Council’s media, digital, and editorial efforts, and coordinates the way the Council talks with its key communities.