HOLIDAY BOOKS, PART 4….Here’s Part 4 of my holiday bookfest for political junkies:

From Phil Carter of Intel Dump

  • Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media, by Seth Mnookin. “This is the definitive history of the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times, but it provides much more than that. Seth Mnookin’s highly readable book goes into detail about the state of journalism at this point in our history, the rise and fall of Howell Raines at the Times, and the implications of this scandal for the way news is produced and consumed. I read this book on one flight from L.A. to New York ? it was that good.”

  • Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, by Steve Coll. “The Al Qaeda threat we face today is a great deal different from the one we faced on Sept. 11, 2001 ? it has mutated and evolved into a far more decentralized and amorphous terror network. Nonetheless, Coll’s book about the Afghan war and the rise of Osama Bin Laden’s organization should be required reading for anyone who wants the backstory on how Al Qaeda came to be the principal security threat for the United States in the 21st Century. I have read many books on this subject, but none so good as this one.”

From Laura Rozen of War and Piece

  • A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affairs, by Theodore Draper. “It’s like reading the Congressional Iran Contra reports without any of the names blacked out, and with all the fascinating back stories on the cast of characters involved, many of them familiar from the Bush II administration. For instance, about Iran contra arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, there are more than 50 references, including this quote from the CIA’s official burn notice of him: ‘He had a history of predicting events after they happened and was seen as a rumormonger of occasional usefulness. In addition, the information collected by him consistently lacked sourcing and detail notwithstanding his exclusive interest in acquiring money.’ Perfect. Who else would you want helping guide the Bush administration’s Iran policy?”

  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, by Azar Nafisi. “Yes, it’s in every airport magazine shop, but it’s well worth a read, not only for its insights about post-revolutionary Iran and in particular for the group of female students Nafisi selects to study literature in her mountain-encircled Tehran apartment, but for its gripping demonstration of the power of literature to free the minds of human beings living under political oppression. In that way, Nafisi’s Lolita reminds one of the work of Milan Kundera.”

From Matt Welch

  • Open Letters: Selected Writings 1965-1990, by Vaclav Havel. “The best collection by and introduction to one of the 20th century’s greatest men. Besides containing the two political essays that best (and thrillingly) lay out the case & fighting manual against communism & other totalitarianism (‘Power of the Powerless,’ and ‘An Open Letter to Dr. Gustav Husak’), it provides an enticing window into modern Czech thought and history, while breathing new life into words like ‘truth’ and ‘responsibility.’”

  • If You Have a Lemon, Make Lemonade, by Warren Hinckle. “Rollicking and inspirational history of the great lefty muckraking ’60s Frisco magazine Ramparts (home of such writers as Robert Scheer and David Horowitz), written by the profane eyepatch-wearing lunatic who converted it from a quiet Catholic quarterly to one of the decade’s most vital publications. Ramparts was a direct predecessor to Rolling Stone, Scanlan’s, and dozens of spectacular failures, and the telling of this tale is drenched not only in terrific ’60s weirdness, but the maverick sensibility of Western publishing stretching back to the Gold Rush.”