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Books for the World Ahead
The first issue of Foreign Affairs contained seven pages of short reviews of recent books on international relations. From 1925 to 1936, the diplomatic historian William Langer had the, as he put it, "rather formidable task" of writing these reviews. (The selection criteria were both flexible and ethnocentric: "books on all or any aspect of international affairs, in any civilized language.") The section itself, he wrote later, "was not to be a simple list of titles, which is never of much value, but a more or less critical analysis of each title -- something about the standing of the author, the character of the book, the nature of its sources, the author's viewpoint or conclusion." The tradition has continued to this day, and now ten distinguished contributors fill some 25 pages each issue.
For this specially themed issue, we have replaced the section with something different. (Readers looking for the November/December issue's regular reviews can find them on our Web site; the reviews will return in print next issue.) We asked a number of prominent figures -- political scientists, public intellectuals, politicians, historians, journalists, policymakers -- to recommend books that shed light on some aspect of the world ahead. The 16 contributions are as diverse as the contributors themselves, and far from predictable. Richard Betts sets the scene for these reviews by assessing how well the arguments of three seminal post-Cold War books, by Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, and John Mearsheimer, have held up.