Online Program Enrolling Now - Seton Hall - United Nations Institute for Training and Research
Online Program Enrolling Now - Seton Hall - United Nations Institute for Training and Research

BLUE SMOKE: A monthly column, from PassBlue and UNA–UK, spotlighting senior appointments at the UN

What We’re Reading This Summer


Lucena, Philippines. JOE PENNEY
Lucena, Philippines. JOE PENNEY

Enjoying your summer but still looking for something good to read? There are lots of reading choices, of course, starting with all those backed up New Yorker magazines, McKinsey reports and NPR’s Summer Romance List.

Or you can get a peek at what some of PassBlue’s editors and correspondents — Barbara Crossette, Irwin Arieff, Laura Kirkpatrick, Dulcie Leimbach and Rhona Scullion — are reading right now.


Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, by Karen Armstrong

“While many historians have looked at violence in connection with particular religious manifestations (jihad in Islam or Christianity’s Crusades), Armstrong looks at each faith — not only Christianity and Islam but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism — in its totality over time. As she describes it, each faith arose in an agrarian society with plenty of powerful landowners brutalizing peasants while also warring among themselves over land, then the only real source of wealth. In this world, religion was not the discrete and personal matter it would become for us but rather something that permeated all aspects of society. And so it was that agrarian aggression, and the warrior ethos it begot, became bound up with observances of the sacred.”–

To order the book, go to Amazon or


Americana, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion — for each other and for their homeland.” —

To order the book, go to Amazon or 


The Men Who United the States, by Simon Winchester

“How did America become ‘one nation, indivisible’? What unified a growing number of disparate states into the modern country we recognize today? To answer these questions, Winchester follows in the footsteps of America’s most essential explorers, thinkers and innovators, such as Lewis and Clark and the leaders of the Great Surveys; the builders of the first transcontinental telegraph and the powerful civil engineer behind the Interstate Highway System. He treks vast swaths of territory, from Pittsburgh to Portland, Rochester to San Francisco, Seattle to Anchorage, introducing the fascinating people who played a pivotal role in creating today’s United States.” —

To order the book, go to Amazon or


Germany 1945: From War to Peace, by Richard Bessel

“As a baby boomer American, my exposure to the war’s aftereffects have been minimal, though my father fought in the Saar-Mosel triangle in Germany in the winter of 1945 as part of Patton’s Third Army. He died in 1960, so my reading about the war, which never stops gripping me, is how I try to comprehend my father’s formidable experiences as a very young man. And what Bessel conveys so profoundly in “Germany 1945″ is not only how much violence the German government inflicted on its enemies but also on its own people.”  — Dulcie Leimbach

To order the book, go to Amazon or


The Establishment: and How They Get Away With It, by Owen Jones

“Who wields power in politics? It is a question that’s asked all too often — and never really answered. But that’s exactly what Owen Jones has done in ‘The Establishment,’ which has already taken Great Britain by storm. To expose the shadowy and unaccountable network of people who dominate British political life — the people who influence major decisions and reap huge profits in the process — Owen Jones sets out on a journey into the very heart of the elite.” —

To order the book, go to Amazon or

More books suggestions:

Brookings Summer Book List

Foreign Affairs/Council on Foreign Relations Reading Lists

Wall Street Journal’s Counter Culture High School Reading List

Harper’s Bazaar Female Literati Summer Reading Selections

The Independent UK 90 Books by 40 Literary Luminaries

And finally, if you’d rather get your thrills on the big screen, The Atlantic has provided recommendations on what movies to watch this summer, if you need some serious air-conditioning.


We welcome your comments on this article..  What are your thoughts?

Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder, with Barbara Crossette, of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, Leimbach has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia, Iceland and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel, Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and the Foreign Press Association.

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Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then working at The Times. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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