Brinkley is a professor of history at Rice University and the author of many books, including "Cronkite." Mark Fiege's "The Republic of Nature"A brilliant analytical recounting of U.S. history with the environment serving as the leading change agent. By linking ecology to the improbable rise of King Cotton, the Salem witch trials, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and even Brown vs. Board of Education, Fiege artfully demonstrates how presidential decisions automatically have an environmental impact on daily life. Steve Coll's "Private Empire"A penetrating investigative exposé on the philosophy of Exxon Mobil (the largest, most powerful oil and gas company in America). The mask of Big Oil is ripped off in this outstanding hybrid of journalism and history. David Crist's "The Twilight War"A sterling round-up study, full of wild anecdotes, about the troubled U.S.-Iran relationship. With allegations of Iran secretly aiming to develop nuclear weapons, this narrative is mandatory reading for any commander-in-chief. Lizzie Collingham's "The Taste of War"A masterpiece of World War II history anchored around the essential interaction between food and strategy in the 1940s. Any president anxious for war needs to learn how hunger and famine anywhere in the world hurt the democratic cause. Without our great agricultural abundance, Collingham convincingly argues, America might have lost World War II. Victor Cha's "The Impossible State"The best way to learn about the heinous real North Korea. It's an enlightened policy saga about the enigmatic Asian nation state's determination to be a world-class dictatorship. The Kim family dynasty proves to come as advertised — they're a monstrous clan. An extremely impressive NSC-styled white-paper gussied-up to make a deeply insightful book.
Dave Einsel / Los Angeles Times