I spend a lot of time with books. I have written a few of them. More importantly, I read a lot of them. Usually two non-fiction books a week.

A few years ago, a friend took a look at the list of books on my iPad/Kindle and asked why I didn’t share my thoughts about what I was reading. She was right in suggesting that I should. However, I didn’t have a way of doing so other than posting reviews on Amazon and, now, Goodreads.

With the launch of this website, I now have a way of writing short reviews of books in comparative politics and peacebuilding, especially those that are written from a systems or complexity approach and/or that focus on wicked problems. As with Amazon, I will only review books I really liked and recommend reading. Only giving five star reviews hurts my rating on Amazon, but that’s not an issue here. I will add titles as I read them and, when time permits, add others from my “backlist.”

As with everything else on this site, I’d welcome suggestion(s), especially if they come with reasons why your choice(s) should be at the top of my very large virtual stack of books to read.

To read these short summaries and reviews, just hover over the book’s image below and click.



Steven Johnson is one of those rare authors who can take advanced scientific research and turn it into prose that non-scientific readers can understand and then use in their own lives. He can pull that off because he not only has the training to read the scientific literature, but he is a master story teller. He has done it again in Farighted. In it, he helps us see some old and some new tools that help us make decisions on matters that will affect our lives far into the future--hence the title.


The Fearless Organization

I met Amy Edmondson more than 30 years ago when I was getting started on my peacebuilding career and she was starting her own as a business consultant. She since moved on to get a PhD and now teach at the Harvard Business School, where her work on teams has had a profound impact on corporate life. Now, in The Fearless Organization, she has expanded her focus from hospitals and other corporations to organizations in general. Which means her work is filled with implications for peacebuilding.


Leadership and Self-Deception

The Arbinger Institute is not a household name in the conflict resolution circles I work in. It should be. In its practice and in a series of books it has published, the Arbinger staff helps people come to grips with some of their most deeply embedded and self-destructive ways of thinking and acting, which it labels “the box.” Like most of Arbinger’s books, Leadership and Self-Deception.   Develops its point through allegories which make it an easy read—until you explore the lessons that underlie the story of its protagonists, Tom and Bud, a newly hired executive and his boss/mentor, respectively.


A Savage Order

I met Rachel Kleinfeld at a conference on technology and peacebuilding a couple of years ago and learned immediately that she is a force of nature whose youth belies her wisdom and impact. When we met, she was already working on this book, so I’ve been waiting for it and dug into it the day it was published. I wasn’t disappointed. It is bound to have a huge impact on the way we peacebuilders conceive of our work in at least two ways.


The New Handshake

A friend told me about Colin Rule's work a few weeks ago. At first, the systems he developed to help resolve conflicts on e-commerce sites didn't seem all that relevant to my work. After all, my own work focuses on the toughest conflicts we face as a society, not how online businesses and their customers work out their differences. I was wrong. In fact, there is a lot of value here. What Rule and his co-author Amy Schmitz have already done and what they propose companies implement in the future is critical for the future of conflict resolution in general.