October 2013 Reading List

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Banksy's contribution from October 17 (photo source).
The most interesting event of the month was not the shameful US government shutdown but British street artist Banksy's New York "residency". Entitled "Better Out Than In", Banksy's city-wide experiment provoked reactions from comedic to awkward to insightful. See Banksy's record of the month's work on his website.

Happy reading:

Enduring Exile: A Family's Journey from Armenia to Syria and Back Again (Alia Malek, Guernica)
My favorite story this month; a poignant account of a family's search for home.

The Shadow Commander (Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker)
A profile of the obscure Iranian mastermind who has been calling the shots in the Middle East for decades.

Our Fear of Al-Qaeda Hurts Us More Than Al-Qaeda Does (David Rohde, The Atlantic)
Massive global surveillance, unaccountable drone strikes, and secret courts are killing the American brand.

Q v. K (Yasmine Seale, London Review of Books)
On the social ripples of Turkey's conversion from Arabic to Latin script—more interesting than it sounds. Also, see great reader comments, including one linking to the story of how a single Turkish typo drove one man to murder!

The New Arab Capitals (Ursula Lindsey, The Arabist)
When an Emirati royal published an op-ed this month calling the Gulf's sheikhdoms the "nerve center of the contemporary Arab world’s culture" and criticizing the decline of North Africa and the Levant, he set off quite a debate.

Mobile Money in a Dusty Land (Mark Hay, Roads & Kingdoms)
Can Zaad, Somaliland's mobile money service, help unleash the region's economic promise? (Also of interest to Somalia enthusiasts: Xan Rice's profile of Mogadishu restaurateur Ahmed Jama and his struggles to build small islands of normalcy in his homeland.)

Islamist Violence and a War of Ideas (George Packer, The New Yorker)
In the past dozen or so years, the so-called "global war on terror" has wasted trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives, and distracted so many in our world from more productive endeavors. George Packer reviews new thinking, including the Global Counterterrorism Fund and other "smart power" initiatives, that might just help us put this era behind us. (Also see this thought-provoking review of Akbar Ahmed's The Thistle and the Drone.)

'World's Most Travelled Man', Mike Spencer Bown, Heads Home After 23-Year Journey (Ryan Grenoble, Huffington Post)
Since leaving his native Canada in 1990, Bown has visited every country on earth, and found out that it is a big place. ("I would never have thought it would take so long to see it all. It's enormous.") His takeaway from the experience? "People are basically good and worth knowing whatever the race or culture they hail from." Amen.

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