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Jessica Stern's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Jessica Stern recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Jessica Stern's favorite book recommendations of all time.

How can the most powerful country in the world feel so threatened by an enemy infinitely weaker than we are? How can loving parents and otherwise responsible citizens join terrorist movements? How can anyone possibly believe that the cause of Islam can be advanced by murdering passengers on a bus or an airplane? In this important new book, groundbreaking scholar Louise Richardson answers these questions and more, providing an indispensable guide to the greatest challenge of our age.

After defining–once and for all–what terrorism is, Richardson explores its origins, its goals,...
Recommended by Jessica Stern, and 1 others.

Jessica SternWhat I love about this book is that first of all she makes clear that you can’t fight a war on terrorism any more than you can fight a war on dynamite – that terrorism is a technique. (Source)

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Recommended by Jessica Stern, and 1 others.

Jessica SternThis is one of my favourite books for explaining the emotional aspects of why people are drawn to violence. It looks at the addictive quality of war and terrorism. I have seen that, when they begin their careers, terrorists often believe that they are making the world a better place. But over time violence can become addictive, as Hedges makes clear. One mujahid even said to me, “I am as addicted... (Source)

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Recommended by Colleen Murphy, Jessica Stern, and 2 others.

Colleen MurphyGobodo-Madikizela gives invaluable insight into the psychology of perpetrators, the psychological impacts on victims of horrific atrocities, and how we think about possibilities for moving forward as a community post-atrocity. (Source)

Jessica SternThis is a complicated and moving book about the nature of good and evil. Pumla is a South African psychologist who spent a lot of time in prison interviewing people like Eugene de Kock, the commanding officer of state-sanctioned apartheid death squads. He is currently serving 212 years in jail for crimes against humanity. He directed ‘the blood, the bodies and the killing’ against apartheid’s... (Source)

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The Secret Agent

The Secret Agent is the unsurpassed ancestor of a long series of twentieth-century novels and films which explore the confused motives that lie at the heart of political terrorism. In its use of powerful psychological insight to intensify narrative suspense, it set the terms by which subsequent works in its genre were created. Conrad was the first novelist to discover the strange in-between territory of the political exile, and his genius was such that we still have no truer map of that region's moral terrain than his story of a terrorist plot and its tragic consequences for the guilty... more

Jason BurkeBasically, anything you want to know about how terrorism works you can find in this book. It is not necessarily about who is behind terrorism because in this book it is a shadowy foreign state that wants an agent provocateur in London to explode Greenwich Observatory to make a point. (Source)

Iain SinclairThere are lots of reasons I’m very fond of Conrad as a writer. I like visions of London that come translated or diffused or refracted through other cultures. In that way, I suppose, I like this book in the same way I like my first choice, the Céline. Coming here out of his Polish background, Conrad picked up on the elements you were talking about in terms of Dickens — the city as a labyrinth of... (Source)

Jessica SternYes, I thought I was being clever and unique and didn’t realise so many other people had made the connection. The book is based on an incident that actually did occur when an anarchist tried to blow up the Royal Observatory. In the novel, a group of hapless anarchists are trying to incite a rebellion. Their main concern is that British society is too liberal and they want to demonstrate that this... (Source)

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A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the 1940s, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophical treatises in his spare time while living in the railroad yards. The True Believer -- the first and most famous of his books -- was made into a bestseller when President Eisenhower cited it during one of the earliest television press conferences.Completely relevant and essential for understanding the world today, The True Believer is a visionary, highly provocative look into the mind of the fanatic and a penetrating study of how an individual becomes one. less

Eric Weinstein[Eric Weinstein recommended this book on Twitter.] (Source)

George RavelingThis, to me, is one of the true classics of all time. (Source)

Jessica SternThis is a brilliant book. Hoffer points out that zealots can be attracted to zealotry itself. Leaders of revolutionary movements go after people who are so dissatisfied with the status quo, and with themselves, that they are willing to put everything at risk, to create a new, better, purer world. The trick is to provide them with an identity as part of something bigger than themselves. One of the... (Source)

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