Columbia Ink: Winter 2017-18

February 26, 2018
Directorate S Book Cover by Steve Coll

Directorate S
By Steve Coll
Penguin Press

Continuing the narrative of his Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars, Steve Coll, dean of Columbia Journalism School, tells the inside story of U.S. intelligence, military and diplomatic efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 9/11. He shows that the war in Afghanistan was doomed because the U.S. failed to understand the motivations and intentions of the Pakistani intelligence agency’s “Directorate S,” which was covertly training, arming and seeking to legitimize the Taliban in order to enlarge Pakistan’s sphere of influence. The war was an open clash of arms but also a covert melee of ideas, secrets and subterranean violence. Coll excavates this grand battle, which took place away from the gaze of the American public, with expertise, original research and attention to detail. For a Q&A with Coll, visit news.columbia .edu/directorates.


The Sustainable City by Steven Cohen

The Sustainable City
By Steven Cohen
Columbia University Press

For the first time in recorded history, the majority of the planet’s people live in urban areas. In The Sustainable City, Steven Cohen surveys policies and projects around the world that strive to align urban life and sustainability. Cohen, executive director of the Earth Institute, discusses the sustainable city and the transition to a green economy from an organizational-management and public-policy perspective. He emphasizes the local level, examining programs and publicprivate partnerships that include waste management in Beijing, energy infrastructure in Africa and public space in Washington, D.C. By offering concrete examples, Cohen synthesizes the disparate strands of sustainable city planning in a guide that highlights everyday issues, including transportation choices, energy sources and food waste disposal. The book provides recommendations and insights, linking public policy to the promotion of a sustainable lifestyle.


Trans A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability Book Cover

Trans* A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability
By Jack Halberstiam
University of California Press

Public discussions of transgender issues have increased exponentially over the past decade. This new visibility has brought not just power but regulation, both in favor and against trans people. What was once regarded as an unusual or even unfortunate disorder has become an accepted articulation of gender as well as a new cause for political activism and recognition. In Trans*, Jack Halberstam, professor of English and comparative literature, explores these recent shifts in the meaning and representation of gender and the possibilities for a non-gendered, gender-optional or gender-queer future. He considers what prompted such an extensive rethinking of gendered embodiment; how a once stigmatized identity became so central to Western articulations of self; and the public response to the new definitions and understandings of sex and the gendered body.


Silencing the Bomb Book Cover

Silencing the Bomb: One Scientist’s Quest to Halt Nuclear Testing
By Lynn R. Sykes
Columbia University Press

In December 2016, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds forward, to two-and-a-half minutes before midnight, the latest it has been set since 1952. Scientists have long fought to turn back that clock via the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which awaits full ratification. Its backbone is every nation’s ability to independently monitor nuclear activity. Seismologist Lynn R. Sykes, Higgins Professor Emeritus of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, is a central figure in the development of the science and technology used in monitoring and was, for much of the Cold War, among the only people who could state with certainty when and where a bomb was tested. In Silencing the Bomb, he tells the story behind his efforts to keep the clock from striking midnight.


Marriage Map by Owen Lewis

Marriage Map
By Owen Lewis
Dos Madres Press

Marriage Map is not the usual love story. This poetry collection begins with a meeting recounted in two poems, “The Day the Crane Fell” and “Broadway and 8th,” and ends with a poem evoking a Chagall-like, Klezmer-filled marriage. The protagonists are not young lovers with their life stories yet to unfold, though much still lies ahead for them. Poems map the space between meeting and marriage: how the lovers learn to listen to each other and hear the voices of family, past lovers, divorce and death and discover what is genuine and enduring. Owen Lewis, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he teaches with the narrative medicine group, received the 2016 International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, among numerous other awards. He is the author of several volumes of poetry, including Best Man, Sometimes Full of Daylight and March in San Miguel.


Fixing Medical Prices Book Cover

Wolf Season
By Helen Benedict
Bellevue Literary Press

In her latest novel, Helen Benedict, a professor in the School of Journalism tells the story of the aftermath of a hurricane that devastates a small town in upstate New York and how it changes three women and their young children. Rin, an Iraq war veteran, tries to protect her blind daughter and the three wolves under her care. Naema, a widowed doctor who fled Iraq with her wounded son, faces life-threatening injuries and confusion about her feelings for Louis, a veteran and widower. Beth, who is raising a troubled son, waits out her Marine husband’s deployment in Afghanistan. As they struggle to maintain their humanity and find hope, their war-torn lives collide in a way that will affect their entire community.


Sudden Death A Novel Book Cover

Property Rights and Property Wrongs
By Timothy Frye
Cambridge University Press

Secure property rights are central to economic development and stable government, yet difficult to create. Timothy Frye examines how political power, institutions and norms shape property rights for businesses in Russia. Through a series of simple survey experiments conducted from 2000-2012, he explores how political power, personal connections, elections, concerns for reputation, the law and social norms influence property rights disputes—from hostile corporate takeovers to debt collection to renationalization. Frye, Marshall D. Shulman Professor of PostSoviet Foreign Policy and chairman of the political science department, argues that property rights in Russia are better seen as an evolving bargain between rulers and rightholders than as a reflection of economic transition, national culture or a weak state.


Driverless Intelligent Cars Book Cover

Welfare, Work, and Poverty: Social Assistance in China
By Qin Gao
Oxford University Press

Welfare, Work, and Poverty provides the first systematic and comprehensive evaluation of the impacts and effectiveness of China’s primary social assistance program—Minimum Livelihood Guarantee, or Dibao. Founded in 1993, Dibao is intended to both provide a safety net for the poor and maintain social and political stability. This book offers important new empirical evidence on the world’s largest welfare program in terms of population covered and draws timely policy lessons for both China and beyond. Qin Gao, a professor in the School of Social Work and director of the China Center for Social Policy, addresses questions such as Dibao’s effectiveness in alleviating poverty and moving recipients from entitlement programs to employment, and whether recipients become more optimistic about the future and enjoy greater life satisfaction or are instead distressed by the stigma associated with receiving assistance.