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Last Minute Gift Guide for Wonks, 2014 Edition
FP’s shopping suggestions for the politically passionate and internationally inclined.
With Christmas bearing down on us like a giant train of retail profit, you may have someone left on your list who spent the year thinking just a little too much about the news. Trust us, we know the type. Perhaps needless to say, but we have a few of them among us at Foreign Policy.
Though you may have already got this person an FP subscription, here are some 2014-inspired gift ideas, for the man or woman on your list with a nose buried in the headlines.
No. 1:The Interview movie poster
A few weeks ago — in the words of the Associated Press — “a freshly stoned,” Seth Rogen sat down for a promotional interview for his film The Interview, a parody featuring two journalists sent to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the behest of the CIA. The 32-year-old actor spoke of the likelihood of North Korean retaliation and said that “you’re always hoping nothing horrible is going to happen, obviously” and went on to say that if the film were scrapped he would feel that at least “we got to make it and got paid in advance.'” Well, now the film’s theater release has been scrapped, and the posters for the film, which he helped write and direct, are a highly coveted piece of controversy, selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay.
No. 2: Chocolate king chocolates
When Petro Poroshenko ascended to the presidency of Ukraine, he was derided as the “Chocolate King,” for having, yes, made his fortune as a chocolatier. Well, those sweets are for sale on Amazon. The variety in question is a chocolate praline with hazelnuts. Some made their way to the FP newsroom this fall, and we can report they disappeared in swift fashion.
No. 3: Disgruntled Obama cabinet official 2-pack
It’s easy to make enemies in Washington, and 2014 was the year U.S. President Barack Obama’s lieutenants finally turned on him, and in wide view of the public — in print. In a pair of memoirs — one by former CIA Director Leon Panetta, the other by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates — the White House received a thorough lashing. Obama’s and his consiglieres, these books allege, have accumulated a vast amount of power to direct foreign policy and have often done without direction and strategy. Taken together, Duty and Worthy Fights, are the two most talked about Washington books published this year.
No. 4: Torture report
It doesn’t make for happy reading — and certainly not a cheery gift — but the monumental report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention programs released earlier this month represents one of the key documents of the post-9/11 era. To read it page-by-page is to glimpse the fear that permeated in the months and years after that devastating attack in 2001 — and the abuses the fear spawned. The report is available free online — maybe print it nicely and wrap it in a black ribbon, for an appropriately bleak touch — and also for pre-order.
No. 5: FP 4-pack
2014 was also a year in which it seemed as if half the FP newsroom had a book on the way. CEO David Rothkopf had National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear, his account of American foreign policy in the aftermath of 9/11. Senior Editor, Special Projects Rebecca Frankel published War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History, and Love, her portrait of military working dogs. Managing Editor for News Yochi Dreazen gave out The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War, his reportage on the U.S. military’s suicide epidemic. Reporter Shane Harris — recently departed for the Daily Beast — penned @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex, his examination of American cyber operations.
No. 6: NSA–docs hoodie
The agonizing wait for clothing emblazoned with leaked NSA documents is finally over. Thanks to the good folks at Big Data Pawn Shop, you can now dress your friends, relatives, and enemies in t-shirts, fleeces, and trucker hats be-decked in NSA technical documents. For those who might enjoy imbibing in holiday spirits, there are even flasks.
No. 7: Redeployment
The writer Phil Klay spent his time as a soldier in Iraq serving as a public affairs officer. He’s turned that experience into a collection of stories that has been widely described as the most powerful, affecting account of the war in Iraq and the experiences of the American soldiers who fought it. Redeployment won this year’s National Book Award for fiction and was described by former Baghdad correspondent Dexter Filkins in the New York Times Book Review as: “hilarious, biting, whipsawing and sad. It’s the best thing written so far on what the war did to people’s souls.”
No. 8: Anastasia Taylor-Lind’s Maidan portraits
In the throes of this year’s revolution in Ukraine, photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind traveled to Kiev to document the uprising centered in that city’s Maidan Square. The photographs she made during her time there — spare, moving, often eccentric portraits — are a beautiful testament to the ambitions and hopes of those who braved immense obstacles to bring down Ukraine’s government. Those portraits – some of which were featured on ForeignPolicy.com — have now been published as a book, Maidan.
No. 9: Salmond squeezy
Scotland very nearly made history in 2014 by prying itself away from the United Kingdom. Though the country stayed in the union, you can remember the moment with a Salmond “squeezy” — a stress ball in the shape of Scottish independence leader Alex Salmond. Made before the vote, the stress ball dresses Salmond in underwear emblazoned with the British flag.
No. 10: Rick Atkinson’s World War II trilogy
For the history buff on your list who hasn’t read Rick Atkinson’s World War II trilogy, the boxed set of these riveting narrative histories is a wonderful gift. The first in the trilogy, An Army at Dawn, won the Pulitzer Prize for history, and the final volume, The Guns at Last Light, was released this year and received strong reviews. The trilogy is an account of the U.S. military’s involvement in World War II and has been hailed as landmark account of the war. Needless to say, your grandfather (or grandmother) will love it — and will probably pause mid-read to relay the good parts, for example, when Atkinson recounts Ernest Hemingway driving into a newly liberated Paris and ordering 73 dry martinis at the Ritz.
No. 11: Stephen Kotkin’s Stalin
At the risk of overloading this list with monumental works of history, it would be hard to think it complete without mentioning Stephen Kotkin’s new biography of Joseph Stalin. The first of two planned volumes, Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 charts Stalin’s rise as a small-town politician and the way he used brutality for political ends. In doing so, it challenges the psychoanalytic interpretation of his character, which seeks to understand his use of violence by focusing on his isolated childhood.
PHOTO CREDIT: JOEL SAGET / AFP / Getty Images