Thursday, September 16, 2010

Five best books: the end of the Cold War, 1989

Mary Elise Sarotte is Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California. Her books include 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe, which was named one of the best books of 2009 by the Financial Times.

At FiveBooks, she told Daisy Banks about her five best books about the end of the Cold War in Europe in 1989. One book they discussed:
The Turn: From the Cold War to a New Era by Don Oberdorfer

Tell me about your first choice, The Turn: From the Cold War to a New Era by Don Oberdorfer.

Don Oberdorfer is a journalist who spent many years with The Washington Post. The Turn is not a new book; it came out in 1991. There are more recent books by journalists, but I really like this one, because he was present at a number of the key events and he did a good job of documenting what was significant and then pulling it together immediately afterwards.

So, if you ask me for just one book to give you the narrative of events, I actually would still recommend this one. He is particularly good on international relations. This topic is a key part of the story of 1989 and 1990; it is hard to understand what happened if you look at just one country. Obviously, it is interesting to look at divided Germany when the Berlin Wall comes down, but you have to put that in the context of Solidarity coming to power in Poland, Mikhail Gorbachev and his reforms in the Soviet Union, and how the United States reacted, and how France reacted. You need to understand the actions of a lot of different countries.

And that is what your book, 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe looks at as well – this idea, that there wasn’t one straightforward outcome.

Yes, I think that Oberdorfer’s book is a good first cut of history. The theme of multiple potential futures going forward from 1989-1990 is something that I tried to develop further in my own book.
Read about another book on the list.

Also see Daniel Johnson's five best books about Cold War culture.

--Marshal Zeringue