When we sat down to research the books published in the last 12 months that deserved to be on our "Summer Reading List," we figured it would be breeze. Instead, we were blown away by the quality and breadth of works that touched upon the issues close to our heart—holding government accountable, exposing waste and corruption, digging deep into the military industrial complex, and looking at how Wall Street financiers gamed the system to their advantage and to everyone else's loss. The books we present here were all published after June 2011 and were not included in our Winter Reading List.

POGO doesn't necessarily endorse all of the ideas put forth in these books—but we do think they advance the ball and offer important perspectives on the big issues of today.

Make sure to share this list with your friends—you can even tweet about each book using the buttons below.






The Operators by Michael Hastings 

Blue Rider Press, Jan. 2012

The Operators is a troubling first-person narrative about a bizarre episode in U.S. military history, as well as a trenchant analysis of the disaster in Afghanistan.” ~Los Angeles Times





We Meant Well by Peter Van Buren

Metropolitan Books, Sept. 2011

“One diplomat’s darkly humorous and ultimately scathing assault on just about everything the military and the State Department have done — or tried to do — since the invasion of Iraq.” ~The New York Times





The Black Banners by Ali H. Soufan

W. W. Norton & Company, Sept. 2011

"An absorbing account of America's fight back after 9/11, full of revealing or amusing details ... cheering as well as fascinating, because it reveals the dedication of those who defend us, as well as the weird frailties of those who try to kill us." ~The Sunday Times





Drift by Rachel Maddow

Crown Publishing Group, March 2012

"Full of head-smacking stories about America's military meddling and muddling ... Maddow sounds an alarm this country needs to hear more than almost any other." ~San Francisco Chronicle





Throw Them All Out by Peter Schweizer

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade, Nov. 2011

Throw Them All Out is filled with stories of petty theft and so-called ‘honest graft’…Unsparingly bipartisan in [its] criticism of Washington…Mr. Schweizer has performed a valuable service to his country.” ~Washington Times


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Beautiful Souls by Eyal Press

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Feb 2012

“[Beautiful Souls] provides rich, provocative narratives of moral choice… In exploring [resisters'] courage, Press makes us wonder if we would have the strength to act against the crowd, and in so doing spread a bit of light in our dark times.”  ~The Washington Post


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Power and Constraint by Jack Goldsmith

W. W. Norton & Company, March 2012

Power and Constraint is written with exemplary clarity and gives a notably lucid and authoritative picture of the dynamics of presidential power as they played out in perhaps the most important area of national policy in the past decade.” ~The Washington Post




Traitor by Jesselyn A. Radack

Whistleblower Press, Jan. 2012

Traitor is the story of a young professional whose career is derailed because her ethical compass will not let her be silent in the face of official dishonesty.  It is also the story of a political system that is seemingly incapable of tolerating honorable dissenting views within the government workforce.” ~Federation of American Scientists' Steven Aftergood





People's Warrior by Michael R. Lemov

Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, June 2011

“Michael R. Lemov, an attorney in Bethesda, Maryland who specializes in federal regulatory issues, worked closely with Moss to tell the story of his hard-fought struggle to get [the Freedom of Information Act] passed.” ~The POGO blog




It’s Even Worse than it Looks by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein

Basic Books, May 2012

“It is this willingness to put perceived political advantage ahead of good government that persuades the authors that we are living in a novel time that is ‘even worse than it looks.’”  ~The Washington Post





Do Not Ask What Good We Do by Robert Draper

Free Press, April 2012

“… Mr. Draper embedded himself in the House in 2011, getting to know the key players—newcomers and old-timers alike ... his refreshingly balanced account captures the drama of one of Congress’s most combative and maddeningly frustrating years in memory.” ~Wall Street Journal




Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank

Metropolitan Books, Jan. 2012

“With as much patience as he can muster, Frank writes: ‘Before this recession, people who had been cheated by bankers almost never took that occasion to demand that bankers be freed from 'red tape' and the scrutiny of the law. Before 2009, the man in the bread line did not ordinarily weep for the man lounging in his yacht.’" ~The Guardian


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Predator Nation by Charles Ferguson

Crown Business, May 2012 

"A tightly argued, profusely footnoted and deeply enraged castigation of everyone involved, Predator Nation isn’t just a factually unchallengeable account of how Wall Street blew up the global economy. It’s a denunciation, a call for justice and a warning." ~Salon




Private Empire by Steve Coll

Penguin Press, May 2012

“Private Empire details Exxon Mobil’s harassment of environmental scientists, its messy entanglements in small wars in far-flung countries, its withholding of information from Congress, its dissembling about global warming, its arrogant culture, its obscene stockpiles of cash.” ~The New York Times





Leak by Max Holland

University Press of Kansas, March 2012

“Now comes a new book, Leak, in which independent journalist Max Holland … claims that Felt was motivated principally by his desire to become Hoover’s rightful heir and calculated his leaks to torpedo Nixon’s handpicked FBI director, L. Patrick Gray III, along with other rivals for the top job.” ~The Daily Beast




Author Spotlight

Michael Hastings

michael-hastings2.jpgInterview: Michael Hastings, Journalist and Author of "The Operators"

Good reporting is about challenging power and not being worried about getting invited to a party or whether people are going to hate you. That's the rule Rolling Stone correspondent Michael Hastings lives by and it's on full display in his new book that takes us into the heart of the American military presence in Afghanistan.


Eyal Press

eyal press.jpgInterview: Eyal Press, Journalist and Author of Whistleblower Book, "Beautiful Souls"

What makes an employee go against the grain, and blow the whistle in this country? Is it something in the water, or something in the blood?

These are the kinds of philosophical questions that Eyal Press, journalist and former Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, has sought to answer in his new book.


Peter Van Buren

pvb2.jpgInterview: Foreign Service Officer Peter Van Buren on Reconstruction Failures in Iraq

The U.S. wasted billions of dollars in Iraq on poor contracting practices, but few insiders are willing to talk about it. Foreign Service Officer Peter Van Buren is an exception.


books-that-matter.PNG10 Books That Matter: POGO's Winter Reading List

Wondering what books POGO staffers were reading last winter? Check out these ten books that matter from 2011.


And Don't Forget...

 Consider this our bonus list of books worth your time and consideration. 

What Money Can’t Buy
By Michael Sandel
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 2012

The Last Great Senate
By Ira Shapiro
Public Affairs, Feb. 2012

The Hunt for KSM 
By Josh Meyer & Terry McDermott
Little, Brown and Co., March 2012

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt 
By Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco
Nation Books, June 2012

Twilight of the Elites
By Christopher Hayes
Crown, June 2012

Pentagon Solutions
By Dina Rasor
Amazon Digital, 2012

A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget
By National Priorities Project
Interlink Books, June 2012