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These books describe choices made by American leaders in the 20th century and how they helped shape the country. The selection includes a biography, memoir, and reflections on U.S. miltiary, foreign, and domestic policy decisions.

As an additional analysis tool, we have added the author's Carnegie Council lecture, often accompanied by the full audio, video clips, and half-hour TV show. Students can explore these to get a better understanding of the process and theories behind the books and to discover whether the author presents any bias in their historical interpretations.


Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era by Joseph Nye (2013)
This book examines the foreign policy decisions of the presidents who presided over the most critical phases of America's rise to world primacy in the 20th century, and assesses the effectiveness and ethics of their choices. 
Recommended by a teacher because: 
this book allows students to not only learn about the foreign policy of different presidents but also to assess their decision-making skills. An interesting way to teach the book would be to first teach about Nye's concept of soft power, and then interpret his analysis and bias of decision-making based upon this theory.
Carnegie Council lecture, audio, video clips, and TV show


Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Andrew Bacevich (2010)
Bacevich traces the history of American military power from the 1940s to the 21st century. In it, he sees a pattern of American thinking in which the minimum essential for international peace and order requires America—and America alone—to maintain a global military presence around the world.
Recommended by a teacher because: it is an excellent critique of the American military industrial complex. Teachers and students can read the book in relation to the warning that Eisenhower gave in 1961 and determine if it still applies today.
Carnegie Council lecture, audio, video clips, and TV show


Counselor: A life at the Edge of History by Ted Sorenson (2008)
Ted Sorenson was John F. Kennedy Jr's special counsel and legendary speechwriter. In this book he reflects upon his life, his time working with Kennedy as both a senator and president, and the decisions that both he and the leaders surrounding him have made. 
Recommended by a teacher because: this book takes a first-hand look at many of the historical moments of the Kennedy administration. Written 45 years after the assassination of JFK, it is an even-handed—and sometimes critical—evaluation of events such as the Bay of Pigs, the Vietnam War, and Kennedy's infamous affairs.
Carnegie Council lecture and video 


Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw (2006)
Andrew Carnegie rose from poverty to become the richest person in the world. Yet he was as serious about philanthropy as he was making money. "He wrote influential books, became a significant political force and spent his last years working tirelessly for world peace. Yet he was a true robber baron, a ruthless and hypocritical strikebreaker who made much of his money through practices since outlawed." -Publishers Weekly
Recommended by a teacher because: the book is a meticulous account of one of the most world's most succesful businessmen and philanthropists as well as the gilded era that he helped shape. It is 900 pages, but excerpts can help us learn more about the time period, how Carnegie made his fortune, and the grim reality of labor at the time. As an activity, students can compare the wealth and philanthropic ventures of leaders like Bill Gates and Andrew Carnegie. They can also contrast labor, economics, and immigration from the gilded era to today.
Carnegie Council lecture and audio