What To Read – One Man’s Perspective

man in Greece

Women read and talk about books more than men, but that doesn’t mean men aren’t reading. I asked my friend Will Wechsler what he has read lately and here is what he shared with me… – Jen

Will’s Book Recommendations

Traveling offers the best opportunities for me to read.  My job often involves long intercontinental flights that allow for rare uninterrupted hours to read.  Family vacations are even better as I can find time to turn off my phone and sit by the beach or pool with a good book, typically a nonfiction one that teaches me about my location or a novel that is set there.

This summer we took a family vacation to Greece and in between the historic sights and great food, I was able to read three books, each of which I can enthusiastically recommend to readers of Book Nation by Jen. 

The Rise of Athens

While we visited Athens, Delphi and Hydra I read The Rise of Athens by Anthony Everitt.  It’s a welcome retelling of the story of a small city state with a unique culture that flourished for a remarkably brief period – but nevertheless laid a key foundation for what became “the West.”  If democracy was a natural way for humanity to organize itself, there would be more examples of it recorded in world history.  If ancient societies were commonly structured to encourage philosophy, science and the arts, humanity would have advanced much more rapidly than it did.  There is a reason why John Stuart Mill argued that Marathon was the most important battle in British history.  And there is a reason why this example was sadly so fleeting.

The Song of Achilles

While on Crete I read The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.  This novel is a faithful yet modern retelling of the Iliad, a three-thousand-year-old story with an immediately recognizable plot even if we’ve never read Homer.  But this one is told from the perspective of Patroclus, and unlike in Oliver Stone’s terrible movie Troy this Patroclus is clearly not Achilles’s “cousin.”  It’s story of war, honor, glory, and love that expands on the original in several intriguing directions.  It’s a quick read and surprisingly quite moving given that we all know how this story ends. 


Then in Santorini and on the flight home I continued on with Madeline Miller and read her second book Circe.  This one doesn’t retell the entire story of the Odyssey but imagines a full backstory for one Odysseus’s adversaries on his way home from Troy, the witch that turned his crew into pigs.  In these pages Circe is a complex and fundamentally sympathetic character, someone who was subjected to repeated cruelties from the gods and sexual assaults from men.  It’s a deeply feminist story of a minor immortal who grows, both in terms of her own power and her emotional maturity, while experiencing the familiar joys and heartbreaks of love and motherhood.  I thought it was even better than Miller’s first novel and I look forward to what she will write next.

Stay tuned for more from Will at the end of the summer. He is heading to Prague for work and plans to share with us what he reads during that trip!

Will Wechsler

About Will Wechsler

William F. Wechsler is senior director of the Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs at the Atlantic Council.

Wechsler’s most recent government position was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combatting Terrorism. He advised multiple Secretaries and helped coordinate interagency policies on a wide range of direct and indirect actions. His portfolio included the Department’s policies, plans, authorities and resources related to special operations and irregular warfare, with an emphasis on counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, information operations and other sensitive operations. He also helped provide civilian oversight for the service-like responsibilities of the United States Special Operations Command.

Previously Wechsler served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats, where he directed a budget of $1.6 billion and oversaw military and civilian programs around the globe. His key areas of focus included integrating law enforcement operations into our military campaigns in Afghanistan and institutionalizing military counter threat finance structures and doctrine.

During the Clinton Administration Wechsler served as Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, where he helped establish the legal regime and policies we use to impose foreign sanctions and combat money laundering. He had previously served as Director for Transnational Threats on the National Security Council staff, and prior to that was a Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Wechsler is currently also President of the Center on Illicit Networks and Transnational Organized Crime and the Treasurer of the American Historical Association. He was previously a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Wechsler has also had a separate career in finance. He has been Vice Chairman of Capitol Peak Asset Management and Managing Director of Greenwich Associates. He is a CFA charter holder and also holds the Series 7 and Series 63 securities licenses.

Wechsler is a graduate of Cornell University and received a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He has been an adjunct lecturer at SIPA and is currently an executive committee member of the SIPA alumni association. He has contributed chapters to two edited volumes and has been published in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, and the National Interest, among others.

Book Nation by Jen

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