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The 2017 TMC Holiday Gift Guide

- December 9, 2017
Sock monkey’s first Christmas (Courtesy of Laura Seay)

Happy holidays! ’Tis the season for grading exams, frantically revising articles for submission and answering countless emails with every professor’s favorite phrase: “It’s on the syllabus.” While we at The Monkey Cage can’t do much about your favorite academic’s end-of-semester woes, we do have ideas if you’re searching for a gift that is perfect for anyone who studies, teaches or just loves political science. Here are a few, courtesy of our editorial board:

John Sides

Most political songs are terrible. Except if they’re written by someone of Randy Newman’s talent. So for a cold vodka shot of sarcasm well-suited to today’s headlines, spend the pocket change at iTunes to give someone “Putin.” If for no other reason than this:

And when he take his shirt off
He drive the ladies crazy!
And when he take his shirt off
Make me wanna be a lady!

The rest of the album “Dark Matter” has some gems, including the lovely ballads “She Chose Me” and “Wandering Boy.” Newman plays all three of these songs live here.

You might think I’m biased just because Randy Newman wrote a song called “Political Science.” You might be right.

Kim Yi Dionne

I’m not going to tell you to get people my book for the holidays — even if the text isn’t as gloomy as the title, it’s still not a cozy-up-and-read-by-the-fire kind of book. Neither is Hilary Matfess’s book, “Women and the War on Boko Haram.” Not even the beautifully written book by Alexis Okeowo, “A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa,” gives me that warm holiday feeling.

Since I don’t have any read-by-the-fire political science books I’d urge you to purchase, I’ll chime in with a gift that’s handy for everyone, not just political scientists: a tool to organize and appreciate one’s time. My favorite gift to myself this year was an analog day planner — specifically the Passion Planner. (People who live and die by Google Calendar synced across multiple devices: I was one of you; hear me out.)

In addition to all of the regular functions I require of a daily calendar, the Passion Planner actually makes me reflect on how I’m spending my time. It may sound corny, but it guides me to follow what I’m most passionate about, helps me stay focused, while at the same time making me think about the bigger picture. Being analog is nice — I embrace all opportunities that reduce my dependence on a battery and don’t require me to stare at a screen.

There are also a few feel-good reasons to buy a Passion Planner:

  • Every purchase supports their “get one, give one” program, where for every planner sold, they donate one to a nonprofit organization like AMVETS, the International Rescue Committee, or the Make-A-Wish Foundation. To date, Passion Planner has donated more than 150,000 planners.
  • When buying a Passion Planner, you’ll be supporting a small business started by a young woman of color.

Elizabeth Saunders

In search of an international relations gift that isn’t all doom and gloom? This is a book about that time a great power transition didn’t end in conflict.  That one time. In “Safe Passage: the Transition from British to American Hegemony,” Kori Schake explores the period when Britain passed the mantle of international hegemony to the United States — a peaceful transition we don’t often think about, and perhaps even take for granted, despite some real tension between the two countries.  Schake argues that the transition was peaceful because Britain and the United States became more and more similar to each other — America became an empire, and Britain a democracy — and different from other nations.  If you don’t want to spoil your holiday cheer, maybe skip the part where she concludes that this kind of peaceful power shift is unlikely to occur in future transitions (say, between the United States and China), when domestic differences are likely to be important.

Laura Seay

Since Kim won’t tell you this, I will: You should buy her book for the holidays. It’s a fantastic read, one we’ll be featuring more at TMC in 2018. In the book, Kim shows how the international community’s priorities don’t always align with those of the people we’re trying to help — even on matters as serious as fighting HIV/AIDS. My development students read one of Kim’s articles that related to the book’s topic this semester and it Blew. Their. Minds. “Doomed Interventions” will wow you, too.

Speaking of being wowed, does your favorite political scientist get mansplained a lot? She’ll love this stylish travel mug, which serves as a friendly reminder that Google is not a doctor, whether we’re talking about health or the social sciences. Obnoxious? Maybe. Necessary? Definitely.

Joshua Tucker
As it looks like this is going to be a year of all things Russia, what better to watch the time go by with than your own Putin calendar. Now available in eight languages!

Speaking of Russia, I’ve got a new book out this year.  You may not believe it now, but nothing really quite says “I love you” more than your own copy of “Communism’s Shadow: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Political Attitudes.” It’s perfect for those hard-to-please friends and relatives who are interested in the study of legacy effects and in post-communist politics!

More interested in central banks and monetary policy? Then let me recommend Juliet Johnson’s “Priests of Prosperity: How Central Bankers Transformed the Postcommunist World,” the first (by my knowledge!) triple crown book award winner of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES).  (For you non-ASEEES members out there, the ASEEES triple crown book award consists of winning the Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies for outstanding monograph on Russia, Eurasia, or Eastern Europe, the Ed A. Hewett Book Prize for outstanding publication on the political economy of Russia, Eurasia and/or Eastern Europe, and the Marshall Shulman Book Prize for an outstanding monograph dealing with the international relations, foreign policy, or foreign-policy decision-making of any of the states of the former Soviet Union or Eastern Europe.)

Finally, I would like to ask your help in sending kids to summer camp. Now more than ever, the promise of camp as a place where children can go to escape the pressures of daily life, free from mobile devices, email and social media, and enter a world where all types of people from all sorts of backgrounds can live in an environment with such an emphasis on tolerance and security mixed with adventure and wonder seems crucially important. I am privileged and honored to serve on the board of trustees of a truly wonderful camp, Frost Valley YMCA, in the Catskills of New York.  I’d love to ask that if you enjoy The Monkey Cage and appreciate the effort we put into producing it, if perhaps you’d consider making a donation to support scholarships for kids to attend Frost Valley this summer as a sign of thanks.