George Packer has made a name for himself not just as a journalist, but also a non-fiction book writer with his expertise on the subject of U.S. foreign policy. The American journalist, who graduated from Yale college in 1992, is known for his writings that appear on publications like The New Yorker, Boston Review, The Nation, World Affairs, Harper’s, and The New York Times, among many others. The 2001-2002 Guggenheim Fellow has also taught writing at Harvard, Columbia, and Bennington.
Some of Packer’s most popular works include his coverage of the Iraq war, the mass killings and other atrocities committed in Sierra Leone, civil unrest in the Ivory Coast, and the global counterinsurgency. His articles and books have received rave reviews and earned him a number of awards, including the Overseas Press Club awards.
Top 5 George Packer Books
1. The Unwinding (2013)
Fully titled “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America,” the book is non-fiction that follows and discusses important forces in American history with the use of biographies of individual Americans. Some of the issues in which George Packer looks at include the influence of money on politics, the subprime mortgage crisis, and the decline of American manufacturing. He uses the biographies and profiles of five different kinds of people; entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, a North Carolinian biodiesel entrepreneur, a Washington lobbyist and Congressional staffer, a factory worker turned community organizer from Youngstown, Ohio, and Tampa, Florida distressed real estate agents.
The Unwinding was well received by critics. It went on to win the 2013 National Book Award for Nonfiction and was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award.
2. The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq (2005)
As the title suggests, this non-fiction book takes a look at the 2003 invasion of Iraq by a United States-led coalition, and the aftermath of war. Packer gives a vivid description of the poorly planned occupation of Iraq as officials in the George W. Bush administration cherry-picked intelligence to support their positions and were unable to respond to military issues such as insufficient troops, armor, and supplies, among other things. It further discusses the rationales behind it; the war on terror and Saddam Hussein’s supposed ties to al-Qaeda.
The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq received rave reviews from critics and was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize. It further went on to be named one of the ten best books of 2005 by the New York Times and won the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award and an Overseas Press Club book award.
3. The Village of Waiting (1988)
Described as a frank, vivid, and moving account of contemporary life in West Africa, The Village of Waiting is the very first non-fiction book written by George Packer about his experience in Togo as a member of the Peace Corps in 1982-1983. Packer was based in the village of Lavie where he was an English language teacher. He wrote about his encounters with different kinds of people; chiefs, peasants, market women, charlatans, children, and many others. He also shared his opinion (criticism) of Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema.
4. Blood of the Liberals (2000)
In this non-fiction book, George Packer intimately examines the meaning of politics in America by exploring the legacy and future of American liberalism. He does so by taking a look at the three generational histories of his own family’s political affiliations, which has different strains of liberalism; from his maternal grandfather’s Protestant southern populism to his father’s Jewish academic humanism. The book won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.
5. Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century (2019)
Following the release of this book, Walter Isaacson of The New York Times Book Review wrote that if there was any book to read and comprehend America’s foreign policy and its failed pursuit of ideals over the past 50 years, this would be it.
Drawn from Holbrooke’s diaries and papers, George Packer writes this non-fiction book to bring to light the work of American diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who is most famous for being the brains behind America’s greatest diplomatic achievement in the post-Cold War era – the Dayton Accords which resulted in the ending of the Balkan wars.