On My Bookshelf

Kathleen McInnis’ novel about a woman working at the Pentagon is intensely personal.

Kathleen McInnis

From 2006 to 2010 Kathleen McInnis ’01 worked as a strategist at one of the most iconic buildings in the world: The Pentagon. It was an intense and invigorating environment; the fact that she was in a male-dominated world made her job even more challenging. McInnis’ first novel, The Heart of War: Misadventures in the Pentagon, tells the story of a woman who lands a fellowship at the Pentagon working on a peace plan for Afghanistan, and the victories and pitfalls that come with the job. The author certainly can relate to her heroine.

In 2001...

These titles were on McInnis’ nightstand when she earned her bachelor’s degree in political science.


Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

I grew up on military bases overseas. I’ve always been in touch with the absurdity of big institutions. Catch-22 really brings that to life in wartime in a powerfully important way.

Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

I love the details, the nuance of getting into the world and watching these characters walk to hell and back again.


The Ends of the Earth

The Ends of the Earth: A Journey at the Dawn of the 21st Century, by Robert Kaplan

He is a foreign correspondent who writes about geopolitics. This book definitely helped spark my interests in international relations and national security.

American Gods

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

This way of taking these old myths and bringing them to life—there’d never been anything like it. I found that very inspirational.





In 2019 ...

McInnis now is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States, but she always finds time to read. Here’s what she’s loved lately.

Primates of Park Avenue

Primates of Park Avenue

It’s her memoir of living in New York on the Upper East Side. It’s a wonderful way of looking at women’s behavior and as an outsider trying to fit into a new world.

Grand Strategies

Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order, by Charles Hill

He’s a former diplomat who’s become an academic at Yale. The point he’s making is that art and literature are great metaphors for big problems that we deal with.

On Writing

On Writing, by Stephen King

I’ve been an academic and analytic writer all my life. I had never written fiction before my novel. I remember reading this and thinking, ‘Okay, I can write my truth.’

Old Man's War

Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

This is science fiction about a man who, on his 70th birthday, goes to his wife’s grave, says goodbye, and then enlists in the army. It’s a fun read with wonderful characters.