The best history books that helped me understand critical world events from a new angle and in a deeper way

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I read George Kennan’s award-winning memoirs when I was still in high school, I have been fascinated by world history in general and specifically by the Soviet Union (Russia) and Central/Eastern Europe. I have a PhD in Russian studies and my 40+ year career has included academia, government, non-profit organizations, and the foundation sector. My professional experience has reinforced my belief that to understand today’s world and to formulate effective national security strategy one must study the roots of political, economic, or social events.   


I wrote...

Cold War Radio: The Russian Broadcasts of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

By Mark G. Pomar,

Book cover of Cold War Radio: The Russian Broadcasts of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

What is my book about?

Cold War Radio examines the cultural, intellectual, and political impact of the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the international shortwave broadcasters funded by the United States Government throughout the Cold War. 

Mark Pomar takes readers inside the two radio stations to show how the broadcasts were conceived and developed and the impact they had on international broadcasting, U.S.-Soviet relations, Russian political and cultural history, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. His nuanced analysis of the broadcasts sheds light on the multifaceted role the radios played during the Cold War, ranging from instruments of U.S. Cold War policy to repositories of independent Russian culture, literature, philosophy, religion, and the arts.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Chip War: The Fight for the World's Most Critical Technology

Mark G. Pomar Why did I love this book?

Chip War shows better than any book I have ever read just how integrated our world is and how dependent we are on other countries, especially in high-end technology.

Without chips from Taiwan or lithography from The Netherlands, we would be unable to operate our smartphones or computers. Chris Miller makes a persuasive case for why we must defend Taiwan’s independence while we build chip manufacturing in the US.

By Chris Miller,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Chip War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

***Winner of the Financial Times Business Book of the Year award***

'Pulse quickening. A nonfiction thriller - equal parts The China Syndrome and Mission Impossible' New York Times

An epic account of the decades-long battle to control the world's most critical resource-microchip technology

Power in the modern world - military, economic, geopolitical - is built on a foundation of computer chips. America has maintained its lead as a superpower because it has dominated advances in computer chips and all the technology that chips have enabled. (Virtually everything runs on chips: cars, phones, the stock market, even the electric grid.) Now…


Book cover of The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink

Mark G. Pomar Why did I love this book?

In The Peacemaker, William Inboden draws on declassified materials, interviews with high-level government officials, and on Reagan’s personal diary to write the most thorough, fair, and scrupulously researched account of Reagan’s foreign policy and the successful end of the Cold War.

And he does this with such aplomb that his history reads like a novel. I worked in the US government in the 1980s and thought I knew Reagan’s foreign policy well, but I discovered much that was new and couldn’t put the book down.

By William Inboden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Peacemaker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the Wall Street Journal’sbest political books of 2022

A masterful account of how Ronald Reagan and his national security team confronted the Soviets, reduced the nuclear threat, won the Cold War, and supported the spread of freedom around the world.

“Remarkable… a great read.”—Robert Gates • “Mesmerizing… hard to put down.”—Paul Kennedy • “Full of fresh information… will shape all future studies of the role the United States played in ending the Cold War.”—John Lewis Gaddis • “A major contribution to our understanding of the Reagan presidency and the twilight of the Cold War era.”—David Kennedy

With decades…


Book cover of Civil War by Other Means: America's Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy

Mark G. Pomar Why did I love this book?

In Civil War by Other Means, Jeremi Suri begins with the January 6, 2021 insurrection and shows how the roots of that riot go back to Confederate resistance to a more equal America that began immediately after the cessation of active hostilities.

In a sense, for many Southerners the Civil War never ended. Some left the US for Mexico, along with their slaves. Others maintained apartheid policies through control of the ballot box. Suri weaves a compelling story, based on a thorough examination of archives, that every American should know.  

By Jeremi Suri,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Civil War by Other Means as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Civil War may have ended on the battlefield, but the fight for equality never did

In 1865, the Confederacy was comprehensively defeated, its economy shattered, its leaders in exile or in jail. Yet in the years that followed, Lincoln’s vision of a genuinely united country never took root. Apart from a few brief months, when the presence of the Union army in the South proved liberating for newly freed Black Americans, the military victory was squandered. Old white supremacist efforts returned, more ferocious than before.

In Civil War by Other Means, Jeremi Suri shows how resistance to a more…


Book cover of Human Rights for Pragmatists: Social Power in Modern Times

Mark G. Pomar Why did I love this book?

Jack Snyder addresses one of the most important issues of our times: how to protect human rights.

Based on thorough research, Snyder develops an innovative roadmap for dealing with a broad agenda of human rights issues: impunity from atrocities, dilemmas of free speech in the age of social media, and the entrenched abuses of women and children.

The brutal Russian war on Ukraine further underscores the need for the international community to protect human rights and to punish those who violate them.  

By Jack Snyder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Human Rights for Pragmatists as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An innovative framework for advancing human rights

Human rights are among our most pressing issues today, yet rights promoters have reached an impasse in their effort to achieve rights for all. Human Rights for Pragmatists explains why: activists prioritize universal legal and moral norms, backed by the public shaming of violators, but in fact rights prevail only when they serve the interests of powerful local constituencies. Jack Snyder demonstrates that where local power and politics lead, rights follow. He presents an innovative roadmap for addressing a broad agenda of human rights concerns: impunity for atrocities, dilemmas of free speech in…


Book cover of Overreach: The Inside Story of Putin's War Against Ukraine

Mark G. Pomar Why did I love this book?

Drawing on over 25 years as a foreign correspondent in Russia, Owen Matthews takes us through the roots of the most serious geopolitical crisis since World War II.

He cites interviews with former Kremlin insiders, testimony of captured Russian soldiers, and his own on-the-ground reporting. Matthew’s account of the war is the best I have read and it has helped me to understand not only the origins of the invasion but the consequences of this brutal war. 

By Owen Matthews,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Overreach as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*A Telegraph Book of the Year*

*Shortlisted for the Parliamentary Book Awards*

An astonishing investigation into the start of the Russo-Ukrainian war - from the corridors of the Kremlin to the trenches of Mariupol.

The Russo-Ukrainian War is the most serious geopolitical crisis since the Second World War - and yet at the heart of the conflict is a mystery. Vladimir Putin apparently lurched from a calculating, subtle master of opportunity to a reckless gambler, putting his regime - and Russia itself - at risk of destruction. Why?

Drawing on over 25 years' experience as a correspondent in Moscow, as…


You might also like...

A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of A Beggar's Bargain

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Avid reader Lover of Music Astral Traveler Tarot Reader Grandmother

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Historical Fiction Post WW2.

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.
Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger. If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

What is this book about?

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father's dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time-a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in international relations, decision making, and China?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about international relations, decision making, and China.

International Relations Explore 266 books about international relations
Decision Making Explore 84 books about decision making
China Explore 593 books about China