100 books like Aid Imperium

By Salvador Santino Fulo Regilme,

Here are 100 books that Aid Imperium fans have personally recommended if you like Aid Imperium. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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

Book cover of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics

Bann Seng Tan Author Of International Aid and Democracy Promotion: Liberalization at the Margins

From my list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way.

Who am I?

Bann Seng Tan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka University. His research interests are on the causes and effects of democratization, the politics of foreign aid, the political economy of natural disasters, aid in decentralization, resurgent authoritarianism, and the democratic peace. His policy proclivities revolve around the defence of the liberal world order. Democracy promotion is but one way to push against authoritarianism. 

Bann's book list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

Bann Seng Tan Why did Bann love this book?

Bueno de Mesquita and Smith emphasize the desire of leaders to seek political survival after all else. The authors show how democratic and autocratic leaders respond to the political institutions that they are embedded in, by having systemically distinct policy proclivities. The academic version of the theory is in their book The Logic of Political Survival. The Dictators’ Handbook is the version meant for popular consumption. It is full of examples of leaders making policy choices that benefit their political survival at the expense of their own people who they profess to rule for. I assign the book to illustrate the theory in classes in Comparative Politics. The examples in the book, all of which are non-fiction, are always popular with undergraduate students.

By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (lead author), Alastair Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith's canonical book on political science turned conventional wisdom on its head. They started from a single assertion: leaders do whatever keeps them in power. They don't care about the "national interest"-or even their subjects-unless they must.

Newly updated to reflect the global rise of authoritarianism, this clever and accessible book illustrates how leaders amass and retain power. As Bueno de Mesquita and Smith show, democracy is essentially just a convenient fiction. Governments do not differ in kind, but only in the number of essential supporters or backs that need scratching. The size of…


Book cover of The Taming of Democracy Assistance

Bann Seng Tan Author Of International Aid and Democracy Promotion: Liberalization at the Margins

From my list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way.

Who am I?

Bann Seng Tan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka University. His research interests are on the causes and effects of democratization, the politics of foreign aid, the political economy of natural disasters, aid in decentralization, resurgent authoritarianism, and the democratic peace. His policy proclivities revolve around the defence of the liberal world order. Democracy promotion is but one way to push against authoritarianism. 

Bann's book list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

Bann Seng Tan Why did Bann love this book?

Democracy aid deals with governance-related political reforms. Using statistics and case studies of the US, Tunisia, and Jordan, Bush understands the failures of democracy aid through the lenses of organizational politics. On the donors’ side, Bush documents how the professionalization of democracy aid forces nongovernmental groups to prioritize projects with quantifiable outputs that bureaucrats want. On the recipients’ side, Bush demonstrates the attempts by authoritarian regimes to control, restrict and co-opt the nongovernmental groups that seek democratic reforms. Buffeted from both directions, such nongovernmental groups respond by avoiding serious projects that challenge the authoritarian regime. Instead, they prioritize symbolic projects that look good to the bureaucrats in the donors but fail to promote genuine democratization. It is organizational politics run amok. 

By Sarah Sunn Bush,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Few government programs that aid democracy abroad today seek to foster regime change. Technical programs that do not confront dictators are more common than the aid to dissidents and political parties that once dominated the field. What explains this 'taming' of democracy assistance? This book offers the first analysis of that puzzle. In contrast to previous research on democracy aid, it focuses on the survival instincts of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that design and implement democracy assistance. To survive, Sarah Bush argues that NGOs seek out tamer types of aid, especially as they become more professional. Diverse evidence - including…


Book cover of Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S.-Egyptian Alliance

Bann Seng Tan Author Of International Aid and Democracy Promotion: Liberalization at the Margins

From my list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way.

Who am I?

Bann Seng Tan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka University. His research interests are on the causes and effects of democratization, the politics of foreign aid, the political economy of natural disasters, aid in decentralization, resurgent authoritarianism, and the democratic peace. His policy proclivities revolve around the defence of the liberal world order. Democracy promotion is but one way to push against authoritarianism. 

Bann's book list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

Bann Seng Tan Why did Bann love this book?

Besides foreign aid, there is also military aid. Brownlee’s book is a study of the American-Egyptian alliance during the 30 years of Hosni Mubarak’s regime. His insight is that the US strategic interests are better met with an authoritarian, instead of a democratic, Egypt. Pay attention to his account of the Egyptian parliamentary elections in 2005-2007 and the 2006 Gaza War. Both are instances where US and Egyptian preferences diverge. In the first case, the US backed down once it realized further liberalization could allow the Muslim Brotherhood, an anti-American party to come to power. In the latter case, the US was able to arm-twist a reluctant Egypt as Israeli security was at stake. These eye-opening examples support his claim that the American-Egyptian alliance supports authoritarian survival.

By Jason Brownlee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When a popular revolt forced long-ruling Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign on February 11, 2011, US President Barack Obama hailed the victory of peaceful demonstrators in the heart of the Arab World. But Washington was late to endorse democracy - for decades the United States favored Egypt's rulers over its people. Since 1979, the United States had provided the Egyptian regime with more than $60 billion in aid and immeasurable political support to secure its main interests in the region: Israeli security and strong relations with Persian Gulf oil producers. During the Egyptian uprising, the White House did not…


Book cover of Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa

Bann Seng Tan Author Of International Aid and Democracy Promotion: Liberalization at the Margins

From my list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way.

Who am I?

Bann Seng Tan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka University. His research interests are on the causes and effects of democratization, the politics of foreign aid, the political economy of natural disasters, aid in decentralization, resurgent authoritarianism, and the democratic peace. His policy proclivities revolve around the defence of the liberal world order. Democracy promotion is but one way to push against authoritarianism. 

Bann's book list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

Bann Seng Tan Why did Bann love this book?

Development aid is a type of foreign aid that is directed at the economic development of recipient countries. The failures of government-to-government development aid in Africa are Moyo’s focus. She notes that Africa is the only region that is regressing in major socio-economic indicators. She argues such aid distorts African economies, enables corruption, and incubates a culture of aid dependency. African governments can afford not to provide public goods because their revenue is guaranteed by development aid. To remedy such externalities, Moyo wants to end development aid to Africa. Instead of aid, she prefers free trade with the West and foreign investment from China. This book is remarkable for its willingness to challenge the conventions in development aid. Sometimes, we need to call a spade a spade. 

By Dambisa Moyo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the past fifty years, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse.

In Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo describes the state of postwar development policy in Africa today and unflinchingly confronts one of the greatest myths of our time: that billions of dollars in aid sent from wealthy countries to developing African nations has helped to reduce poverty and increase growth. In…


Book cover of Rivers of Iron: Railroads and Chinese Power in Southeast Asia

Brantly Womack Author Of China and Vietnam: The Politics of Asymmetry

From my list on China perspectives.

Who am I?

Where you sit determines what you see. China is complex, and so it pays to move around and view it from as many perspectives as possible. My view of China is formed by visits to all of its 31 provinces and to most of its neighbors.  A professor of foreign affairs at the University of Virginia, I have taught and written about Chinese politics for the past forty years, and I have worked with Chinese universities and scholars. This list suggests some excellent books presenting different vantage points on China’s past and present.

Brantly's book list on China perspectives

Brantly Womack Why did Brantly love this book?

Two prominent aspects of China’s recent economic development are its mushrooming network of high-speed rail and its efforts to encourage infrastructure in its neighbors and beyond through the Belt and Road Initiative. The careful research of this book brings the two together. In exploring the different attitudes toward China among its southern neighbors the authors give a concrete account of how involvement is shaped by the prospects, concerns, and politics of each country. Meanwhile, it is clear that China is achieving a new centrality and connectivity in mainland Asia. What remains to be seen is whether a connected Asia is also a unified one.

By David M. Lampton, Selina Ho, Cheng-Chwee Kuik

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What China's infamous railway initiative can teach us about global dominance.

In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled what would come to be known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)-a global development strategy involving infrastructure projects and associated financing throughout the world, including Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas. While the Chinese government has framed the plan as one promoting transnational connectivity, critics and security experts see it as part of a larger strategy to achieve global dominance. Rivers of Iron examines one aspect of President Xi Jinping's "New Era": China's effort to create an intercountry…


Book cover of Cold War Monks: Buddhism and America's Secret Strategy in Southeast Asia

Hajimu Masuda Author Of Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World

From my list on reconsider what the Cold War really was.

Who am I?

Masuda Hajimu (family name Masuda) is a historian at the National University of Singapore. He specializes in the modern history of East Asia, the history of American foreign relations, and the social and global history of the Cold War, with particular attention toward ordinary people and their violence, as well as the recurrent rise of grassroots conservatism in the modern world. His most recent publications include: The Early Cold War: Studies of Cold War America in the 21st Century in A Companion to U.S. Foreign Relations; “The Social Experience of War and Occupation” in The Cambridge History of Japan (coming in 2022), among others. He has served as a residential fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2017-18); Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge (2020); and Visiting Scholar at Waseda University (2020).

Hajimu's book list on reconsider what the Cold War really was

Hajimu Masuda Why did Hajimu love this book?

To be honest, I didn't like this book when I was reading early chapters, which focus solely on American efforts to utilize Buddhism as a sort of “spiritual weapon” to counter the appeal of Communism in Southeast Asia, notably in Thailand. I thought it too U.S.-centric and an overly top-down narrative. However, my doubts dispelled when I continued to read the middle and, particularly, the last two chapters, where the author discusses how Thai Buddhist monks also used Cold War politics and U.S. support in their attempts to expand their roles in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and to safeguard the three pillars of Thai’s traditional order: nation, religion, and king. 

What is most interesting is that, at the height of fears of communism in the early 1970s (that is, the time of the Vietnam War and U.S. withdrawal from it), the right-wing faction of Thai Buddhist monks embraced militant anti-communism,…

By Eugene Ford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cold War Monks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The groundbreaking account of U.S. clandestine efforts to use Southeast Asian Buddhism to advance Washington's anticommunist goals during the Cold War

How did the U.S. government make use of a "Buddhist policy" in Southeast Asia during the Cold War despite the American principle that the state should not meddle with religion? To answer this question, Eugene Ford delved deep into an unprecedented range of U.S. and Thai sources and conducted numerous oral history interviews with key informants. Ford uncovers a riveting story filled with U.S. national security officials, diplomats, and scholars seeking to understand and build relationships within the Buddhist…


Book cover of Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism

Naoíse Mac Sweeney Author Of The West: A New History in Fourteen Lives

From my list on why the past matters for the future.

Who am I?

I love stories, and as a child I found that some of the best and most powerful stories I ever heard were those that people told about the past. When I grew up, I pursued a career as an academic archaeologist and historian, and I am now Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Vienna. But while I am of course interested in the past, in recent years I have been increasingly thinking about the politics of the past as well. Why do we choose to celebrate some stories about the past and not others? I have found these books all useful in helping me to think through this.

Naoíse's book list on why the past matters for the future

Naoíse Mac Sweeney Why did Naoíse love this book?

I first read this book as a student, and found it both radical and exciting to think that national identities, traditions, and even the existence of nations themselves were all invented, and so were also flexible and open to reinvention in the future.

I also loved that the examples were taken from Southeast Asia, where I have family roots. For a while I kept a worn second-hand copy in my student room, thinking it was my special discovery. I was almost disappointed to find that it is a standard text and very widely read.

By Benedict Anderson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Imagined Communities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What are the imagined communities that compel men to kill or to die for an idea of a nation? This notion of nationhood had its origins in the founding of the Americas, but was then adopted and transformed by populist movements in nineteenth-century Europe. It became the rallying cry for anti-Imperialism as well as the abiding explanation for colonialism. In this scintillating, groundbreaking work of intellectual history Anderson explores how ideas are formed and reformulated at every level, from high politics to popular culture, and the way that they can make people do extraordinary things. In the twenty-first century, these…


Book cover of Dog Soldiers

Richard Ravin Author Of Nothing to Declare

From my list on set in the 1960s and 70s.

Who am I?

I came of age during the tumult of the 1960s and 1970s. I stood more on the sidelines than at the burning center, so I’ve always wondered what it was like for those who did. That’s why I wrote my first novel, to go beyond the borders of my own experience. The 60s/70s era of political and sexual upheaval has reduced itself over time to a series of cliches. What I love about the books on my list is how willing they are to break through to real feelings and events and sensations. Hope you like them, too.

Richard's book list on set in the 1960s and 70s

Richard Ravin Why did Richard love this book?

Dog Soldiers made me want to become a writer. It showed me how to marry plot and character and still write about things that matter. A novel of ideas masquerading as a crime story, it tells of a massive drug deal gone bad, with the Vietnam War and its bitter illusions in the background. If you love complicated characters, this is your kind of book. Stone draws them with good and evil mixed. Your feelings for them shift by the page. The book contains startling images and vivid dialogue, as the characters weigh their decisions against a moral code they no longer trust. If you’re curious about what the 1970s really felt like—or lived through it yourself—Dog Soldiers will take you in and leave you shaking.

By Robert Stone,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dog Soldiers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Saigon during the last stages of the Vietnam War, a small-time journalist named John Converse thinks he'll find action - and profit - by getting involved in a big-time drug deal. But back in the States, things go horribly wrong. His courier disappears, probably with his wife, and a corrupt Fed wants Converse to find him the drugs, or else.

Dog Soldiers is a frightening, powerful, intense novel that perfectly captures the underground mood of the United States in the 1970s, when amateur drug dealers and hippies encountered the violent world of cops on the make and professional killers.…


Book cover of A Single Pilgrim

Ron Emmons Author Of Teak Lord

From my list on exploring colonialism in Southeast Asia.

Who am I?

During 30 years living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I have developed a deep appreciation of Northern Thai culture and a fascination with its 700-year history. Though the region escaped being colonised as were nearby Laos (by the French) and Burma (by the Brits), a teak boom in the late 19th century came close to pulling it under the colonial yoke as Western trading companies muscled in. Teak Lord explores the frequently fragile relationships between circumspect Asians and adventurous Westerners, against a background of shifting borders and impenetrable jungle.

Ron's book list on exploring colonialism in Southeast Asia

Ron Emmons Why did Ron love this book?

Norman Lewis is best known for his non-fiction works such as The Golden Land (about Burma) and A Dragon Apparent (about Vietnam). Yet he also wrote a dozen novels that show a great flair for characterisation, dialogue and plot pacing, in addition to his incisive descriptions. A Single Pilgrim tells the story of John Crane, manager of a teak logging company in North Thailand, who revels in “the voluptuousness of routine and civilized triviality”. However, his company’s leases are about to expire and the thought of an end to his Oriental idyll is more than Crane can bear.

By Norman Lewis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Single Pilgrim as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of The Beach

Suzanne Heywood Author Of Wavewalker: A Memoir of Breaking Free

From my list on coming-of-age that will rip your heart out.

Who am I?

I'm fascinated by these books about coming of age because they all share elements of my own experience. While I was growing up, I was told by my parents that my life on board our boat Wavewalker was ‘privileged’ and that I was lucky not to live a ‘boring’ life like other children. It took me a long time to question this view, and even longer to find an escape. As an adult looking back, I now know that many of the things I was told by my parents were not true. That experience of growing up and discovering that what you have been told is not right is deeply disturbing, while also being liberating.

Suzanne's book list on coming-of-age that will rip your heart out

Suzanne Heywood Why did Suzanne love this book?

This book is a little different because, although it is a coming of age in a way, the characters within it are already young adults when the story begins.

What I love about it though is that (like in many of the other books I have selected) the young people in this tale start off in a world that superficially is one thing – a beautiful tropical island - but then becomes something very different – a horrifically violent community. That divergence of the appearance of a place from the reality of living within it is fascinating.

By Alex Garland,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Beach as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On Richard's first night in Bangkok, a fellow traveller slits his wrists, leaving Richard a map to "the Beach", where white sands circle a lagoon hidden from the sea, coral gardens and freshwater falls are surrounded by jungle. Richard was looking for adventure, and now he has found it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Southeast Asia, international relations, and human rights?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Southeast Asia, international relations, and human rights.

Southeast Asia Explore 34 books about Southeast Asia
International Relations Explore 258 books about international relations
Human Rights Explore 67 books about human rights