100 books like Anti-Politics Machine

By James Ferguson,

Here are 100 books that Anti-Politics Machine fans have personally recommended if you like Anti-Politics Machine. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Things Fall Apart

Robert G. Parkinson Author Of Heart of American Darkness: Bewilderment and Horror on the Early Frontier

From my list on the intersection of fiction and history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Fiction has a way of capturing people, places, and phenomena that often elude source-bound historians. As I say in my book, you feel the weight of all the terrible things Colonel Kurtz has done in central Africa far more by his whispering “the horror, the horror” than I, as a historian, could possibly convey by listing them out and analyzing them. That feel–especially what contingency feels like–is something historians should seek out and try to pull into their craft of writing. Getting used to and using fiction to help historians see and feel the past is a worthwhile endeavor. 

Robert's book list on the intersection of fiction and history

Robert G. Parkinson Why did Robert love this book?

The idea to adapt Conrad’s Heart of Darkness came from my teaching of modern world history every semester. Later in that course, I would have students read Achebe’s novel as a foil or answer to Heart of Darkness. The Congolese in Heart are barely people: they have no names, and they are only really described by parts of their bodies.

This book presents the West African world–the communities, the customs, the emotions, the families–that colonialism destroys. While it is easy to be swept away by the story’s momentum in the last two dozen pages, take some time early in the novel to enjoy the world that Achebe lovingly paints. I think it is among the most human expressions of fiction you can read.  

By Chinua Achebe,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Things Fall Apart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of International Man Booker Prize 2007.


Book cover of Paths in the Rainforests: Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa

James A. Robinson Author Of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

From my list on Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social scientist who has been doing fieldwork and research in Africa since 1999. For me, there’s no more fascinating part of the planet – Africa is the cradle of civilization, more diverse than anywhere else and culturally and institutionally vibrant and creative. I have worked in Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zimbabwe investigating the determinants of political institutions and economic prosperity. I have taught courses on Africa at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, the University of Ghana at Legon and this summer the University of Nigeria in Nsukka.

James' book list on Africa

James A. Robinson Why did James love this book?

A seminal history of the development of political institutions in Central Africa over the past 2,000 years. Africa took a very different path into the modern world than Eurasia did and instead of building large centralized and repressive states instead innovated all sorts of different ways of reconciling the autonomy of the individual, men and women, and the local community, with the benefits of living in larger societies. These historical processes still shape Africa today.

By Jan Vansina,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Paths in the Rainforests as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Vansina’s scope is breathtaking: he reconstructs the history of the forest lands that cover all or part of southern Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Congo, Zaire, the Central African Republic, and Cabinda in Angola, discussing the original settlement of the forest by the western Bantu; the periods of expansion and innovation in agriculture; the development of metallurgy; the rise and fall of political forms and of power; the coming of Atlantic trade and colonialism; and the conquest of the rainforests by colonial powers and the destruction of a way of life.

“In 400 elegantly brilliant pages Vansina lays out five…


Book cover of Bitter Money

James A. Robinson Author Of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

From my list on Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social scientist who has been doing fieldwork and research in Africa since 1999. For me, there’s no more fascinating part of the planet – Africa is the cradle of civilization, more diverse than anywhere else and culturally and institutionally vibrant and creative. I have worked in Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zimbabwe investigating the determinants of political institutions and economic prosperity. I have taught courses on Africa at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, the University of Ghana at Legon and this summer the University of Nigeria in Nsukka.

James' book list on Africa

James A. Robinson Why did James love this book?

It isn’t just African politics that is different. Economics is too. If modern economics had been invented by an African, instead of Adam Smith, it would look very different. Wealth would be measured in people rather than material objects, property, and capital. There would be much less emphasis on markets. Some things, should never be sold, and if they were it would create “bitter money” and bad luck. This book is a great place to start to re-think your ideas about economics.

By Parker Shipton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“fascinating little book adds to the study of culture to political economy” MacGaffey ~Journal of Anthropological Research “presents fascinating material on beliefs about money in some Luo-speaking communities of Kenya… an insightful analysis… a case that will generate fruitful discussions for years to come” Ferguson ~American Ethnologist BITTER MONEY unites symbolic and economic analysis in exploring the beliefs about forbidden exchanges among the Luo of Kenya and other African peoples. Shipton's multi-paradigmatic theoretical explanation briefly summarizes a century of anthropological thought about African exchange, while integrating ways of understanding rural African economy, politics, and culture.


Book cover of Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth and Resources in Sierra Leone

James A. Robinson Author Of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

From my list on Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a social scientist who has been doing fieldwork and research in Africa since 1999. For me, there’s no more fascinating part of the planet – Africa is the cradle of civilization, more diverse than anywhere else and culturally and institutionally vibrant and creative. I have worked in Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zimbabwe investigating the determinants of political institutions and economic prosperity. I have taught courses on Africa at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, the University of Ghana at Legon and this summer the University of Nigeria in Nsukka.

James' book list on Africa

James A. Robinson Why did James love this book?

African civil wars are not about ethnicity, diamonds, or foreign aid. They are genuine political conflicts about how society is to be organized, created by grievances and political marginalization and also deeply embedded in local cultures. As such, they stem from the same roots as the English Civil War of the 1640s or the American Revolutionary War of the 1770s-1780s. This is all revealed in this brilliant book on the Sierra Leone civil war.

By Paul Richards,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fighting for the Rain Forest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Do small wars in Africa manifest a 'new barbarism'?
What appears as random, anarchic violence is no such thing. The terrifying military methods of of Sierra Leone's soldiers may not fir conventional western models of warfare,but they are rational and effective nonetheless. The war must be understood partly as a 'performance', in which techniques of terror compensate for lack of equipment.

PAUL RICHARDS is Professor of Technology and Agrarian Development, Wageningen University

Published in association with the International African Institute


Book cover of The Burning Shores: Inside the Battle for the New Libya

Ronald Bruce St John Author Of Historical Dictionary of Libya

From my list on explaining the Libyan Quagmire.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first visited and worked in Libya in 1977. At the time, only a handful of books on Libya were available in English, and all of them were technical studies related to the petroleum industry. In an effort to better understand the political economy of this beautiful and intriguing state, I began to conduct my own field research. This research led to the publication in 1981 of two articles on Libya under the pseudonym of our two sons because it was dangerous for anyone to publish critical analysis of the Qaddafi regime. I remain fascinated with Libya, and over time, I have published five books and well over 100 articles and reviews on Libya.

Ronald's book list on explaining the Libyan Quagmire

Ronald Bruce St John Why did Ronald love this book?

Beginning with service as a military officer at the US embassy in Tripoli in 2009, Frederic Wehrey has had a long association with Libya.

This has enabled him to develop an unparalleled range of contacts inside and outside the country.

With a solid grounding in Libyan history, his analysis of socio-economic and political events has an authoritative freshness that few can equal.

In The Burning Shores, which focuses on Libya after the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime, he explores the missteps and turning points that led to the splintering of Libya, an outcome he rightly believes was not preordained.

This is an exceptional book; it is authoritative, informative, accessible, and will stand the test of time. 

By Frederic Wehrey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The death of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi freed Libya from forty-two years of despotic rule, raising hopes for a new era. But in the aftermath, the country descended into bitter rivalries and civil war, paving the way for the Islamic State and a catastrophic migrant crisis. In a fast-paced narrative that blends frontline reporting, analysis, and history, Frederic Wehrey tells the story of what went wrong. An Arabic-speaking Middle East scholar, Wehrey interviewed the key actors in Libya and paints vivid portraits of lives upended by a country in turmoil: the once-hopeful activists murdered or exiled, revolutionaries transformed into militia bosses…


Book cover of The Fifties

John Wall Author Of Streamliner: Raymond Loewy and Image-making in the Age of American Industrial Design

From my list on explore American consumer culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author and former journalist with a fascination with design and consumer culture. I’ve been writing about design and pop culture since completing an assignment on Jack Telnack’s Ford Taurus and Thunderbird designs for a national news magazine. My interest deepened when I moved to daily journalism and wrote about Raymond Loewy’s design for the S-1 Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive. When the newspaper industry began cratering in a blizzard of mergers, buyouts, and bad management, I spent 25 years working in media relations at Penn State and Juniata College. I looked for an involving side project as a respite from writing professorial profiles and found safe haven with the life and legacy of Raymond Loewy. 

John's book list on explore American consumer culture

John Wall Why did John love this book?

Halberstam, known for big, thick books centered around big American themes, treads the same ground as Thomas Hine’s Populuxe. Instead of concentrating on refrigerators and roadsters, Halberstam tackles the political, social, economic, and cultural change in America during the 1950s—essentially, he examined the rivets in the launching pad for the American Century. Halberstam’s great gift of teasing out stories of long-overlooked contributors is put to effortless use here as we meet Kemmons Wilson, founder of the Holiday Inn hotels, the McDonald brothers, auto designer Harley Earl, ad man Rosser Reeves and Goody Pincus, developer of the birth control pill. Other, more famous connectors are duly noted—Elvis, McCarthy, MacArthur, Ozzie Nelson, Uncle Miltie—but in the end, Halberstam’s book is an inspiration (and a template) for writers of cultural history.

By David Halberstam,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Fifties is a sweeping social, political, economic, and cultural history of the ten years that Halberstam regards as seminal in determining what our nation is today. Halberstam offers portraits of not only the titans of the age: Eisenhower Dulles, Oppenheimer, MacArthur, Hoover, and Nixon, but also of Harley Earl, who put fins on cars; Dick and Mac McDonald and Ray Kroc, who mass-produced the American hamburger; Kemmons Wilson, who placed his Holiday Inns along the nation's roadsides; U-2 pilot Gary Francis Powers; Grace Metalious, who wrote Peyton Place; and "Goody" Pincus, who led the team that invented the Pill.…


Book cover of Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, & the Great Depression

Moshik Temkin Author Of Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial

From my list on leadership and history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Moshik Temkin is a historian of the United States and the World and has taught about leadership and history at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Harvard University in Massachusetts, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and other institutions around the world. He is the author of The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial and is writing a book on leadership in history for PublicAffairs called Warriors, Rebels, and Saints: On Leaders and Leadership in History.

Moshik's book list on leadership and history

Moshik Temkin Why did Moshik love this book?

This groundbreaking and wonderfully written study of two “protest” leaders during the Great Depression of the 1930s in the United States shows us what happens when truly hard times hit ordinary people, and what sort of leaders they then turn to. Brinkley brilliantly chronicles the rise of Louisiana politician Huey Long, the “Kingfish”, from obscurity in the poor Jim Crow south to becoming, by the time he was assassinated in 1935, the most significant political threat to the popular President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Long’s calls for wealth redistribution, contempt for traditional elites, and disregard for democratic institutions, make him an important historical example of so-called populist leadership, and of the power and appeal of populism in times of crisis.

By Alan Brinkley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The study of two great demagogues in American history--Huey P. Long, a first-term United States Senator from the red-clay, piney-woods country of nothern Louisiana; and Charles E. Coughlin, a Catholic priest from an industrial suburb near Detroit. Award-winning historian Alan Brinkely describes their modest origins and their parallel rise together in the early years of the Great Depression to become the two most successful leaders of national political dissidence of their era. 

*Winner of the American Book Award for History*


Book cover of The Political Economy of Central America Since 1920

James Dunkerley Author Of Power in the Isthmus

From my list on Central American history and politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for Central American politics and history derived quite directly from the conflicts in the region from the late 1970s onwards. Previously I had worked in Bolivia, where I had studied as a doctoral student, and although many people still view Latin American countries as pretty homogenous, I quickly discovered that they are very far from being so. I had to unlearn quite a bit and acquire new skills, although luckily, indigenous languages are really only dominant in Guatemala. Now we can be rather less partisan although many injustices remain.

James' book list on Central American history and politics

James Dunkerley Why did James love this book?

It is very rare for economists to write clearly and intelligibly for lay readers. It is even rarer that the complexities of the Central American economies are lucidly explained at both macro- and micro-levels, with a critique that is profound and alternatives that are viable. Although some things have changed in the last thirty years, it is simply not possible to understand contemporary Central America without knowledge of its previous political economy.

By Victor Bulmer-Thomas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Political Economy of Central America Since 1920 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this book Victor Bulmer-Thomas uses his previously unpublished estimates of the national accounts to explore economic and social development in the five Central American republics from 1920. He examines in detail variations in economic policy between countries which help to account for differences in performance. The major political developments are woven into the analysis and linked to changes in internal and external conditions. Growth under liberal oligarchic rule in the 1920s, heavily dependent on exports of coffee and bananas, was accompanied by modest reform programmes. The 1929 depression, which hit the region hard, undermined most of the reforms and…


Book cover of A Most Enterprising Country: North Korea in the Global Economy

Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland Author Of Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights Into North Korea

From my list on the North Korean economy.

Why are we passionate about this?

We teamed up about fifteen years ago around a common interest in the political economy of North Korea; Haggard is a political scientist, Noland an economist. Both of us had spent our careers focused on Asia but looking largely at the capitalist successes: Japan and the newly industrializing countries of Korea, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. But what about the anomalous cases in the region that did not get on the growth train? The “Asian miracle” was hardly ubiquitous…what had gone wrong? North Korea was clearly the biggest puzzle, and we ended up researching and writing on the famine, refugees, and the complexities of international sanctions. 

Stephan and Marcus' book list on the North Korean economy

Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland Why did Stephan and Marcus love this book?

The title of this book is doubly surprising. Is North Korea enterprising? And North Korea “in the world economy”? Isn’t it the hermit kingdom? Hastings picks up a theme that was central to our work on the famine: that the socialist sector in North Korea has undergone a secular decline while households and entrepreneurs have constructed a complex market economy that is partially above ground, partly below it. But Hastings goes further, showing how that market economy is integrally tied to China. And the book has the added attraction of focusing attention on lucrative black markets that range from amphetamine to counterfeited one hundred dollar bills. 

By Justin V. Hastings,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

North Korea has survived the end of the Cold War, massive famine, numerous regional crises, punishing sanctions, and international stigma. In A Most Enterprising Country, Justin V. Hastings explores the puzzle of how the most politically isolated state in the world nonetheless sustains itself in large part by international trade and integration into the global economy. The world's last Stalinist state is also one of the most enterprising, as Hastings shows through in-depth examinations of North Korea's import and export efforts, with a particular focus on restaurants, the weapons trade, and drug trafficking. Tracing the development of trade networks inside…


Book cover of Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream

Benjamin C. Waterhouse Author Of Lobbying America: The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA

From my list on why corporations are powerful but economy stinks.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of modern U.S. History and have written books explaining the political and cultural power of corporations, lobbyists, and business people in American life. To me, the signal event of recent history was when the rapid economic growth that followed WWII ended in the 1970s. From globalization and deindustrialization to the rise of authoritarianism under the guise of populism, from systemic racism and the rise of the carceral state to the proliferation of bad jobs and the gig economy—the effects of that historic change shape every aspect of modern life. But this topic can sometimes seem a little dry, so I’m always looking for books that help make sense of it.

Benjamin's book list on why corporations are powerful but economy stinks

Benjamin C. Waterhouse Why did Benjamin love this book?

This book is the most readable treatment I’ve encountered of a very complicated and theoretical set of ideas about how corporations have changed—not only in their legal structure but as social creatures—in the last century. Lemann makes the difficult theories of thinkers like Adolf Berle, John Kenneth Galbraith, Milton Friedman, and Michael Jensen easy to understand and fun to read about. And in the process, he explains how corporations lost their “souls”—how we reached a point where companies are finance-obsessed, detached from their communities, and fixated on short-term profits and not long-term stability.

By Nicholas Lemann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An Amazon Best History Book of 2019

"A splendid and beautifully written illustration of the tremendous importance public policy has for the daily lives of ordinary people." —Ryan Cooper, Washington Monthly

Over the last generation, the United States has undergone seismic changes. Stable institutions have given way to frictionless transactions, which are celebrated no matter what collateral damage they generate. The concentration of great wealth has coincided with the fraying of social ties and the rise of inequality. How did all this come about?

In Transaction Man, Nicholas Lemann explains the United States’—and the world’s—great transformation by examining three remarkable…


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