10 books like Dictators and Dictatorships

By Natasha M. Ezrow, Erica Frantz,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Dictators and Dictatorships. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Managing Instability in Algeria

By Isabelle Werenfels,

Book cover of Managing Instability in Algeria: Elites and Political Change

In this book, Werenfels explains how elite dynamics and tactics work in the Algerian political system and how they have led to the lack of significant political change since the country returned to the democratic process in 1995. Werenfels analyses the coping mechanisms of the highly opaque authoritarian elite in a shifting local and global environment building on evidence from extensive research. This book planted the seed of an idea for what the topic of my own book would be and how I wanted to structure it. 

Managing Instability in Algeria

By Isabelle Werenfels,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Managing Instability in Algeria as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This topical new book seeks to understand the relationship between elite dynamics and strategies and the lack of profound political change in Algeria after 1995, when the country's military rulers returned to electoral processes.

Using evidence from extensive fieldwork, Isabelle Werenfels exposes successful survival strategies of an opaque authoritarian elite in a changing domestic and international environment. The main focus is on:

the changing balance of power between different elite segments the modes of generation change and the different emerging young elite types constraints, obligations and opportunities arising from elite embeddings in clienteles networks and in specific social and economic…


Ruling But Not Governing

By Steven A. Cook,

Book cover of Ruling But Not Governing: The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey

One of my favorite books of its kind and I do not think I have read a better book about this topic ever since. It explains the critical role that the military plays in stabilizing authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Algeria, and until recently, Turkey. It also analyses how informal politics can restrict formal democratic institutions. In this book, Cook perfectly grasps how the military works in these countries and explains it in a clear and accessible style. The book is simply captivating and a must-read. 

Ruling But Not Governing

By Steven A. Cook,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ruling But Not Governing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Ruling But Not Governing" highlights the critical role that the military plays in the stability of the Egyptian, Algerian, and, until recently, Turkish political systems. This in-depth study demonstrates that while the soldiers and materiel of Middle Eastern militaries form the obvious outer perimeter of regime protection, it is actually the less apparent, multilayered institutional legacies of military domination that play the decisive role in regime maintenance. Steven A. Cook uncovers the complex and nuanced character of the military's interest in maintaining a facade of democracy. He explores how an authoritarian elite hijack seemingly democratic practices such as elections, multiparty…


Oil Wealth and the Poverty of Politics

By Miriam R. Lowi,

Book cover of Oil Wealth and the Poverty of Politics: Algeria Compared

In this book, Lowi examines why Algeria's domestic political economy disintegrated in the mid-1980s and how the regime eventually reclaimed power and hegemony. Miriam Lowi discusses the significance of leadership decisions for political outcomes and extends her theory to explain the diversity in stability among oil-exporting states in response to economic shocks. Comparing Algeria to Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia, she inquires as to why certain regimes fail and endure regime change while others remain stable or are able to regain stability after a time of turmoil.

Oil Wealth and the Poverty of Politics

By Miriam R. Lowi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Oil Wealth and the Poverty of Politics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How can we make sense of Algeria's post-colonial experience - the tragedy of unfulfilled expectations, the descent into violence, the resurgence of the state? Oil Wealth and the Poverty of Politics explains why Algeria's domestic political economy unravelled from the mid-1980s, and how the regime eventually managed to regain power and hegemony. Miriam Lowi argues the importance of leadership decisions for political outcomes, and extends the argument to explain the variation in stability in oil-exporting states following economic shocks. Comparing Algeria with Iran, Iraq, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, she asks why some states break down and undergo regime change, while…


A History of Algeria

By James McDougall,

Book cover of A History of Algeria

A History of Algeria by British historian James McDougall is one of the most original books I have read on Algeria. It takes a fresh new look at the history of contemporary Algeria and avoids the classic chronological approach. The style is exquisite, and the scientific rigor is impeccable. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the history of Algeria, and Algerians. 

A History of Algeria

By James McDougall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Covering a period of five hundred years, from the arrival of the Ottomans to the aftermath of the Arab uprisings, James McDougall presents an expansive new account of the modern history of Africa's largest country. Drawing on substantial new scholarship and over a decade of research, McDougall places Algerian society at the centre of the story, tracing the continuities and the resilience of Algeria's people and their cultures through the dramatic changes and crises that have marked the country. Whether examining the emergence of the Ottoman viceroyalty in the early modern Mediterranean, the 130 years of French colonial rule and…


Don't Cross the Line!

By Isabel Minhos Martins, Bernardo Carvalho (illustrator),

Book cover of Don't Cross the Line!

This is one of those books, where not only the words and illustrations make the story, but also the pages and book format are part of the plot, where the book´s gutter is one of the main characters. A book to have on paper! A story about community and peaceful revolutions, and how things can be changed with dialogue and working together. 

Don't Cross the Line!

By Isabel Minhos Martins, Bernardo Carvalho (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Don't Cross the Line! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The guard always follows the general's orders without question. This time, the order is that no one must cross the line! The right-hand page of this book must be kept blank for the general. As the crowd builds up on the border, the guard is under pressure. If no one is allowed onto the next page, what will happen to the story?

And then a ball bounces across the line . . .

This slapstick postmodern tale is also a profound statement about dictatorship and peaceful revolution, from an award-winning author/illustrator team.


The Great Successor

By Anna Fifield,

Book cover of The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un

Ana Fifield is a top-flight journalist, and this is the most detailed biography of Kim Jong Un to date. Fifield has interviewed everyone who could possibly be interviewed, going back to teachers in a Swiss boarding school for insights into Kim Jong Un’s psyche. But why would such a book get mentioned in a list on the Korean economy? Because North Korea is best understood as a monarchy, and the court economy is non-trivial. Among many other details, Fifield provides insight into the lavish lifestyles of the family and the small circle of insiders that are at the core of the regime. Needless to say, the contrast with the lives of everyday North Koreans could not be more stark. An added benefit: the book contains a funny story involving Noland, President Barack Obama, and NBA coach Steve Kerr. 

The Great Successor

By Anna Fifield,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The behind-the-scenes story of the rise and reign of the world's strangest and most elusive tyrant, Kim Jong Un, by the journalist with the best connections and insights into the bizarrely dangerous world of North Korea.

Since his birth in 1984, Kim Jong Un has been swaddled in myth and propaganda, from the plainly silly -- he could supposedly drive a car at the age of three -- to the grimly bloody stories of family members who perished at his command.

Anna Fifield reconstructs Kim's past and present with exclusive access to sources near him and brings her unique understanding…


How to Be a Dictator

By Frank Dikötter,

Book cover of How to Be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century

Don’t be fooled by the title: this is no how-to guide for budding sociopaths who want to force the masses to bend to their every whim. Rather, it is a study of eight dictators with a special emphasis on how each one used his personality cult “to claw his way to power and get rid of his rivals”. Dikotter fits an impressive amount of information into this concise book and does a great job of comparing and contrasting such tyrants as Stalin, Mao, Hitler and Mussolini. But what I especially appreciate are the “deep cuts” — Dikotter includes chapters on dictators you don’t often hear about these days, such the Ethiopian tyrant, Mengistu Haile Mariam and Haiti’s Voodoo-obsessed Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, who declared himself the “personification of God” and liked to strut around in top hat and tails.

How to Be a Dictator

By Frank Dikötter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Be a Dictator as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Brilliant' NEW STATESMAN, BOOKS OF THE YEAR 'Enlightening and a good read' SPECTATOR 'Moving and perceptive' NEW STATESMAN Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, Ceausescu, Mengistu of Ethiopia and Duvalier of Haiti. No dictator can rule through fear and violence alone. Naked power can be grabbed and held temporarily, but it never suffices in the long term. A tyrant who can compel his own people to acclaim him will last longer. The paradox of the modern dictator is that he must create the illusion of popular support. Throughout the twentieth century, hundreds of millions of people were condemned to…


Dictator Style

By Peter York,

Book cover of Dictator Style: Lifestyles of the World's Most Colorful Despots

Most books about dictators are written by scholars and academics, but Peter York has a different background — he is a style guru and cultural commentator who writes about trends for magazines and newspapers in the UK. His approach, therefore, is very different from the other books on this list and in Dictator Style he casts a witty, acerbic eye over the interior design choices of some of the world’s most evil men. Multiple photographs are provided to document their crimes against taste, and York skewers everything from the leopard skin rug of Romania’s Nicolae Ceacescu to the soft porn sci-fi fantasy paintings collected by Saddam Hussein. Whereas most authors focus on the depths of evil contained in each dictator’s soul, Yorke shines a spotlight on their shallows, revealing in the process that they are also frequently banal and vulgar in their tastes, and easily seduced by shiny baubles.

Dictator Style

By Peter York,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Welcome to the fabulous lifestyles of the cruel and despotic. Running with the idea that our homes are where we are truly ourselves, Peter York's wildly original and scathingly funny look at the interior decorating tastes of some of history's most alarming dictators proves that absolute power corrupts absolutely, right down to the drapes. Mining rare, jaw-dropping photographs of interiors now mostly (thankfully) destroyed, York's hilarious profiles of 16 inner sanctums of the scary leaves no endangered tiger pelt unturned, from Saddam Hussein's creepy private art collection to General Noriega's Christmas tree to the strange tube and knob contraption in…


The Walking Dead

By Robert Kirkman, Jay Bonansinga,

Book cover of The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor

The governor series satisfied my Walking Dead craving without being redundant. It gave me a deeper look into the bad guy we all just love to hate so much. There were twists and turns in this story and once I hit the end my jaw was literally dropped from the shock of all that was revealed about this character’s back story. 

The Walking Dead

By Robert Kirkman, Jay Bonansinga,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on the award-winning graphic novels created by Robert Kirkman, if you liked The Walking Dead TV series, you'll love this.

The world has gone to hell - and that story starts here.

Philip Blake's life has been turned upside down. In less than seventy-two hours, an inexplicable event has resulted in people everywhere . . . turning. Now the walking dead roam the streets, massacring the living, and it seems that nowhere is safe. Escaping his small town, Philip has just one focus in life - to protect his young daughter Penny. And he'll do whatever it takes to…


Strongmen

By Ruth Ben-Ghiat,

Book cover of Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present

“At its core, propaganda is a set of communication strategies designed to sow confusion and uncertainty, discourage critical thinking, and persuade people that reality is what the leader says it is." So writes Ruth Ben-Ghiat, one of the top historians of Italian Fascism and a high-profile media expert on contemporary struggles between democracy and authoritarianism. In this wide-ranging study, Ben-Ghiat details precisely how propaganda—"a system of attention management that works through repetition”—figures as one of the autocrat’s chief “tools of rule,” plucking examples from far beyond Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. There’s an audiobook too!

Strongmen

By Ruth Ben-Ghiat,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is the expert on the "strongman" playbook employed by authoritarian demagogues from Mussolini to Putin-enabling her to predict with uncanny accuracy the recent experience in America and Europe. In Strongmen, she lays bare the blueprint these leaders have followed over the past 100 years, and empowers us to recognize, resist, and prevent their disastrous rule in the future.

For ours is the age of authoritarian rulers: self-proclaimed saviors of the nation who evade accountability while robbing their people of truth, treasure, and the protections of democracy. They promise law and order, then legitimize lawbreaking by financial, sexual, and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dictators, authoritarianism, and Algeria?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dictators, authoritarianism, and Algeria.

Dictators Explore 10 books about dictators
Authoritarianism Explore 26 books about authoritarianism
Algeria Explore 24 books about Algeria