100 books like Kabuki Democracy

By Eric Alterman,

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

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Book cover of Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

From my list on how partisan politics is destroying American foreign policy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent the majority of my 25-year career working across the Middle East and Africa. From 2004-2006, I was one of a small group of American diplomats posted to Libya following the 2003 US deal with Gaddafi. During Libya's 2011 revolution, I returned to Libya as a private citizen to help build and became a witness to the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi. I am particularly interested in the impact of domestic political warfare on US foreign policy and national security. My work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Salon, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, the Financial Times, and Forbes, among others.

Ethan's book list on how partisan politics is destroying American foreign policy

Ethan Chorin Why did Ethan love this book?

The book is an account of the US government’s pursuit and assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki, a dual American-Yemen citizen and leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Shane reveals the ways in which the domestic political environment and the (related) US reliance on drone warfare fanned the flames of war in Yemen, while creating thorny ethical questions back home. For me, the most fascinating part of this concerns internal White House discussions over how to react to the Christmas-day 2009 attempted “underwear bombing”, which Obama believed nearly scuttled his second term.

This incident has been mentioned elsewhere as having influenced the administration’s response to subsequent terror attacks, including Benghazi. 

By Scott Shane,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Objective Troy tells the gripping and unsettling story of Anwar al-Awlaki, the once-celebrated American imam who called for moderation after 9/11, a man who ultimately directed his outsized talents to the mass murder of his fellow citizens. It follows Barack Obama’s campaign against the excesses of the Bush counterterrorism programs and his eventual embrace of the targeted killing of suspected militants. And it recounts how the president directed the mammoth machinery of spy agencies to hunt Awlaki down in a frantic, multi-million-dollar pursuit that would end with the death of Awlaki by a bizarre, robotic technology that is changing warfare—the…


Book cover of The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

From my list on how partisan politics is destroying American foreign policy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent the majority of my 25-year career working across the Middle East and Africa. From 2004-2006, I was one of a small group of American diplomats posted to Libya following the 2003 US deal with Gaddafi. During Libya's 2011 revolution, I returned to Libya as a private citizen to help build and became a witness to the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi. I am particularly interested in the impact of domestic political warfare on US foreign policy and national security. My work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Salon, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, the Financial Times, and Forbes, among others.

Ethan's book list on how partisan politics is destroying American foreign policy

Ethan Chorin Why did Ethan love this book?

Obama’s Former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes’ memoir is arguably the best (and best-written) inside-circle account of Obama’s foreign policy decision-making process, on which Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications, had an outsize influence.

It is also implicitly, in my view, a strong argument for the need to depoliticize and re-empower America’s core foreign policy and intelligence infrastructure (the State Department, CIA, FBI, etc.), without whose direct and coordinated input America will be forever chasing its tail.

By Ben Rhodes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'One of the most compelling stories I've seen about what it's actually like to serve the American people' BARACK OBAMA

A revelatory, behind-the-scenes account of the Obama presidency and a political memoir about the power of words to change our world

This is a book about two people making the most important decisions in the world. One is Barack Obama. The other is Ben Rhodes.

A young writer and Washington outsider, Rhodes was plucked from obscurity aged 29. For nearly ten years, he was at the centre of the Obama Administration - first as a speech-writer, then a policy maker,…


Book cover of Obama's Wars

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

From my list on how partisan politics is destroying American foreign policy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent the majority of my 25-year career working across the Middle East and Africa. From 2004-2006, I was one of a small group of American diplomats posted to Libya following the 2003 US deal with Gaddafi. During Libya's 2011 revolution, I returned to Libya as a private citizen to help build and became a witness to the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi. I am particularly interested in the impact of domestic political warfare on US foreign policy and national security. My work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Salon, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, the Financial Times, and Forbes, among others.

Ethan's book list on how partisan politics is destroying American foreign policy

Ethan Chorin Why did Ethan love this book?

Bob Woodward spares no president his unvarnished critique.

I found the most interesting part of the book not about Obama, per se, but the circumstances that led to Senator Hillary Clinton’s appointment as his Secretary of State, despite her known and strong disagreements with him on foreign policy.

In one part, Woodward relates a conversation between Clinton and a senior campaign advisor, in which she expresses deep concern that by accepting the position she might someday be caught between loyalty to the President and a hard place.

Fast forward to the 2012 Benghazi attack, which Republicans used to scuttle her 2016 Presidential bid, and in turn, allowed Donald Trump to dismantle much of Obama’s hoped-for legacy.

By Bob Woodward,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Drawing on hundreds of interviews with key administration officials, their deputies, and other first-hand sources, Woodward takes listeners deep into the national security state and shows how Obama debates, decides, and balances the enormous pressures facing the modern president. As always, Woodward also bases his work on extensive documentation, including internal memos, letters, detailed chronologies, and meeting notes that reveal the behind-the-scenes realities of the Obama era. Obama has learned that he is not commander-in-chief of the economy. Many of his high-profile domestic reforms - healthcare, education, and energy - were largely turned over to Congress. But the president has…


Book cover of The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

From my list on how partisan politics is destroying American foreign policy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent the majority of my 25-year career working across the Middle East and Africa. From 2004-2006, I was one of a small group of American diplomats posted to Libya following the 2003 US deal with Gaddafi. During Libya's 2011 revolution, I returned to Libya as a private citizen to help build and became a witness to the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi. I am particularly interested in the impact of domestic political warfare on US foreign policy and national security. My work has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Salon, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, the Financial Times, and Forbes, among others.

Ethan's book list on how partisan politics is destroying American foreign policy

Ethan Chorin Why did Ethan love this book?

Washington Post correspondent Craig Whitlock’s book on the last phase of the US war in Afghanistan packs a big punch – which seems to have been left unabsorbed by the mainstream media.

Based on a rich archive of official interviews and oral histories, Whitlock presents a detailed case that the Obama administration hid the extent of the failure of the Afghan “surge” because of its fear that any 9/11-linked fiasco would damage the President’s 2012 reelection chances.

As with the other work profiled here, this book helps explain why the Obama administration’s Benghazi narrative appeared both unlikely and confused, and how the Right exploited the American public’s discomfort with it to create its own increasingly aggressive and deranged narrative.

By Craig Whitlock,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The groundbreaking investigative story of how three successive presidents and their military commanders deceived the public year after year about America's longest war, foreshadowing the Taliban's recapture of Afghanistan, by Washington Post reporter and three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Craig Whitlock.

Unlike the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 had near-unanimous public support. At first, the goals were straightforward and clear: to defeat al-Qaeda and prevent a repeat of 9/11. Yet soon after the United States and its allies removed the Taliban from power, the mission veered off course and US officials lost sight of…


Book cover of A Promised Land

Lindsay M. Chervinsky Author Of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution

From my list on American presidents who left their mark on history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by power and how people use it. From the time I was tiny, I’ve loved reading about how people left their fingerprint on history, and boy, do presidents leave their mark. Given these interests, it’s unsurprising that I’ve been my career this far examining how early presidents crafted the executive branch. The president’s oversized role in American life is also at the heart of my podcast work (I cohost The Past, The Promise, The Presidency with the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. Each season we explore a different element of the presidency and its relationship to history). In my future scholarship, I plan to continue this exploration long after George Washington left office. Stay tuned for more, and in the meantime enjoy these great reads!

Lindsay's book list on American presidents who left their mark on history

Lindsay M. Chervinsky Why did Lindsay love this book?

Most twenty-first-century presidents write autobiographies after leaving office, but not all autobiographies are created equal. A Promised Land gives an honest, unflinching view of the presidency. Obama is straightforward about his goals, successes, mistakes, and lessons learned the hard way. Whether or not you like him or agree with his policies, this book will give you a behind-the-scenes look at the presidency in a way that few others books can provide.

By Barack Obama,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making—from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAACP IMAGE AWARD NOMINEE • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post • Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times • NPR • The Guardian • Marie Claire
 
In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young…


Book cover of The Human Rights Dictatorship: Socialism, Global Solidarity and Revolution in East Germany

Lorenz M. Lüthi Author Of Cold Wars: Asia, the Middle East, Europe

From my list on Cold War history published recently.

Why am I passionate about this?

During the later Cold War, I grew up in neutral and peaceful Switzerland. My German mother’s family lived apart in divided Germany. I knew as a child that I would become a historian because I wanted to find out what had happened to my mother’s home and why there was a Cold War in the first place. My father’s service as a Swiss Red Cross delegate in Korea after 1953 raised my interest in East Asia. After learning Russian and Chinese, I wrote my first book on The Sino-Soviet Split. When I was finishing the book, I resolved to reinvent myself as a global historian, which is why I wrote my second book as a reinterpretation of the global Cold War as a series of parallel regional Cold Wars in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

Lorenz's book list on Cold War history published recently

Lorenz M. Lüthi Why did Lorenz love this book?

Ned Richardson-Little explores the mostly forgotten history of the human rights discourse in a Communist dictatorship. Believe it or not, East Germany tried to pose as a promoter of human rights in international and domestic affairs. It spent much effort and many resources on constructing an alternative to Western-dominated human rights debates. Even if Communist Germany disappeared in 1989/90, its warped human rights discourse beforehand had exerted a major influence on dissidents and their increasing opposition to the authoritarian police state in which they were living.

By Ned Richardson-Little,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Richardson-Little exposes the forgotten history of human rights in the German Democratic Republic, placing the history of the Cold War, Eastern European dissidents and the revolutions of 1989 in a new light. By demonstrating how even a communist dictatorship could imagine itself to be a champion of human rights, this book challenges popular narratives on the fall of the Berlin Wall and illustrates how notions of human rights evolved in the Cold War as they were re-imagined in East Germany by both dissidents and state officials. Ultimately, the fight for human rights in East Germany was part of a global…


Book cover of Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

Michael Barone Author Of Mental Maps of the Founders: How Geographic Imagination Guided America's Revolutionary Leaders

From my list on the struggles of the early America republic.

Why am I passionate about this?

My friend Lou Cannon, the great reporter and Reagan biographer, once told me, “if you want to really learn about a subject, write a book about it.” As a political journalist and author of several books about current and past politics,  wanted to learn more about the Founding Fathers, and as a map buff I tried to understand how they understood a continent most of which was not accurately mapped and how they envisioned the geographic limits and reach of a new republic more extensive in size than most nations in Europe. The book is my attempt to share what I learned with readers, and to invite them to read more about these extraordinary leaders.

Michael's book list on the struggles of the early America republic

Michael Barone Why did Michael love this book?

Gordon Wood is one of the giants of a generation of historians of the Revolution and the early Republic.

This book covers the 1790s and the years of the nineteenth century up through the War of 1812. Both Federalists and Jeffersonians faced the task of navigating the young republic through the turbulent waters of a world war between revolutionary France, America’s Revolutionary War ally, and mercantile Britain, its chief trading partner, that lasted with only short intervals between 1793 and 1815.

Wood leans somewhat to the Jeffersonians, who were more in line (in his view and, as I was reading him, mine) with most Americans who became less deferential and hierarchical during and immediately after the Revolution.

By Gordon S. Wood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Oxford History of the United States is by far the most respected multi-volume history of the USA. The series includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, two New York Times bestsellers, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. Now, in the newest volume in the series, one of America's most esteemed historians, Gordon S. Wood, offers a brilliant account of the early American Republic, ranging from 1789 and the beginning of the national government to the
end of the War of 1812.
As Wood reveals, the period was marked by tumultuous change in all aspects of American life-in politics, society,…


Book cover of Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings

Dennis E. Shasha Author Of The Puzzling Adventures of Dr. Ecco

From my list on to help you to think logically.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became a scientist because I enjoyed the puzzles in Scientific American. I loved the notion that through mere thought, one could solve a question that at first glance seemed impossible to solve. When I had to design methods to detect ephemeral failures in electronic circuits underlying a mainframe computer, I created a puzzle having occasional liars. When I thought about ways to understand global wars, I constructed a puzzle about bullies in a playground. Some of my puzzles have been very computational, some purely paper and pencil. Over the years, my puzzles have appeared in Scientific American, Dr. Dobb’s Journal, and the Communications of the ACM.

Dennis' book list on to help you to think logically

Dennis E. Shasha Why did Dennis love this book?

Abraham Lincoln famously had little formal education but was capable of sophisticated logical thinking in his arguments. He credits his ability to form his arguments to his encounter with Euclid’s writings about geometry. He felt in awe by the notion of “demonstration” and went on to apply that notion to his compelling arguments about the injustice and hypocrisy of slavery. 

By Roy Basler, Carl Sandburg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume presents nearly 250 of Lincoln's most important speeches, state papers, and letters in their entirety. Here are not only the masterpieces,the Gettysburg Address, the Inaugural Addresses, the 1858 Republican Convention Speech, the Emancipation Proclamation,but hundreds of lesser-known gems. Alfred Kazin has written that Lincoln was "not just the greatest writer among our Presidents . . . but the most telling and unforgettable of all American'public' writer-speakers," and it's never been cleaner than in this comprehensive edition.


Book cover of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War

Wyman Wicket Author Of 23 Skiddoo: Way Back Beyond Across the Stars

From my list on magical realism for metapolitical non-fiction fans.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a free man of flesh-and-blood I trust in time-tested verities and traditions; as a spiritual entity I am a man of faith; and as a thinking being I explore in my writing the malleability of consciousness and reality. Through a broad range of experiences I offer images for the minds of readers in novels of a twisted magical realism. I seek the mysteries of God, the beauty of poetry, and the freedom to explore all and everything. I am an American State National who critiques modern society, culture, and politics as an independent scholar who will not be silenced. Awaken, oh human beans, from normative conditioning and screen-gazing complacency!

Wyman's book list on magical realism for metapolitical non-fiction fans

Wyman Wicket Why did Wyman love this book?

Mass formation psychosis causes people to lose contact with reality. Case-in-point: the apotheosis of Abraham Lincoln. The author presents a cogent case against the 16th president’s policies of “internal improvements,” high tariffs, and a national central bank (the failed and rejected Hamiltonian policies of the Whig party and Henry Clay). Lincoln insisted upon instituting mercantilism—a strong central government that dispenses special privileges to wealthy and influential corporations, who then support the central government, contravening the Constitution. In a reality stranger than fiction, he killed an estimated 620,000-750,000 Americans in a war upon the Southern states and their right to secede against tariff tyranny; disabled the sovereignty of the states; and did away with habeas corpus by arresting any who objected to his policies, setting precedents that have gutted an intimidated America ever since.

By Thomas J. Dilorenzo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War

Most Americans consider Abraham Lincoln to be the greatest president in history. His legend as the Great Emancipator has grown to mythic proportions as hundreds of books, a national holiday, and a monument in Washington, D.C., extol his heroism and martyrdom. But what if most everything you knew about Lincoln were false? What if, instead of an American hero who sought to free the slaves, Lincoln were in fact a calculating politician who waged the bloodiest war in american history in order to build an empire that rivaled…


Book cover of MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed Bin Salman

Simon Henderson Author Of After King Fahd: Succession in Saudi Arabia

From my list on understanding modern Saudi Arabia.

Why am I passionate about this?

British by birth, American by naturalization, Simon Henderson started in journalism as a trainee at the BBC before becoming its correspondent in Pakistan. Joining the Financial Times a year later, he was promptly sent to Iran to cover the 1979 Islamic revolution and went back again for the U.S. embassy hostage crisis. He now analyzes the Gulf states, energy, and the nuclear programs of Iran and Pakistan as the Baker fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Simon's book list on understanding modern Saudi Arabia

Simon Henderson Why did Simon love this book?

The assiduous New York Times reporter digs deeply into the persona of the Saudi crown prince, and is rewarded with many anecdotes. Unsurprisingly, most are anonymous. A revealing one is: “One foreign official recalled that the prince’s leg never stopped bouncing during their meeting, making him wonder if the prince was nervous or on some sort of stimulant.”

By Ben Hubbard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Financial Times Book Best Book of the Year 2020

A Foreign Affairs Best Book of the Year 2020

The gripping, untold story of how Saudi Arabia's secretive and mercurial new ruler rose to power.

Even in his youth as a prince among thousands of princes, Mohammed bin Salman nurtured sweeping ambitions. He wanted power - enough of it to reshape his hyper-conservative, insular Islamic kingdom.

When his elderly father took the throne in 2015, MBS got his chance. As the hands-on-ruler, he made seismic changes, working doggedly to overhaul the kingdom's economy, loosen its strict Islamic social codes and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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