10 books like Making Democracy Work

By Robert D. Putnam, Robert Leonardi, Raffaella Y. Nanetti

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

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The End of the Myth

By Greg Grandin,

Book cover of The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

Greg Grandin is a historian's historian, a brilliant researcher, a captivating writer. It's honestly hard to pick which of his books to feature here. But since The End of the Myth won the Pultizer Prize, I'll choose it as my favorite. What I loved about this book is that it gives me a new perspective about the history of my own country—about which, frankly, I do not know that much—and the region I have reported on for most of my life, Latin America. He makes connections and does so in a compelling fashion.

The book focuses on the United States and the border, but it sheds much light on how the myth of manifest destiny has shaped the way we think of ourselves and our relationship with our southern neighbors.

The End of the Myth

By Greg Grandin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

A new and eye-opening interpretation of the meaning of the frontier, from early westward expansion to Trump’s border wall.

Ever since this nation’s inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been central to American identity. Symbolizing a future of endless promise, it was the foundation of the United States’ belief in itself as an exceptional nation – democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America hasa new symbol: the border wall.

In The End of the Myth, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin explores the meaning of the frontier throughout the full sweep of U.S. history…


Habits of the Heart

By Robert N. Bellah,

Book cover of Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life

The idea of citizenship is vague and can be complicated. Sometimes it refers to a person recognized as a natural-born or naturalized denizen of a nation, sometimes the right to cast a ballot, sometimes law-abiding behavior, sometimes civic engagement, and, too seldom, engaging in public work. Bellah and his associates conducted a series of interviews with ordinary citizens across the US to ascertain their understanding and values with respect to private and public (citizenly) life.

Overwhelmingly, those interviewed (mostly white, middle-class Americans) attached great value to their private lives, while acknowledging the importance of civic participation. They commonly expressed a belief that they should be publicly involved. However, when they discussed public life, they had a limited range of ideas about what that participation might look like, especially compared to the rich descriptions they offered for private life and why they valued it so. 

Among others, Habits raises the question…

Habits of the Heart

By Robert N. Bellah,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

First published in 1985, "Habits of the Heart" continues to be one of the most discussed interpretations of modern American society, a quest for a democratic community that draws on our diverse civic and religious traditions. In a new preface the authors relate the arguments of the book both to the current realities of American society and to the growing debate about the country's future. With this new edition one of the most influential books of recent times takes on a new immediacy.


Domination and the Arts of Resistance

By James C. Scott,

Book cover of Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts

You can count on citizens who are out of power to struggle to regain it. The more those on top use their position to keep those on the bottom under their thumb, their domination will inspire inventive ways to resist. Scott’s study of the ways the powerless confront the powerful is a mind-opening exploration of the richness and strength of vernacular rhetoric.  From everyday actions that are overtly compliant while simultaneously subterranean expressions of resistance to hush harbors where a vernacular of identity and solidarity is openly shared, the powerless craft the rich rhetoric of opposition. Their arts of resistance fuse vernacular discourse and politics through displays of defiance. By extension, Domination and the Arts of Resistance offers a primer for reading how ordinary citizens communicate shared sentiments often missed by leaders and pollsters. 

Domination and the Arts of Resistance

By James C. Scott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Domination and the Arts of Resistance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A splendid study, surely one of the most important that has appeared on the whole matter of power and resistance."-Natalie Zemon Davis

Confrontations between the powerless and powerful are laden with deception-the powerless feign deference and the powerful subtly assert their mastery. Peasants, serfs, untouchables, slaves, laborers, and prisoners are not free to speak their minds in the presence of power. These subordinate groups instead create a secret discourse that represents a critique of power spoken behind the backs of the dominant. At the same time, the powerful also develop a private dialogue about practices and goals of their rule…


Challenges of Ordinary Democracy

By Karen Tracy,

Book cover of Challenges of Ordinary Democracy: A Case Study in Deliberation and Dissent

Perhaps the most widespread engagement by ordinary citizens in political relations is with the education of their children. School boards are increasingly regarded as a site of passionate political contest over what our children will learn, especially when it comes to learning history and its consequences for their understanding of their community and nation. Challenges of Ordinary Democracy reports on three years in the life of a local school board. The voices of administrators, teachers, parents, and the press are examined when dissent takes center stage in the school board’s deliberations. Given that ordinary citizens will disagree, often vehemently, Tracy asks us to consider the parameters of reasonable hostility and why reasonable hostility is important for the voices of ordinary citizens to matter in deciding issues that affect their lives.  

Challenges of Ordinary Democracy

By Karen Tracy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Is there any place in America where passionate debate plays a more vital role in democratic discourse than local school board meetings? Karen Tracy conducted a thirty-five-month study of the board meetings of the Boulder Valley School District between 1996 and 1999 to analyze just how democracy operates in practice. In Challenges of Ordinary Democracy, she reveals the major role that emotion plays in real-life debate and discerns value in what might easily be seen as negative forms of discourse-voicing platitudes, making contradictory assertions, arguing over a document's wording, speaking angrily, attacking a person's character. By illuminating this one arena…


Anti-Politics Machine

By James Ferguson,

Book cover of Anti-Politics Machine: Development, Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho

Many people get involved with Africa through their concern for its’ poverty and with a genuine desire to help “develop” Africa. Ferguson’s analysis shows how counter-productive this is without an understanding of the ways in which African society differs from western society. Much social theory is generalizations based on interpretations of western development. These ideas are then projected into Africa on the basis that the more they are like us, the more developed they will be. I hope these five books help you un-learn this perspective and embrace the originality and genius of Africa.

Anti-Politics Machine

By James Ferguson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anti-Politics Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Development, it is generally assumed, is good and necessary, and in its name the West has intervened, implementing all manner of projects in the impoverished regions of the world. When these projects fail, as they do with astonishing regularity, they nonetheless produce a host of regular and unacknowledged effects, including the expansion of bureaucratic state power and the translation of the political realities of poverty and powerlessness into "technical" problems awaiting solution by "development" agencies and experts. It is the political intelligibility of these effects, along with the process that produces them, that this book seeks to illuminate through a…


Governing Africa's Forests in a Globalized World

By Laura Anne German (editor), Alain Karsenty (editor), Anne Marie Tiani (editor)

Book cover of Governing Africa's Forests in a Globalized World

This book is the fourth in a series on forest decentralization globally, a series for which I edited the other three books. So I was gratified to see how this one turned out. I appreciate it because it provides some of the same contextual material on governance in Africa – an area I know less well that the book by Moeliono et al. provided for Borneo. Some of the authors and one editor had also been members of the original ACM teams in Africa (in the early 2000s), bringing some of their own related insights into the discussion. 

Governing Africa's Forests in a Globalized World

By Laura Anne German (editor), Alain Karsenty (editor), Anne Marie Tiani (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Governing Africa's Forests in a Globalized World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many countries around the world are engaged in decentralization processes, and most African countries face serious problems with forest governance, from benefits sharing to illegality and sustainable forest management. This book summarizes experiences to date on the extent and nature of decentralization and its outcomes - most of which suggest an underperformance of governance reforms - and explores the viability of different governance instruments in the context of weak governance and expanding commercial pressures over forests.

Findings are grouped into two thematic areas: decentralization, livelihoods and sustainable forest management; and international trade, finance and forest sector governance reforms. The authors…


The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany

By Lori Nelson Spielman,

Book cover of The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany

This book has everything: love, drama, lush descriptions of a foreign country (essential now, when travel is so limited), and family curses. Having a sister myself, I loved how authentic the relationship between Emilia and Lucy felt; stronger than iron yet as fragile as glass. The unraveling mystery behind the so-called “curse” was just icing on the cake. Love truly is what life is all about---just not in the ways we always assume.

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany

By Lori Nelson Spielman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An International Bestseller!

A LibraryReads and Indie Next Pick!

A trio of second-born daughters sets out on a whirlwind journey through the lush Italian countryside to break the family curse that says they’ll never find love, by New York Times bestseller Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List.
 
Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than two hundred years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love. Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily-single baker at her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, claim it’s an odd coincidence. Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist…


The Medici Conspiracy

By Peter Watson, Cecilia Todeschini,

Book cover of The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities-- From Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museums

No book exposes the tricks of the trade that smugglers and dealers use to launder looted artifacts like this one. Focusing on a wave of looting in southern Italy in the 1980s and ‘90s, the authors show how European and American millionaire collectors fueled the ransacking of ancient sites. It’s a substantive, entertaining read about crime and the contradictions of modern Italy by two brilliant writers.   

The Medici Conspiracy

By Peter Watson, Cecilia Todeschini,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The story begins, as stories do in all good thrillers, with a botched robbery and a police chase. Eight Apuleian vases of the fourth century B.C. are discovered in the swimming pool of a German-based art smuggler. More valuable than the recovery of the vases, however, is the discovery of the smuggler's card index detailing his deals and dealers. It reveals the existence of a web of tombaroli ,tomb raiders, who steal classical artifacts, and a network of dealers and smugglers who spirit them out of Italy and into the hands of wealthy collectors and museums. Peter Watson, a former…


Fascist Spectacle

By Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi,

Book cover of Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini's Italy

Still after 25 years, Falasca Zamponi’s work remains the best treatment of Mussolini’s “aesthetic politics” (the author’s term). She shows how his regime painstakingly constructed a symbolic universe to represent and indeed aggrandize its power, which went well beyond mere propaganda and instead created a cultural dynamic with the Italian public. But she also demonstrates how Mussolini, soon after coming into power in October 1922, “began to create the conditions for the demise of the Fascist Party” which he had formed, “and the growth of his own stardom.”

Fascist Spectacle

By Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A cultural history of Italian fascism, this work traces the narrative path that accompanied the making of a regime and the construction of Mussolini's power. The author reads fascist myths, rituals, images, and speeches as texts that tell the story of fascism. Linking Mussolini's elaboration of a new ruling style to the shaping of the regime's identity, she finds that in searching for symbolic means and forms that would represent its political novelty, fascism in fact brought itself into being, creating its own power and history. Falasca-Zamponi aregues that an aesthetically founded notion of politics guided fascist power's historical unfounding…


The Castle of Crossed Destinies

By Italo Calvino,

Book cover of The Castle of Crossed Destinies

A group of disparate Medieval travellers finds themselves marooned in a spooky castle in the middle of a forest. Some strange enchantment means they’re unable to speak, so each tells their tale through the medium of the Tarot. I love Calvino – the kind of stone-cold genius who made everything look easy – and I love this book, which immerses you deep within the forest: an almost mythical realm where anything feels possible. 

The Castle of Crossed Destinies

By Italo Calvino,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A group of travellers chance to meet, first in a castle, then a tavern. Their powers of speech are magically taken from them and instead they have only tarot cards with which to tell their stories. What follows is an exquisite interlinking of narratives, and a fantastic, surreal and chaotic history of all human consciousness.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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