100 books like The Pursuit of Power

By William H. McNeill,

Here are 100 books that The Pursuit of Power fans have personally recommended if you like The Pursuit of Power. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A Question of Standing: The History of the CIA

Yakov Ben-Haim Author Of The Dilemmas of Wonderland: Decisions in the Age of Innovation

From my list on making decisions when you don’t know what’s going on.

Who am I?

I am a retired university professor. My research, in which I am still actively engaged, deals with decision-making under deep uncertainty: how to make a decision, or design a project, or plan an operation when major relevant factors are unknown or highly uncertain. I developed a decision theory called info-gap theory that grapples with this challenge, and is applied around the world in many fields, including engineering design, economics, medicine, national security, biological conservation, and more.

Yakov's book list on making decisions when you don’t know what’s going on

Yakov Ben-Haim Why did Yakov love this book?

This is an interesting collection of essays on the history of the CIA.

A spy agency thrives on deceit and uncertainty, making plans and taking actions when the adversary also thrives on those same elements.

Arranged in chronological order, the essays cover nearly 20 different incidents, describing the challenges, uncertainties, goals, and decisions made by both high-level political decision-makers and practitioners in the field.

Topics covered include early stages in the development of the CIA (founded in 1947), including covert action against the Soviet Union in the 1950s, the Bay of Pigs (1961), the Iran-Contra affair (mid-1980s), up to more recent events with bin Laden, fake news, and more.

By Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Question of Standing deals with recognizable events that have shaped the history of the first 75 years of the CIA. Unsparing in its accounts of dirty tricks and their consequences, it values the agency's intelligence and analysis work to offer balanced judgements that avoid both celebration and condemnation of the CIA.

The mission of the CIA, derived from U-1 in World War I more than from World War II's OSS, has always been intelligence. Seventy-five years ago, in the year of its creation, the National Security Act gave the agency, uniquely in world history up to that point, a…


Book cover of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Yakov Ben-Haim Author Of The Dilemmas of Wonderland: Decisions in the Age of Innovation

From my list on making decisions when you don’t know what’s going on.

Who am I?

I am a retired university professor. My research, in which I am still actively engaged, deals with decision-making under deep uncertainty: how to make a decision, or design a project, or plan an operation when major relevant factors are unknown or highly uncertain. I developed a decision theory called info-gap theory that grapples with this challenge, and is applied around the world in many fields, including engineering design, economics, medicine, national security, biological conservation, and more.

Yakov's book list on making decisions when you don’t know what’s going on

Yakov Ben-Haim Why did Yakov love this book?

The world is complicated and confusing, but Harari organizes this complexity into 21 issues covering such diverse topics as liberty, community, war, ignorance, and meaning.

The book is a collection of self-standing essays that can be read independently. The prevailing message is that we can understand the world in which we live, though, at the same time, we cannot always make reliable decisions today or confidently predict the future because we fundamentally don't know what's going on.

Finally, the book offers a warning: modern technology, coupled with artificial intelligence, may challenge human freedom if we lose control of the powerful and evolving forces of hi-tech and AI.

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 21 Lessons for the 21st Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**THE NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER**

In twenty-one bite-sized lessons, Yuval Noah Harari explores what it means to be human in an age of bewilderment.

How can we protect ourselves from nuclear war, ecological cataclysms and technological disruptions? What can we do about the epidemic of fake news or the threat of terrorism? What should we teach our children?

The world-renowned historian and intellectual Yuval Noah Harari takes us on a thrilling journey through today's most urgent issues. The golden thread running through his exhilarating new book is the challenge of maintaining our collective and individual focus in the face of constant…


Book cover of Studies in Generalship: Lessons from the Chiefs of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces

Yakov Ben-Haim Author Of The Dilemmas of Wonderland: Decisions in the Age of Innovation

From my list on making decisions when you don’t know what’s going on.

Who am I?

I am a retired university professor. My research, in which I am still actively engaged, deals with decision-making under deep uncertainty: how to make a decision, or design a project, or plan an operation when major relevant factors are unknown or highly uncertain. I developed a decision theory called info-gap theory that grapples with this challenge, and is applied around the world in many fields, including engineering design, economics, medicine, national security, biological conservation, and more.

Yakov's book list on making decisions when you don’t know what’s going on

Yakov Ben-Haim Why did Yakov love this book?

War is the realm of uncertainty. Clausewitz sums this up by referring to the "fog of war".

Military commanders must confront this uncertainty, making far-reaching decisions when the fog of war obscures their understanding of the situation and the implications of their actions.

The book contains concise professional and historical biographies of 6 generals of the IDF, serving from early 1973 (prior to the Yom Kippur War) to 2013. The studies focus on decisions made – or not made – by these generals, the uncertainties that they confronted, and the military, political and social constraints they faced.

An interesting aspect is the personal and individualistic nature of the decision-making process. While military activity has a long history and much theory, it is more of an art than a science. The art of war, and of preventing war, is very personal, and it differs from one general to another. Some generals…

By Meir Finkel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The commander, or chief of staff, of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is a prominent public figure in Israel. His decisions, advice, and persona exert direct influence on force design and military strategy, and indirectly impact social, economic, and foreign affairs. This first-ever in-depth comparative study on the role and performance of the IDF chiefs of staff throughout modern Israel's history offers lessons for practitioners and students of strategy, military history, and leadership everywhere.


Book cover of Hannibal: Rome's Greatest Enemy

Yakov Ben-Haim Author Of The Dilemmas of Wonderland: Decisions in the Age of Innovation

From my list on making decisions when you don’t know what’s going on.

Who am I?

I am a retired university professor. My research, in which I am still actively engaged, deals with decision-making under deep uncertainty: how to make a decision, or design a project, or plan an operation when major relevant factors are unknown or highly uncertain. I developed a decision theory called info-gap theory that grapples with this challenge, and is applied around the world in many fields, including engineering design, economics, medicine, national security, biological conservation, and more.

Yakov's book list on making decisions when you don’t know what’s going on

Yakov Ben-Haim Why did Yakov love this book?

This is a very readable account of Hannibal and his exploits, though it’s perhaps a somewhat idealized, romantic, and heroic portrayal of the man. Nonetheless it’s a great read.

The book follows Hannibal’s many military exploits in Carthage, Sicily, Spain, and many more, up to Cannae, Rome, and his ultimate fall from power and exile.

One sees the continual tension between three factors: Hannibal’s military genius in making military decisions despite deep uncertainty about his own capabilities and about the adversary's intentions, the military genius of his opponents, and the ruthless hand of uncertainty in human history. Hannibal’s life illustrates all three factors.

By Philip Freeman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Telling the story of a man who stood against the overwhelming power of the mighty Roman empire, Hannibal is the biography of a man who, against all odds, dared to change the course of history.

Over two thousand years ago one of the greatest military leaders in history almost destroyed Rome. Hannibal, a daring African general from the city of Carthage, led an army of warriors and battle elephants over the snowy Alps to invade the very heart of Rome's growing empire. But what kind of person would dare to face the most relentless imperial power of the ancient world?…


Book cover of The Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500 B.C. to the Present

Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield) Author Of Strategic Nuclear Sharing

From my list on strategic studies on a deeper understanding of war.

Who am I?

I am a professor of political science with a focus on strategic studies and the causes of war, and before that, I was an operations officer at an army engineering regiment during the Cold War, and before that I was an adolescent wargamer obsessively applying math to sociological problems, and before that an enthusiast of military history. I have had the generosity of providence to conduct research in and on Pakistan’s military for over ten years, as well in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Egypt. These are the books I think every scholar of strategic studies should start with, as they provide an inspirational and the most direct path to strategic insight.   

Julian's book list on strategic studies on a deeper understanding of war

Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield) Why did Julian love this book?

Dupuy & Dupuy’s Encyclopedia of Military History is the historical bedrock of strategic studies. Despite its name, it is not so much an encyclopedia, as a readable chronological account of world history. It is integrated with insightful commentary on technology, tactics, leadership, and society, presented at the beginning of each chapter, and within sections dedicated to specific battles and wars. Although Wikipedia now exceeds it in the detail of the events and the background of the conflicts covered, Wikipedia lacks a roadmap or the careful examination of the cumulative historical changes that underpin warfare. I assign this fourteen hundred-page text as the primary text in my introduction to strategic studies course. 

Book cover of The Art of War in Western World

Charles S. Oliviero Author Of Praxis Tacticum: The Art, Science and Practice of Military Tactics

From my list on military tactical thinking.

Who am I?

I spent 40 years as a soldier studying war. After graduation from Royal Military College, I joined the Armoured Corps. Throughout history, we have regaled each other with stories of war. From Greek myths to Norse sagas to modern movies, we cannot seem to get enough of war stories. And yet, we know that war is inherently a bad idea. It is evil. It is a form of collective madness. War is destructive and cruel, unworthy of our better selves. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, war breaks the bonds of our affection and does not speak to our better angels. I study it in order to better understand this madness.

Charles' book list on military tactical thinking

Charles S. Oliviero Why did Charles love this book?

If you are to be a serious student of war, warfare, and tactics, then you will need a general reference guide. This book should be your go-to reference for general knowledge on this subject. Jones elegantly combines three major components of war (tactics, strategy, and logistics) to explain the last 2,500 years of military history, from phalanxes in ancient Greece through to the Thirty Years’ War that shaped modern Europe. Well written and thoroughly researched, I have kept it on my desk for the last thirty years.

By Archer Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Art of War in Western World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The magnum opus of one of America's most respected military historians, "The Art of War in the Western World" has earned its place as the standard work on how the three major operational components of war - tactics, logistics, and strategy - have evolved and changed over time. This monumental work encompasses 2,500 years of military history, from infantry combat in ancient Greece through the dissolution of the Roman Empire to the Thirty Years' War and from the Napoleonic campaigns through World War II, which Jones sees as the culmination of modern warfare, to the Israeli-Egyptian War of 1973".


Book cover of Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age

Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield) Author Of Strategic Nuclear Sharing

From my list on strategic studies on a deeper understanding of war.

Who am I?

I am a professor of political science with a focus on strategic studies and the causes of war, and before that, I was an operations officer at an army engineering regiment during the Cold War, and before that I was an adolescent wargamer obsessively applying math to sociological problems, and before that an enthusiast of military history. I have had the generosity of providence to conduct research in and on Pakistan’s military for over ten years, as well in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Egypt. These are the books I think every scholar of strategic studies should start with, as they provide an inspirational and the most direct path to strategic insight.   

Julian's book list on strategic studies on a deeper understanding of war

Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield) Why did Julian love this book?

Makers of Modern Strategy, comprising 29 essays, is the most compact compendium of the key strategic ideas from the last three centuries, which influence contemporary events. It is a substantial revision of a seminal 1943 text published by Princeton University to inform strategic studies analysts during the Second World War. It is primarily rich in linking national strategies to key thinkers, in historical context, and it covers the full spectrum of social, historical, institutional, economic, revolutionary, and military practices. It is often assigned as standard text in senior military staff colleges. Several of its essays are mandatory readings in my strategic studies classes, particularly on insurgency, and the strategic theories that informed the Third Reich war aims.  

By Peter Paret (editor), Gordon A. Craig (editor), Felix Gilbert (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The essays in this volume analyze war, its strategic characterisitics and its political and social functions, over the past five centuries. The diversity of its themes and the broad perspectives applied to them make the book a work of general history as much as a history of the theory and practice of war from the Renaissance to the present. Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age takes the first part of its title from an earlier collection of essays, published by Princeton University Press in 1943, which became a classic of historical scholarship. Three essays are repinted…


Book cover of Decoding Clausewitz: A New Approach to on War

James Kelly Morningstar Author Of Patton's Way: A Radical Theory of War

From my list on military history for people who think.

Who am I?

I have a passion for this theme because I served as an armor officer in the U.S. Army for more than twenty years. I saw the effect of both thinking and non-thinking commanders first-hand in places like the inter-German border during the Cold War, Iraq in combat during the first Gulf War, and Bosnia in ‘operations other than war.’ My experience drove me to continue my military studies resulting in four degrees, including my PhD and my current occupation as a professor of military history. My search for understanding war and military decision-making reflects a desire to better instruct the future leaders among my college students and readers.

James' book list on military history for people who think

James Kelly Morningstar Why did James love this book?

This too often overlooked classic—written by my PhD advisor—not only explains why Clausewitz wrote his masterpiece but what he was trying to say. In doing so, Sumida breaks conventional understandings of both the great German military philosopher and the very subject of military history. Clausewitz and Sumida combine to eschew history limited to explaining outcomes by linearly tracing them back to their origins and instead advocate for narratives that reveal what the participants saw as their options in the moment and then contextualizes their choices and actions. It is this path that leads to knowledge gained through synthetic experience. Decoding Clausewitz is the single most influential work in my approach to military history.

By Jon Tetsuro Sumida,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For nearly two centuries, On War, by Carl Phillip Gottfried von Clausewitz (1780-1831), has been the bible for statesmen and military professionals, strategists, theorists, and historians concerned about armed conflict. The source of the famous aphorism that "war is an extension of politics by other means," it has been widely read and debated. But, as Jon Sumida shows in this daring new look at Clausewitz's magnum opus, its full meaning has eluded most readers-until now.

Approaching Clausewitz's classic as if it were an encoded text, Sumida deciphers this cryptic masterwork and offers a more productive way of looking at the…


Book cover of The Transnational World of the Cominternians

Oleksa Drachewych Author Of Left Transnationalism

From my list on international communist movement between World Wars.

Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in the topic of international relations and when I started graduate studies, I focused on Russian and Soviet foreign policy between the World Wars. When I began my research, I learned of the existence of the Comintern and was fascinated both by this attempt to develop a worldwide movement and its connection to Soviet foreign policy. Since then, I have focused on trying to understand the individuals who populated the parties and the organization and unearthing a legacy that still resonates today. One cannot fully understand the history of decolonization or of human and civil rights movements without considering the influence of the Comintern. 

Oleksa's book list on international communist movement between World Wars

Oleksa Drachewych Why did Oleksa love this book?

For a long time, studies of the Comintern focused on the political organization itself. Brigitte Studer’s work focuses on developing a cultural history of the organization, focusing on what she calls the “Cominternians,” the various communists who worked in the apparatus. Here, she uses a variety of lenses, from Moscow as a transnational hub, to the role of gender, to the impact of the Stalinist terror on these members. By also focusing on a wide array of experiences, she showcases the hope many Cominternians had, but also the betrayal they experienced as Stalinism changed the movement in the 1930s. Partially responsible for the transnational turn in Comintern studies, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to know more about the organization. 

By Brigitte Studer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The 'Cominternians' who staffed the Communist International in Moscow from its establishment in 1919 to its dissolution in 1943 led transnational lives and formed a cosmopolitan but closed and privileged world. The book tells of their experience in the Soviet Union through the decades of hope and terror.


Book cover of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

Mordecai George Sheftall Author Of Blossoms In The Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze

From my list on how culture makes us do self-destructive things.

Who am I?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up expecting to spend that day – and the rest of my academic career – leisurely studying the interplay of culture and individual temperament in second language acquisition. As the rest of that terrible day unfolded, however, my research up to that point suddenly seemed very small and almost decadently privileged. Recruiting the rudimentary cultural anthropology toolbox I had already amassed, I took a deep breath and plunged into the rabbit hole of studying the role of culture in human conflict. Twenty-two years later, using my Japan base and relevant language skills, my research has focused on the Japanese experience in World War II.

Mordecai's book list on how culture makes us do self-destructive things

Mordecai George Sheftall Why did Mordecai love this book?

Go to any park or public square in any city in the world and you are likely to see statues of people so venerated because they fought/died in some war. Why do we mythologize war, our species’ most destructive collective behavior?

In this 2002 book, written in the second years of the Global War on Terror, American journalist Chris Hedges gives a chilling explanation that, for me, dovetailed perfectly with my readings of Becker and TMT: “Most of us willingly accept war as long as we can fold it into a belief system that paints the ensuing suffering as necessary for a higher good, for human beings seek not only happiness but also meaning. And tragically war is sometimes the most powerful way in society to achieve meaning.”

By Chris Hedges,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a veteran war correspondent, Chris Hedges has survived ambushes in Central America, imprisonment in Sudan, and a beating by Saudi military police. He has seen children murdered for sport in Gaza and petty thugs elevated into war heroes in the Balkans. Hedges, who is also a former divinity student, has seen war at its worst and knows too well that to those who pass through it, war can be exhilarating and even addictive: It gives us purpose, meaning, a reason for living."Drawing on his own experience and on the literature of combat from Homer to Michael Herr, Hedges shows…


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