100 books like The Taming of Democracy Assistance

By Sarah Sunn Bush,

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

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics

Bann Seng Tan Author Of International Aid and Democracy Promotion: Liberalization at the Margins

From my list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way.

Who am I?

Bann Seng Tan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka University. His research interests are on the causes and effects of democratization, the politics of foreign aid, the political economy of natural disasters, aid in decentralization, resurgent authoritarianism, and the democratic peace. His policy proclivities revolve around the defence of the liberal world order. Democracy promotion is but one way to push against authoritarianism. 

Bann's book list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

Bann Seng Tan Why did Bann love this book?

Bueno de Mesquita and Smith emphasize the desire of leaders to seek political survival after all else. The authors show how democratic and autocratic leaders respond to the political institutions that they are embedded in, by having systemically distinct policy proclivities. The academic version of the theory is in their book The Logic of Political Survival. The Dictators’ Handbook is the version meant for popular consumption. It is full of examples of leaders making policy choices that benefit their political survival at the expense of their own people who they profess to rule for. I assign the book to illustrate the theory in classes in Comparative Politics. The examples in the book, all of which are non-fiction, are always popular with undergraduate students.

By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (lead author), Alastair Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith's canonical book on political science turned conventional wisdom on its head. They started from a single assertion: leaders do whatever keeps them in power. They don't care about the "national interest"-or even their subjects-unless they must.

Newly updated to reflect the global rise of authoritarianism, this clever and accessible book illustrates how leaders amass and retain power. As Bueno de Mesquita and Smith show, democracy is essentially just a convenient fiction. Governments do not differ in kind, but only in the number of essential supporters or backs that need scratching. The size of…


Book cover of Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S.-Egyptian Alliance

Bann Seng Tan Author Of International Aid and Democracy Promotion: Liberalization at the Margins

From my list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way.

Who am I?

Bann Seng Tan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka University. His research interests are on the causes and effects of democratization, the politics of foreign aid, the political economy of natural disasters, aid in decentralization, resurgent authoritarianism, and the democratic peace. His policy proclivities revolve around the defence of the liberal world order. Democracy promotion is but one way to push against authoritarianism. 

Bann's book list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

Bann Seng Tan Why did Bann love this book?

Besides foreign aid, there is also military aid. Brownlee’s book is a study of the American-Egyptian alliance during the 30 years of Hosni Mubarak’s regime. His insight is that the US strategic interests are better met with an authoritarian, instead of a democratic, Egypt. Pay attention to his account of the Egyptian parliamentary elections in 2005-2007 and the 2006 Gaza War. Both are instances where US and Egyptian preferences diverge. In the first case, the US backed down once it realized further liberalization could allow the Muslim Brotherhood, an anti-American party to come to power. In the latter case, the US was able to arm-twist a reluctant Egypt as Israeli security was at stake. These eye-opening examples support his claim that the American-Egyptian alliance supports authoritarian survival.

By Jason Brownlee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When a popular revolt forced long-ruling Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign on February 11, 2011, US President Barack Obama hailed the victory of peaceful demonstrators in the heart of the Arab World. But Washington was late to endorse democracy - for decades the United States favored Egypt's rulers over its people. Since 1979, the United States had provided the Egyptian regime with more than $60 billion in aid and immeasurable political support to secure its main interests in the region: Israeli security and strong relations with Persian Gulf oil producers. During the Egyptian uprising, the White House did not…


Book cover of Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa

Bann Seng Tan Author Of International Aid and Democracy Promotion: Liberalization at the Margins

From my list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way.

Who am I?

Bann Seng Tan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka University. His research interests are on the causes and effects of democratization, the politics of foreign aid, the political economy of natural disasters, aid in decentralization, resurgent authoritarianism, and the democratic peace. His policy proclivities revolve around the defence of the liberal world order. Democracy promotion is but one way to push against authoritarianism. 

Bann's book list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

Bann Seng Tan Why did Bann love this book?

Development aid is a type of foreign aid that is directed at the economic development of recipient countries. The failures of government-to-government development aid in Africa are Moyo’s focus. She notes that Africa is the only region that is regressing in major socio-economic indicators. She argues such aid distorts African economies, enables corruption, and incubates a culture of aid dependency. African governments can afford not to provide public goods because their revenue is guaranteed by development aid. To remedy such externalities, Moyo wants to end development aid to Africa. Instead of aid, she prefers free trade with the West and foreign investment from China. This book is remarkable for its willingness to challenge the conventions in development aid. Sometimes, we need to call a spade a spade. 

By Dambisa Moyo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the past fifty years, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse.

In Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo describes the state of postwar development policy in Africa today and unflinchingly confronts one of the greatest myths of our time: that billions of dollars in aid sent from wealthy countries to developing African nations has helped to reduce poverty and increase growth. In…


Book cover of Aid Imperium: United States Foreign Policy and Human Rights in Post-Cold War Southeast Asia

Bann Seng Tan Author Of International Aid and Democracy Promotion: Liberalization at the Margins

From my list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way.

Who am I?

Bann Seng Tan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka University. His research interests are on the causes and effects of democratization, the politics of foreign aid, the political economy of natural disasters, aid in decentralization, resurgent authoritarianism, and the democratic peace. His policy proclivities revolve around the defence of the liberal world order. Democracy promotion is but one way to push against authoritarianism. 

Bann's book list on using foreign aid to do good in a realistic way

Bann Seng Tan Why did Bann love this book?

Regilme studies the negative impact of US foreign aid on Philippines’s and Thailand’s human rights. He argues that the shared policy expectations between the donors and recipient governments and the domestic legitimacy of recipient regime jointly determine the extent of human rights abuse. The recipients with strong domestic legitimacy need only use the foreign aid on legitimate military threats. This was the case for the Philippines and Thailand in the 1990s. When the domestic legitimacy of the recipient regime is weak, that foreign aid is strategically repurposed to include the repression of the political opposition. This explains the human rights abuse in Thaksin and Arroyo administrations. The book helps us understand how authoritarian aid recipients can manipulate foreign aid to seek political survival. 

By Salvador Santino Fulo Regilme,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Does foreign aid promote human rights? As the world's largest aid donor, the United States has provided foreign assistance to more than 200 countries. Deploying global numerical data on US foreign aid and comparative historical analysis of America's post-Cold War foreign policies in Southeast Asia, Aid Imperium provides the most comprehensive explanation that links US strategic assistance to physical integrity rights outcomes in recipient countries, particularly in ways that previous quantitative studies have systematically ignored. The book innovatively highlights the active political agency of Global South states and actors as they negotiate and chart their political trajectories with the United…


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

Daniel Kalder Author Of The Infernal Library

From my list on dictators.

Who am I?

I lived in the former Soviet Union for ten years, primarily in Moscow, the home of many a brutal tyrant. My obsession with dictator literature began after I discovered that Saddam Hussein had written a romance novel, following which I spent many years reading the literary output of all of the 20th century’s most terrible tyrants, from Mussolini to Stalin to the Ayatollah Khomeini. This monumental act of self-torture resulted in my critically acclaimed book The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, And Other Catastrophes of Literacy

Daniel's book list on dictators

Daniel Kalder Why did Daniel love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of Don't Cross the Line!

Diego Vaisberg Author Of Dino

From my list on album books to unleash your children´s imagination.

Who am I?

I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I'm the head behind DGPH illustration and design studio. I'm also an illustration professor of the illustrator major at Palermo University (UP). My passion for kids books and illustration turned me into a full time illustrator combining both passions, illustration, and design. And with time, I started writing my own stories too.

Diego's book list on album books to unleash your children´s imagination

Diego Vaisberg Why did Diego love this book?

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. 

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. This book is for kids age 5, 6, and 7.

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.


Book cover of Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa

Irina Filatova Author Of The Hidden Thread. Russia and South Africa in the Soviet Era

From my list on to understand what is wrong and right with Africa.

Who am I?

I am a South African historian of Russian origin, who has studied and taught African history since the late 1960s. For us, the Russians, Africa was then an alluring terra incognita of wild nature, adventure, human suffering, struggles, and tenacity. I have studied how Africa became what it is for 50 years and lived in it for 30. I have learnt a lot about it, but for me it is still a land of human suffering, struggles and tenacity, wild nature, and adventure, and it is still alluring. 

Irina's book list on to understand what is wrong and right with Africa

Irina Filatova Why did Irina love this book?

Rich in interesting and juicy detail, this account of governance in Africa presents a chronicle, rather than an analysis, of what was, and still is, wrong with the continent. Kenyon tells the story of state and power differently, basing it on personalities and circumstances, rather than ages-long continuities. His personalities are the corrupt leaders of seven unhappy countries, who managed to amass enormous power and keep it for decades. With such personalities come passions, greed, and immeasurable cruelty to their compatriots, all presented in intimate detail, as the author saw it all – he was there. But the global context does not go away. None of his “heroes” could have turned into the monsters they became without the interaction with and support, even if indirect, of global actors who needed the resources which their countries possess, natural or human. 

By Paul Kenyon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Financial Times Book of the Year

'Jaw-dropping' Daily Express

'Grimly fascinating' Financial Times

'Humane, timely, accessible and well-researched' Irish Times

The dictator who grew so rich on his country's cocoa crop that he built a 35-storey-high basilica in the jungles of the Ivory Coast. The austere, incorruptible leader who has shut Eritrea off from the world in a permanent state of war and conscripted every adult into the armed forces. In Equatorial Guinea, the paranoid despot who thought Hitler was the saviour of Africa and waged a relentless campaign of terror against his own people. The Libyan army officer…


Book cover of The Story That Cannot Be Told

Gigi Griffis Author Of The Wicked Unseen

From my list on history for those who find history intimidating.

Who am I?

I came to my passion for history later in life—when I realized I could trade in the endless date memorization I remembered from history class for an exploration of fierce lady pirates like Shek Yeung and unwilling empresses like Sisi of Austria. Historical stories that felt like thrillers, adventures, or mystery novels. Comedies. Tragedies. And most of all: books that didn’t require a history PhD to get swept up in the story. These are the books that made me fall in love with history, and they’re the kind of books I now write. I’m the author of three historical novels, all written first and foremost to sweep you away into a damn good story.

Gigi's book list on history for those who find history intimidating

Gigi Griffis Why did Gigi love this book?

Another way to ease yourself into historical fiction is to start with books for young readers—like this gorgeous, compelling read set during the Communist regime’s fall in Romania in 1989. 

Our heroine is a young girl named Ileana who loves stories, even though stories can be dangerous (like the one that got her uncle arrested for criticizing the government). Afraid for her life, her parents send her to live with grandparents she’s never met—and still she gets caught up in the independence. 

I adored this book as an adult reader and—bonus!—it would be the perfect thing to co-read with a middle schooler or young teen if you’ve got one in your life. 

By J. Kasper Kramer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Story That Cannot Be Told as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

“By turns surprising, poetic, and stark, The Story That Cannot Be Told is one that should most certainly be read.” —Alan Gratz, New York Times bestselling author of Refugee
“A mesmerizing debut.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A powerful middle grade debut with three starred reviews that weaves together folklore and history to tell the story of a girl finding her voice and the strength to use it during the final months of the Communist regime in Romania in 1989.

Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country tore down her home to…


Book cover of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Richard Dresser Author Of It Happened Here

From my list on to read when fascism is creeping in the window.

Who am I?

I’m President of the Writers Guild Initiative, with a mission of giving a voice to populations not being heard (LGBT asylum seekers, exonerated death row prisoners, Dreamers, etc.). In our writing workshops I see how marginalized communities are deprived of their rights and how insidiously minority rule is seizing power. Fascism depends on demonizing the Other, which was weaponized during the Trump years and is exploding on the right. This issue animates my life and work as a writer, mentor, speaker, and teacher. In the USA, democracy is hanging by a thread. My book takes a deep dive into what this means for an American family over the next fifteen years.

Richard's book list on to read when fascism is creeping in the window

Richard Dresser Why did Richard love this book?

This is a short, urgently written handbook for the heart-stopping moments when you hear the sounds of fascism downstairs and realize you forgot to lock the window. “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blazing light.” Fake news, Fox News, alternative facts, the Big Lie, QAnon, the replacement theory, the MAGA movement, evangelical theocracy, and fascism have made their way into our house and are creeping up the stairs and we wait, foolishly believing it will listen to reason.

By Timothy Snyder,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

**NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER**

'A sort of survival book, a sort of symptom-diagnosis manual in terms of losing your democracy and what tyranny and authoritarianism look like up close' Rachel Maddow

'These 128 pages are a brief primer in every important thing we might have learned from the history of the last century, and all that we appear to have forgotten' Observer

History does not repeat, but it does instruct.

In the twentieth century, European democracies collapsed into fascism, Nazism and communism. These were movements in which a leader or a party claimed to give voice to the people, promised…


Book cover of Shatter Me

Katerina St Clair Author Of The Order: Kingdom of Fallen Ash

From my list on dystopian books that leave a mark.

Who am I?

Ever since I could read, I have found myself finding security and escape through the words on the paper. As I grew older, I no longer wanted to just read these realities, I wanted to create them for myself. Writing is the one thing in my mundane existence that has made me feel like more than just a number in the system. I laugh with my characters and love with them. My writing is a part of me that will live long after I am gone. Whether it be a novel, or a simple letter, I want my words to linger with the reader long after the page is turned.

Katerina's book list on dystopian books that leave a mark

Katerina St Clair Why did Katerina love this book?

Shatter Me is one of the most groundbreaking dystopian novels to hit the YA section of any bookstore. She created a world that spoke to my heart, through its originality as well as its diverse character arcs.

Mafi's writing skillfully weaves a gripping tale of dystopia, blending thrilling plotlines, intense romance, and a deep exploration of societal chaos. Juliette's world, painted with Mafi's poetic prose, felt like a refuge where I could truly immerse myself within Julliette’s character.

The unexpected twists left me breathless, creating a connection with the characters that lingered long after I closed the book. The romantic elements, filled with passion and vulnerability, drew me as a reader in, leaving me feeling as if I was in the relationships myself. Mafi's portrayal of a dystopian society made me reflect on power and control in our own world.

Shatter Me isn't just a must-read; it's a personal journey,…

By Tahereh Mafi,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Shatter Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Stranger Things meets Shadow and Bone in this first instalment of an epic and romantic YA fantasy series - perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas and Victoria Aveyard. Now a TikTok phenomenon.

A fragile young teenage girl is held captive. Locked in a cell by The Reestablishment - a harsh dictatorship in charge of a crumbling world. This is no ordinary teenager. Juliette is a threat to The Reestablishment's power. A touch from her can kill - one touch is all it takes. But not only is she a threat, she is potentially the most powerful weapon…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dictatorships, democracy, and politics?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dictatorships, democracy, and politics.

Dictatorships Explore 11 books about dictatorships
Democracy Explore 105 books about democracy
Politics Explore 687 books about politics