74 books like Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes

By Juan J. Linz,

Here are 74 books that Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes fans have personally recommended if you like Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes. 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 The Anatomy of Fascism

Archie Brown Author Of The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War

From my list on authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Throughout the forty-one years (thirty-four of them at Oxford) I spent as a university teacher, I taught a course on Communist government and politics (latterly ‘Communist and post-Communist government’). Communist-ruled systems were never less than highly authoritarian (when they became politically pluralist, they were, by definition, no longer Communist), and in some countries at particular times they were better described as totalitarian. That was notably true of Stalin’s Soviet Union, especially from the early 1930s to the dictator’s death in 1953. The books I’ve written prior to The Human Factor include The Rise and Fall of Communism and The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age.

Archie's book list on authoritarianism and totalitarianism

Archie Brown Why did Archie love this book?

Fascism and Communism purported to explain all social and political phenomena and, on that basis, justified their authoritarian or totalitarian rule. The term ‘fascist’ tends to be loosely applied to intolerant and autocratic political behaviour, but the outstandingly lucid, and highly readable, book by Robert Paxton not only surveys fascism in practice – in Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany and in fascist movements and parties in many different countries – it also shows what its distinctive components are. What he calls the ‘mobilizing passions’ of fascism include the glorification of war and violence, expansionism, racism, a fixation on national solidarity, rejection of the legitimacy of diverse interests and values within a society, and, not least, a cult of the heroic leader, with the leader’s instincts counting for more than reasoned, evidence-based argument.

By Robert O. Paxton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fascism was the major political invention of the twentieth century and the source of much of its pain. How can we try to comprehend its allure and its horror? Is it a philosophy, a movement, an aesthetic experience? What makes states and nations become fascist?

Acclaimed historian Robert O. Paxton shows that in order to understand fascism we must look at it in action - at what it did, as much as what it said it was about. He explores its falsehoods and common threads; the social and political base that allowed it to prosper; its leaders and internal struggles;…


Book cover of Conversations with Gorbachev: On Perestroika, the Prague Spring, and the Crossroads of Socialism

Archie Brown Author Of The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War

From my list on authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Throughout the forty-one years (thirty-four of them at Oxford) I spent as a university teacher, I taught a course on Communist government and politics (latterly ‘Communist and post-Communist government’). Communist-ruled systems were never less than highly authoritarian (when they became politically pluralist, they were, by definition, no longer Communist), and in some countries at particular times they were better described as totalitarian. That was notably true of Stalin’s Soviet Union, especially from the early 1930s to the dictator’s death in 1953. The books I’ve written prior to The Human Factor include The Rise and Fall of Communism and The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age.

Archie's book list on authoritarianism and totalitarianism

Archie Brown Why did Archie love this book?

There are thousands of books on Communism, but the great interest of this one lies in the character and experience of these two former Communists who were the closest of friends during the five years they studied together in Moscow University from 1950 to 1955. One of them, Mikhail Gorbachev, became the last leader of the Soviet Union (1985-91) and the other, Zdenĕk Mlynář, was the main theoretician of the attempt radically to reform Communism in Czechoslovakia in 1968 which became known as the ‘Prague Spring’. After that movement was crushed by Soviet tanks, Mlynář resigned from his political office and was subsequently expelled from the Communist Party. From 1977 until his death in 1997, he lived in Vienna. Because of his close friendship with Gorbachev and the timing of their discussion – shortly after the Soviet Union had ceased to exist – Mlynář was able to press the former…

By Mikhail Gorbachev, Zdenek Mlynar, George Shriver (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mikhail Gorbachev and Zdenek Mlynar were friends for half a century, since they first crossed paths as students in 1950. Although one was a Russian and the other a Czech, they were both ardent supporters of communism and socialism. One took part in laying the groundwork for and carrying out the Prague spring; the other opened a new political era in Soviet world politics. In 1993 they decided that their conversations might be of interest to others and so they began to tape-record them. This book is the product of that "thinking out loud" process. It is an absorbing record…


Book cover of Democratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders

Archie Brown Author Of The Human Factor: Gorbachev, Reagan, and Thatcher, and the End of the Cold War

From my list on authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Throughout the forty-one years (thirty-four of them at Oxford) I spent as a university teacher, I taught a course on Communist government and politics (latterly ‘Communist and post-Communist government’). Communist-ruled systems were never less than highly authoritarian (when they became politically pluralist, they were, by definition, no longer Communist), and in some countries at particular times they were better described as totalitarian. That was notably true of Stalin’s Soviet Union, especially from the early 1930s to the dictator’s death in 1953. The books I’ve written prior to The Human Factor include The Rise and Fall of Communism and The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age.

Archie's book list on authoritarianism and totalitarianism

Archie Brown Why did Archie love this book?

The last book on my list is on the transition from authoritarian rule. It draws on political leaders’ own understandings and perceptions of their political experience as distinct from the analyses of scholars. The latter are not entirely absent, for the interview with the leader of each of the many countries covered is preceded by an essay from a specialist on that country, putting the democratization process there in context. Among the most illuminating of the in-depth interviews are those with Fernando Henrique Cardoso, President of Brazil from 1995 to 2003, with former President of Chile (1990-94) Patricio Aylwin, with former Polish President (1995-2005) Aleksander Kwaśniewski, and with Felipe González, the head of the Spanish government from 1982 to 1996, who played a major part in consolidating Spain’s recently re-established democracy.

By Sergio Bitar, Abraham F. Lowenthal,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

National leaders who played key roles in transitions to democratic governance reveal how these were accomplished in Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa, and Spain. Commissioned by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), these interviews shed fascinating light on how repressive regimes were ended and democracy took hold. In probing conversations with Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Patricio Aylwin, Ricardo Lagos, John Kufuor, Jerry Rawlings, B J Habibie, Ernesto Zedillo, Fidel V Ramos, Aleksander Kwasniewski, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, F W de Klerk, Thabo Mbeki, and Felipe Gonzalez, editors Sergio Bitar and Abraham F Lowenthal focused…


Book cover of 1984

Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi Author Of Legacy of the Third Way

From my list on books to take you to the future.

Why am I passionate about this?

From a young age, I've been captivated by evolution and its implications for the future. I immersed myself in classical works of philosophy and literature that explored human emotions and our relentless drive to succeed against all odds, advancing human knowledge and shaping society. This fascination with understanding the future led me to write op-ed pieces on foreign policy and geopolitics for prominent newspapers in South Asia. My desire to contribute to a better future inspired me to author three nonfiction books covering topics such as the Islamic Social Contract, Lessons from the Quran, and Reflections on God,  Science, and Human Nature. 

Abdul's book list on books to take you to the future

Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi Why did Abdul love this book?

Humans are always curious about what the future will look like. They are also concerned about the state impinging on their privacy and interfering with their lives. George Orwell masterfully combined these two human impulses in his classic novel. He wrote the book in 1949 to present his view of the future.

I read this book when I was in my mid-20s. I found it an interesting read, especially since many of his predictions did not come true. I was curious to know how past generations viewed our generation. 

By George Orwell,

Why should I read it?

42 authors picked 1984 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU . . .

1984 is the year in which it happens. The world is divided into three superstates. In Oceania, the Party's power is absolute. Every action, word, gesture and thought is monitored under the watchful eye of Big Brother and the Thought Police. In the Ministry of Truth, the Party's department for propaganda, Winston Smith's job is to edit the past. Over time, the impulse to escape the machine and live independently takes hold of him and he embarks on a secret and forbidden love affair. As he writes the words 'DOWN WITH BIG…


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 The Orphan Master's Son

Robert S. Boynton Author Of The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea's Abduction Project

From my list on understanding North Korea.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated by North Korea during a six-month fellowship in Tokyo in 2008. Japan was still dealing with the aftermath of the return of some of its abducted citizens in 2002. It turned out that North Korea had been abducting people—South Koreans, Japanese, and others—since the 1970s. I began interviewing some of the returnees and embarked on an eight-year journey that took me back to Japan and South Korea many times. Throughout my research and reporting, I became convinced that the truth of the abductions, much like the truth of the region, lay between Korea and Japan. I was drawn to books that tried to come to terms with the uncomfortable relationship between two cultures whose similarities are trumped by their mutual animosity.

Robert's book list on understanding North Korea

Robert S. Boynton Why did Robert love this book?

Adam Johnson visited North Korea once as a tourist. Based on his keen observations during those weeks, he spins a fantastic tale about Pak Jun Do, an orphaned boy who uses treachery and deception to rise to a high position in the North Korean regime. Pak is part of a crew that kidnaps a little girl from Japan, and later marries North Korea’s most famous actress. The genius of the book is that Johnson imbues the characters with believable personalities, even as he moves them through a nightmarish reality most would find completely unbelievable. The book is so good that one need not have any interest in, or knowledge of, North Korea to enjoy it.

By Adam Johnson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

- WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION
- NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
- NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
- 'You know you are in the hands of someone who can tell a story. Fantastic' ZADIE SMITH
The award-winning and New York Times bestselling novel: a dark and witty story of the rise of a young orphan in the surreal and tyrannical regime of North Korea .

Young Pak Jun Do is convinced he is special. He knows he must be the unique son of the master of the orphanage, and definitely not some kid dumped by his parents. Surely it…


Book cover of The Voice Imitator

Steven Sherrill Author Of The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

From my list on short stories to send your mind into the sublime.

Why am I passionate about this?

Most of my public success has been as a novelist. My MFA, from the Iowa Writers Workshop, is in poetry. When I grow up, I want to be a short story writer. The dirty truth is, though, I’ve been making trouble with stories since I was a kid. During my first attempt in 10th grade, I wrote a story that got me suspended for two weeks. No explanation. No guidance. Just a conference between my parents, teachers, and principal (I wasn’t present), and they came out and banished me. I dropped out of school shortly after. I reckon that experience, both shameful and delicious, shaped my life and love of narrative.

Steven's book list on short stories to send your mind into the sublime

Steven Sherrill Why did Steven love this book?

The title alone sets the stage. This is meta at its most meta-ness. Who is narrating? Who is listening? Is the author complicit in the sometimes catastrophic, always deeply strange, events that unfold in these tiny tales? More importantly, do we the readers play a role? Less is more. Lesser still is even more more. The reach of suggestion. A knockout punch of inference. 

By Thomas Bernhard, Kenneth J. Northcott (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Austrian playwright, novelist, and poet Thomas Bernhard (1931-89) is acknowledged as among the major writers of our times. At once pessimistic and exhilarating, Bernhard's work depicts the corruption of the modern world, the dynamics of totalitarianism, and the interplay of reality and appearance.

In this stunning translation of The Voice Imitator, Bernhard gives us one of his most darkly comic works. A series of parable-like anecdotes-some drawn from newspaper reports, some from conversation, some from hearsay-this satire is both subtle and acerbic. What initially appear to be quaint little stories inevitably indict the sterility and callousness of modern life,…


Book cover of The Road to Serfdom

Andrew Koppelman Author Of Burning Down the House: How Libertarian Philosophy Was Corrupted by Delusion and Greed

From my list on libertarian philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in human freedom, and both intrigued and cautious about the path offered by the libertarians. In my book, I finally worked out for my own benefit what is alive and what is dead in their ideals – and the various flavors in which those ideals are available. They have important insights, but too much of what they are selling is snake oil. Until now there hasn’t been any critical introduction to libertarianism for the general reader. This book aims to supply that.

Andrew's book list on libertarian philosophy

Andrew Koppelman Why did Andrew love this book?

The classic exposition of the idea that central governmental economic planning will inevitably be wasteful and tyrannical. Hayek today is caricatured by both right and left, but he is not the minimal state absolutist that both sides often take him to be. Hayek thinks that the way to attack poverty is not redistribution – there isn’t yet enough wealth in existence to give everyone a decent life – but the opportunities created by free markets. Another impetus for my own work was reading this book and discovering that I agreed with him much more than I had expected to. 

By F. A. Hayek, Bruce Caldwell (editor),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Road to Serfdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unimpeachable classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, "The Road to Serfdom" has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. Originally published in 1944 - when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the socialist program - "The Road to Serfdom" was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For F. A. Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to a utopia but…


Book cover of Swastika Night

Dorian Lynskey Author Of The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's 1984

From my list on totalitarianism not written by George Orwell.

Why am I passionate about this?

In The Ministry of Truth, I wanted to bring together two longstanding interests: dystopian fiction and the history of totalitarianism. Nineteen Eighty-Four is of course a landmark work in both categories. In trying to explain how and why Orwell came to write his masterpiece, and its subsequent influence on fiction and political thought, I read a huge range of books that wrestled with the horrors of Nazism and Stalinism and asked how they were able to hold sway, physically and mentally, over tens of millions of people. Many of them are gripping and valuable but these five in particular make for great companions to 1984.

Dorian's book list on totalitarianism not written by George Orwell

Dorian Lynskey Why did Dorian love this book?

The identity of “Murray Constantine” wasn’t uncovered until the 1980s, long after Burdekin’s death, but only a woman could have created such a persuasive patriarchal dystopia, half a century before The Handmaid’s Tale. Burdekin’s futuristic Nazi empire, a brutally misogynist quasi-religion, is dying slowly from within and an English airman named Alfred has been given explosive proof that Hitler was not in fact a Thor-like deity. Though the plot fizzles out, the ideas are extraordinarily ahead of their time.

By Katharine Burdekin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Published in 1937, twelve years before Orwell's 1984, Swastika Night projects a totally male-controlled fascist world that has eliminated women as we know them. Women are breeders, kept as cattle, while men in this post-Hitlerian world are embittered automatons, fearful of all feelings, having abolished all history, education, creativity, books, and art. The plot centers on a “misfit” who asks, “How could this have happened?”


Book cover of Amberlough

Dan Stout Author Of Titanshade

From my list on set in a modern fantasy world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Full disclosure: I am a fantasy world nerd! I treasure my visits to these imaginary places, and I love imagining how the world goes on after the last page. I’ve spent hours pondering what would happen in Narnia after the invention of the internal combustion engine, or in Middle Earth when populations reach levels requiring building codes and infrastructure planning. (I told you I was a nerd!) Advancing fantasy technologies creates new problems, new solutions, and new parallels to our own time. The books on this list redefine our assumptions of what a fantasy world is, and what stories they have to share.

Dan's book list on set in a modern fantasy world

Dan Stout Why did Dan love this book?

Oh, man… I love this book so much! Donnelly writes the kind of prose that makes me jealous. I frequently stop and go back, rereading her words just to savor the imagery and effortless flow. Characterizations are rich and full, not only for the leads but also for the background characters. Now, I need to point out that there is no magic in this book, so if you’re looking for dragons and lightning bolts, it won’t scratch that itch. But Amberlough feels like a proper fantasy world, and that earns it a place on this list. if you enjoy the encroaching global conflict of Lord of the Rings, but also love John LeCarre and Cabaret, Amberlough is the perfectly-blended cocktail you’ve been looking for.

By Lara Elena Donnelly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A double-agent sacrifices all his ideals in order to save his smuggler lover before a government coup takes over their decadent city in Lara Elena Donnelly’s glam spy thriller debut, now a Nebula finalist for Best Novel!

“Exploring the roots of hatred, nationalism, and fascism, while at the same time celebrating the diversity, love, romance, fashion, and joy the world is capable of producing.” ―Bookriot

In Amberlough, amidst rising political tensions, three lives become intertwined with the fate of the city itself.

The Smuggler: By day, Aristide Makricosta is the emcee for Amberlough City’s top nightclub. By night, he moves…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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