The most recommended books on the East–West dichotomy

Who picked these books? Meet our 30 experts.

30 authors created a book list connected to the East–West dichotomy, and here are their favorite East–West dichotomy books.
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What type of East–West dichotomy book?


Book cover of Easternization: Asia's Rise and America's Decline From Obama to Trump and Beyond

Vinícius Guilherme Rodrigues Vieira Author Of Shaping Nations and Markets: Identity Capital, Trade, and the Populist Rage

From my list on understanding the transformation of capitalism and globalisation.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since 2008, I have conducted research on themes related to International Political Economy. I am currently the co-chair of the research committee on this topic at the International Political Science Association (IPSA) and am passionate about making sense of the interplay between material and symbolic factors that shape capitalism and globalisation. Being based in Brazil, I was stuck when the country—which did not have salient identity cleavages in politics—came to be, after 2008, a hotspot of religious-based right-wing populism associated with the defence of trade liberalisation as globalisation started to face meaningful backlash from White-majority constituencies who are relatively losers of the post-Cold War order in the advanced industrialised democracies.

Vinícius' book list on understanding the transformation of capitalism and globalisation

Vinícius Guilherme Rodrigues Vieira Why did Vinícius love this book?

Being one of the first books to scrutinize the origins of Trumpism and its impact beyond U.S. borders, I very much appreciate the argument that right-wing populism in the West—which includes the forces that culminated in the Brexit process—shall be a catalyser for the power transition to the East.

Hence, the likely end of Western dominance does not arise only from Asian continuous economic growth but would also stem from the centrifugal forces that emerged at the heart of the advanced industrial democracies.

By Gideon Rachman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


From the winner of the 2016 Orwell Prize and the European Press Prize for Commentator of the Year, a provocative analysis of how a new era of global instability has begun, as the flow of wealth and power turns from West to East.
Easternization is the defining trend of our age — the growing wealth of Asian nations is transforming the international balance of power. This shift to the East is shaping the lives of people all over the world, the fate of nations, and the great questions of war and peace.
A troubled…

Book cover of The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State

Jaideep Prabhu Author Of How Should a Government Be?: The New Levers of State Power

From my list on what modern governments can do for their citizens.

Why am I passionate about this?

A professor of business at the University of Cambridge, I've spent over two decades studying innovation. I've been particularly interested in “frugal innovation”: how small teams now use ubiquitous tools and technologies to achieve what only large corporations or governments could a decade ago. I've written two books about this phenomenon: Jugaad Innovation and Frugal Innovation about the private sector. Whenever I gave talks about them, there was always the question: What does this mean for governments? I began to study how the state could use new technologies and ways of organizing to deliver services to its citizens better, faster and cheaper, and how governments should regulate and cultivate such tools used by the private sector.

Jaideep's book list on what modern governments can do for their citizens

Jaideep Prabhu Why did Jaideep love this book?

The authors of this book were stalwarts of The Economist for many years. They bring to this book all their considerable powers as writers and analysts of contemporary politics and economics. Again, this book was a major source of inspiration for my own book. After discussing prior revolutions in the scale and scope of the state over the last two centuries, The Fourth Revolution argues that: 1) reform of the state is essential, and 2) this reform is possible because it is already happening all over the world thanks to new technology. This book, therefore, served for me as the launching point for my own book which looks at a great number of these actual changes in governments around the world that are taking place on the back of new technologies and forms of organization. 

By John Micklethwait, Adrian Wooldridge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the bestselling authors of The Right Nation, a visionary argument that our current crisis in government is nothing less than the fourth radical transition in the history of the nation-state

Dysfunctional government: It's become a cliche, and most of us are resigned to the fact that nothing is ever going to change. As John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge show us, that is a seriously limited view of things. In fact, there have been three great revolutions in government in the history of the modern world. The West has led these revolutions, but now we are in the midst of…

Book cover of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Chiara Terzuolo Author Of Hidden Japan: A guidebook to Tokyo & beyond

From my list on books before visiting Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been studying Japanese since 2008, studied in the country twice, and then finally made my home here in 2011. Over the years, I have been to 43 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, writing articles about my experiences and constantly searching for new, hidden places where I could still find a touch of the Japan of yore. With so many people visiting the country, I want to do my part to give folks options that are off the beaten path and away from the crowds. 

Chiara's book list on books before visiting Japan

Chiara Terzuolo Why did Chiara love this book?

While, of course, as a fiction book, it gets a bit fantastical at times, this book captures the true oddity and tension of the end of Japan’s sakoku era, when the country was cut off from the world, except for a few highly controlled ports like Dejima in Nagasaki.

I loved how well the author expressed the feeling of time and place and laughed at how some things still haven’t changed. 

By David Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller, from the author of CLOUD ATLAS and THE BONE CLOCKS.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010

'Brilliant' - The Times
'A masterpiece' - Scotsman

Be transported to a place like no other: a tiny, man-made island in the bay of Nagasaki, for two hundred years the sole gateway between Japan and the West. Here, in the dying days of the 18th-century, a young Dutch clerk arrives to make his fortune. Instead he loses his heart.

Step onto the streets of Dejima and mingle with scheming traders, spies, interpreters, servants and concubines as two…

Book cover of The Map of Knowledge: A Thousand-Year History of How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found

Mary Soderstrom Author Of Against the Seas: Saving Civilizations from Rising Waters

From Mary's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Curious Optimistic Perseverant

Mary's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Mary Soderstrom Why did Mary love this book?

Lately, I've been worrying about the end of civilization, but this book made me think that maybe we'll make it through.

Last summer's wildfires, heat waves, and torrential rains can turn you pretty gloomy, and at first glance, Violet Moller's book wouldn't seem to allay those dark thoughts. But she details how the wisdom of the classical Greeks and Romans survived during Europe's Dark Ages because they were cherished by Arabic and Islamic scholars in a series of great centres of learning that stretched from Baghdad to Spain. 

Moller's book shows once again just how resilient people can be. 

By Violet Moller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A lovely debut from a gifted young author. Violet Moller brings to life the ways in which knowledge reached us from antiquity to the present day in a book that is as delightful as it is readable.' Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads

In The Map of Knowledge Violet Moller traces the journey taken by the ideas of three of the greatest scientists of antiquity - Euclid, Galen and Ptolemy - through seven cities and over a thousand years. In it, we follow them from sixth-century Alexandria to ninth-century Baghdad, from Muslim Cordoba to Catholic Toledo, from Salerno's medieval…

Book cover of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire: 20 years after 9/11

Evelyn Alsultany Author Of Broken: The Failed Promise of Muslim Inclusion

From my list on Islamophobia and the War on Terror.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in New York City in the 1980s as an Arab Latina American Muslim, which shaped my interest in who is considered American. Back then, there was no language to talk about my experience of marginalization as Arab or Muslim. That changed after 9/11 and the War on Terror. A decade after that, the term “Islamophobia” entered the US lexicon, leading to social recognition of this form of discrimination, and many important debates about what constitutes Islamophobia. I made my career exploring how Arabs and Muslims figure into US racial politics, and am currently a professor of US Ethnic Studies at the University of Southern California.

Evelyn's book list on Islamophobia and the War on Terror

Evelyn Alsultany Why did Evelyn love this book?

This is a remarkable book that offers a clear historical overview of Islamophobia in the US, going back several centuries.

Kumar shows that it is geopolitics that shapes whether Muslims are seen as friends or enemies. Thus the origin of Islamophobia is not a problem with Islam itself, but rather in US endeavors to remain a global empire. Besides Islamophobia, the books offers clear explanations to understand terrorism, the War on Terror, and empire.

By Deepa Kumar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this incisive account, leading scholar of Islamophobia Deepa Kumar traces the history of anti-Muslim racism from the early modern era to the "War on Terror." Importantly, Kumar contends that Islamophobia is best understood as racism rather than as religious intolerance. An innovative analysis of anti-Muslim racism and empire, Islamophobia argues that empire creates the conditions for anti-Muslim racism, which in turn sustains empire.

This book, now updated to include the end of the Trump's presidency, offers a clear and succinct explanation of how Islamophobia functions in the United States both as a set of coercive policies and as a…

Book cover of Spies: The Epic Intelligence War Between East and West

Peter Dixon Author Of Return to Vienna: The Special Operations Executive and the Rebirth of Austria

From Peter's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author WW2 author Christian Military pilot Educator

Peter's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Peter Dixon Why did Peter love this book?

The secret world has been my area of research and writing for several years, so this account of the 100-year saga of intelligence rivalry between Russia and the West puts my writing about undercover WW2 operations in its proper context.

More than that, the century-old secret East-West war helps to make sense of the Russia-Ukraine war that started in February 2022. Always gripping, the stories hold the attention, partly because much detail is consigned to the many pages of notes. When reading a book like this, I often find as much value in the footnotes as in the main text, and here they are particularly comprehensive.

I spent many happy hours diving down rabbit holes to pursue an interesting story, before returning to pick up the thread of the main narrative.

By Calder Walton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The riveting story of the hundred-year intelligence war between Russia and the West with lessons for our new superpower conflict with China

'A masterpiece' CHRISTOPHER ANDREW, author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5

'The book we have all been waiting for' BRENDAN SIMMS, author of Hitler: A Global Biography

'Gripping, authoritative... A vivid account of intelligence skulduggery' Kirkus

Espionage, election meddling, disinformation, assassinations, subversion, and sabotage - all attract headlines today about Putin's dictatorship. But they are far from new. The West has a long-term Russia problem, not a Putin problem. Spies mines hitherto secret…

Book cover of Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes

Andrea Rugh Author Of Egyptian Advice Columnists: Envisioning the Good Life in an Era of Extremism

From my list on how culture influences Middle Eastern history.

Why am I passionate about this?

From over three decades of work on development projects in countries of the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Africa, I am convinced that when efforts fail, it is invariably because we lack the cultural understanding of what people want or how we provide it. These books all reinforce my point by either underlining the way culture shapes the way people see the world or by showing how when we neglect culture, we do so at our own peril. Culture can be discovered through multiple entry points with these books offering a good start. Even something as mundane as advice columns in newspapers offer political insights when plumbed for the meanings below the surface.

Andrea's book list on how culture influences Middle Eastern history

Andrea Rugh Why did Andrea love this book?

This is my favorite book for showing how culture affects perceptions of history. Ansari writes brilliantly of the time between the Prophet Muhammad and the fall of the Ottoman Empire and beyond. My favorite quote about differences between Western and Eastern cultures, says it all: “What looks from one side like a campaign to secure greater rights for citizens…looks from the other side like powerful strangers inserting themselves into the private affairs of families and undercutting people’s ability to maintain their communal selves as families and tribal networks. In short what looks from one side like empowering each individual, looks from the other side like disempowering whole communities” (p.353). The book is full of similar cultural insights and is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the Middle East. 

By Tamim Ansary,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Western narrative of world history largely omits a whole civilization. Destiny Disrupted tells the history of the world from the Islamic point of view, and restores the centrality of the Muslim perspective, ignored for a thousand years.

In Destiny Disrupted, Tamim Ansary tells the rich story of world history as it looks from a new perspective: with the evolution of the Muslim community at the center. His story moves from the lifetime of Mohammed through a succession of far-flung empires, to the tangle of modern conflicts that culminated in the events of 9/11. He introduces the key people, events,…

Book cover of Orientalism

Robert Govers Author Of Imaginative Communities: Admired Cities, Regions and Countries

From my list on managing the reputation of cities and countries.

Why am I passionate about this?

Driving cars through Europe and the Sahara Desert to sell them in Niger and exploring China and Russia on the Trans-Siberia Express (1992) as a student, I quickly realised that what we think we know about the world is very superficial, cliché, and stereotype. This made me embark on a PhD supervised by Erasmus University Rotterdam professor Frank M. Go (may he rest in peace), to whom I am forever grateful for suggesting the classic literature on this page. Now I advise governments, I am founding chairman of the International Place Branding Association, co-editor of the journal of Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, and a passionate visiting scholar in Beijing, London, Milan, Rotterdam, and Turin.  

Robert's book list on managing the reputation of cities and countries

Robert Govers Why did Robert love this book?

Another classic work that inspired my passion for the domain that I work in.

Saïd thoroughly illustrates how media agenda setting and framing, socio-cultural biases and generalisation impact the way we see the world. It is largely driven by clichés and stereotypes. What is needed is “respect for the concrete detail of human experience, understanding that arises from viewing the Other compassionately, knowledge gained and diffused through moral and intellectual honesty.”

I couldn’t agree more.

By Edward W. Said,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The seminal work that has redefined our understanding of colonialism and empire, with a preface by the author

'Stimulating, elegant and pugnacious' Observer
'Magisterial' Terry Eagleton

In this highly-acclaimed work, Edward Said surveys the history and nature of Western attitudes towards the East, considering orientalism as a powerful European ideological creation - a way for writers, philosophers and colonial administrators to deal with the 'otherness' of eastern culture, customs and beliefs. He traces this view through the writings of Homer, Nerval and Flaubert, Disraeli and Kipling, whose imaginative depictions have greatly contributed to the West's romantic and exotic picture of…

Book cover of The Silk Roads: A New History of the World

Kenneth W. Harl Author Of Empires of the Steppes: A History of the Nomadic Tribes Who Shaped Civilization

From my list on how the nomadic peoples enriched and shaped civilizations across Eurasia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Professor Emeritus of Classical and Byzantine History, and I was fascinated by Attila and the Hun and Genghis Khan from early childhood when I decided that I would become a historian. I set out to write the history of the Eurasian nomads from their perspective, and so convey their neglected history to a wider readership.

Kenneth's book list on how the nomadic peoples enriched and shaped civilizations across Eurasia

Kenneth W. Harl Why did Kenneth love this book?

A literate history of the economic and religious history of Europe, the Middle East, and adjacent Eursian steppes from fifth century B.C. down to the opening of the twenty-first century. I found the book a delight to read.

The first ten chapters are complementary to my work Empires of the Steppes. Professor Frankopan, however, continues the story to emergence of the global economy based on oceanic trade. The excellent analysis of colonial rivalries of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is a must reading for understanding the geopolitical role of Eurasia today the Belt and Road initiative of China.

By Peter Frankopan,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Silk Roads as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The No. 1 Sunday Times and international bestseller - a major reassessment of world history in light of the economic and political renaissance in the re-emerging east For centuries, fame and fortune was to be found in the west - in the New World of the Americas. Today, it is the east which calls out to those in search of adventure and riches. The region stretching from eastern Europe and sweeping right across Central Asia deep into China and India, is taking centre stage in international politics, commerce and culture - and is shaping the modern world. This region, the…

Book cover of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Linda Åkeson McGurk Author Of There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom's Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge)

From my list on parenting secrets from other cultures.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Swedish American journalist, blogger, and author whose writings about Scandinavian parenting culture have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and online publications across the world, including,, and Green Child Magazine. I’m particularly interested in the role of nature in childhood and believe the best memories are created outside, while jumping in puddles, digging in dirt, catching bugs and climbing trees. In 2013, I started the blog Rain or Shine Mamma to inspire other parents and caregivers to get outside with their children every day, regardless of the weather. I’m currently working on my second book, about the Nordic outdoor tradition friluftsliv, which will be published by Tarcher Perigee in 2022.

Linda's book list on parenting secrets from other cultures

Linda Åkeson McGurk Why did Linda love this book?

Chua set off an international firestorm with her memoir, a frank account of the trials and tribulations of raising her two daughters the Chinese way in the U.S. Her strict, achievement-oriented parenting tactics often run counter to mainstream Western ideals about raising children and have drawn harsh criticism from many readers. Whether you agree with her methods or not, it’s impossible not to be touched by Chua’s book. 

By Amy Chua,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A SUNDAY TIMES AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER: the most talked-about book of the year 'Blissfully funny' India Knight, Sunday Times 'Entertaining, bracingly honest and, yes, thought-provoking' New York Times 'A treat from first to last: ruefully funny, endlessly self-deprecating, riven with ironies .. I relished this memoir' I Updated with a new postscript by Amy Chua and a letter from her eldest daughter, Sophia Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. It was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western…