The best international relations books

Who picked these books? Meet our 182 experts.

182 authors created a book list connected to international relations, and here are their favorite international relations books.
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Overreach

By Owen Matthews,

Book cover of Overreach: The Inside Story of Putin's War Against Ukraine

Shane O'Rourke Author Of Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, Princess Isabel and the Ending of Servile Labour in Russia and Brazil

From the list on explaining Russia’s War against Ukraine.

Who am I?

I am teacher of Russian History in the University of York and have been in both countries many times. Russia’s war against Ukraine is something that has touched me personally and professionally in the most profound way: witnessing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been heartbreaking. Understanding why that war happened and what its consequences will be is of vital importance for anyone interested in the modern world, in justice, and the future of Europe. These books offer clear, passionate, and compelling accounts of the war, explaining the historical background, the immediate causes, the principle actors, and the Russian way of waging of the war.

Shane's book list on explaining Russia’s War against Ukraine

Discover why each book is one of Shane's favorite books.

Why did Shane love this book?

Owen Matthews is a journalist with unrivalled knowledge of the Russian political establishment.

A native Russian and English speaker, he spent many years working for the Moscow Times. He presents a fascinating account of the inner working of the Russian elite, not only of Putin, but of those in a position to influence him.

He charts the process, step by step, how Putin came to take his disastrous decision to launch the war against Ukraine, which in a matter of weeks has undone 30 years of development and progress in Russia. Disconcertingly but convincingly, he concludes that the Russian elites and the majority of the population still share Putin’s imperial fantasies, especially regarding Ukraine.

By Owen Matthews,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*A Telegraph Book of the Year*

*Shortlisted for the Parliamentary Book Awards*

An astonishing investigation into the start of the Russo-Ukrainian war - from the corridors of the Kremlin to the trenches of Mariupol.

The Russo-Ukrainian War is the most serious geopolitical crisis since the Second World War - and yet at the heart of the conflict is a mystery. Vladimir Putin apparently lurched from a calculating, subtle master of opportunity to a reckless gambler, putting his regime - and Russia itself - at risk of destruction. Why?

Drawing on over 25 years' experience as a correspondent in Moscow, as…


Iran's Persian Gulf Policy

By Christin Marschall,

Book cover of Iran's Persian Gulf Policy: From Khomeini to Khatami

Birol Baskan Author Of Turkey and Qatar in the Tangled Geopolitics of the Middle East

From the list on the Persian/Arabian Gulf international politics.

Who am I?

The events/developments that unsettle international politics of the Gulf are two kinds: internal and external to the region. Yet, no matter whether it is internal or external, its consequences concern us all, no matter where we live in. What happens in the Gulf does not stay in the Gulf. It unleashes ripple effects that reach directly or indirectly into our pockets and hence our lives. I am one of them and a non-resident scholar in the Middle East Institute, broadly speaking, writing on Turkey, the Persian/Arab Gulf, and the Middle East. 

Birol's book list on the Persian/Arabian Gulf international politics

Discover why each book is one of Birol's favorite books.

Why did Birol love this book?

After the US it is Iran. In fact the US is in the Gulf thanks and due to Iran. Iran poses a, real or perceived, security risk to other littoral states of the Gulf and balancing it constitutes the latter’s sublime foreign policy objective. It is also due to Iran that the Arab Gulf states spend billions of dollars on their armaments and engage in proxy-power struggles in other parts of the Middle East. Why is Iran a pariah in the Gulf? For a solid account read this book.

By Christin Marschall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Iran's Persian Gulf Policy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The study is based on Persian, Arabic, English, French and German newspaper reports, as well as interviews with Iranian and Arab diplomats - adds a novel and interesting aspect to the study

Will appeal to the general reader interested in the Modern Middle East, as well as policy-makers and students of Modern Middle Eastern studies and International Relations

There have been no extended studies on the Persian Gulf Policy of the Islamic Republic covering the first two decades of its existence


Invasion

By Luke Harding,

Book cover of Invasion: Russia's Bloody War and Ukraine's Fight for Survival

Shane O'Rourke Author Of Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, Princess Isabel and the Ending of Servile Labour in Russia and Brazil

From the list on explaining Russia’s War against Ukraine.

Who am I?

I am teacher of Russian History in the University of York and have been in both countries many times. Russia’s war against Ukraine is something that has touched me personally and professionally in the most profound way: witnessing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been heartbreaking. Understanding why that war happened and what its consequences will be is of vital importance for anyone interested in the modern world, in justice, and the future of Europe. These books offer clear, passionate, and compelling accounts of the war, explaining the historical background, the immediate causes, the principle actors, and the Russian way of waging of the war.

Shane's book list on explaining Russia’s War against Ukraine

Discover why each book is one of Shane's favorite books.

Why did Shane love this book?

Luke Harding is a journalist who has spent many years as The Guardian correspondent in Ukraine including the present war.

The book is a mixture of historical analysis and on-the-spot reporting which makes it read like a thriller. It is vivid and at times harrowing, particularly the reports from Bucha after the massacres there. Harding pulls no punches, arguing the brutality of the war comes from Putin himself: ‘His apparent goal: the annihilation of a country, a culture and its citizens.’

Complicit in this genocidal operation are the Russian media elite who frequently openly call for the extermination of the Ukrainian nation. An excellent account from an impeccable source. 

By Luke Harding,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A FINALIST FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL WRITING

The first book of reportage from the front line of the Ukraine war. This is a powerful, moving first draft of history written by the award-winning Guardian journalist and #1 New York Times bestselling author of Collusion and Shadow State.

'An excellent, moving account of an ongoing tragedy.' ANNE APPLEBAUM

'Compelling, important and heartbreaking.' SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE

'Essential reading.' ELIOT HIGGINS, founder of Bellingcat

'Brilliant.' ANDREY KURKOV

For months, the omens had pointed in one scarcely believable direction: Russia was about to invade Ukraine. And yet, the world was stunned by…


One Minute to Midnight

By Michael Dobbs,

Book cover of One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War

Francis Gary Powers Jr.

From the list on the Cuban Missile Crisis and aerial reconnaissance.

Who am I?

Both my parents worked for the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s. On May 1, 1960 my father was shot down over the Soviet Union while on a CIA U-2 spy flight and spent nearly 2 years in a Soviet prison before being exchanged for Soviet KGB Spy Colonel Rudolph Abel in 1962 as recently depicted in Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller, Bridge of Spies. As a result of growing up in this family I have always been interested in espionage and the Cold War. In 1996, I founded The Cold War Museum to honor Cold War veterans, preserve Cold War history, and educate future generations about this time period.

Francis' book list on the Cuban Missile Crisis and aerial reconnaissance

Discover why each book is one of Francis' favorite books.

Why did Francis love this book?

Back in October 2012, I organized the 50th-anniversary conference on the Cuban Missile Crisis for The Cold War Museum and George Mason University. Michael Dobbs was one of the panelists along with Sergei Khrushchev and Dino Brugioni. It was great to hear Michael Dobbs talk about his book and the research he did to bring this history alive. It was an honor and privilege to join him again in October 2022 as a co-panelist for the DIA’s 60th-anniversary conference on the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a result of his research, this book was named as one of five non-fiction books of the year by The Washington Post and is an hour-by-hour account of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

By Michael Dobbs,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked One Minute to Midnight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

October 27, 1962, a day dubbed Black Saturday in the Kennedy White House. The Cuban missile crisis is at its height, and the world is drawing ever closer to nuclear apocalypse.

As the opposing Cold War leaders, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, mobilize their forces to fight a nuclear war on land, sea and air, the world watches in terror. In Bobby Kennedy's words, 'There was a feeling that the noose was tightening on all of us, on Americans, on mankind, and that the bridges to escape were crumbling.'

In One Minute to Midnight Michael Dobbs brings a fresh…


The Billion Dollar Spy

By David E. Hoffman,

Book cover of The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal

Steve Vogel Author Of Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War's Most Audacious Espionage Operation

From the list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage.

Who am I?

I am an author and veteran journalist who reported for The Washington Post for more than two decades, and I write frequently about military history and intelligence. My father worked for the CIA, and I was born in Berlin when he was stationed there as a case officer. Later I was based in Germany as a foreign correspondent when the Berlin Wall came down. So it’s not too surprising that I am interested in Cold War espionage and history. As a reporter, author, and reader, I’ve always been attracted to stories off the beaten track, the ones that most people know little or nothing about. 

Steve's book list on accurate non-fiction about Cold War espionage

Discover why each book is one of Steve's favorite books.

Why did Steve love this book?

Hoffman tells the previously little-known story of Soviet military engineer Adolf Tolkachev, whose disgust with the communist regime inspired him to turn over enormously valuable secrets to the CIA station in Moscow beginning in the late 1970s. Hoffman’s careful reporting allows him to describe in meticulous and fascinating detail the remarkable techniques and great risks involved in running an agent in Moscow late in the Cold War.

By David E. Hoffman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WATERSTONES NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE MONTH AUGUST 2018 AND A SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

'An astonishingly detailed picture of espionage in the 1980s, written with pacey journalistic verve and an eerily contemporary feel.' Ben Macintyre, The Times

'A gripping story of courage, professionalism, and betrayal in the secret world.' Rodric Braithwaite, British Ambassador in Moscow, 1988-1992

'One of the best spy stories to come out of the Cold War and all the more riveting for being true.' Washington Post

January, 1977. While the chief of the CIA's Moscow station fills his gas tank, a stranger drops a note into the car.…


1948

By Benny Morris,

Book cover of 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War

Raphael Cohen-Almagor Author Of Israeli Institutions at the Crossroads

From the list on Israel studies.

Who am I?

Raphael Cohen-Almagor, DPhil, St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, is Professor of Politics, Founding Director of the Middle East Study Centre, University of Hull; Global Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Vice President of The Association for Israel Studies. Raphael taught, inter alia, at Oxford (UK), Jerusalem, Haifa (Israel), UCLA, Johns Hopkins (USA), and Nirma University (India). He was twice a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Distinguished Visiting Professor, Faculty of Laws, University College London. Raphael Has published extensively about Israel, including Basic Issues in Israeli Democracy (Hebrew), Israeli Democracy at the Crossroads, and Public Responsibility in Israel (with Ori Arbel-Ganz and Asa Kasher Hebrew).

Raphael's book list on Israel studies

Discover why each book is one of Raphael's favorite books.

Why did Raphael love this book?

History is often in the eye of the beholder. There are many histories, not just one. This is true in general and this statement is particularly apt when we discuss the first Arab-Israeli war. When I teach about the conflict, students ask me for an objective account of the war. My answer is that none is in existence but the closest to the truth, in my opinion, is Morris’ account. It is the best book about the war, based on maticulate survey of documents. It provides a thorough explanation of the war in each and every stage.

Morris paid a price for his honesty. I was happy to pave his way into Israeli academia.

By Benny Morris,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked 1948 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Benny Morris demolishes misconceptions and provides a comprehensive history of the Israeli-Arab war of 1948

This history of the foundational war in the Arab-Israeli conflict is groundbreaking, objective, and deeply revisionist. A riveting account of the military engagements, it also focuses on the war's political dimensions. Benny Morris probes the motives and aims of the protagonists on the basis of newly opened Israeli and Western documentation. The Arab side-where the archives are still closed-is illuminated with the help of intelligence and diplomatic materials.

Morris stresses the jihadi character of the two-stage Arab assault on the Jewish community in Palestine. Throughout,…


Projections of Power

By Robert M. Entman,

Book cover of Projections of Power: Framing News, Public Opinion, and U.S. Foreign Policy

Matthew A. Baum Author Of Soft News Goes to War: Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy in the New Media Age

From the list on public opinion and foreign policy.

Who am I?

I started my career in Washington D.C., where my first job involved conducting strategy meetings with senior civilian and military policy officials regarding potential military conflicts around the world. At the time I was struck by the extent to which senior policymakers worried about whether they would be able to garner and sustain public support for U.S. overseas military operations. This concern often dominated our meetings. It ultimately set me on my course as a scholar, where much of my work has focused on trying to understand what average people think about the world, why they believe what they do, and whether and how their attitudes affect leaders’ decision-making in crisis situations.

Matthew's book list on public opinion and foreign policy

Discover why each book is one of Matthew's favorite books.

Why did Matthew love this book?

The mass media arguably play a critical intervening role between public opinion and foreign policy. Yet I’ve found that it is much harder to explain how the media, or public opinion, exert such influence than it is to determine what the public thinks or why. This book offers one of the most compelling explanations I’ve found for when and how the media can influence foreign policy, by serving as the intermediary between voters and their leaders. Importantly, Entman shows how media framing of events can influence public support for presidential foreign policy initiatives. It offers a comprehensive and persuasive delineation of the interplay between the media, the public, and political leaders, which I teach every year to my students. 

By Robert M. Entman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

To succeed in foreign policy, U.S. presidents have to sell their versions or framings of political events to the news media and to the public. But since the end of the Cold War, journalists have increasingly resisted presidential views, even offering their own spin on events. What, then, determines whether the media will accept or reject the White House perspective? And what consequences does this new media environment have for policymaking and public opinion?

To answer these questions, Robert M. Entman develops a powerful new model of how media framing works-a model that allows him to explain why the media…


Putin's People

By Catherine Belton,

Book cover of Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West

Mark Hollingsworth Author Of Agents of Influence: How the KGB Subverted Western Democracies

From the list on the KGB, Russia and espionage.

Who am I?

I have been writing about Russia for the past 20 years for all the UK national newspapers, The Spectator and contributed to several TV documentaries. I am fascinated by Russia which is a unique country and has been a major influence on the world for the past 100 years. Based on new documents, my book Londongrad - From Russia with Cash revealed how Russian Oligarchs made their wealth, moved it out of Russia, hid their fortunes and then parked and spent it in London. My new book - Agents of Influence - provides an insight into how the KGB influenced the West based on new archives.

Mark's book list on the KGB, Russia and espionage

Discover why each book is one of Mark's favorite books.

Why did Mark love this book?

This is a painstaking investigation into corruption at the highest level in Putin's Kremlin. 

The book demonstrates in vivid detail how Putin installed a group of former KGB officers in power who then carved up Russia's strategic assets for themselves.

They targeted one company after another, probing weaknesses and exploiting the chequered past of every businessman who had made a fortune in the chaos of privatisation during the 1990s.

By Catherine Belton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Putin's People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller | A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Named a best book of the year by The Economist | Financial Times | New Statesman | The Telegraph

"[Putin's People] will surely now become the definitive account of the rise of Putin and Putinism." —Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic

"This riveting, immaculately researched book is arguably the best single volume written about Putin, the people around him and perhaps even about contemporary Russia itself in the past three decades." —Peter Frankopan, Financial Times

Interference in American elections. The sponsorship of extremist politics in…


Patterns of Empire

By Julian Go,

Book cover of Patterns of Empire: The British and American Empires, 1688 to the Present

April Biccum Author Of Global Citizenship and the Legacy of Empire: Marketing Development

From the list on empire as a particular kind of politics.

Who am I?

My interest in empires began as an undergraduate taking a course in International Political Economy. We were asked to view poverty and ‘underdevelopment’ in the historical perspective of European colonization but asked to see development economics as something entirely new. I couldn’t see the difference. I have since become fascinated not just by the world historical recurrence of this particular type of politics, but also why our understanding of it is occluded through repeated framing of global politics via the nation state. Unless we understand this global history we are at risk of misdiagnosing contemporary problems, and repeating historical patterns. Moreover, we can’t build a world that is truly non-imperial without sustained comparative study.

April's book list on empire as a particular kind of politics

Discover why each book is one of April's favorite books.

Why did April love this book?

World historical and comparative work on empire is on the rise and what they demonstrate is as a particular type of politics, empires exhibit certain patterns. That is the contention of Julian Go’s comparative work on the US and the UK. 

These are cases that have been compared before but instead of comparing them contemporaneously, Go makes a point of comparing them along their ‘hegemonial arc’ of rise and decline. 

Go demonstrates through comparison with Britain that a racial politics of differentiation and incorporation in the Westward expansion of the original 13 colonies is a common imperial pattern. This claim is corroborated by other cases as demonstrated by the works of Kumar and Burbank and Cooper. 

When read in combination with Immewahr and Kumar, Julian Go’s book shows what was typical empire building in American westward expansion (such as the racialized politics of differentiation and tutelary governance) and atypical and…

By Julian Go,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Patterns of Empire comprehensively examines the two most powerful empires in modern history: the United States and Britain. Challenging the popular theory that the American empire is unique, Patterns of Empire shows how the policies, practices, forms and historical dynamics of the American empire repeat those of the British, leading up to the present climate of economic decline, treacherous intervention in the Middle East and overextended imperial confidence. A critical exercise in revisionist history and comparative social science, this book also offers a challenging theory of empire that recognizes the agency of non-Western peoples, the impact of global fields and…


The Twilight War

By David Crist,

Book cover of The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran

Kenneth M. Pollack Author Of Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness

From the list on Middle East military history.

Who am I?

After college I joined the CIA. They assigned me to the Iran-Iraq military account so I had a front-row seat for the Persian Gulf War. I went on to do two tours at the NSC and a quick stop at DoD in between, all working on Middle East political and security issues. I was unexpectedly thrown out by Bush II in 2001 and so had to flee to the think tank world. I’ve since written ten books on the political-military affairs of the Middle East and am now working on my eleventh, a history of the U.S. and Iraq since 1979 titled The Iraq Wars.

Kenneth's book list on Middle East military history

Discover why each book is one of Kenneth's favorite books.

Why did Kenneth love this book?

David Crist is the historian of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff—and the son of former CENTCOM Commander, General George B. Crist.  He knows this subject backwards and forwards and brings to light any number of topics that I had only ever seen discussed in the classified world. But he does so with the perspicacity of a military historian and the insight of a superb military analyst. Most people simply do not know about the many close calls and bloody clashes there were between the U.S. and Iran during this era, and Crist’s book fills that important gap. Moreover, this is a fascinating example of a protracted, low-intensity or “hybrid” conflict with a canny and determined foe and so it has no end of lessons to teach. 

By David Crist,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The dramatic secret history of our undeclared thirty-year conflict with Iran, revealing newsbreaking episodes of covert and deadly operations that brought the two nations to the brink of open war

For three decades, the United States and Iran have engaged in a secret war. It is a conflict that has never been acknowledged and a story that has never been told.

This surreptitious war began with the Iranian revolution and simmers today inside Iraq and in the Persian Gulf. Fights rage in the shadows, between the CIA and its network of spies and Iran's intelligence agency. Battles are fought at…


I Am Pilgrim

By Terry Hayes,

Book cover of I Am Pilgrim

Ephraim Author Of Requiem for Betrayal

From the list on international spy thrillers with cultural differences.

Who am I?

In the early 70s I was a pop singer/recording artist in Paris with a dinner show at a restaurant/discotheque/bar called Jacky’s Far West Saloon. Located in the trendy Montparnasse area, it was popular with the US embassy personnel. As such, it was also a magnet for spooks looking to score contacts with the Americans. I witnessed a lot of intrigue there, some of it major, most of it minor, and developed a passion for international espionage. I also developed a passion for international finance and went on to author or co-author ten books and over a hundred journal articles on the subject.  

Ephraim's book list on international spy thrillers with cultural differences

Discover why each book is one of Ephraim's favorite books.

Why did Ephraim love this book?

This book is long and complicated. With an expansive plot that doesn’t overwhelm or convoluted.

One of its great strengths is the accurate depiction of investigative techniques. I especially enjoyed seeing how espionage has changed since the cold war. It also draws attention to the problem of dealing with adversaries willing to die for their cause.

I also appreciated the objective treatment of the Muslim community and some insights into the causes of Muslim extremism.

By Terry Hayes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The astonishing story of one man's breakneck race against time to save America from oblivion.
_______________
A FATHER PUBLICLY BEHEADED. Killed in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square.
A YOUNG WOMAN DISCOVERED. All of her identifying characteristics dissolved by acid.

A SYRIAN BIOTECH EXPERT FOUND EYELESS. Dumped in a Damascus junkyard.

SMOULDERING HUMAN REMAINS. Abandoned on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan.

PILGRIM. The codename for a man who doesn't exist. A man who must return from obscurity. The only man who can uncover a flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.
_____________

'The plot twists…


Roads to Glory

By Ronald P. Bobroff,

Book cover of Roads to Glory: Late Imperial Russia and the Turkish Straits

Gordon Martel Author Of The Origins of the First World War

From the list on why the First World War happened.

Who am I?

I am a historian of diplomacy, war, and empire. A founding editor of The International History Review, I have written books on ‘Imperial Diplomacy’, on the origins of the First World War, and on the July Crisis. I have edited: the 5-volume Encyclopedia of War and the 4-volume Encyclopedia of Diplomacy; the journals of A.L. Kennedy for the Royal Historical Society; numerous collections of essays, and the multi-volume Seminar Studies in History series. I am currently working on a two-volume study of Political Intelligence in Great Britain, 1900-1950, which is a group biography of the men who made up the Department of Political Intelligence in Britain, 1917-1919

Gordon's book list on why the First World War happened

Discover why each book is one of Gordon's favorite books.

Why did Gordon love this book?

One of the most enduring explanations for the outbreak of war in 1914 is that of ‘imperialism’. The argument that competition for resources beyond the ‘natural’ frontiers of European states created bitter rivalries among the Great Powers had been made many times before 1914, whenever a crisis in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East threatened to turn into a shooting war. But disentangling the complex motives, strategies, and tactics that intersected Great Power politics is a daunting task.

One of the finest case studies of the imperial mentalité can be found in Bobroff’s fascinating book. Not only does he break new ground in this study, but he has mined the Russian archives to great effect, moving the subject along from grand, unproven assertions concerning Russian policies to a detailed and persuasive understanding of both their ambitions and their fears.

By Ronald P. Bobroff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Until now, it has been accepted that the Turkish Straits - the Russian fleet's gateway to the Mediterranean - were a key factor in shaping Russian policy in the years leading to World War I. Control of the Straits had always been accepted as the major priority of Imperial Russia's foreign policy. In this powerfully argued revisionist history, Ronald Bobroff exposes the true Russian concern before the outbreak of war: the containment of German aggression. Based on extensive new research, Bobroff provides fascinating new insights into Russia's state development before the revolution, examining the policies and personal correspondence of its…


What Hath God Wrought

By Daniel Walker Howe,

Book cover of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

Mark R. Cheathem Author Of Andrew Jackson, Southerner

From the list on explaining Andrew Jackson.

Who am I?

I became interested in Andrew Jackson as an undergraduate student who worked at his Nashville plantation, The Hermitage. Nearly thirty years later, I am still fascinated by Old Hickory. We wouldn’t be friends, and I wouldn’t vote for him, but I consider him essential to understanding the United States’ development between his ascension as a national hero during the War of 1812 and his death in 1845. That we still argue about Jackson’s role as a symbol both of patriotism and of genocide speaks to his enduring significance to the national conversation about what the United States has represented and continues to represent.  

Mark's book list on explaining Andrew Jackson

Discover why each book is one of Mark's favorite books.

Why did Mark love this book?

A number of books explain the world in which Jackson came to national recognition, but Howe’s provides a decidedly critical view of Old Hickory and his politics. He is clearly sympathetic to the Whigs, opponents of Jackson and his Democratic party; nevertheless, Howe’s book is a good starting point for a broader perspective on Jacksonian America.

By Daniel Walker Howe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked What Hath God Wrought as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Oxford History of the United States is by far the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. In this prize-winning, critically acclaimed addition to the series, historian Daniel Walker Howe illuminates the period from the battle of New Orleans to the end of the Mexican-American War, an era when the United States expanded to the Pacific and won control over the richest part of the North American continent. Howe's panoramic narrative portrays revolutionary
improvements in transportation and communications that accelerated the extension of the American empire. Railroads, canals, newspapers, and the telegraph dramatically lowered travel times and spurred the…


Her Majesty's Spymaster

By Stephen Budiansky,

Book cover of Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage

Jacopo della Quercia Author Of License to Quill: A Novel of Shakespeare & Marlowe

From the list on understanding the dark side of Shakespeare's world.

Who am I?

I prefer to write historical fiction because so many fascinating stories have already happened in the past, and these tales are filled with real-life characters with rich backstories and personalities. I try to find the best historical figures and scenarios I can through exhaustive research and then stitch them together into thrillers that mesh seamlessly with the history I researched. My books are written to educate and entertain, and nothing makes me prouder than when readers follow the breadcrumb trails I leave behind for further research. I hope you enjoy the hunt!

Jacopo's book list on understanding the dark side of Shakespeare's world

Discover why each book is one of Jacopo's favorite books.

Why did Jacopo love this book?

If you’ve ever been a fan of the James Bond books or movies, spy-thrillers, or anything involving MI6, this book is about where it all began: the golden age of English espionage. Filled with captivating plots and characters straight out of history, this book was the bedrock that I built my story upon. Please check it out. You will never look at English history the same way again.

By Stephen Budiansky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Her Majesty's Spymaster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sir Francis Walsingham's official title was principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth I, but in fact this pious, tight-lipped Puritan was England's first spymaster. A ruthless, fiercely loyal civil servant, Walsingham worked brilliantly behind the scenes to foil Elizabeth's rival Mary Queen of Scots and outwit Catholic Spain and France, which had arrayed their forces behind her. Though he cut an incongruous figure in Elizabeth's worldly court, Walsingham managed to win the trust of key players like William Cecil and the Earl of Leicester before launching his own secret campaign against the queen's enemies. Covert operations were Walsingham's genius; he pioneered…


The Prisoner in His Palace

By Will Bardenwerper,

Book cover of The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid

Matthew Alford Author Of Union Jackboot: What Your Media and Professors Don't Tell You about British Foreign Policy

From the list on to completely reverse your whole brain.

Who am I?

“The truth is exactly the opposite of the words” - I just noticed on my door, I still have an old sticker that bears those words.  I guess, I’ve tended to find that common-sense assumptions about major things – politics, religion, war, love, good and evil, relationships, and so on – are simply not accurate and more the results of lazy thinking, ignorance, politics, or ideology. I did a PhD in propaganda, which led me to an eclectic freelance career investigating conspiracy theories, making documentaries, writing novels, doing stand-up comedy, and suchlike – so I have a background in engaging big and crazy ideas.

Matthew's book list on to completely reverse your whole brain

Discover why each book is one of Matthew's favorite books.

Why did Matthew love this book?

Saddam Hussein – the dictator of Iraq – was the West’s defining turn-of-the-century uber-villain, an image which this book overturns on a deeply personal level. While Saddam is shown to be a monster (he casually laments how his sadistic sons took it a bit far), he nonetheless somehow wins the compassion of his American captors who fall to blubbering pieces as he proceeds to the gallows.

By Will Bardenwerper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Prisoner in His Palace as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Prisoner in His Palace is an evocative and thought-provoking account of how the lives of twelve young American soldiers deployed to Iraq are upended when they're asked to guard the most 'high-value detainee' of all, the notorious dictator Saddam Hussein.
What the self-dubbed 'Super Twelve' experience in the autumn of 2006 is cognitive dissonance at its most extreme. Expecting to engage with the enemy 'outside the wire', they're suddenly tasked with guarding and protecting a notorious dictator until he can be hanged.
Watching over Saddam in a former palace the soldiers dub 'The Rock' and regularly transporting their prisoner…


Witness to History, 1929-1969

By Charles E Bohlen,

Book cover of Witness to History, 1929-1969

James A. W. Heffernan Author Of Politics and Literature at the Dawn of World War II

From the list on the origin of World War II.

Who am I?

I was born on April 22, 1939, just over four months before the start of World War II, and the very first words I can remember reading were a big black headline in August 1945: The War is Over. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated with that war, and about 75 years after it ended, I felt moved to write a book about how it began. Since I hold a PhD in English from Princeton, taught English at Dartmouth for nearly forty years, and I’ve been studying, teaching, and writing about literature for sixty years, I decided to make it a book about literature: the fiction, poetry, and drama inspired by World War II.

James' book list on the origin of World War II

Discover why each book is one of James' favorite books.

Why did James love this book?

Here is the ultimate insider’s story of what led up to the deal that Hitler made with Stalin in late August of 1939. At 34, a dashing Harvard graduate named Charles “Chip” Bohlen had just become the senior Russian-language officer in charge of political reporting at the American Embassy. Though his chief job was to find out if the Soviets were making a deal with Hitler, Bohlen couldn’t get a word out of the Russians. So he turned to a young German diplomat named “Johnny” Herwarth who was secretly in touch with the German resistance. This book is the fascinating story of their covert communications on the eve of the “Non-Aggression Agreement” between Hitler and Stalin—the deal that led directly to their joint invasion of Poland in September.

By Charles E Bohlen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Witness to History, 1929-1969 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“At the end of the 1920’s the Foreign Service of the United States... introduced a program of regional specialization. It was a fortunate innovation, for... it provided the Service with a group of well‐trained Russian‐language specialists just... when the United States was beginning its new and troubled association with the Soviet Union.

One of the first of these was Charles E. Bohlen, and for the next 40 years he was to be involved in every major development in Soviet American relations, serving under William C. Bullitt in the Moscow embassy in 1934, acting as interpreter and adviser at the wartime…


Twilight Struggle

By Robert Kagan,

Book cover of Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990

Russell C. Crandall Author Of "Our Hemisphere"? The United States in Latin America, from 1776 to the Twenty-First Century

From the list on U.S. involvement in Latin America.

Who am I?

I've been interested in U.S.-Latin American relations ever since my junior year in college when I studied abroad in Chile, a country that had only two years prior been run by dictator Augusto Pinochet. Often referred to as America’s “backyard,” Latin America has often been on the receiving end of U.S. machinations and expansions. In terms of the history of American foreign policy, it's never a dull moment in U.S. involvement in its own hemisphere. I have now had the privilege to work inside the executive branch of the U.S. government on Latin America policy, stints which have forced me to reconsider some of what I had assumed about U.S. abilities and outcomes. 

Russell's book list on U.S. involvement in Latin America

Discover why each book is one of Russell's favorite books.

Why did Russell love this book?

Penned by a conservative scholar who held a high-level Latin America foreign policy position in the Reagan administration, I don’t always agree with Kagan’s logic or evidence. But he is a fantastic writer and gives readers a riveting, albeit controversial, first-person account of the Reagan team’s adversarial relationship and interventions in Marxist revolutionary Nicaragua. 

By Robert Kagan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A detailed history and analysis of the Nicaraguan Revolution and the American response to it


Book cover of Interstate Relations in Classical Greece: Morality and Power

Robin Waterfield Author Of Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens: A History of Ancient Greece

From the list on ancient Greek history.

Who am I?

I’m a British scholar – a former university lecturer, many moons ago – now living in rural southern Greece. In fact, I have Greek as well as UK citizenship, which really pleases me because I’ve loved Greece and things Greek since boyhood. I started to learn ancient Greek at the age of ten! I’ve written over fifty books, mostly on ancient Greek history and philosophy, including many volumes of translations from ancient Greek. But I’ve also written children’s fiction in the form of gamebooks, a biography, a book on hypnosis, a retelling of the Greek myths (with my wife Kathryn) ... I’ll stop there!

Robin's book list on ancient Greek history

Discover why each book is one of Robin's favorite books.

Why did Robin love this book?

Anyone with any degree of acquaintance with ancient history knows that the Greeks were often at war with one another. This book explores the rules that governed their interactions. Was there any kind of international law? If so, was any of it actually written down, or did it exist at the level of “unwritten law” – a live issue even today? How was it enforced, and by whom? There was no United Nations in those days. Did it succeed in reducing belligerence among the Greeks? Or was the only principle that might is right, so that stronger cities had the right to subdue their weaker neighbours? These are all critically important questions for understanding the Greeks and the course of their history. Overall, the book argues that the Greeks were more moral and restrained in their dealings with one another than one might have guessed.

By Polly Low,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Interstate Relations in Classical Greece as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this book Dr Low explores the assumptions and principles which determined the conduct and representation of interstate politics in Greece during the fifth and fourth centuries BC. She employs a wide range of ancient evidence, both epigraphic and literary, as well as some contemporary theoretical approaches from the field of International Relations. Taking a thematic rather than a chronological approach, she addresses topics such as the nature of interstate society in the Greek world; the sources, scope and enforcement of 'international law'; the nature of interstate ethics and morality; interventionism and imperialism; and the question of change and stability.…


Accidental State

By Hsiao-ting Lin,

Book cover of Accidental State: Chiang Kai-Shek, the United States, and the Making of Taiwan

John Grant Ross Author Of Formosan Odyssey: Taiwan, Past and Present

From the list on Taiwan’s history.

Who am I?

I’m a Kiwi who has spent most of the past three decades in Asia. My books include Formosan Odyssey, You Don't Know China, and Taiwan in 100 Books. I live in a small town in southern Taiwan with my Taiwanese wife. When not writing, reading, or lusting over maps, I can be found on the abandoned family farm slashing jungle undergrowth (and having a sly drink).

John's book list on Taiwan’s history

Discover why each book is one of John's favorite books.

Why did John love this book?

How did Taiwan become the country it is today, how did it become the Republic of China? Hsiao-ting Lin, a leading Taiwanese historian and an archivist at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, convincingly argues that the Nationalist state in Taiwan under Chiang Kai-shek came about in large part from happenstance. The book draws on both English- and Chinese-language archival materials, including newly released official files and personal papers to explain what happened to Taiwan in the crucial years following World War II; it also examines what didn’t happen but might have, such as the island being placed under temporary American trusteeship. Accidental State is unbiased and nuanced history, and packed with fun but intelligent counterfactual nuggets.

By Hsiao-ting Lin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The existence of two Chinese states-one controlling mainland China, the other controlling the island of Taiwan-is often understood as a seemingly inevitable outcome of the Chinese civil war. Defeated by Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists fled to Taiwan to establish a rival state, thereby creating the "Two Chinas" dilemma that vexes international diplomacy to this day. Accidental State challenges this conventional narrative to offer a new perspective on the founding of modern Taiwan.

Hsiao-ting Lin marshals extensive research in recently declassified archives to show that the creation of a Taiwanese state in the early 1950s owed more to serendipity than…


Oil, the State, and War

By Emma Ashford,

Book cover of Oil, the State, and War: The Foreign Policies of Petrostates

Amy Myers Jaffe Author Of Oil, Dollars, Debt, and Crises: The Global Curse of Black Gold

From the list on why oil and global banking crises happen at the same time.

Who am I?

I began my career as a business journalist writing about Arab finance and oil at a time when few women were in that industry. Rather improbably, perhaps, I became well-known for correctly predicting trends – geopolitical and geo-economical. In my thirties, I shifted to the academy, becoming a director of energy research at Rice University in Houston and subsequently a sought-after advisor to government, corporations, and financial institutions. I wrote my first paper on oil crises while in high school (winning third prize in a state term paper contest) and have never left the subject. Now more than ever, the public needs to understand the real facts behind oil and financial crises. 

Amy's book list on why oil and global banking crises happen at the same time

Discover why each book is one of Amy's favorite books.

Why did Amy love this book?

There are many books that attempt to demonstrate a link between oil and war, and anyone who watches the news knows intuitively that such a link likely exists.

Ashford’s book lays out in brilliant detail how oil wealth is in some cases largely spent on military equipment (p. 74 to 81 covers Russia’s military modernization) and rightly asks the question if all this purchasing of armaments creates a “lubricant” to war. But she keeps open the option that the oil wealth-war connection is not destiny.

In closing chapters, she offers a few cases where oil states have chosen to use “soft power” and muses in the end that as oil’s days eclipse with the energy transition, the oil-war connection might similarly fade.  

By Emma Ashford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A comprehensive challenge to prevailing understanding of international implications of oil wealth that shows why it can create bad actors

In a world where oil-rich states are more likely to start war than their oil-dependent counterparts, it's surprising how little attention is still paid to these so-called petrostates. These states' wealth props up the global arms trade, provides diplomatic leverage, and allows them to support violent and nonviolent proxies. In Oil, the State, and War, Emma Ashford explores the many potential links between domestic oil production and foreign policy behavior and how oil production influences global politics.

Not all petrostates…