The best politics books 📚

Browse the best books on politics as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time

The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time

By Hunter S. Thompson

Why this book?

After Carter left office, it was hard to remember what made him so exciting when he first became a national figure in 1976. In his patented “gonzo” style, Thompson’s flattering and entertaining articles on Carter in this collection shed light on what made Carter compelling and cool. Thompson's stature among young journalists was so great at the time that his coverage of Carter helped make him president.

From the list:

The best books about the life, character, and presidency of Jimmy Carter

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Book cover of The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia

The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia

By Peter Hopkirk

Why this book?

Filled with larger-than-life characters risking life and limb in the quest for empire, Hopkirk recounts the contest between Britain and Russia for influence in remote inner Asia in the 19th century. Appropriate derring-do abounds as spies and soldiers traverse steppe, mountains and desert in search of glory, only to become entrapped in the ultimate folly of imperial designs. Hopkirk’s sharp eye for the epic would make Kipling proud.

From the list:

The best Asian history books for a Sunday afternoon

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Book cover of Democracy in America

Democracy in America

By Alexis de Tocqueville

Why this book?

And no such list is complete without Alexis de Tocqueville's classic from the 19th century, Democracy in America. Weighing in just two pages short of Don Quixote's 937 (paperback both, the ECCO Grossman Quixote translation and the Penguin Gerald Bevan de Tocqueville edition), Tocqueville ponders a question most of us contemplate and plenty of us act on: "Why Americans are so restless in the midst of their prosperity..."

From the list:

The best books to understand the America between New Jersey and Oakland

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Book cover of The Roman Revolution

The Roman Revolution

By Ronald Syme

Why this book?

Considered a controversial masterpiece, this book has helped reveal far more than many realize. It examined the fall and overthrow of the Roman Republic and the re-establishment of the monarchy centered on the life and career of Octavian, who became Augustus, the first emperor. Syme, a much-respected scholar of ancient Rome, was immensely skilled in the use of prosopography, the technique of examining and tracing genealogical connections between the various leading families of republican and imperial Rome. He showed that republican Rome was ruled by an oligarchy, in this case, where a small group of powerful people, related by blood,…

From the list:

The best ancient history books that challenge assumptions

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Book cover of Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace

Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace

By Avi Shlaim

Why this book?

Perhaps the biggest surprise of King Hussein’s epic life is that he died in his own bed of natural causes and at a relatively advanced age––Hussein of Jordan always assumed he would die from an assassin’s bullet. Incredibly, his long reign had a happy ending: Hussein surmounted enough tragedies and challenges to fill the Book of Job––he witnessed his grandfather’s murder, his father went insane, his beloved cousin was shot, the wife he adored went down in a helicopter crash––yet steered his country and the people of Jordan to safe harbor through five decades of war, revolt and revolution. This…

From the list:

The best books on modern monarchy

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Book cover of Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam

Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam

By Frances FitzGerald

Why this book?

I loved this book because Fitzgerald is a journalist, not a historian, so her writing is vivid, fluent, and readable. This is so much more than a history of the war. She plunges into the complex story of Vietnam’s history and culture, setting the stage for America’s unfortunate involvement and the subsequent tragic events.
Fitzgerald first went to Vietnam in 1966, and, when this book came out in 1972, it was the first history of Vietnam written by an American. The New York Times called it “A compassionate and penetrating account of the collision of two societies that remain untranslatable…

From the list:

The best books on the Vietnam war and what it all meant

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