The best books about populism 📚

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

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Book cover of Right-Wing Populism and Gender: European Perspectives and Beyond

Right-Wing Populism and Gender: European Perspectives and Beyond

By Gabriele Dietze, Julia Roth

Why this book?

Women’s emancipation has made substantial strides in many parts of the global west since the 1970s. Yet, despite the fact that women still remain disadvantaged and discriminated against in many spheres of life, there has been, more recently, a powerful backlash against feminist ideas and practices. Nowhere is this more visible than in the populist right-wing movements that have merged anti-feminist, racist, and national discourses to provide a powerful ideological mix of masculinist identity politics that attacks gender and sexual diversity and seeks to influence sex education in schools. This book analyzes these discourses but it also provides intriguing insights…

From the list:

The best books on why identity issues are so hot in history

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Book cover of Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

By Richard Hofstadter

Why this book?

I am not going to lie: This book is boring. One of those books where you think: This brilliant person has some amazing ideas but they either can’t write or they’re insanely boring in person. It’s a college lecture come to life. It won the 1964 Pulitzer Prize and I think anyone who finishes it should also get a Pulitzer Prize. But I’m glad I did. Because I understand populism so much better now.

From the list:

The best books on saving democracy from populism

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Book cover of Hitler. Eine Biographie.

Hitler. Eine Biographie.

By Joachim C. Fest

Why this book?

This was not the first biography of Hitler, but it was the first to try to explain Hitler’s power in terms of his relationship with the German people. For Fest, Hitler’s power rested on his ability to channel ordinary Germans’ hopes, fears, aspirations, and resentments. Fest came from a solidly anti-Nazi bourgeois background and in his insistence on reading Hitler as an expression of populist resentments ‘from below’ we may detect an inability to countenance the idea that Nazism came just as much from the centre of educated German middle-class society. In that sense, the book is a fascinating insight…

From the list:

The best biographical studies of Hitler

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Book cover of A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity

A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity

By Luigi Zingales

Why this book?

Zingales is a brilliant academic economist, but this book leads the reader with both head and heart. Zingales is concerned that the US is on a path to similarities with his native Italy, where markets and politics are both corrupted by cronyism and nepotism. The book’s appeal is that Zingales's compelling argument cannot be put in a left or right box. He lays out evidence to suggest that more open competition will address both the inequality concerns of liberals, as well as the free market priorities of conservatives. Today, Zingales seems to suggest, we have the worst of both worlds.

From the list:

The best books on economics and globalization

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Book cover of All the King's Men

All the King's Men

By Robert Penn Warren

Why this book?

At my first paid reporting job, one college summer for the Lake Charles (La.) American Press, a veteran reporter told me that if I wanted to cover politics, in Louisiana or anywhere else, I had to read Penn Warren’s novel, a classic based on Huey Long’s life. I got a copy – and was hooked from the opening, when Sugar Boy, the boss’s chauffeur and gunsel, whipped their Cadillac around an oncoming gasoline truck and stuttered, “The b-b-b-b-bas-tud . . .” Penn Warren, a poet, brought to life the realpolitik and machine politics I’d studied. He showed me, through…

From the list:

The best books on political bosses

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Book cover of My Life on the Road

My Life on the Road

By Gloria Steinem

Why this book?

I am recommending this as the most personal of Steinem’s books. No list of books on the history of women’s rights would be complete without something about and by the most courageous, most consistent spokeswoman for feminism over the last half-century. Here Steinem tells the tale of her family, focused – surprisingly – on her eclectic and wandering father. The reader will be left with even great appreciation for Steinem and for the many and various routes women take to find their way to feminism and their full, true selves.
From the list:

The best books to read about the history of women's rights

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