The most recommended books about prime ministers

Who picked these books? Meet our 11 experts.

11 authors created a book list connected to prime ministers, and here are their favorite prime minister books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Wellington: The Path to Victory 1769-1814

Philip Dwyer Author Of Napoleon: The Path to Power 1769 - 1799

From my list on the Napoleonic Wars and their impact on Europe.

Who am I?

I'm an Australian historian specializing in the French Revolution and Napoleon. I have spent a goodly part of my career writing a three-volume biography of Napoleon, alongside chapters, articles, and edited books that aimed at reassessing the man and the period. Working on Napoleon and the French as occupiers led me into the history of massacre and more broadly into the history of violence. I studied under the preeminent French Napoleonic scholar, Jean Tulard, at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV.

Philip's book list on the Napoleonic Wars and their impact on Europe

Philip Dwyer Why did Philip love this book?

Speaking of which, this is the first of a two-volume biography of Wellington and is no doubt the most exhaustive and the most up-to-date biography of the man and his career. I’ve personally always found Wellington to be a fairly unlikeable character and there is nothing in this biography that made me change my mind. However, Muir’s familiarity with the sources and the archives enables him to integrate the personal, the military, and the political into this thorough examination of the man that ultimately defeated Napoleon.

By Rory Muir,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A landmark contribution to understanding the real man behind the heroic legend inspired by the triumph at Waterloo

The Duke of Wellington was not just Britain's greatest soldier, although his seismic struggles as leader of the Allied forces against Napoleon in the Peninsular War deservedly became the stuff of British national legend. Wellington was much more: a man of vision beyond purely military matters, a politically astute thinker, and a canny diplomat as well as lover, husband, and friend. Rory Muir's masterful new biography, the first of a two-volume set, is the fruit of a lifetime's research and discovery into…


Book cover of Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought England Back from the Brink

Gershen Kaufman and Lev Raphael Author Of Stick Up For Yourself!: Every Kid's Guide to Personal Power and Positive Self-Esteem

From my list on conquering adversity.

Who are we?

Gershen Kaufman, Ph.D., professor emeritus in psychology at Michigan State University, is a pioneer in the study of shame and author of ground-breaking books on shame. His work is considered foundational in the Recovery Movement and in Psychology. Lev Raphael, Ph.D., is an educator, editor, and author publishing in genres from memoir to mystery.  We've co-authored several books based on an innovative program we created at Michigan State University, which Free Spirit Publishing invited us to adapt for kids. This program teaches you how to build self-esteem: a crucial skill that can be taught just like reading, writing, and arithmetic—and is equally essential to living a secure, confident life.

Gershen's book list on conquering adversity

Gershen Kaufman and Lev Raphael Why did Gershen love this book?

A nation at war, facing seemingly insurmountable odds, with much of Europe already conquered and Germany winning every battle, triumphant over all—leaving Britain isolated, its very survival now imperiled. Yet a solitary voice defies the inevitable. “We shall never surrender,” cries Winston Churchill.  Single-handedly, Churchill turns back the voices of defeatism, standing firm against all those both in and out of his government who wanted to sue for peace with Adolf Hitler. He was defiant to the end. This is a book about England’s darkest hour, when she stood alone on the brink of catastrophe, and about one man, Winston Churchill, whose courage, enormous strength of will, and clarity of purpose, saved Britain from disaster and arguably saved Western Civilization along with it.

By Anthony McCarten,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darkest Hour 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 AND OFFICIAL TIE-IN TO THE AWARD-WINNING MOTION PICTURE STARRING GARY OLDMAN, WHO TOOK HOME BEST ACTOR AT THE OSCARS FOR HIS SUBLIME TURN AS WINSTON CHURCHILL.

From the prize-winning screenwriter of The Theory of Everything, this is a cinematic, behind-the-scenes account of a crucial moment which takes us inside the mind of one of the world's greatest leaders - and provides a revisionist, more rounded portrait of his leadership.

May, 1940. Britain is at war, European democracies are falling rapidly and the public are unaware of this dangerous new world. Just days after his…


Book cover of Salazar: The Dictator Who Refused to Die

Wendy Lee Hermance Author Of Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

From my list on why Portugal is weird.

Who am I?

Wendy Lee Hermance was heard on National Public Radio (NPR) stations with her Missouri Folklore series in the 1980s. She earned a journalism degree from Stephens College, served as Editor and Features Writer for Midwestern and Southern university and regional publications, then settled into writing real estate contracts. In 2012 she attended University of Sydney, earning a master’s degree by research thesis. Her books include Where I’m Going with this Poem, a memoir in poetry and prose. Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat marks her return to feature writing as collections of narrative non-fiction stories.

Wendy's book list on why Portugal is weird

Wendy Lee Hermance Why did Wendy love this book?

My neighbor, who owns the local agricultural store where I buy honey, told me almost casually that his father died in prison under Salazar. 

Gallagher has written 15 books on world history and politics, so I chose his to understand the dictator´s lasting impact on society. Salazar hung with dictator Franco strategically as a shield against Hitler, who he told to lay off all European Jews with Portuguese names because “Portugal does not recognize racial distinctions.” Personally above reproach Salazar was tolerant of homosexuality and promiscuity in others, and he welcomed back exiled and imprisoned opponents into regime leadership. Exploitations by the professional guilds Salazar built exist today, but so does social value on correct and ethical behaviour. 

Maybe my neighbor´s father stole a pig.

By Tom Gallagher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fifty years after his death, Portugal's Salazar remains a controversial and enigmatic figure, whose conservative and authoritarian legacy still divides opinion. Some see him as a reactionary and oppressive figure who kept Portugal backward, while others praise his honesty, patriotism and dedication to duty. Contemporary radicals are wary of his unabashed elitism and scepticism about social progress, but many conservatives give credit to his persistent warnings about the threats to Western civilisation from runaway materialism and endless experimentation.

For a dictator, Salazar's end was anti-climactic-a domestic accident. But during his nearly four decades in power, he survived less through reliance…


Book cover of Churchill: Walking with Destiny

Anthony Tucker-Jones Author Of Churchill, Master and Commander: Winston Churchill at War 1895-1945

From my list on Winston Churchill and which book to start with.

Who am I?

Anthony Tucker-Jones, a former intelligence officer, is an author, commentator, and writer who specializes in military history, with well over 60 books to his name. His work has also been published in an array of magazines and online. He regularly appears on television and radio commenting on current and historical military matters.

Anthony's book list on Winston Churchill and which book to start with

Anthony Tucker-Jones Why did Anthony love this book?

When approaching Churchill, it is often very difficult to know quite where to start. That dilemma is solved by Roberts’ scholarly study. He is extremely balanced and nuanced in his approach to the country’s most famous prime minister and wartime leader. His depth of research is breath-taking and Roberts’ work will rightly remain a standard text for years to come.

By Andrew Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

One of The Wall Street Journal's Ten Best Books of 2018
One of The Economist's Best Books of 2018
One of The New York Times's Notable Books of 2018

"Unarguably the best single-volume biography of Churchill . . . A brilliant feat of storytelling, monumental in scope, yet put together with tenderness for a man who had always believed that he would be Britain's savior." -Wall Street Journal

In this landmark biography of Winston Churchill based on extensive new material, the true genius of the man, statesman and leader can finally be fully seen and understood--by…


Book cover of Churchill

Anthony Tucker-Jones Author Of Churchill, Master and Commander: Winston Churchill at War 1895-1945

From my list on Winston Churchill and which book to start with.

Who am I?

Anthony Tucker-Jones, a former intelligence officer, is an author, commentator, and writer who specializes in military history, with well over 60 books to his name. His work has also been published in an array of magazines and online. He regularly appears on television and radio commenting on current and historical military matters.

Anthony's book list on Winston Churchill and which book to start with

Anthony Tucker-Jones Why did Anthony love this book?

Left-wing historian Ponting has his detractors for what many regarded as a critical revisionist approach to Churchill’s life. However, there is no denying the depth of his research. Furthermore, far from coming over as an overt critic, his study is far more balanced than often thought.

By Clive Ponting,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ponting's text challenges the Churchill myth, declaring that much of the accepted interpretation of Churchill's life stems from his own writings about himself. Using source material released during the past 25 years, it questions his competence as a war leader and the true level of his popularity.


Book cover of Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography: From Grantham to the Falklands

Judith Lissauer Cromwell Author Of Florence Nightingale, Feminist

From my list on biographies of women who made a difference.

Who am I?

I’ve always been captivated by stories about powerful women. After a corporate career as one of the first female executives in the international world of Wall Street, while raising two children as a single working parent, I returned to academia. I am a magna cum laude graduate of Smith College, hold a doctorate in modern European history, with academic distinction, from New York University. I wanted to ascertain whether the mostly male writers of history were correct in attributing the success of exceptional women to the bedroom. Meticulous research yielded a different narrative, one I delight in sharing.

Judith's book list on biographies of women who made a difference

Judith Lissauer Cromwell Why did Judith love this book?

Impressively researched, elegantly written, and sprinkled with dry humor, Moore’s account is an even-handed portrait of a remarkable woman who turned her sex and her humble background from handicaps into assets, and used her outstanding political skills to become a driving force in twentieth-century British history.  The author addresses his polarizing subject’s inconsistencies, and her bizarre yet conventional personality, to present a multidimensional picture of Britain’s first female prime minister.

By Charles Moore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Not For Turning is the first volume of Charles Moore's authorized biography of Margaret Thatcher, the longest serving Prime Minister of the twentieth century and one of the most influential political figures of the postwar era.

Charles Moore's biography of Margaret Thatcher, published after her death on 8 April 2013, immediately supersedes all earlier books written about her. At the moment when she becomes a historical figure, this book also makes her into a three dimensional one for the first time. It gives unparalleled insight into her early life and formation, especially through her extensive correspondence with her sister, which…


Book cover of Jan Smuts - Unafraid of Greatness

Gail Nattrass Author Of A Short History of South Africa

From my list on modern South Africa.

Who am I?

Gail Nattrass was born in Northern Rhodesia. She was educated at Mufulira High School and the universities of Natal, Rhodesia, Nyasaland, and UNISA. She relocated to South Africa with her husband in 1967, and subsequently lectured in the history department at the School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand for 20 years. She has written materials for students and presented papers on various aspects of South African and international history at four universities in South Africa. She is also the author of The Rooiberg Story, the co-editor with S B Spies of Jan Smuts: Memoirs of the Boer War, and a contributor to They Shaped Our Century and Leaders of the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902.

Gail's book list on modern South Africa

Gail Nattrass Why did Gail love this book?

This book by former lawyer and journalist, Richard Steyn, is a study of one of South Africa’s most celebrated, brilliant yet enigmatic figures, Jan Smuts.

Soldier, statesman, philosopher, and politician, Smuts was all of these things and a man unafraid of greatness. Prime Minister of South Africa from 1919 - 1924 and again from 1939 - 1948, a distinguished veteran of three wars, an international figure, whose opinions were sought after in the councils of the world, and the personal friend and confidante of world leaders like Winston Churchill and King George VI, Richard Steyn gives an extremely readable account of how Smuts achieved greatness in so many areas. He helped establish the United Nations and drew the attention of the world to South Africa, yet failed to address the growing need to create equitable political, economic, and social relations between black and white peoples in South Africa.

Steyn does…

By Richard Steyn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jan Smuts - Unafraid of Greatness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jan Christian Smuts was soldier, statesman and intellectual, one of South Africa's greatest leaders. Yet little is said about him today even as we appear to live in a leadership vacuum. Unafraid of Greatness is a re-examination of the life and thought of Jan Smuts. It is intended to remind a contemporary readership of the remarkable achievements of this impressive soldier-statesman. The author argues that there is a need to bring Smuts back into the present, that Smuts' legacy still has much to instruct. He draws several parallels between Smuts and President Thabo Mbeki, both intellectuals much lionised abroad and…


Book cover of A State at Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion

Ian Lustick Author Of Paradigm Lost: From Two-State Solution to One-State Reality

From my list on origins of Israeli policies toward Palestinians.

Who am I?

I began studying the Israeli-Palestinian relationship as an idealistic Brandeis University student living in Jerusalem in 1969, when I directly encountered the Palestinian problem and the realities of the occupation. Trained at Berkeley to be a political scientist I devoted my life to finding a path to a two-state solution. In 2010 I reached the tragic conclusion that the “point of no return” toward Israeli absorption of the occupied territories had indeed been passed. Bored with the ideas that my old way of thinking was producing, I forced myself to think, as Hannah Arendt advised, “without a bannister.” Paradigm Lost is the result.

Ian's book list on origins of Israeli policies toward Palestinians

Ian Lustick Why did Ian love this book?

Every nationalist struggle requires effective leaders. Zionism, in particular, faced such long odds and such peculiar circumstances, that success depended not only on effective, but ruthless and single-minded leadership. In this monumental biography of David Ben-Gurion, the single most dominant individual within the Zionist movement and in the first two decades of Israel’s existence, Tom Segev shows that Zionism did have such a leader. Contrary to official hagiography, Ben-Gurion offered no brilliant or innovative ideas about politics, history, or the human condition. What he contributed was a shrewd, consuming, and merciless dedication to wresting as much of Palestine, or the Land of Israel, from its Arab inhabitants as possible without risking the state he wanted by demanding more than the world could be forced to provide. 

Ben-Gurion’s model was Lenin, his modus operandi was Bolshevik. Everything for the cause, and nothing not for the cause, at least insofar as those…

By Tom Segev, Haim Watzman (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The definitive biography of Israel's founder by one of Israel's most celebrated historians.

As the founder of Israel, David Ben-Gurion long ago secured his reputation as a leading figure of the twentieth century. Determined from an early age to create a Jewish state, he took control of the Zionist movement, declared Israel's independence, and navigated his country through wars, controversies and remarkable achievements.

In this definitive biography, Tom Segev uses previously unreleased archival material to give an original, nuanced account that transcends the myths and legends that have built up around the man. He reveals Ben-Gurion's secret negotiations with the…


Book cover of The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

Rona Simmons Author Of A Gathering of Men

From Rona's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Life-long learner History addict Storyteller Rabbit hole digger Art lover

Rona's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Rona Simmons Why did Rona love this book?

As close as anyone can come to describing how it was to be in London during the Blitz without actually being there. That, together with both the anguish and the satisfaction that Churchill must have felt.

Halfway through, the title explains the contrast between the vileness of the firebombing of London and the beauty of the world. Bits of his oratory sprinkle the pages, as do a few of Churchill’s quirks.

The image of Roosevelt entering Churchill's room at the White House and then spending the next hour strategizing over the war while a completely naked Churchill walked about with a whiskey and a cigar will never leave me.

By Erik Larson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Splendid and the Vile as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake delivers an intimate chronicle of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz—an inspiring portrait of courage and leadership in a time of unprecedented crisis
 
“One of [Erik Larson’s] best books yet . . . perfectly timed for the moment.”—Time • “A bravura performance by one of America’s greatest storytellers.”—NPR 
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • Time • Vogue • NPR • The Washington Post • Chicago Tribune • The Globe &…