The most recommended books about revolution

Who picked these books? Meet our 30 experts.

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

What type of revolution book?


Book cover of The Story That Cannot Be Told

Gigi Griffis Author Of The Wicked Unseen

From my list on history for those who find history intimidating.

Who am I?

I came to my passion for history later in life—when I realized I could trade in the endless date memorization I remembered from history class for an exploration of fierce lady pirates like Shek Yeung and unwilling empresses like Sisi of Austria. Historical stories that felt like thrillers, adventures, or mystery novels. Comedies. Tragedies. And most of all: books that didn’t require a history PhD to get swept up in the story. These are the books that made me fall in love with history, and they’re the kind of books I now write. I’m the author of three historical novels, all written first and foremost to sweep you away into a damn good story.

Gigi's book list on history for those who find history intimidating

Gigi Griffis Why did Gigi love this book?

Another way to ease yourself into historical fiction is to start with books for young readers—like this gorgeous, compelling read set during the Communist regime’s fall in Romania in 1989. 

Our heroine is a young girl named Ileana who loves stories, even though stories can be dangerous (like the one that got her uncle arrested for criticizing the government). Afraid for her life, her parents send her to live with grandparents she’s never met—and still she gets caught up in the independence. 

I adored this book as an adult reader and—bonus!—it would be the perfect thing to co-read with a middle schooler or young teen if you’ve got one in your life. 

By J. Kasper Kramer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Story That Cannot Be Told as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

“By turns surprising, poetic, and stark, The Story That Cannot Be Told is one that should most certainly be read.” —Alan Gratz, New York Times bestselling author of Refugee
“A mesmerizing debut.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A powerful middle grade debut with three starred reviews that weaves together folklore and history to tell the story of a girl finding her voice and the strength to use it during the final months of the Communist regime in Romania in 1989.

Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country tore down her home to…

Book cover of Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on Politics and Revolution

Hannah Gurman and Kaeten Mistry Author Of Whistleblowing Nation: The History of National Security Disclosures and the Cult of State Secrecy

From my list on U.S. national security culture and the exposure of secrets.

Who are we?

We are historians of U.S. foreign relations who have written extensively on the Cold War and national security. Both of us were interested in whistleblowing yet knew relatively little about its history. Turns out, we were not alone. Despite lots of popular interest in the topic, we soon discovered that, beyond individual biographies, barely anything is known about the broader history of the phenomenon. With funding from the UK’s Arts and Humanities Council, we led a collaborative research project, which involved historians, literary scholars, and political theorists, as well as whistleblowers, journalists, and lawyers. One of the fruits of the project, Whistleblowing Nation, is the first comprehensive, interdisciplinary history of U.S. national security whistleblowing.

Hannah's book list on U.S. national security culture and the exposure of secrets

Hannah Gurman and Kaeten Mistry Why did Hannah love this book?

At its core, whistleblowing is an act of truth-telling, often in response to official misrepresentation and lies. While not explicitly about whistleblowing, Hannah Arendt’s 1971 essay, “Lying in Politics” is an indispensable read for anyone interested in the subject. Written in the wake of the Pentagon Papers disclosure, it situates the official lies of the Vietnam War within a broader phenomenon of political propaganda. Exploring how propaganda aimed at the public ultimately took hold within senior policymaking circles, it reveals the blurry line between official lies and self-deception. Challenging simple precepts about whistleblowing and public transparency, Arendt explores whether or not and why knowledge of the facts actually makes a difference. Along with the broader collection of essays in Crises of the Republic, this piece offers uncanny insight into post-truth politics and the breakdown of democracy in our day.

By Hannah Arendt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A collection of studies in which Arendt, from the standpoint of a political philosopher, views the crises of the 1960s and early 1970s as challenges to the american form of government. Index.

Book cover of Ymir

Thoraiya Dyer Author Of Asymmetry

From Thoraiya's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Scientist Fantastist Arbalist Wildlife warrior

Thoraiya's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Thoraiya Dyer Why did Thoraiya love this book?

I’m a sucker for science fiction novels set on ice worlds, and that’s even before you add some of my other favourite tropes: robots, biotech, giant ice monsters, AI, and families gone horribly wrong.

Happily, for a story supposed to be a tribute to something much older, I found it fresh, original, masterfully written, and extremely satisfying. Who do we owe our loyalty to, our blood relations or our moral convictions, anyway?

By Rich Larson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Yorick never wanted to see his homeworld again. He left Ymir two decades ago, with half his face blown off and no love lost for the place. But when his employer's mines are threatened by a vicious alien machine, Yorick is shipped back home to hunt it.

All he wants is to do his job and get out. Instead, Yorick is pulled into a revolution brewing beneath Ymir's frozen surface, led by the very last person he wanted to see again-the brother who sent him off in pieces twenty years ago.

Book cover of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

Sergei Guriev Author Of Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century

From my list on why countries succeed and why they fail.

Who am I?

What are some countries rich and others are poor? I strongly believe that this is the most important question for modern economics. I've become an economist to understand this. I am happy that in recent decades economists – working closely together with other social scientists – have made so much progress in this field. And this is not abstract knowledge – it is being applied already to help developing countries catch up with the rich world. I have seen it myself when I took a leave from academia to work as a Chief Economist of a development bank (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) – to learn more from and to contribute to this work.

Sergei's book list on why countries succeed and why they fail

Sergei Guriev Why did Sergei love this book?

This is a bestselling book that tackles the most important question in economics: why some countries are rich, and some are poor.

This well-written and convincing book provides a very broad and accessible overview of history of successful and failing societies. It argues that inclusive democratic institutions deliver better economic outcomes than authoritarian ones.

Given that this view is based on recent research in political economy and development economics – including the authors’ own groundbreaking work – this is a must-read for all advocates of liberal democracy who want to have quantitative arguments and historical narratives to stand up to the rise of authoritarianism around the world. 

I teach political economy of development. My job is to explain to the students why some countries are rich and others are poor.

Acemoglu and Robinson is a wonderful and accessible textbook. Students love it – even if they often argue with the…

By Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Why Nations Fail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award 2012.

Why are some nations more prosperous than others? Why Nations Fail sets out to answer this question, with a compelling and elegantly argued new theory: that it is not down to climate, geography or culture, but because of institutions. Drawing on an extraordinary range of contemporary and historical examples, from ancient Rome through the Tudors to modern-day China, leading academics Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson show that to invest and prosper, people need to know that if they work hard, they can make money…

Book cover of On Revolution

Dean Hammer Author Of Rome and America: Communities of Strangers, Spectacles of Belonging

From my list on the connection of ancient Rome to an American identity.

Who am I?

My fascination with the relationship between Rome and America grows out of the work I have done on early American culture, contemporary political thought, and ancient Rome. My most recent work, Rome and America: Communities of Strangers, Spectacles of Belonging, took shape through a lot of conversations over the years with friends and colleagues about the different tensions I saw in Roman politics and culture around questions of national identity, tensions that I saw being played out in the United States. I don’t like tidy histories. I am drawn to explorations of politics and culture that reveal the anxieties and dissonance that derive from our own attempt to resolve our incompleteness. 

Dean's book list on the connection of ancient Rome to an American identity

Dean Hammer Why did Dean love this book?

I first encountered this book in my senior seminar in college. Little did I know how much Hannah Arendt’s works would figure into my own thinking and writing. In On Revolution, Arendt provides a provocative interpretation of how the American founders looked to Rome, specifically Virgil, for their own understanding of founding. My current book begins with Arendt’s insight but departs substantially from her conclusion.

By Hannah Arendt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Tracing the gradual evolution of revolutions, Arendt predicts the changing relationship between war and revolution and the crucial role such combustive movements will play in the future of international relations.

She looks at the principles which underlie all revolutions, starting with the first great examples in America and France, and showing how both the theory and practice of revolution have since developed. Finally, she foresees the changing relationship between war and revolution and the crucial changes in international relations, with revolution becoming the key tactic.

Book cover of Throne of the Crescent Moon

L.J. Stanton Author Of The Dying Sun

From my list on non-western fantasy.

Who am I?

I am a disabled author and podcaster who loves fantasy, but wanted more out of the genre than the Eurocentric Lord of the Rings model. I grew up watching Aladdin, reading Egyptian mythology, and one of my most prized books is an illustrated Shahnameh. There are brilliant stories set in deserts and rainforests, with intense magic and danger, and I hope you’ll enjoy these as much as I do. 

L.J.'s book list on non-western fantasy

L.J. Stanton Why did L.J. love this book?

Sometimes, you just want to retire and have a nice, quiet cup of tea. And world-ending magical plots keep getting in the way. Adoulla Mahmoud, once the best Ghul hunter alive, is just trying to retire. Unfortunately, the world has other plans for him. Alongside the pious warrior Raseed bas Raseed, and the shapeshifting Zamia Badawi, Adoulla faces the greatest threat yet. One that could destroy not just his favorite teahouse, but the world. 

While there is some good-natured humor within this book, Saladin Ahmed establishes right away with a torture-scene prologue that Throne of the Crescent Moon will be dark and gory. I love the magic system and the Arabia-inspired world. The only downside to this book is that Ahmed doesn’t seem to be working on the sequel. 

By Saladin Ahmed,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Throne of the Crescent Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Traditional swords & sorcery fantasy with an authentic middle-eastern spin.

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at boiling point. A power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince is reaching its climax. In the midst of this brewing rebellion, a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. Only a handful of reluctant heroes can learn the truth, and stop the killing.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years…

Book cover of The Shining Path: Love, Madness, and Revolution in the Andes

Kim MacQuarrie Author Of The Last Days of the Incas

From my list on the amazing country of Peru.

Who am I?

I lived in Peru for five years, working as a writer, filmmaker, and anthropologist. For part of that time, I lived with a recently-contacted tribe in the Upper Amazon, visited Maoist Shining Path “liberated zones” and later made a number of documentaries on the Amazon as well as have written a number of books, most of which are on some aspect of Peru. Peru remains one of the most fascinating countries on Earth--a kind of dense amalgamation of ancient civilizations, archaeology, immense biodiversity, incredible beauty, and lots and lots of adventure. Although there’s no substitute for visiting Peru yourself--reading about it is a great way to begin your adventure!

Kim's book list on the amazing country of Peru

Kim MacQuarrie Why did Kim love this book?

Peru is often described as a country that is a combination of the coast, the Andes, and the Amazon, and this book on the origin of the Maoist Shining Path group in the Andes not only illuminates some of Peru’s recent political history, but also shines a light on many of the disparities that still exist between rural and urban Peru and between la costa, la sierra, and la Amazonia.

By Orin Starn, Miguel La Serna,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On 17 May 1980, on the eve of Peru's presidential election, five masked men stormed a small town in the Andean heartland. They set election ballots ablaze and vanished into the night but not before planting a red hammer-and-sickle banner in the town square. The lone man arrested the next morning later swore allegiance to a group called Shining Path. The tale of how this ferocious group of guerrilla insurgents launched a decade-long reign of terror, and how brave police investigators and journalists brought it to justice, may be the most compelling chapter in modern Latin American history but the…

Book cover of Black Mass

Firmin Debrabander Author Of Life After Privacy: Reclaiming Democracy in a Surveillance Society

From my list on stoic themes, influence and inspiration.

Who am I?

I have always loved the Stoics, from the first time I read Seneca. I appreciate that they seek to speak to a wider audience than most philosophers, on issues that concern many: happiness, anxiety, pain, loss. The Stoics were wonderful writers, whose influence has been manifest throughout western philosophy. And they extended their expertise beyond the academy, and were very involved in politics. Seneca was the advisor to the emperor Nero; Cicero, who dabbled in Stoicism, was perhaps the most famous senator of Rome. Marcus Aurelius was emperor. 

Firmin's book list on stoic themes, influence and inspiration

Firmin Debrabander Why did Firmin love this book?

John Gray is an exceptional writer. In that respect alone, he is already reminiscent of the Stoics, who are some of the best writers among philosophers. Black Mass deals with the pitfalls of anger and ideology, when it comes to politics. The Stoics were famously skeptical of both, and urge practitioners to resist becoming too impassioned in political affairs—which reliably roil the soul.

By John Gray,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A prophetic warning against the foolishness of crusades, John Gray's Black Mass challenges our belief in human progress.

Our conventional view of history is wrong. It is founded on a pernicious myth of an achievable utopia that in the last century alone caused the murder of tens of millions.

In Black Mass John Gray tears down the religious, political and secular beliefs that we insist are fundamental to the human project, examines the interaction of terrorism, declining world resources, environmental change, human myths of redemption and a flawed belief in Western democracy, and shows us how a misplaced faith in…

Book cover of Before We Were Free

Hilda Eunice Burgos Author Of Miosotis Flores Never Forgets

From my list on sensitive topics.

Who am I?

I have always loved realistic fiction that shows characters navigating tricky real-world situations and reaching inside themselves to be their best – as friends, children, siblings, etc. As a writer of stories for children, I write the kinds of books I love to read, the ones that make readers ask themselves, what would I do if I were in that situation?  I think it’s important to show all our stories, past and present, from different places and viewpoints, so that we can learn from one another and become our best selves.

Hilda's book list on sensitive topics

Hilda Eunice Burgos Why did Hilda love this book?

I was fascinated by this gripping story about a twelve-year-old girl living in the Dominican Republic in 1960 because, while it is fiction, it is based on a very real and scary time in the history of the DR. My parents grew up in the DR under the dictatorship that was still in place in 1960, and Julia Alvarez does a beautiful job showing readers how young people and their families were impacted by that regime, as well as the bravery and hopefulness of those who fought for their country’s freedom.

By Julia Alvarez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Before We Were Free as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?


From renowned author Julia Alvarez comes an unforgettable story about adolescence, perseverance, and one girl’s struggle to be free while living in the Dominican Republic under the rule of a dictator. 

Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her twelfth birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have immigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government’s secret police terrorize her…

Book cover of China in Ten Words

Tamim Ansary Author Of The Invention of Yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection

From my list on the human story as a single whole.

Who am I?

Tamim Ansary is the son of an Afghan father and an American mother.  As a writer, growing up in Afghanistan and growing old in America has drawn him to issues that arise from cultural confusion in zones where civilizations overlap. His books include histories and memoirs, which he considers two sides of the same coin: a memoir is history seen up close, history is memoir seen from a distance.  Much of his work explores how perspective shapes perceptions of reality—a central theme of his best-known book, Destiny Disrupted, A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes.

Tamim's book list on the human story as a single whole

Tamim Ansary Why did Tamim love this book?

Culture is how we group ourselves. Culture is how we see. To make ourselves understood by people of other cultures, we have to lend them our eyes. That’s hard, but Yu Hua meets that challenge for me. His book China in Ten Words offers ten essays about China, each with a one-word title: Revolution. Reading. Copycat. Words like that. Each essay surrounds its title-word with content until one understands what the word means, not to oneself, but to Hua. The essays work like a fusion of memoir and history. They draw the reader into one man’s experience; and at the same time they illuminate a broad patch of history—Maoist and post-Maoist China.

By Yu Hua, Allan H. Barr (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked China in Ten Words as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

People. Leader. Reading. Writing. Revolution. Grassroots. Through these and other common vernacular words and phrases, Yu Hua - widely regarded as one of China's greatest living writers - frames powerful personal stories of the Chinese experience from the Cultural Revolution to the 2010s. With wit, insight and courage, he presents a refreshingly candid vision of the 'Chinese miracle' and its consequences, and reveals a unique perspective on the world's most populous yet misunderstood nation.