The most recommended books on statesmen

Who picked these books? Meet our 48 experts.

48 authors created a book list connected to statesmen, and here are their favorite statesmen books.
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Book cover of Metternich: Strategist and Visionary

Michael Broers Author Of Napoleon: The Decline and Fall of an Empire: 1811-1821

From my list on Napoleon and an era that shook Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in Napoleon, although in what ways have shifted back and forth over time. His reforms shaped the Europe we live in today, as few other rulers have managed. To go to law, to buy and sell, to marry, be born, or divorce, all these actions belong to his Civil Code. That is why I took up the study of his regime and its work as a professional historian. His myth, his exploits, gripped me as a boy, and still do. So spectacular a rise and fall do not happen by chance. There was no one like him.

Michael's book list on Napoleon and an era that shook Europe

Michael Broers Why did Michael love this book?

‘Game changer’ is a much-overused term for new academic books, but not in this case. Wolfram Siemann’s seminal biography of Metternich sheds a blinding array of new light on one of the most important figures of the age, and recasts forever our understanding of the politics and diplomacy of the Napoleonic period. At last, a great scholar has systematically exploited the private archives of the Metternich family, bringing new facts to bear on the key moments of the Napoleonic wars. It is simply indispensable, and HUP are to be saluted for making it available in English.

By Wolfram Siemann, Daniel Steuer (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A compelling new biography that recasts the most important European statesman of the first half of the nineteenth century, famous for his alleged archconservatism, as a friend of realpolitik and reform, pursuing international peace.

Metternich has a reputation as the epitome of reactionary conservatism. Historians treat him as the archenemy of progress, a ruthless aristocrat who used his power as the dominant European statesman of the first half of the nineteenth century to stifle liberalism, suppress national independence, and oppose the dreams of social change that inspired the revolutionaries of 1848. Wolfram Siemann paints a fundamentally new image of the…


Book cover of The Life of Mahatma Gandhi

John Dear Author Of A Persistent Peace: One Man's Struggle for a Nonviolent World

From my list on the greatest modern peacemakers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent my entire life in pursuit of peace and nonviolence, and tried to be a peacemaker to our poor world of permanent warfare, extreme poverty, systemic violence, nuclear weapons, and environmental destruction. I’ve organized hundreds of demonstrations, spoken to a million people, written some forty books on peace and nonviolence, been arrested 85 times, traveled the warzones of the world—all the while trying to practice peace and nonviolence, and not doing a good job of it. That’s why I look to the examples of legendary peacemakers who lived the life of peace and changed the world with their disarming presence, people like Gandhi, Dr. King, Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan and Thomas Merton.

John's book list on the greatest modern peacemakers

John Dear Why did John love this book?

I consider Mahatma Gandhi one of the greatest peacemakers in history. He showed us how to use nonviolence at every level, even how to get the British empire to leave India peacefully. I have read the entire 100 volumes of Gandhi’s writings and many biographies, and edited my own collection but Fischer is the best and knew Gandhi personally. His biography continues to inspire me forty years after I first read it because he brings out some of Gandhi’s strongest teachings on nonviolence, including the connections with self-denial, prayer, fasting, and being willing to go to prison to stop injustice and war. I think he captures the radical spirit of Gandhi best. This book is my go-to book for peacemaking inspiration.

By Louis Fischer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a biography of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948). He led the fight for Indian independence from British rule, who tirelessly pursued a strategy of passive resistance, and who was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic only a few months after independence was achieved.


Book cover of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

Dennis C. Rasmussen Author Of Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders

From my list on American founders from a political theorist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a political theorist at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I spent the first fifteen years or so of my career working on the Scottish and French Enlightenments (Adam Smith, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire), but in recent years I’ve been drawn more and more to the American founding. In addition to Fears of a Setting Sun, I’m also the author of The Constitution’s Penman: Gouverneur Morris and the Creation of America’s Basic Charter, which explores the constitutional vision of the immensely colorful individual who—unbeknownst to most Americans—wrote the US Constitution.

Dennis' book list on American founders from a political theorist

Dennis C. Rasmussen Why did Dennis love this book?

Joseph Ellis is probably the most popular historian of the founding period, and for good reason: he has few rivals as a storyteller. As with Wood, Ellis has written at least a dozen books that could be included in my list, but Founding Brothers is probably his most well-known, as well as my personal favorite. I assign small bits of it in my American political thought course as a supplement to the primary texts, and students often comment on how much they enjoy reading it.

By Joseph J. Ellis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this landmark work of history, the National Book Award—winning author of American Sphinx explores how a group of greatly gifted but deeply flawed individuals–Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Madison–confronted the overwhelming challenges before them to set the course for our nation.

The United States was more a fragile hope than a reality in 1790. During the decade that followed, the Founding Fathers–re-examined here as Founding Brothers–combined the ideals of the Declaration of Independence with the content of the Constitution to create the practical workings of our government. Through an analysis of six fascinating episodes–Hamilton and Burr’s deadly…


Book cover of The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin

Timothy J. Shannon Author Of Indian Captive, Indian King: Peter Williamson in America and Britain

From my list on con artists and imposters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where I teach Early American, Native American, and British history. My books include Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire: The Albany Congress of 1754 and Iroquois Diplomacy on the Early American Frontier. As a historian, I've long been fascinated by stories of imposters, charlatans, and con artists. I like fictional and factual picaresque tales about people set adrift in strange lands and I have a soft spot for unreliable narrators. Historians are a skeptical breed, so slippery characters like those featured in the books listed here represent a welcome challenge: can you trust them as far as you can throw them? 

Timothy's book list on con artists and imposters

Timothy J. Shannon Why did Timothy love this book?

It may seem unfair to group Benjamin Franklin among con artists and impersonators, but he certainly had a talent for self-invention. Most biographies of Franklin take it as a given that he was the “first American,” who set the mold for what we call the American dream. In this highly readable and comparatively brief biography of the great man, Wood breaks from that tradition and tells the story of a provincial striver whose many public personas were motivated by a desire to fit in among aristocratic Europeans. If you think you know what made Franklin tick, this biography will make you think again.

By Gordon S. Wood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"I cannot remember ever reading a work of history and biography that is quite so fluent, so perfectly composed and balanced . . ." -The New York Sun

"Exceptionally rich perspective on one of the most accomplished, complex, and unpredictable Americans of his own time or any other." -The Washington Post Book World

From the most respected chronicler of the early days of the Republic-and winner of both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes-comes a landmark work that rescues Benjamin Franklin from a mythology that has blinded generations of Americans to the man he really was and makes sense of aspects…


Book cover of Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician

Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni Author Of Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar

From my list on ancient Roman history.

Why are we passionate about this?

Rob is an Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University and a former congressional speechwriter. His forthcoming book, Word on Fire: Eloquence and Its Conditions is under contract with Cambridge University Press. He’s published research in journals including the American Political Science Review, the Review of Politics, and History of Political Thought. He has also written for publications including Slate, The Atlantic, and Aeon. Jimmy is an award-winning author and ghostwriter. With Rob, he published a Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. The book won the 2017 Neumann Prize, awarded by the British Society for the History of Mathematics for the best book on the history of mathematics for a general audience. Jimmy’s writing and commentary have appeared in the Washington Examiner, the New York Observer, Forbes, and The Atlantic, among many other outlets.

Rob's book list on ancient Roman history

Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni Why did Rob love this book?

When we were first figuring out how to write our biography of Cato, Everitt's work on Cicero was our go-to guide. It doesn't simply cover in fascinating detail the key events from the end of the Roman Republic--it's a model of how to bring an ancient figure to life, situating Cicero in the midst of the all-too-modern political controversies that shaped his life.

By Anthony Everitt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • “An excellent introduction to a critical period in the history of Rome. Cicero comes across much as he must have lived: reflective, charming and rather vain.”—The Wall Street Journal

“All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.”—John Adams

He squared off against Caesar and was friends with young Brutus. He advised the legendary Pompey on his botched transition from military hero to politician. He lambasted Mark Antony and was master of the smear campaign, as feared for his wit as he was for his ruthless disputations. Brilliant, voluble, cranky, a genius…


Book cover of Paul Revere and the World He Lived in

Elizabeth Raum Author Of A Kidnapping In Kentucky 1776

From Elizabeth's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader History fanatic Nature lover Part-time chicken caretaker

Elizabeth's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Elizabeth Raum Why did Elizabeth love this book?

As a writer of history books for children, I read adult history books for research and pleasure. Paul Revere and the World He Lived In is a beautifully written biography, full of details about Paul Revere, as well as about life in Boston before, during, and after the Revolutionary War.

Forbes provides great background information on the times and the people who lived through the "rebellion." Paul Revere was far more than a well-known silversmith who rode to Lexington and Concord to warn of a British attack. He was instrumental in providing intelligence about British moves to men like Samuel Adams and Dr. Joseph Warren. And he helped procure supplies, and he invented a process for producing much-needed gunpowder.

His life after the Revolution is fascinating, as well. This book won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for History. 

Book cover of The Story of Alexander Hamilton: A Biography Book for New Readers

Natasha Wing Author Of The Story of Eliza Hamilton: A Biography Book for New Readers

From my list on Founding Mothers and Fathers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love relearning history I learned way back in high school and looking at it with wiser eyes. I wanted to pay tribute to both the Founding Fathers and Mothers since it took quite a few brave, smart and determined people to figure out how the new nation of the United States of America would operate. After watching the musical, Hamilton, I was curious to discover more about some of the characters. That’s what’s so great about children’s books – they can be used to extend and deepen the learning process for kids and adults.

Natasha's book list on Founding Mothers and Fathers

Natasha Wing Why did Natasha love this book?

This book is from the same series as The Story of Eliza Hamilton and makes for a great pairing. Read them both to learn about this colonial day's “power couple.” This book will help kids learn more about Alexander if they have seen the musical Hamilton. He was George Washington’s aide, and one of the most important Founding Fathers by helping win the Revolutionary War. Did you know Hamilton started the nation’s first bank system? Like the Eliza book, this one has timelines, fun side facts, maps, a family tree, and a quiz at the end. Great for classrooms!

By Christine Platt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Story of Alexander Hamilton as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Help kids ages 6 to 9 discover the life of Alexander Hamilton―a story about working hard, blazing trails, and fighting for freedom

Alexander Hamilton became one of the most important Founding Fathers in American history. He helped win the Revolutionary War against England and invented our nation’s first banking system. Before that, he was a playful kid who loved to write and believed in hard work. Born on a Caribbean island, Alexander overcame many hardships to come to America and earn a name for himself.

Explore how Alexander Hamilton went from being a young immigrant boy with strong values to…


Book cover of In the Lion's Court: Power, Ambition, and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII

Natalia Richards Author Of The Falcon's Flight

From my list on Tudor that are informative and imaginative.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Natalia Richards and I have written two novels on Anne Boleyn. My passion for Tudor stuff began over 50 years ago after watching the film Anne of the Thousand Days. I’d always loved the Tudors and by the 1980’s had a go at writing a novel about her. Sadly, it descended into a bodice ripper. It was a first try though, and I still have it if ever I want a good laugh. It took me until the new millennium to start seriously writing and I’m sure there is not a single book out there that I have not read about Anne! 

Natalia's book list on Tudor that are informative and imaginative

Natalia Richards Why did Natalia love this book?

Again, I find this factual book great for reference, but it is also very enjoyable if you want to know more about the six Thomas’s at the Tudor Court: Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Howard, Thomas Wriothesley and Thomas Cranmer.

Their lives are described in parallel, with information about their families and origins, which I always find fascinating as I’m nosey. It’s certainly a good overview of what was happening at the Tudor Court.

By Derek Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Lion's Court as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


The story of Henry VIII and his six wives is a well-known example of the caprice and violence that dominated that King’s reign. Now renowned historian Derek Wilson examines a set of relationships that more vividly illustrate just how dangerous life was in the court of the Tudor lion. He tells the interlocking stories of six men—all curiously enough named Thomas—whose ambitions and principles brought them face to face with violent death, as recorded in a simple mnemonic: ‘Died, beheaded, beheaded, Self-slaughtered, burned, survived.’

In the Lion’s Court is an illuminating examination of the careers of the six Thomases---
Thomas…


Book cover of The Founders: The 39 Stories Behind the U.S. Constitution

Joseph D'Agnese Author Of Signing Their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the United States Constitution

From my list on the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Joseph D’Agnese grew up in the Bicentennial-fueled excitement of the 1970s, and spent 1976 fake-playing a fife and sporting a tricorn hat in various school events. Besides teaching him how to get in and out of Revolutionary-period knickers, this experience awakened in him a love for the Founding Era of American history. He has since authored three history titles with his wife, The New York Times bestselling author Denise Kiernan. 

Joseph's book list on the creation of the U.S. Constitution

Joseph D'Agnese Why did Joseph love this book?

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence are universally referred to as “Signers.”

In family trees and genealogies, you’ll often find this word appended to their names as a badge of honor, delineating them from later and earlier relations who bore the same name. The men who signed the Constitution, however, or typically referred to as Framers or Founders; that’s the reason behind Fradin’s title.

This is a great book for kids, grades 4 to 7. The maps and etchings by illustrator Michael McCurdy are charming, and help set the scene and mood of each man’s story. I think it can be a helpful book for teachers and homeschoolers looking for short readings to help bring the Constitution to life in the classroom.

By Dennis Brindell Fradin, Michael McCurdy (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Founders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

The stories behind the Constitution are as powerful as the nation it created.

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

After the American Revolution, the thirteen united states were joined, barely, by an almost powerless government. The federal army was too weak to defend the nation; there was no national currency; and there was no…


Book cover of All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt

Laurence Jurdem Author Of The Rough Rider and the Professor: Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and the Friendship That Changed American History

From my list on the lives of Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian who focuses on the political history of the United States during the 20th century. My particular interest focuses on the history of the Republican Party & the American presidency. I am curious about how individuals acquire political power and their use of it. I was drawn to write a book about the friendship between Roosevelt and Lodge because of my fascination with the friendship among Eastern elites and how Lodge served as a mentor to Roosevelt in helping him achieve prominence in United States politics. Despite the many books on T.R. no one has ever written a narrative about his relationship with Lodge. 

Laurence's book list on the lives of Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge

Laurence Jurdem Why did Laurence love this book?

A wonderful biography of the journalist, poet, and diplomat.

Taliaferro’s narrative gives the reader a broad understanding of the political and diplomatic events which shaped the United States and the Republican Party from 1838-1905. Hay, like his close friend Henry Adams was a prolific letter writer and a man of strong opinions.

Within the text one gets a detailed description of not only what Hay’s relationship was like with Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, but also his complex relationship with Henry Cabot Lodge and others within the political and diplomatic circles of Washington, D.C.

By John Taliaferro,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From secretary to Abraham Lincoln to secretary of state for Theodore Roosevelt, John Hay remained a major figure in American history for more than half a century. His private life was as glamorous and romantic as it was privileged. This first full-scale biography since 1934 is a reflection of American history from the Civil War to the emergence of the nation as a world power as Woodrow Wilson is about to take office.

If Henry James or Edith Wharton had written a novel describing the accomplished and glamorous life and times of John Hay, it would have been thought implausible—a…