The Best Books on the Hong Kong Protests, recommended by Ben Bland

Around the world people have followed the standoff in Hong Kong with apprehension, as local protestors have taken on the might of China’s powerful Communist Party. Here Ben Bland, author of Generation HK and Director at Australian think tank the Lowy Institute, talks us through books to better understand what’s been going on these past few years and what’s at stake for Hong Kong’s citizens and activists.

The best books on Liberal Democracy, recommended by Francis Fukuyama

Even some of the world’s most authoritarian rulers continue to pay lip service to democracy and people’s right to vote for their leaders, but the days when many social scientists believed that all countries at a certain level of prosperity would eventually turn to liberal democracy are over, says Francis Fukuyama, now a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute. Here, he recommends books to better understand liberal democracy, and what those of us lucky enough to live in one can do to protect our form of government.

The Best Politics Books To Read in 2021, recommended by Larry Sabato

In many Western countries, citizens have long taken living in a democracy for granted. The last decade has changed all that, with fledgling democracies veering back to authoritarianism and even the most stable democracies being shaken by populist movements. Here, political scientist Larry J. Sabato turns the spotlight on the American republic, long a beacon for democracy around the globe, but now suffering its own internal turmoil. He recommends the best politics books to read in 2021, focusing on the United States.

The best books on Longtermism, recommended by Will MacAskill

There is so much suffering in today’s world it’s hard to focus attention on future generations, but that’s exactly what we should be doing, says Will MacAskill, a leader of the effective altruism movement. Here, he introduces books that contributed to his thinking about the long-term future and the “silent billions” who are not yet able to speak for themselves.

The best books on Language and Post-Truth, recommended by Nick Enfield

The word ‘post-truth’ may only have entered the Oxford English Dictionary in the last decade, but the phenomenon it describes is much older and deeper, connected not so much to the latest internet trend as the fundamentals of human cognition and communication. Here, linguistic anthropologist Nick Enfield, a professor at the University of Sydney and a member of its fighting truth decay research node, introduces the best books to get thinking about the complex relationship between language and reality.

The best books on Richard Nixon, recommended by David Greenberg

American president Richard Nixon will be forever remembered for his role in the Watergate scandal and his resignation in 1974, a blow for a man obsessed with his image who hoped to be remembered as a peacemaker on the global stage. Here historian David Greenberg, a professor at Rutgers, recommends books on a man who elicited very strong emotions, both for and against.

The best books on The Far Right, recommended by Cas Mudde

There’s nothing new about the far right and the unpleasant views that its supporters espouse. What’s changed is that some of those views have been embraced by the political mainstream and are now viewed as normal. Political scientist Cas Mudde, Stanley Wade Shelton UGAF Professor at the University of Georgia, talks us through the best books on the far right.

The best books on Ukraine and Russia, recommended by Serhii Plokhy

Thousands of people have been killed since 2014 in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, in a war that has been rife with disinformation, misleading narratives and false flag operations. Here Serhii Plokhy, Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University, recommends books to better understand the conflict, from an introductory work by an eminent historian to the latest work of some of Ukraine’s leading novelists.

The best books on African Politics, recommended by Evan Lieberman

Despite their enormous variety, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa share some common challenges when it comes to politics and governance. Here, political scientist Evan Lieberman talks about the struggles for democracy in the continent and some of the specific obstacles African countries face in state-building and administration.

The best books on Immigration and Race, recommended by Reece Jones

In a series of books, Reece Jones, Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Hawaii, has explored the impact of borders on our lives. In his latest book, White Borders, he delves into the history of immigration and race in the United States, and explains the connection between the two. Here, he recommends the best books he’s read on the topic and explains why he’s not optimistic about the future.

The best books on Nationalism, recommended by Yael Tamir

When we think of nationalism, we tend to think of its extreme varieties. In fact, it’s so ubiquitous in our daily lives that we rarely even notice it, says political theorist and former Israeli politician Yael Tamir. Here, she recommends books to help us better understand nationalism in all its forms and why one ignores its power at one’s peril.

The best books on NATO, recommended by Mark Webber

With all eyes on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it’s a good time to educate yourself on the role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in post-war Europe. Here, University of Birmingham political scientist Mark Webber offers five book recommendations on the history, aims and ideals of NATO.

The Best Books on Social Media and Political Polarization, recommended by Chris Bail

Convenient as it is to blame our political woes on the polarizing effect of social media, echo chambers, interference by foreign powers or other shadowy operators, the truth is that human nature and our search for identity and status are more likely culprits. Sociologist Chris Bail, a professor at Duke University and director of its ‘Polarization Lab’, talks us through what social science has to say about the connection between social media and political polarization.

The best books on Brexit, recommended by Anand Menon

Brexit shook British politics in 2016 and, six years on, its long-term consequences both for the UK and for the European Union remain highly uncertain. Here political scientist and Brexit expert Anand Menon recommends books to help you understand Brexit, what caused it and why, and puts those trends in a wider global political context.

The best books on The Civil Rights Era, recommended by Lerone Martin

The struggle for Black freedom in America has been going on since the first enslaved Africans were brought to the continent, but it was the civil rights era of 1954 to 1968 that finally resulted in a raft of legislation that gave equal citizenship to Black people in the United States. Here, Professor Lerone Martin of Stanford University recommends the best books to understand the American civil rights movement, with a focus on some of the individuals who were key to its success.

The best books on The Non-Aligned Movement, recommended by Paul Stubbs

The Non-Aligned Movement was a loose alliance of more than 100 member states whose heyday was during the Cold War, though it continues to exist today. Here, sociologist Paul Stubbs chooses five books to illustrate the cultural, political and economic influence of the Non-Aligned Movement and argues the ideas that animated it are still of vital importance.

The best books on Historical Change and Economic Ideology, recommended by Thomas Piketty

Throughout history, social and economic inequalities have been fueled and justified by different ideologies. French economist Thomas Piketty’s latest book, Capital and Ideology, looks at the advent and fall of these ideologies, and how they could evolve in the future. He recommends five great books to better understand these complex and always-evolving ideas, and their consequences for the world.

The Best Politics Books of 2020, recommended by Yascha Mounk

Despite the challenge of authoritarian populism and a new divisiveness in political debate in many countries around the world there are reasons for optimism, argues political scientist Yascha Mounk, author of The People vs. Democracy. He talks us through his selection of the best politics books of 2020.

The best books on Philanthropy, recommended by Beth Breeze

Philanthropy is everywhere—and that means we need an informed debate about what it is and how to do it better, rather than resorting to populist critiques of donors and their motives, argues Beth Breeze, Director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent. Here she recommends five books to help encourage a more careful and nuanced look at philanthropy, an activity that affects all of us every day but is particularly critical in the lives of the most vulnerable.

The best books on Religion in US Politics, recommended by John H. Smith

Religion is deeply bound up with politics in the United States, in a way that is unique in the developed world and among democratic countries. Here Professor John H. Smith, a historian at Texas A&M University, looks at the historical roots of this phenomenon and its contemporary significance.

The Best Books on the Politics of Information, recommended by Henry Farrell

Our political systems evolved in an era when information was much harder to come by. What challenges does our current reality of information overload pose for democracy? How do we even start thinking about these questions? Political scientist Henry Farrell proposes key books for building a curriculum on ‘the politics of information,’ starting with a beautifully written novel.

The best books on Gender Inequality, recommended by Linda Scott

Women produce about 40% of global GDP and more than half of the world’s food. But their economic and social contribution has too often gone unrecorded—subsumed into ‘household earnings’ or otherwise disregarded. Here, the Oxford academic and author of The Double X Economy Linda Scott selects five of the best books on gender inequality, and reveals how the empowerment of women might just be the route to world peace.

The best books on Joe Biden, recommended by Ronald A. Klain

On January 20th, 2021, Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States. Here Ronald A. Klain, the veteran lawyer who is once again serving as Biden’s chief of staff, recommends books that show the man behind the public persona including his love of Irish poetry, the string of terrible personal tragedies that have affected his life and career, and his leading role in blocking a Supreme Court appointment that would’ve decimated abortion rights.

The best books on Scottish Nationalism, recommended by Murray Leith

There has been a sharp rise in nationalist and pro-independence sentiment in Scotland since the resumption of the Scottish parliament in 1999. Here, the University of West Scotland political scientist Murray Leith reflects on the changing nature of Scottish identity and separatist visions, as he recommends five key books on Scottish nationalism.

The best books on Human Rights and Literature, recommended by Lyndsey Stonebridge

The connections between human rights and literature are profound and we ignore the humanities and reading at our peril, says Lyndsey Stonebridge, Interdisciplinary Professor of Humanities at the University of Birmingham. She recommends books that best show the complex relationship between literature and human rights, from Auschwitz to Manus Island.

The best books on Bosnia, recommended by Velma Šarić

As a teenager, Velma Šarić’s hometown of Kladanj welcomed refugees from eastern Bosnia as it was bombed and shelled, her primary school eventually becoming a shelter for people fleeing the massacre at Srebenica. Now she runs Sarajevo’s Post-Conflict Research Centre, trying to prevent anything like it from ever happening again. She recommends books to read on the Bosnian War and explains that it was not a war between different communities, but rather an assault on the country’s multiethnic, multicultural identity.

The best books on Assassinations, recommended by Michael Burleigh

From Julius Caesar to Jamal Khashoggi, assassinations often seem earth-shattering in their consequences. But, as historian Michael Burleigh explains, those consequences are rarely the ones the assassins intended. Here, he recommends the best books on assassinations and the assassins who carry them out, including the role of drones and PR agencies.

The best books on The BBC, recommended by Simon J. Potter

The British Broadcasting Corporation celebrates its centenary this year. The beloved institution has always had a paradoxical identity: part monopoly and government organ, part commercial enterprise and government critic; part bringer of change, part defender of the status quo. Here Simon Potter, Professor of Modern History at the University of Bristol, talks us through the history and the transformations the BBC has undergone since it was first founded in 1922.

The best books on The US Cabinet, recommended by Lindsay Chervinsky

In contrast to many other countries, the secretaries who serve in the United States cabinet aren’t chosen from among the country’s elected officials but entirely reflect the president’s personal choices. Here, presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky, author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, talks us through the role of the cabinet and recommends which books to read to understand more about it.

The best books on Margaret Thatcher, recommended by Simon Heffer

Simon Heffer, journalist, historian and friend of Margaret Thatcher, recommends the best books to read to gain an understanding of the United Kingdom’s first female prime minister—and explains why she was the most influential British leader of the modern era.

The best books on China Korea Relations, recommended by Odd Arne Westad

China has had close political and cultural relations with Korea for centuries and the history of that relationship can shed light on China’s approach to international relations more broadly—including in its imperial past. Yale historian Odd Arne Westad recommends the best books on China, Korea and the relationship between them.

The best books on Peace, recommended by Steve Killelea

Efforts to bring about peace have often focused on eliminating the conditions of war, violence and terrorism. But as Steve Killelea—founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace and the annual Global Peace Index—explains, the foundations of sustainable peace are radically different from the absence of war and violence. Here, he recommends five books that shed light on the building blocks of peace and explains why ‘positive peace’ is so important.

The best books on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, recommended by Amanda Tyler

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933—2020) spent her life working tirelessly for a more just society, says Amanda Tyler, Shannon C. Turner Professor of Law at Berkeley and former law clerk to the Supreme Court Justice. She recommends the best books to read about RBG: her life, her work, and even her personal training regime.

The best books on Patriarchy, recommended by Mona Eltahawy

If you looked up patriarchy in a dictionary, the definition probably wouldn’t correspond with what most feminists and activists mean by it today. Here, Mona Eltahawy—journalist, activist and author of The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls—explains what it’s all about, why its tentacles are everywhere, and what to read to understand more about it.

The Best Political Books of 2019, recommended by John Harwood

With the 2020 presidential race underway and a possible impeachment of President Trump on the horizon, 2019 has been an action-packed year so far in American politics. Here to discuss five new political books that break down how we got to where we are is CNBC editor-at-large John Harwood, whose razor-sharp analysis has put him at the forefront of our television screens and the nation’s political discourse.

The best books on Angela Merkel, recommended by Tom Nuttall

For 16 years, as chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel was the most powerful woman in the world. Here Tom Nuttall, the Economist’s Berlin bureau chief, talks us through books to help us understand her time in office, and explains how her East German upbringing influenced her style of governance.

The best books on Veterans, recommended by Phil Klay

While many of us in the West commemorate the contribution of war veterans and the soldiers who lost their lives on our behalf, there’s also a tendency to see war as something distant and unconnected with our daily lives. Here Phil Klay, veteran of the US Marine Corps and award-winning novelist, recommends books that help bridge that gap—and capture the complicated relationship between soldiers and the societies on whose behalf they fight.

The best books on Popular Uprisings, recommended by Robert Poole

Under what conditions do popular uprisings end in massacres? What’s the best way for someone protesting against a government to get what they want? Robert Poole, Professor of History at the University of Central Lancashire and author of Peterloo: The English Uprising, recommends the best books on uprisings.

The best books on The First Amendment, recommended by Suzanne Nossel

Frequently appealed to, less frequently understood, and by no means a free pass to say or write whatever you feel like: Suzanne Nossel, chief executive of PEN America, the nonprofit dedicated to free expression, talks us through the best books to better understand America's venerated First Amendment.

The best books on National Security, recommended by Juliette Kayyem

National security isn’t just about foreign policy and counterterrorism, but has a broad set of concerns—including climate change, national disasters and pandemics. Juliette Kayyem, Senior Lecturer in International Security at Harvard and author of Security Mom, recommends books to get us all thinking about national security and the challenges we face.

The Best Mary Wollstonecraft Books, recommended by Sylvana Tomaselli

Mary Wollstonecraft lived by her pen and wrote trenchant critiques of the role of women and marriage in late 18th century British society. She died aged 38, a few days after giving birth to her second daughter, Mary Shelley. She is often remembered for writing the Vindication of the Rights of Woman, but it was not in fact her best book, says Cambridge intellectual historian Sylvana Tomaselli. Here, she recommends books to read to get a good understanding of the extraordinary Mary Wollstonecraft, and the writers she was both influenced by and reacting against.

The best books on Migrant Workers, recommended by Mireya Loza

American society and American history marginalized migrant workers for too long. New scholarship shows that migrant workers were central to America’s cultural and economic development. Mireya Loza, a historian at Georgetown University and author of Defiant Braceros, talks us through the best books about migrant workers—and why their stories are integral to understanding the past and present of United States.  

The Best Books for Long-Term Thinking, recommended by Roman Krznaric

We would all love our economic and political systems to be less short-termist in approach, but how do we set about encouraging a more long-term ethos? Cultural thinker Roman Krznaric, author of The Good Ancestor, recommends five books to get us thinking about the long term, up to ten millennia in the future.

The best books on White Supremacy, recommended by Kathleen Belew

Defined by University of Chicago historian Kathleen Belew, white supremacy is a “broad system of laws, norms and customs that create a society with unequal opportunities for people based on race”. It persists to this day, and has surprising intersections with issues of labor and women’s reproduction. Here, she recommends books for coming to grips with the history of this complex topic.