Most of the time, it’s hard to keep up with the world of politics. You never know who’s telling the truth or who’s only good at saying big, empty words of promises.

Whether you’re trying to learn vital world issues that happened in the past, discerning who’s worthy of your vote, or even if you just want to keep up with the current affairs—you need to have the best material in hand.

So we asked experts to share the best political books that will help you stay informed.

Here are their top recommendations:

Dr. John M. Callahan, Ph.D.

john-callahan

Program Director for International Studies, New England College | President and CEO, the Field Marshall Strategies, LLC

The Tragedy of Great Power Politics by John Mearsheimer

 

Mearsheimer writes the ultimate tract on realism in international affairs, reaching the sad conclusion that peace among nations is a utopian dream. 

The work uses examples from across the 20th century to demonstrate why politics among the great powers of the world always devolve into a situation of a coalition of the weaker balancing against the stronger.

He also addresses the primacy of land power and wealth in this context, and explains the rise of the U.S. in the 20th century, while positing that the 21st century will come to be dominated by the rivalry between the U.S. and China.

Presidential Command: Power, Leadership, and the Making of Foreign Policy from Richard Nixon to George by Peter W. Rodman, Henry Kissinger (Introduction)

Rodman, who served in several presidential administrations, provides insights on a series of critical questions about how leadership works at the highest level of government. 

Related: 24 Best Leadership Books of All Time

Through the prism of the presidencies from Nixon through to George W. Bush, Rodman focuses on how presidents choose their senior cabinet officials, how they empower (or disempower) key leaders, how they handle failure, and how they choose to receive or reject the advice of their advisors and the bureaucracy.

Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era (The Richard Ullman Lectures) by Joseph S. Nye

Joseph Nye draws on his long service in government and his wealth of academic study of the nature of power to describe what makes a good president and a successful presidency.

Three key elements of success are offered. 

  • The first is seeking incremental, rather than transformational objectives.
  • The second is a need for contextual intelligence of the world and where policies fit in it. 
  • The third is a strong sense of ethics. 

Dr. Jeffrey Peter Bradford

Director, Manhattan Strategic Studies Institute

The Power Game: How Washington Works by Hedrick Smith

A great survey of the Washington scene and dynamics driving politics in the early 1980s written by a commentator with credibility and an eye for detail.

The book talks about the impact television was beginning to have on the electoral cycle and makes for prescient and relevant reading in considering the internet and social media impacts on political discourse.

Related: How Social Media Affects Communication Skills?

The Political Animal: An Anatomy by Jeremy Paxman (2003-09-04) by Jeremy Paxman

Jeremy Paxman is a sage, television interviewer from Britain.

Although the book is British in orientation, Paxman’s characterization of the ‘life-cycle’ of the Politician from neophyte to head of state is relevant reading in any country.

Paxman’s humor also helps ground this book and make it relevant.

Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis by Graham Allison, Philip Zelikow

Allison’s work sought to explain one of the largest international crises of all-time from three different analytical perspectives.

  • The first being that of a traditional historical narrative focused on the interplay of nations and their interests. 
  • The second looked at the crisis as the result of different organizations following standard procedures which clashed with one another. 
  • The third, the Bureaucratic Politics model has launched a thousand Ph.D. research programs and focused on the interplay of individuals. 
(Read more)  International Relations and Diplomacy

The three lenses combined give a rich set of tools and explanation for the crisis.

James Hoopes

james-hoopes

Murata Professor of Ethics in Business, Babson College | Award-Winning Author on American History

Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 1: 1884-1933 by Blanche Wiesen Cook

It’s an inspiring story of a girl who suffered painful rejection in childhood but became one of the bravest and most admired people of her time.

There is a great picture of her marriage with FDR in which she was both his political ally and his conscientious critic.

Even if you are deeply familiar with the story of the Depression and World War II, you’ll likely get a new take on the period from this biography of a woman whose unique position enabled her not only to offer acute observations of her world but also help to shape it.

Ryan Knoll

ryan-knoll

Owner, Tidy Casa

The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Alastair Smith

The Dictator’s Handbook illustrates that the type of governments that get made and how they run all comes down to the number of backs that need scratching. It does a fantastic job breaking down how governments work with an approachable framework.

They go in-depth on the principles that any group of constituents from dictatorships to corporate boards.

They explain why a large democracy might pay millions to a dictatorship and what would determine if it makes sense for a dictatorship to oppress its people or keep them happy. 

This book incredibly eye-opening not only for those interested in learning about actual dictatorships but also for modern governments and corporations.

Joshua Womack

joshua-womack

Co-Founder, Laugh Staff

Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Frank I. Luntz

Luntz does a great job of taking the reader through why we vote for dreamers (Reagan, Obama) since we dream about better days, too.

He also pinpoints why the word ‘imagine’ is so strong, since each person’s imagination is uniquely based on their own experiences.

Lastly, he does a great job of taking the reader through the 10 rules of effective communication: simplicity, brevity, credibility, consistency, novelty, sound, aspiration, visualization, questing, and context. 

Related: Effective Communication: How to Improve Your Communication Skills

Nate Masterson

Nate Masterson

CMO, Maple Holistics

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt is one of the most interesting thinkers of our generation and in The Righteous Mind, he decided to ask an intriguing question: 

What are the moral drives of people on each side of the political aisle

What he discovers is beyond fascinating, it’s downright groundbreaking. More important than anything else, his findings are honest and free of any bias and he shows you, through meticulous research, the gray area between good and evil.

Related: Why is Critical Thinking Important?

1984 by George Orwell

There’s a reason 1984 flies off the shelf after every election, and it’s because no matter who you vote for, 1984 show us a political reality we can all agree is bad.

The ideas he discusses are so complex and so much a part of the human experience, and describes how refusing to have a political dialogue is intellectual, as well as societal suicide.

Phil La Duke

phil-la-duke

Global Business Consultant | Author, “I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business! An Iconoclast’s View of Worker Safety

This book is filled with wit and wisdom and unfortunately eerie predictions of politics of today.

Thompson’s searing wit, cutting writing style, and unapologetic, in-your-face way of calling out the villains of the Reagan years is without peer.

It’s a collection of contemporary accounts by a first had observer to the foundation of modern politics. It’s also a wickedly enjoyable read.

Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed

 

Jack Reed is the only American buried in the Red Square. In this book, he laboriously documents the Russian Revolution as it happens.  

It can bog down in places, however, how can we discount an author who not only chronicles history as it unfolds but is an active participant?

It’s also a somber reminder of what happens when income inequality becomes untenable.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck’s subtle calls for social reform through the eyes of beleaguered Okies is as riveting and pertinent today as when it was written.  

While Steinbeck may not seem political to the uninitiated his powerful glance into the lives of the poor and underserved.

He shows us the world through the eyes of characters who quickly feel like family. They are poor, driven from their homes, subject to injustices still too common among the poor.

His tale of this ragtag band sojourning to the promised land of California only to arrive at more injustice is as loud a cry for political change as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

Katherine Blaisdell

katherine-blaisdell

Public Speaking and Communications Coach

Pre-Post-Racial America: Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines by Sandhya Rani Jha

Written in the years following Barack Obama’s election in 2008, Pre-Post-Racial America answers the question of how we talk about race when all our problems were supposed to have been solved with the first Black president.

Jha grounds each topic in real stories, offering storytelling as a salve to the vicious divisiveness that race and ideology tend to raise in people.

It’s an essential read for the basics of racial justice, with terms like “racism” and “white supremacy” bolded and defined, and book-club-style questions at the end of each chapter for prompting discussion.

But it’s also a valuable tool for folks immersed in racial justice, modeling bridge-building with uncompromising moral courage. (The audiobook is read by the author and especially lovely.)

Transforming Communities: How People Like You are Healing Their Neighborhoods by Sandhya Rani Jha

A response to the overwhelming anger and numbness progressive folks felt in the wake of the 2016 election, Transforming Communities offers a warm and realistic treatise on how you absolutely can shape your community to be more just.

The book is organized into chapters about claiming power in ways that aren’t money or force, and each contains stirring and real examples of people and communities empowered in just those ways.

Every chapter begins with a quote from poetry or a great speech and ends with practical, current resources to learn more and do more about the issue at hand.

In between is a brilliant historian’s concise explanation of how we got here and clear advice for using the tool she provides.

The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear by Rev Dr. William J. Barber II, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Barber is a scholar, a minister in the historic Black church of the southeastern US, and a prominent leader of a growing movement known as the Christian Left.

The Third Reconstruction is part memoir, part historical analysis (arguing that we are in the midst of the Third Reconstruction, the first two being following the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement), and part prescription for how we move forward as a country amid divisive politics.

(Read more)  The Emperor's New Road: China and the Project of the Century

The book is rich in statistics, stories, and the kind of gentle but fiercely compelling application of politics for which Barber has become famous.

It is entirely religious, entirely political, and deeply nuanced in its understanding of how faith does affect politics no matter what while also believing religion and the state must be free of one another.

Mutlu Remzi

mutlu-remzi

QA Engineer in Financial Markets

The New School of Economics: The Platform and Theory Behind the New Physiocrats by Philip Allan

There have been an increasing number of discussions surrounding Georgist thought in the past few years to the point where the major UK political parties have introduced an LVT as part of their political platform, while the discussion in Asia is also becoming increasingly active.

This book, the manifesto of the New Physiocratic League, explains the latest iteration of the Georgist platform.

It has already become the official platform of a minor UK political party, and has been working in conjunction with the Democratic Freedom Caucus in the US. A very interesting new development that will only become greater with time.

Book Cover of Yuval Noah Harari - 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Yuval Noah Harari

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In Sapiens, he explored our past. In Homo Deus, he looked to our futureNow, one of the most innovative thinkers on the planet turns to the present to make sense of today’s most pressing issues.

“Fascinating . . . a crucial global conversation about how to take on the problems of the twenty-first century.”—Bill Gates, The New York Times Book Review

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY FINANCIAL TIMES AND PAMELA PAUL, KQED 

How do computers and robots change the meaning of being human? How do we deal with the epidemic of fake news? Are nations and religions still relevant? What should we teach our children?

Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a probing and visionary investigation into today’s most urgent issues as we move into the uncharted territory of the future. As technology advances faster than our understanding of it, hacking becomes a tactic of war, and the world feels more polarized than ever, Harari addresses the challenge of navigating life in the face of constant and disorienting change and raises the important questions we need to ask ourselves in order to survive.

In twenty-one accessible chapters that are both provocative and profound, Harari builds on the ideas explored in his previous books, untangling political, technological, social, and existential issues and offering advice on how to prepare for a very different future from the world we now live in: How can we retain freedom of choice when Big Data is watching us? What will the future workforce look like, and how should we ready ourselves for it? How should we deal with the threat of terrorism? Why is liberal democracy in crisis?

Harari’s unique ability to make sense of where we have come from and where we are going has captured the imaginations of millions of readers. Here he invites us to consider values, meaning, and personal engagement in a world full of noise and uncertainty. When we are deluged with irrelevant information, clarity is power. Presenting complex contemporary challenges clearly and accessibly, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is essential reading.

“If there were such a thing as a required instruction manual for politicians and thought leaders, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century would deserve serious consideration. In this collection of provocative essays, Harari . . . tackles a daunting array of issues, endeavoring to answer a persistent question: ‘What is happening in the world today, and what is the deep meaning of these events?’”—BookPage (top pick)

5/5 - (2 votes)