Here’s my list of the 11 best books on politics, in no particular order.
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – An impersonal account of human nature and behavior and the structures that form human society. Imagine if an alien visited Earth for a few thousand years and then had to write a report to explain humans back home.
- The Prince – Written almost 500 years ago, this book is just as relevant now as ever. Machiavelli spent his career as an advisor to royalty. This book was his realistic and amoral advice to any would-be ruler or person in power.
- Civilization and Its Discontents – The culmination of decades of Freud’s work. Freud got many things wrong but he also got many things right. This book exemplifies the best in him while minimizing some of his odder conclusions and proclivities.
- The Righteous Mind – Haidt puts forth an argument for a personality-driven model of political beliefs. Hugely important to understand why people believe what they believe.
- The True Believer – Hoffer’s classic looks at the nature of mass movements, why they happen, and how they organize. Reportedly, this was Eisenhower’s favorite book.
- The Origins of Political Order – Fukuyama’s magnum opus, a sprawling history of all human political systems and why some succeed and others fail.
- Democracy in America – The classic observations of a French aristocrat on the nascent American experiment. Many of de Tocqueville’s reflections on American culture are still relevant today.
- On Tyranny – A short primer on the causes and tendencies that lead to tyranny and what we can do to stop them.
- The Republic – The origination of political science and a brilliant critique of government that is still important today.
- Democracy for Realists – An upsetting but sobering read on the data of democratic performance. A lot of counterintuitive and unsavory conclusions here.
- Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln was forced into a situation where his advisors and cabinet members came from different parties and hated each other. Incredibly, Lincoln used this to his advantage.
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