"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


shameless blegging

Some of my students have asked for a list of books that a well-read, internationally-focused political science major should have covered by the end of undergrad. (I know. It's almost like they want to learn or something.) I'm compiling a list of books in all areas, but especially with a focus on international relations, comparative politics, humanitarian aid, development, genocide, state failure, African politics, and the Cold War, because these are the things I know a little about.

But what about the rest of the wide world? This, dear readers, is where you come in. What books would you recommend on any of the above topics, as well as Afghanistan, Iraq, civil-military relations, China, political theory, or anything else that is:
  • 1) accessible to smart, capable undergraduates, and
  • 2) something they need to have read before they head out to graduate school or careers in diplomacy, aid work, consulting, or any other of a myriad of international careers?
I'll post the list here when it's fully compiled so you can feel free to use it for yourself or (if you have them) students.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Civil War is Not a Stupid thing by Christopher Cramer and Development, Security and Unending War by Mark Duffiled are musts for an alternative view of international actors and conflict.

On Africa: When Things fell Apart by Bates and Africa Works: Disorder as a Political Instrument by Chabal and Daloz.

China in Africa by C Alden is an excellent overview of the topic.

Monday, November 16, 2009 9:38:00 AM

Anonymous Claude Van Inkins said...

Anonymous said...
Civil War is Not a Stupid thing by Christopher Cramer and Development, Security and Unending War by Mark Duffiled are musts for an alternative view of international actors and conflict.

On Africa: When Things fell Apart by Bates and Africa Works: Disorder as a Political Instrument by Chabal and Daloz.

China in Africa by C Alden is an excellent overview of the topic.

Monday, November 16, 2009 9:40:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the theory side, you can't go wrong with classics such as Leviathan, the Prince, I'm partial to Democracy in America. Legitimacy in the Modern State is good too. The Rebirth of Europe is a good book if they want to find out about post-Cold War Europe.

Monday, November 16, 2009 10:20:00 AM

Blogger Simon said...

I think some sort of introductory text to economics would be good. Nothing technical, but just something that touches on the ideas and concepts. I'm always amazed at how easy people think it is to go from good intentions to good policy. Naked economics comes to mind but it's been years since I've read it. A bit of Rawls can't hurt either.

Monday, November 16, 2009 12:07:00 PM

Anonymous Andrew Farrand said...

Strunk & White! (There's no use knowing everything there is to know about these important subjects if you can't write about them.)

Looking forward to seeing the full list - and working to fill in some of the gaps.


Monday, November 16, 2009 3:47:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Thanks for the great suggestions, everyone! Andrew, yours is going at the top of the list!

Monday, November 16, 2009 5:04:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as the topic of the US versus crimes against humanity, I recommend Samantha Power's "A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide"

Monday, November 16, 2009 6:19:00 PM

Blogger Joanna said...

Not for sale by David Batstone. It's a powerful introduction to the issue of human trafficking. Its something people working in aid work or development need to know about because there is a good chance they will encounter it in some form.

My current international relations text is Introduction to international relations: theories and approaches by Robert Jackson and Georg Sorensen. Its a solid introduction to the theoretical dimension (realism, liberalism ect) of international relations.

Monday, November 16, 2009 8:12:00 PM

Blogger Leslie said...

Don't know if you're looking for development stuff, but Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen is a good primer.

And because it shows the chaos of Angola when the Portuguese left, Another Day of Life by Ryszard Kapuscinski.

Although it's based domestically, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman is an excellent example of cross-cultural difficulties and public health.

These might be all more lightweight, but might be appealing as introductory "fun" to undergrads. I also second the Samantha Power suggestion.

Monday, November 16, 2009 9:24:00 PM

Blogger Ron Rollins said...


The Politics of HIV/ AIDS and Implications for Democracy in Kenya

This is a great book and the author was one of my Pol/Sci professors.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 2:32:00 AM

Blogger Andrew said...

I second A Problem From Hell.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 7:34:00 AM

Blogger Philip Blue said...

Books! One of my favourite subjects. On humanitarian affairs, Complex Emergencies by David Keen is, in my view, the stand-out text. It has to be on any development reading list. He taught me, so I'm a little biased, but still...

On political theory, lots of texts are quite technical, and focus on national rather than international concerns, I find. But I think it's worth knowing the basics before moving on...the best introductory texts are 'Political Philosophy' by Adam Swift, and 'Contemporary Political Philosophy' by Will Kymlicka.

You can then read around the topics that interest you most. On justice: 'Liberals and Communitarians' by Mulhall and Swift. With an international focus: 'National Responsibility and Global Justice' by David Miller. On equality, there's a great article in the journal 'Ethics': 'What's the point of Equality' by Elizabeth Anderson.

To go further, people can read original texts by John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Michael Sandel, Thomas Nagel, David Miller, Gerry Cohen, Joshua Cohen, and many others.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 9:01:00 AM

Blogger Lil said...

On COIN, I'd take a look at the list over at Abu Muqawama...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 11:29:00 AM

Blogger Jeff & Heather Pubols said...

The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence. By Martin Meredith

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 12:18:00 PM

Anonymous laurenist said...

The Invisible Cure is a good one on HIV/AIDS aid in Africa.

African Development: Making Sense of the Issues and Actors by Todd Moss is used in my department's Africa 101 course and is quite good.

What We Owe Iraq by Noah Feldman is perhaps out of date, but increasingly more pertinent as we start shifting focus to Afghanistan.

Tom Ricks' books on the Iraq war in general--Fiasco--and the surge specifically--The Gamble--are both great looks at the military at war.

And surprisingly, I liked Poisoned Wells on the politics of African oil.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 12:21:00 PM

Anonymous D. Watson said...

Only because no one else has mentioned, but there is much to be said for being up to date on the major camps in development and updating the list every few years for:

Collier's latest
Easterly's latest
Sachs' latest

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 3:18:00 PM

Blogger Akhila said...

I'm still a student...but some of my favorites have been:

Fareed Zakaria - The Future of Freedom (great book, it's like poli sci 101!)

Political theory - everyone should be reading some Machiavelli, Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau, Weber (especially his theories on the state).

For recent issues, I LOVE Naomi Klein - the Shock Doctrine. Amazing book.

This is an article...but The End of History by Francis Fukuyama

For topics on Democratization, you have to read books by Przeworski and Lipset - really good stuff.

For theory about states; read Charles Tilly. I like Coercion, Capital, and European States.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 4:59:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

- Roland Danreuther, International security : the contemporary agenda
- Laurie Garrett, Betrayal of trust : the collapse of global public health
- Michael E. Brown (ed), Security challenges in the 21st century
- Chris Abbott, Paul Rogers & John Sloboda, Global responses to global threats
- Alex de Waal, Famine crimes : politics and the disaster relief industry in Africa
- Fabrice Weissman (ed), In the shadow of 'just wars' : violence, politics and humanitarian action.

I guess it's clear where I am coming from...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 7:59:00 PM

Blogger Amanda Taub said...

For background on conflict:
- Just and Unjust Wars (Michael Walzer)
- New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era (Mary Kaldor)
- The Politics of Collective Violence (Charles Tilly)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 10:23:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Amanda, I already had 2 of your 3 on the list. It's like we share 2/3 of the same mind. Or our college professors copied one anothers' syllabi.

Everyone, these are great suggestions. Thanks for the help!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 10:08:00 PM

Blogger Carole Turner said...

There is No Me Without You by Melissa Faye Green. About AIDS and Orphans in Ethiopia. She does a great job covering the history of AIDS, history Ethiopia and the current AIDS Orphan crisis there. Amazing book.

I am reading Aloud to my homeschooled girls King Leopolds Ghost. I am loving it. Very interesting and covers colinization of Africa, Congo genocide, slave trade history and the like. I actually got the recommendation for this book from a blog about Africa, not this one, can't remember who/where but it is a great book about Africa.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 10:48:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Wow, Carole, that's a great book! It's actually already on my list. I hope your girls are enjoying it; I think it raises some tough issues. I also love the Greene book!

Thursday, November 19, 2009 7:52:00 AM

Anonymous Swahili Street said...

Patrick Chabal's The Politics of Suffering and Smiling should be there if they are interested in interrogating identity.

Lemarchand's political clientelism paper from 72 is always a good reminder that what goes around may soon come around.

Looking forward to the final list.

Sunday, November 22, 2009 12:09:00 AM


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