This is a constantly updated list of interesting books that I am looking to read or have read. Most of them are from my course readings or have been recommended by my professors. I will also be adding other non-academic books in the future.
Francis Fukuyama, Political Order and Political Decay
Fukuyama embarks on a historical narrative from the era of the Prussian monarchy to the development of the Arab Spring in 2011. Taking examples from the three centuries, he explains how democracies are developed, and why some governments are successful in eliminating corruption while some are not.
Nina Munk, The Idealist
In 2006, Jeffery Sachs launched the Millennium Villages Project, an ambitious aid program that sought to end poverty in Africa. And for most of the project, he was accompanied by Nina Munk, who wrote extensive reports its impacts. From her interactions with locals, we learn about the dubious effects of global aid to developing countries.
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities
This is one of my favourite reads as nationalism and statebuilding are among my research interests in history. In this book, Anderson contends that nations are socially constructed, as they rarely follow ethnic or linguistic boundaries. People living in nations rarely have anything in common, and whatever similar identities they have are just cherry-picked traits and memories.
Timothy Brook, Vermeer’s Hat
By analysing six paintings from Dutch genre painter Jan Vermeer, UBC Professor Timothy Brook explains how they illustrate the development of globalisation during the 17th Century. With each painting, Brook recounts a historical event that the painting reflects, mainly dealing with the development of contact between China and Europe.
David Clay Large, Between Two Fires
This book was one of the major texts assigned for a 20th Century European history class I took. Large discusses the lesser known events during the Interwar period, such as the Stavisky Affair and the Austrian Civil War. He explores each event by accompanying with them a handful of compelling stories. It is a great read on how Europe was destabilised en route to the Second World War.
Frank Ninkovich, Modernity and Power
A diplomatic historian, Ninkovich argues in this book that the Wilsonian international order should be observed in a more realist lens. He stresses that while Wilson’s policies were focused on global cooperation, it was also centered on furthering American hegemony.
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny
Described by one of my history professors as a quick and sobering read, Snyder’s book is a reminder that liberal democracies are more fragile than we like to think. Drawing from his research on 20th Century dictatorships, Snyder lists the signs of a failing democracy, and reminds citizens to continue exercising their political freedoms.
Angus Deaton, The Great Escape
Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton presents a deep dive on the conditions that decreased global poverty over time, but at the same time increased inequality.
Mary Elizabeth Gallagher, Contagious Capitalism
In this book, Gallagher challenges the notion that China’s 1978 economic policies, centered on liberal reforms, led to increased political freedoms. Instead, she argues that foreign direct investment played a more substantial role in China’s economic development, which also sparked its willingness to become more integrated in the global economy.