Saturday, August 23, 2008

Books on Political Power

Let's put together a list of interesting books on political power.



I'll kick it off with these:


  1. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. Some commentators think this was written as a satire. If so, Hitler and Stalin didn't get the joke. A good book to read if you ever start to think that the predators of the world can be soothed through political reforms or negotiations.

  2. The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuscinski. Interviews with Haile Selassie's court. My favorite is with the official whose sole job was to carry the emperor's chair cushion. He describes the intricacies of that responsibility.

  3. Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen. How a group of men developed a constitution both to form a government and to protect the people from that government.

  4. In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink in Mobutu's Congo by Michela Wrong. How the old thug held on for so many years.

  5. The Comedians by Graham Greene. Sure, it's a novel, but the book is a chilling view of Duvalier's Haiti. [The character who was the Vegetarian Party presidential candidate seems to be making the rounds of Sunday political shows.]

  6. The Last Hurrah by Edwin O'Connor. If you ever wondered how old-line municipal political machines operated, you can read this or just spend a few years in Chicago.

  7. Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer. An invaluable book written by one of the saner members of Hitler's inner circle.

  8. All Stalin's Men by Roy Medvedev. A review of some very powerful men who spent a great deal of their lives being terrified.

  9. I, Claudius by Robert Graves. When you're related to Augustus and Caligula, you learn a thing or two.

  10. The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George. Not really, of course, but a lot of fun.

  11. Lincoln and His Generals by T. Harry Williams. How Lincoln, after many failures, eventually found the right generals.

  12. 1984 by George Orwell. Because Big Brother is always out there.

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