Recommended Books in Authoritarian Politics

Hi all! I highly recommend reading these easy-going books that approach many of the core topics in authoritarian politics. No expertise is required!

  • Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena. A very impressive book on life during Soviet-occupied Latvia, reflecting the physical state of Latvia under Soviet rule and protagonists’ conflicting emotions and frustrated ambitions.
  • Blood and Oil by Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck. A key book explaining Mohammed bin Salman’s strategies to dominate the political and economic power.
  • Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa by Paul Kenyon. Great book to learn about how the most famous African dictators seized power and reaped the fruits of natural resources to maintain their rule.
  • How to Be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century by Frank Dikötter. How do dictators exploit their public image to ensure popular support? This book offers many interesting anecdotes by comparing dictators such as Hitler, Erdogan and Putin.
  • How to feed a dictator by Witold Szablowski. Do you want to know how ruthless dictators behave at home and at the table? Witold tracked down the personal chefs of five dictators such as Idin Amin and Saddam Hussein to illustrate dictators’ behaviour and life under tyranny. A must-read.
  • Cosa Nostra, Blood brotherhoods and Mafia Republic by John Dickie. Although the book is not about dictators, it deals with core concepts in authoritarian politics and sociology. From Mafia’s stories, you will see how power-sharing deals play out, the role of pentiti (defectors), elite recruitment, and how and why norms and ‘trust’ are built and reinforced. I drew a great deal of inspiration from these books when I wrote my dissertation! Similarly, ‘I recomend Ndrangheta by Francesco Forgione
  • Mafia Women by Clare Longrigg. Is the Mafia world only a male thing? The quick answer is a big NO. This is a fantastic book that shows why and how women played a leading role in the Cosa Nostra and give in-depth insights about their effect on the organization and Italian politics! A must-read since women’s role in this type of activity is usually missed!

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