The International Affairs summer reading list 2022

Mariana Vieira

There is nothing quite like spending the summer lost within the pages of a great book. In this blogpost, our Book Reviews Editor Mariana Vieira shares her top ten books to help you navigate the latest titles. The selection includes books recently reviewed in International Affairs and covers topics from colonial legacies to covert operations and environmental politics. If you’re in the market for something to read this summer, look no further!

1) Decolonizing politics

Written by Robbie Shilliam. Published in Cambridge by Polity Press.

Few books present the kind of sustained challenge to the legacies of colonialism in political science that can be found in Decolonizing politics. Marketed as an introductory book, Robbie Shilliam remarkably sheds light on the discipline’s problematic foundations and paradigms of ‘good science’. Taking a two-step approach to decolonization, Shilliam places canonical figures in dialogue with anti-colonial thinkers from the margins. As a result, Decolonizing politics not only reveals the power dynamics that underpin the study of politics, but provides an instructive example of the practical process of decolonizing political knowledge. If I have not persuaded you, this review surely will!

Read the full review here.

2) The third option

Written by Loch K. Johnson. Published in Oxford and New York by Oxford University Press.

The history of American covert action can be as vast as it is confusing: it spans decades and features a bewildering range of organizations and actors. All the more reason to applaud Loch K. Johnson, who has written a thoroughly accessible book while keeping an eye on the bigger picture. If you are interested this often-obscured world, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of The third option. Still undecided? Then you clearly have not read the review yet.

Read the full review here.

3) Climate, catastrophe and faith

Written by Philip Jenkins. Published in New York by Oxford University Press.

In Climate, catastrophe, and faith, Philip Jenkins provides a fascinating look into the historical relationship between faith and climate change. Going as far back as the fourteenth century, Jenkins documents how climate-induced catastrophes have been explained and instrumentalized through the lenses of religion. In doing so, Climate, catastrophe, and faith showcases the link between climate and political strife throughout the centuries. The book is a poignant reminder of the role that faith leaders can play in the face of the disruptive impacts of today’s climate crisis.

Read the full review here.

4) Capitalism as civilisation

Written by Ntina Tzouvala. Published in Cambridge by Cambridge University Press.

Capitalism as civilisation provides a diligent and systematic investigation of the origins of international law and their grounding in the racist civilizational politics of empire. Ntina Tzouvala charts the influence of these ideas from the nineteenth century to the formation of the League of Nations and all the way through to the ‘war on terror’. The result is a thought-provoking account with clear implications for contemporary international legal practice. The book really shines through in this joint review, alongside Anne Orford’s International law and the politics of history.

Read the full review here.

5) Strategiya

Edited by Ofer Fridman. Published in London by Hurst.

Strategiya provides a rare window into the history of Russian strategic thought for a non-Russian-speaking audience. The book shines as a primary resource, drawing on the original texts of six military theorists from the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, three of whom lived and wrote in exile. Those working in English and wishing to find out more about the key features of Russian historical grand strategy will undoubtedly appreciate Ofer Fridman’s invaluable contribution. For helpful tips on making the most of this treasure trove, check out the book review.

Read the full review here.

6) Everyday peace

Written by Roger Mac Ginty. Published in Oxford by Oxford University Press.

Everyday peace is an inspiring and hopeful book in the face of the intractability of war. Roger Mac Ginty expertly reframes the relationship between peace and conflict by shifting the focus away from high-level peace negotiations and towards the personal acts of peace that permeate even the most violent conflicts. In doing so, Everyday peace demonstrates how even small acts can actively disrupt armed conflict. The result is a fundamental challenge to how we understand individual agency in violent contexts and a fascinating contribution to the field of peace studies. If this sounds too good to be true, we have a very convincing review available.

Read the full review here.

7) Mohammed bin Salman

Written by David B. Ottaway. Published in Boulder, CO and London by Lynne Rienner.

In his latest book, David Ottaway provides an incisive account of Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power and his evolving leadership style. Posing wide-ranging questions, Ottaway explores the role of Mohammed bin Salman’s personality, Saudi Arabia’s descent into authoritarianism and the crown prince’s reliance on the relationship with the United States. This is an accessible resource for those looking to understand one of most powerful actors in the region. Wondering where Icarus fits in all this? Then you will find our review very useful.

Read the full review here.

8) Humane

Written by Samuel Moyn. Published in New York by Farrar Straus and Giroux.

Samuel Moyn’s Humane is one of those rare books that manages to directly engage with contemporary policy debates on US national security while challenging some of the fundamental premises on which these policies are based. Moyn combs through the actions of successive American presidents to address the puzzle of never-ending wars. The book demonstrates how attempts to make warfare more humane have helped create a status quo of permanent warfare. Moyn’s thoughtful analysis of pacifism and international law on war will be relevant to researchers and policy-makers alike.

Read the full review here.

9) Sensible politics

Written By William A. Callahan. Published in Oxford by Oxford University Press.

With the ‘visual’ turn in International Relations, Sensible politics has the potential to become a landmark text. In it, William A. Callahan draws attention towards the role of visual media and documents important contributions to debates on the politics of feeling. Then, Callahan goes a step beyond the immediate implications and provides insights on the teaching of visual politics. If you are working on this growing field, the book is an invaluable addition to your bookshelf. Find out why this is a worthy investment.

Read the full review here.

10) Rebel economies

Edited by Nicola Di Cosmo, Didier Fassin and Clémence Pinaud. Published in Washington DC by Lexington books.

Rebel economies offers a glimpse into to the complex and often inaccessible world of the financing of terrorist and insurgent groups. This edited volume brings together authors working on topics like taxation and humanitarian aid to unpack the economic processes that make modern conflict possible. Fascinating and ground-breaking, Rebel economies illustrates the benefits of the studying conflict in a truly multi-disciplinary fashion.

Read the full review here.

Mariana Vieira is the Book Reviews Editor of International Affairs.

Read the review section of our July 2022 issue in full here.

Find more suggestions from the IA Bookshelf series here.

If you are interested in reviewing a book for the journal, there are two ways to get in touch! Either register your interest in our book review application form here or follow us on social media where we post regular call outs for specific books and experts.

All views expressed are individual not institutional.

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