Top 10 Books: International Women’s Day

Krisztina Csortea

International Affairs
Mar 6 · 5 min read

This is the second International Women’s Day that I’ve put together a list of our favourite books written by women and reviewed in International Affairs in the last 12 months. This was an especially exciting task in the context of the journal’s 50:50 in 2020 challenge (you can read more about it here). Please think of this selection more as a taster than an exhaustive list — I originally sent my long-suffering colleague a ‘shortlist’ of 22 books — and I’d encourage you to have a look at previous blogposts in the IA bookshelf to find more brilliant books written by women.

1) In their own words

Ayesha Siddiqa: ‘Fair doesn’t pull her punches, arguing that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba is essentially controlled by the Pakistani state. In the process, the book explains the organization’s structural details, its recruitment pattern, training methodology, financing and societal support base. More importantly, in south Asia LeT represents an additional layer of violence that connects the state with the non-state.’

Read the full International Affairs review here.

2) Revisiting gendered states

Rebecca Sanders: ‘Following in the footsteps of Spike Peterson’s 1992 edited volume, Gendered states (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner), this latest offering reaffirms the importance not only of gender to international politics, but also of the state itself, which has been neglected by structural International Relations (IR) theory or treated primarily as a bureaucratic institution in foreign policy research.’

Read the full International Affairs review here.

3) The commander’s dilemma

Abbey Steele: ‘Amelia Hoover Green’s bold and provocative book should change the way we think about and study civil war violence. Through engaging writing, novel methods and a commitment to descriptive inference, it reveals a core challenge for armed groups. Hoover Green asks how commanders manage both to create soldiers and to control the violence they perpetrate (this is the ‘commander’s dilemma’).’

Read the full International Affairs review here.

4) Borderland battles

Tom Long: ‘Idler shows the diversity and fluidity of armed actors and the blurry and shifting relationships among them. Perhaps most strikingly, Idler presents the communities that are often overlooked when the focus is on the people with guns. Her impressive research unflinchingly shows how prolonged, multidimensional insecurity reshapes and often sunders the social fabric.’

Read the full International Affairs review here.

5) A twentieth-century crusade

Cormac Shine: ‘Chamedes writes that her interest in the modern papacy’s role in international affairs was spurred by the politico-religious reckonings thrown up by the catastrophic events of 9/11, and the subsequent clamour to understand (or, too often, simply condemn) Islam. Her observation highlights the continued, yet oft-overlooked, importance of considering religions and their institutions as key factors in politics, in studies on both the past and the present.’

Read the full International Affairs review here.

6) Hezbollah

Filippo Dionigi: ‘Daher is a scholar of Lebanese origins based in French academia, who spent part of her life in those areas of Lebanon where Hezbollah has played an important role. Her book offers a comprehensive historical and sociological analysis that stands out for its wealth of empirical detail and for its capacity to question stereotypical views on the group.’

Read the full International Affairs review here.

7) The prevention of torture

Sonya Sceats: ‘Torture prevention is especially difficult to study because torture almost always happens in the shadows… Danielle Celermajer, by contrast, is determined not only to build an academically rigorous theory of change about how to prevent torture…but also to test it in the field by taking a project team into the heart of torturing institutions in Nepal and Sri Lanka.’

Read the full International Affairs review here.

8) Representation, recognition and respect in world politics

Claire Yorke: ‘ This fascinating book is a valuable, well-written and thought-provoking addition to the study of international relations, foreign policy, diplomacy, political psychology and US–Iranian relations. Its critical and balanced approach reinforces discussions on the power of emotions, stories and identities in shaping relations between states and societies, and contributes to a growing literature on these ideas.’

Read the full International Affairs review here.

9) The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria

Sam Biasi: The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria is essential reading, not merely because of the comprehensive and thoroughly researched history it provides, but because of its thematic approach to explaining its subject-matter’s behaviour.’

Read the full International Affairs review here.

10) The revolution that wasn’t

Amy Kasper: ‘An insightful addition to this literature is documentary filmmaker and sociologist Jen Schradie’s new book discussing the intersection of the digital revolution with activism… In reality, she argues, the opposite has occurred.’

Read the full International Affairs review here.


Krisztina Csortea is Deputy Editor for International Affairs.

Read the book reviews section of our March issue here.

If you are interested in engaging with the 50:50 in 2020 initiative or want to write a blogpost for this series, please email International Affairs’ Junior Editor Leah de Haan at LdeHaan@chathamhouse.org.

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