Top 5 books: January 2023

Mariana Vieira


A library full of books

We are starting the new year with the most noteworthy books reviewed in our January special issue. All issues of International Affairs feature a comprehensive book review section, which surveys the latest writing on international politics. In our latest ‘Top 5 books’ series, Book Reviews Editor Mariana Vieira presents a selection covering China’s economic diplomacy, violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, women’s contributions to International Relations and more. Reviews of the books below are helpfully free to access, though approach with caution as our reviewers can be very persuasive!

1) Women’s international thought: towards a new canon

Edited by Patricia Owens, Katharina Rietzler, Kimberly Hutchings and Sarah C. Dunstan. Published in Cambridge by Cambridge University Press.

This collaboration is the gift that keeps on giving. Picking up where its predecessor (Women’s international thought: a new history) ends, this book provides a fascinating and in-depth appraisal of women’s contributions to the discipline of International Relations(IR), without losing sight of their complicated positionalities. With the ambitious aim of putting together an ‘alternative archive of international thought’, the selection of voices, writings and experiences included astutely shed light on the many ways that women have engaged with, contributed to and, also, been overlooked by IR. With over 700 pages, we highly recommend finding out what our reviewer had to say. In any case, this fantastic volume belongs on your bookshelf.

Read the full review here.

2) The war that doesn’t say its name

Written by Jason K. Stearns. Published in Oxford and Princeton by Princeton University Press.

Coming in sixth place on the Crisis Group’s ‘Conflicts to watch in 2023’, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is making headlines again. The previously dormant M23 rebel movement is newly resurgent and there is a general election to be held later this year. In his latest book, DRC expert Jason Stearns provides a much-needed account of how conflict and the suffering that has accompanied it have remained a feature of DRC society, two decades after fighting seized. Readers will benefit from Stearns’s commitment to ‘understand Congo on its terms’, allowing the author to explore the self-reinforcing patterns of conflict that inform elite decisions, international meddling and neighbourly interests in the country.

Read the full review here.

3) Banking on Beijing

Written by Axel Dreher, Andreas Fuchs, Bradley Parks, Austin Strange and Michael J. Tierney. Published in Cambridge by Cambridge University Press.

If there is an issue, or rather a country, that has not been out of the headlines recently, it is surely China. This book reminds readers that, despite heavy news coverage of Beijing’s recent ‘war games’ around Taiwan, China has for years been leveraging its economic might with the aim of isolating the island diplomatically. Having developed AidData, one of the most expansive databases of Chinese lending practices, in Banking on Beijing the authors deploy the accumulated empirical data to offer a multidimensional portrait of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The book moves beyond Beijing’s commercial interests and examines China’s willingness to fund high-risk projects from a foreign policy perspective. The result is a nuanced and big-picture account of the BRI’s reach, as well as its implications for both borrowing countries and for ‘old guard’ donors.

Read the full review here.

4) Asylum as reparation

Written by James Souter. Published in London by Palgrave Macmillan.

Out of almost 90 million displaced persons, 20 million have been forced to leave their countries and seek a new home elsewhere. While many books have been written on the reasons rendering such unprecedented amounts of people stateless, James Souter’s new book explores a different side of the debate: do states owe asylum as a reparative measure? Souter provides a refreshing and innovative take on states’ obligations that emphasizes their contributing actions in bringing about forced displacement: military intervention, climate change or colonial legacies. Asylum as reparation offers readers both a thoughtful and accessible theoretical debate as well as a starting-point to examine the political and legal implications of current asylum practices, which policy-makers and wider audiences will certainly benefit from.

Read the full review here.

5) Beyond Versailles

Edited by Tosh Minohara and Evan Dawley. Published in London and Lanham by Lexington Books.

Beyond Versailles will appeal to First World War and international history enthusiasts looking for new and more global insights into the peace negotiations that culminated in the 1919 agreement. While the Treaty of Versailles often (and deservedly) gets a bad rap as paving the way for German resentment and eventually the Second World War, this edited volume expands on the implications of the treaty outside the European theatre. Focusing on the expectations of the Asian nations finding their footing in the international arena, the contributors explore a diversity of views from China, Japan, Korea and Mongolia. Particularly, the discussion around whether the overtly racist treatment of Japan at Versailles made the Pearl Harbour attack inevitable offers plenty of food for thought on the ‘long shadow of 1919’. As our reviewer sums it up: this is an ‘an unassuming but powerful volume’.

Read the full review here.

Mariana Vieira is the Book Reviews Editor of International Affairs.

Read the review section in our January 2023 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.



International Affairs
International Affairs Blog

Celebrating 100+ years as a leading journal of international relations. Follow for analysis on the latest global issues. Subscribe at