Top 5 Books: October

Krisztina Csortea

International Affairs has the best book review section of any journal in the field. Many people subscribe to it for that reason alone.’
Professor Sir Michael Howard

Every issue of International Affairs features a comprehensive book review section which assesses the latest writing on all facets of international studies. In this, the latest in Top 5 Books series, our Book Reviews Editor Krisztina Csortea presents her picks from the September issue. Join the conversation and share your must-read new books on global politics and international relations in the response section below. Enjoy!

1) Dictators without borders: power and money in central Asia

Written by Alexander A. Cooley and John Heathershaw. Published in London by Yale University Press.

Krisztina says: Central Asia has embraced globalization. As this book shows, authoritarian regimes have made the most of transnational opportunities since the end of the Cold War, especially when it comes to finance. In fact, Cooley and Heathershaw argue that the power of authoritarian leaders depends of vast amounts of wealth squirrelled away in offshore accounts and shell corporations. Instead of bringing democracy to the region, a ‘transnational uncivil society’ of autocrats and plutocrats has been able to manipulate globalization to their own benefit.

Read the full International Affairs review here.

2) The power of the past: history and statecraft

Edited by Hal Brands and Jeremi Suri. Published in Washington D.C. by Brookings Institution Press.

Krisztina says: In the last couple of years, with the success of populist parties in Europe, Brexit and the election of President Trump, history has been used not just as something to ‘learn from’ in order to ‘avoid repeating’ but also as an explanatory variable. Brands and Suri focus on the US case and show how representations of history, whether accurate or not (most often not), have been integral to American foreign policy-making.

Read the full International Affairs review here.

3) The cybersecurity dilemma: hacking, trust and fear between nations

Written by Ben Buchanan. Published in London by Hurst.

Krisztina says: No one doubts that cybersecurity is a hot topic yet this is still a perplexing subject for states, as Julien Nocetti notes in his review. The cybersecurity dilemma approaches the topic by analysing how states should react to uncertainty over others’ actions in the field: what to do when it’s hard to distinguish between a military buildup and self-defence? It’s hard to argue with Buchanan’s claim that ‘computer hacking is now part of international relations’.

Read the full International Affairs review here.

4) China’s global engagement: cooperation, competition, and influence in the 21st century

Edited by Jacques de Lisle and Avery Goldstein. Published in Washington D.C. by Brookings Institution Press.

Krisztina says: This is not just another book about the rise of China. The editors’ focus on ‘cooperation, competition, and influence’ has allowed the contributors to cover a broad range of topics and the book includes valuable original research. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in trade and investment; energy; geopolitics and strategy; the global monetary system; military intervention; and cinema, among others.

Read the full International Affairs review here.

5) Brazil in the world: the international relations of a South American giant

Written by Sean W. Burges. Published in Manchester by Manchester University Press.

Krisztina says: Burges explains the rise of one of the leading members of the BRICS and its impact on international relations, by analysing what motivates Brazilian foreign-policy makers. The book is based on a large number of interviews and will help readers understand why Brazil chose to achieve its goals within the existing international system while at the same time aiming to become a Great Power.

Read the full International Affairs review here.


Krisztina Csortea is the Book Reviews Editor, and acting Managing Editor, for International Affairs.

This blog features her picks from the book reviews section of our September issue. To read the reviews in full, click here.

To find out more about new research from International Affairs, click here.