Best Books of 2022: Politics


Man of confidence: The Making of Donald Trump and America’s Collapse
by Maggie Haberman Mud lark 25 €

During the Trump presidency, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times established herself as Trump’s foremost watcher — managing to report harshly on the president, while maintaining a relationship with him. Now she’s stepping back to deliver the definitive biography of Trump and his unlikely rise from real estate mogul and TV personality to president. His deep understanding of 1970s and 1980s New York helps explain what makes Trump tick.

The Divider book cover

The divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021
by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, Double day £20

With Trump poised to run for president again, this account of the “cartoonish chaos” of his first term is perfectly timed. Drawing on testimony from appalled and disillusioned former Trump officials, two reporters paint a portrait of a dangerous and dysfunctional presidency. The account of Trump’s efforts to cling to power after losing the 2020 election is particularly vivid and telling.

book cover of My Fourth Time We Drowned

My fourth timewe drowned
by Sally Hayden, Fourth Estate £20

by Sally Hayden book, which won the Orwell Prize for Political Writing, puts a human face on the refugees that European governments are working to prevent from reaching EU shores. It focuses on the brutal detention centers for migrants in Libya and the dangers and deaths faced by African migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean.

Spin Dictators book cover

Spin dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century
by Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman, Princeton £25

Twentieth-century dictatorships relied on violence and direct coercion. This book argues that the 21st century has seen the emergence of a new type of spin dictatorship – in places as diverse as Hungary, Singapore and Turkey – which adopts the forms of democracy while subverting substance.

Dancing on Bones book cover

Dancing on bones: History and power in China, Russia and North Korea
by Katie Stallard, OUP €22.99

Katie Stallard’s book, which was completed before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sheds prescient light on how Vladimir Putin elevated the memory of World War II into an official ideology of national heroism – bolstered by the censorship, lies and persecution of dissident historians. As Stallard, a former correspondent in Moscow and Beijing, demonstrates in this delightfully readable book — a very similar abuse of history is taking place in China and North Korea.

Command book cover

Ordered: The Politics of Korea’s Military Operations in Ukraine
by Lawrence Freedman Allen’s Alley 30 €

This wide overview of the war since 1945 covers a variety of conflicts ranging from the Korean War to Russia’s wars in Chechnya and Ukraine. It takes on new urgency and relevance, given the outbreak of the largest ground war in Europe since the Second World War. Lawrence Freedman demonstrates that military commanders must also be competent politicians, able to adapt to the changing demands of their political masters.

book cover of Putin's Wars

Putin’s Wars: From Chechnya to Ukraine
by Mark Galeotti, Osprey £25

Mark Galeotti, one of the keenest observers of Russian security affairs, began writing this book before Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine. Yet the result, which explores the deeper historical factors at work in Russia today, is, as the FT reviewer noted, “very timely and compelling”. Had Putin contented himself with building a strong nation within his own borders, the Russian president would have been remembered as a strong leader of state-building, argues Galeotti. Instead, Russia now faces decades of recovery from the lasting damage wrought by empire hubris, incompetence and overreach.

Books of the year 2022

All this week, FT writers and critics share their favorites. Some highlights are:

Monday: Company by Andrew Hill
Tuesday: Environment by Pilita Clark
Wednesday: Economy by Martin Wolf
Thursday: Fiction by Laura Bataille
Friday: Policy by Gideon Rachman
Saturday: Critics’ Choice

Chip War book cover

Flea war: The fight for the most critical technology in the world
by Chris Miller, Simon and Schuster £20

If oil was the key to the 20th century economy, semiconductors seem to be the foundation of the 21st century economy. Oscillating US restrictions on semiconductor exports to China were announced weeks after this book was published. by Chris Miller bookshortlisted for the FT Business Book of the Yeartraces the story of the emergence of this vital technology by painting vivid portraits of the scientists and companies involved – and bringing the story back to the present day, where semiconductors have become the center of a battle for technological and geopolitical domination.

Cover of the book The Rupture

Breaking: China and the global race for the future
by Andrew Small, Hurts £20

The growing geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China is disrupting and could even destroy the deep economic integration between the two countries. Small provides a history of events and rivalries that have deepened the mistrust between Washington and Beijing — emphasizing the struggle for control of 21st century technologies.

Stolen Focus book cover

Stolen Focus: Why you can’t pay attention
by Johann Hari Bloomsbury 20 €

This is a book for those of us (all of us?) who feel like we’re staring at our phones too much – and losing the ability to focus. Johann Hari’s argument takes a political turn as he believes that big tech companies have deliberately designed their products to create addiction and distract people and that the deleterious effects are not only social and psychological, but also political.

How Civil Wars Start book cover

How Civil Wars Start: And how to stop them
by Barbara F. Walter, Viking €19.99

Barbara F Walter, a professor at the University of California, draws on examples such as Yugoslavia, Syria, Libya and Myanmar to argue that America today ticks many of the boxes that predict civil conflict. . These include a politics of ethnic resentment, democratic decadence, widespread gun ownership, an urban-rural divide and a fearful populace. The amount of interest that this book has sparked in the United States since its publication earlier this year is a disturbing testament to the current levels of concern about political division and violence in America.

Leadership book cover

Leadership: Six studies in global strategy
by Henry Kissinger, Penguin 25 €

Now 99, Henry Kissinger is still writing books. Here he portrays six leaders he has known – Lee Kuan Yew, Konrad Adenauer, Richard Nixon, Charles de Gaulle, Margaret Thatcher and Anwar Sadat – and draws general lessons about the character and intellect of leaders capable of changing the world.

tell us what you think

What are your favorites on this list – and what books did we miss? Tell us in the comments below

book cover of One Party After Another

One party after another: The disruptive life of Nigel Farage
by Michael Crick Simon and Schuster €25

Nigel Farage was never elected to parliament, but – as the godfather of Brexit – has good reason to lay claim to being one of post-war Britain’s most influential politicians. A lively, chaotic and sometimes sinister character (his close friendship with Donald Trump and his admiration for Viktor Orbán testify), Farage is an ideal subject for Michael Crick, one of Britain’s most experienced and lively political journalists.

Cover of the book Liberalism and its Discontents

Liberalism and its discontents
by Francis Fukuyama Profile €16.99

Francis Fukuyama has been one of the West’s most influential political theorists for over 30 years. Here, he examines the growing challenges of the classical liberalism he believes in — including identity politics, a neoliberalism that has led to rising inequality and a global renaissance of authoritarianism. The book recommends ways to revive the liberal cause.

Restraint Order book cover

restraint order: A true story of Russian money laundering, murder and Vladimir Putin’s wrath
by Bill Browder, Simon and Schuster £20

The author has been trying for many years to get the West to take the threat from Vladimir Putin’s Russia seriously. In return, Putin’s regime pursued him around the world. Bill Browder new book chronicles this struggle and is part thriller, part political prescription. In the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, it deservedly topped the bestseller lists.

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