5+ Books to Read If You Study International Relations

International relations is one of the most exciting fields to study. But at the same time, it’s one of the most difficult ones due to its complexity. A typical international relations major needs to have deep knowledge and understanding of many different disciplines such as history, geography, economics, politics, and more. 

Therefore, there’s just no way you can succeed in this field unless you are ready to absorb and digest a lot of information. What’s more, relying on your lectures and on the compulsory reading lists provided by your instructors is not enough. You should also be proactive, constantly on the lookout for new information, too. 

Oftentimes, such curiosity will serve you well – for example, when you need material for an essay. Chances are, you won’t need to google “write essays for me” to complete the assignment if you read a lot. And even if you will need help, having some extra material to feed to your writer will always come in handy. 

But where do you begin? Here is an essential list of influential books about international relations that you can use as a starting point, and if you want more – check the additional list that comes after the main one. 

Man, the State, and War – A Theoretical Analysis, by Kenneth Waltz

This is probably the most recommended book of all time when it comes to international relations. You’ll find it in practically any reading list for students because of how fundamental it is to understanding one of the main phenomena in international relations: war. 

Thus, this book is essential reading even for those students who usually rely on essayservice to handle their writing. Here, Kenneth Waltz, one of the most prominent American political scientists, provides a typology of different theories of war and offers his critiques of each type. 

All in all, it’s an all-time classic that, surprisingly, began its journey as Waltz’s doctoral dissertation.   

Perception and Misperception in International Politics, by Robert Jervis 

Originally published in 1976, this book still remains highly relevant, despite the ever-changing political landscape. The reason is, it deals with the phenomenon that typically endures no matter what – human nature.    

How people perceive (or misperceive) things has a huge impact on everything including politics, argues Jervis, professor of International Politics and one of the most experienced scholars in the field. In his landmark work, he applies the principles of cognitive psychology to political decision-making and tests his ideas through real-life historical examples.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond 

The idea that certain countries were more successful than others due to their geographical location is not exactly novel. However, it is never easy to substantiate it with evidence.  

Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond, a multidisciplinary scientist best known for his popular science books including this one, does exactly that. In fact, he goes beyond that, including other factors besides climate in his research. But what does it have to do with germs? You’ll need to read to find out.  

The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, by John Mearsheimer

Being one of the most popular works about the theory of international relations published in the 21st century, this book is rather controversial. Nonetheless, it’s very persuasive. 

Here, Mearsheimer, a prominent American political scientist, looks at international relations through the lens of his theory of “offensive realism”. The main point is, the rivalry between the world’s most powerful countries is not over yet – and will hardly ever be.

Economic Statecraft by David A. Baldwin 

The phenomenon of war is one of the most explored ones in the theory of international relations. However, there are other ways to handle conflict, reminds David A. Baldwin, Senior Political Scientist at Princeton. 

In his milestone book, the scholar states that the challenges of the modern world require a deep understanding of all the different techniques of statecraft. To explain these techniques and contradict the assumption that economic tools don’t work, he draws on knowledge from multiple disciplines such as psychology, law, and philosophy. 

More Titles to Explore: 

  • The Art of War, by Sun Tzu;
  • Nations and Nationalist, by Ernest Gellner;
  • The Best and the Brightest, by David Halberstam;
  • The Wretched of the Earth, by Frantz Fanon;
  • Arms and Influence, by Thomas Schelling;
  • The White House Years; Years of Upheaval, by Henry Kissinger;
  • China’s Western Horizon: Beijing and the New Geopolitics of Eurasia, by Daniel Markey;
  • The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World, by Anu Bradford;
  • The Future of Political Leadership in the Digital Age, by Agnieszka Kasińska-Metryka, Tomasz Gajewski;
  • Contemporary Diplomacy in Action: New Perspectives on Diplomacy, by Alastair Masser, Jack Spence, Claire Yorke.

In Conclusion 

In this article, we’ve listed some of the most prominent books on international relations as well as some of the most acclaimed new titles. But the list can go on and on as there are so many works written on the subject. 

However, we advise that you don’t pursue quantity over quality. The best way to approach this reading list would be to start with the most general titles and then explore the subjects of your personal interest or specialization by digging deeper into a more particular topic. This way, you’ll retain the information way better.