The FP Global Thinkers Book Club

What the smart set is reading.


Looking for gift ideas for the budding global thinker on your list? Want to be as well-informed as FP's top 100? Here are the top 142 books on their shelves, from wonky policy briefs to biographies to children's books to fantasy novels, plus detailed recommendations from some of the smartest people on the planet.

Looking for gift ideas for the budding global thinker on your list? Want to be as well-informed as FP’s top 100? Here are the top 142 books on their shelves, from wonky policy briefs to biographies to children’s books to fantasy novels, plus detailed recommendations from some of the smartest people on the planet.

Plus, catch up on your reading with excerpts from some of our Global Thinkers’ favorite books:

Helene Gayle recommends economist and fellow FP Global Thinker Nicholas Stern’s recent book, The Global Deal, a pragmatic look at how the world can come together to mitigate the effects of climate change: "The cost of action is much lower than the cost of inaction — in other words, delay would become the anti-growth strategy.

Robert Wright‘s recommended book, Zachary Karabell’s Superfusion, examines America’s new relationship with China and what it means for the country’s future.

Fareed Zakaria suggests a book on the crucial figure looming over last year’s recession, John Maynard Keynes. Robert Skidelsky’s 2008 biography, Keynes: The Return of the Master, reveals much about the man who changed the way the world thought about economics.

Willem Buiter and Mohamed El-Erian both recommend a book that delves into the historical record to show how common financial crises are, and how universal the human impulse to find each one scarily new: This Time Is Different, by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.

Paul Collier recommends Global Thinker Robert Shiller’s book Animal Spirits, coauthored with George A. Akerlof, about how the quirks of human psychology (the tendency to find narrative in random sequences of events, for example) shape world events and economies.

Take a look, and take a page.  

1453 by Roger Crowley (Recommended by Robert Zoellick, No. 33 on the FP 100)

The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich (Emily Oster, 99)

After Nature by W.G. Sebald (Paul Collier, 36)

After Tamerlane by John Darwin (Niall Ferguson, 56)

The Age of the Unthinkable by Joshua Cooper Ramo (Jamais Cascio, 72)

Alliance: How Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill Won a War and Began Another by Jonathan Fenby (Fernando Henrique Cardoso, 11: "Fenby reconstructed in a splendid way the daily unfolding of the great debates among the allies in their conduction of the Second World War. Thanks to this book we do have a keen view of the challenges, hesitations, and purposes of the Three Great Powers.")

America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story by Bruce Feiler (Robert Wright, 27)

Angels and Ages by Adam Gopnik (Michael Ignatieff, 64: "An absolutely wonderful book about the liberal temperament.")

Angels in my Hair by Lorna Byrne (Tariq Ramadan, 49)

Animal Spirits by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller (Paul Collier, 36)

Read an excerpt

Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger (Mohamed El-Erian, 16)

The Baha’i Sacred Anthology (Xu Zhiyong, 62)

The Believers by Zoë Heller (Karen Armstrong, 87)

A Biographer’s Tale by A.S. Byatt (Esther Duflo, 41)

The Black Diaries by Roger Casement (Mario Vargas Llosa, 63)

Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan Kim (Ashraf Ghani, 20)

The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier (David Kilcullen, 44)

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Paul Farmer, 83)

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 48)

Butcher and Bolt by David Loyn (David Petraeus, 8)

Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy by Joseph Schumpeter (Francis Fukuyama, 65: "I’m teaching a course at SAIS called "Ideas in Development" and I re-read these books every year as classics in thought about political economy. These books are classics because they ask large questions about the nature of the economic and political order. There has been a steady narrowing of focus in the social sciences over the past 200 years, from political economy to classical to neo-classical economics, and then to the narrow disciplinary balkanization that is typical of research today. These authors by contrast agree with one another only insofar as they address questions like the nature and legitimacy of both capitalism and democracy.")

The Caryatids by Bruce Sterling (Jamais Cascio, 72)

The Case for God by Karen Armstrong (Jaqueline Novogratz, 85)

The Challenge for Africa by Wangari Maathai (Helene Gayle, 52)

The Clinton Tapes by Taylor Branch (Minxin Pei, 90)

The Collected Poems by John Keats (Bill Easterley, 39)

Colomba by Dacia Maraini (Jared Diamond, 42)

A Concise Economic History of the World by Rondo Cameron (Karen Armstrong, 87: "I am thinking of writing a book about God and money. Cameron’s is just one of the economic histories that I have been reading lately. I am struck by the fact that the desire to accumulate wealth and improve our material circumstances may be one of the most basic human imperatives, second only to sex. What does that tell us about our species? I am also intrigued by the fact that every single one of the major faith traditions practiced by human beings today had its roots in an early market economy and developed in a symbiotic relationship with early capitalism, trying in some way to mitigate the ill-effects of our aggressive acquisitiveness, either by such disciplines as yoga (which originally tried to mitigate the roots of greed and ‘grasping’ in the human psyche) or by trying, as in the three monotheisms, to mitigate the social ills attendant upon capitalism.")

Constantine and the Bishops by H.A. Drake (Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, 60)

Contemporary Chinese Philosophy edited by Chung-Ying Cheng and Nicholas Bunnin (Tariq Ramadan, 49)

Crossing the Energy Divide by Robert U. Ayres and Edward H. Ayres (Rajendra Pachauri, 5)

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Esther Dyson, 70)

Cybernetics by Norbert Weiner (Ray Kurzweil, 71: "A book I’ve returned to many times. The mathematics in the book may cause many readers to return it to its shelf, but it is surprisingly readable, and one of the most influential books of the century.")

Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo (David Kilcullen, 44)

The Deutsche Bank: 1870-1995 by Lothar Gall (Robert Shiller, 22)

Descartes’ Bones by Russell Shorto (Mario Vargas Llosa, 63)

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (Jared Diamond, 42)

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama (Rajendra Pachauri, 5)

The Dutch East India Company: Expansion and Decline by Femme S. Gaastra (Robert Shiller, 22)

Dynamic Governance by Neo Boon Siong and Geraldine Chen (Clare Lockhart, 20: "A lively account of what makes Singapore tick, taking the reader through Singapore’s early transition to its current deliberations as it confronts future trends. The book examines the interplay of the moral authority of individual leaders, the systems and policies they create, and their cultural context. It provides an invaluable handbook for public sector leaders in any context.")

Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy MacLean (David Petraeus, 8)

Eating the Sun by Oliver Morton (Chris Anderson, 24)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, 60)

The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuscinski (Esther Duflo, 41)

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan (Niall Ferguson, 56)

Fearful Symmetry: The Rise and Fall of Canada’s Founding Values by Brian Lee Crowley (Michael Ignatieff, 64: "It’s an attack on everything I believe, so it’s very bracing and interesting…. He’s saying that Canadian liberalism has damaged Canada, and as the Liberal Party leader I have to disagree. But it’s very intelligent and it’s very important to take your adversaries seriously, so I’m taking him seriously.")

Fool by Christopher Moore (Peter W. Singer, 82: "People often list the latest non-fiction books designed to make them look good, but in reality I am reading a mix of novels, when I’m stuck on planes, and kids’ books to my son.")

Forces of Fortune by Vali Nasr (Thomas Friedman, 21)

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (Salam Fayyad, 61)

Free by Chris Anderson (Fareed Zakaria, 37)

Garibaldi and His Enemies by Christopher Hibbert (John Arquilla, 81)

The Global Deal by Nicholas Stern (Helene Gayle, 52)

Read an excerpt.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Peter W. Singer, 82)

The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire by Edward N. Luttwak (Richard Haass, 75)

The Great Experiment by Strobe Talbott (Anwar Ibrahim, 32)

The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi (Francis Fukuyama, 65)

Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott (Fernando Henrique Cardoso, 11: "Tapscott’s book is full of insights about the horizons opened by the new information technologies that are reshaping the patterns of social organization and action.")

Gut Feelings by Gerd Gigernzer (Bill Easterley, 39)

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Paul Farmer, 83; Helene Gayle, 52; Valerie Hudson, 97; Jaqueline Novogratz, 85; Emily Oster, 99)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (Nick Bostrom, 73)

Harold Macmillan by Charles Williams (Robert Zoellick, 33)

A History of Chinese Philosophy by Fung Yu-Lan (Xu Zhiyong, 62)

The Honored Society by Norman Lewis (Niall Ferguson, 56)

The Hooligan’s Return by Norman Malea (Enrique Krauze, 95)

House of Cards by William D. Cohan (Richard Thaler, 7)

The Household and the Making of History by Mary S. Hartman (Valerie Hudson, 97)

The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen (Anwar Ibrahim, 32)

In Xanadu by William Darlymple (Esther Duflo, 41)

Innovation Nation by John Kao (John Holdren, 34)

Keynes: The Return of the Master by Robert Skidelsky (Fareed Zakaria, 37)

Read an excerpt.

Law, Legislation, and Liberty by Friedrich Hayek (Francis Fukuyama, 65)

Le Japon n’existe pas by Alberto Torres Blandina (Jacques Attali, 86)

A Life Decoded by J. Craig Venter (John Holdren, 34)

Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed (Richard Haass, 75)

Macroeconomics of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies by Roger Farmer (Robert Shiller, 22)

Makers by Cory Doctrow (Chris Anderson, 24)

Making Globalization Work by Joseph Stiglitz (Esther Dyson, 70)

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Karen Armstrong, 87: "I try to reread at least one Austen novel every year as a challenge, because she is a stark reminder in what is involved in writing a good book. I am unusual in thinking that this is one of her most interesting works. It is a celebration of integrity, the holding to a standard of morality and behavior through thick and thin, even in an inimical environment; it reminds us that charm, seductive as it is, is not enough; and that the sentimental past one imagines may be a delusion. It is a difficult book but a masterpiece.")

Marx’s General by Tristam Hunt (Enrique Krauze, 95)

Military Nanotechnology by Jurgen Altmann (Nick Bostrom, 73)

Moby Dick by Herman Melville (Clare Lockhart, 20)

The Mystery of Economic Growth by Elhanan Helpman (Nicholas Christakis, 50)

Myth of the Rational Market by Justin Fox (Richard Thaler, 7)

New Guinea: What I did and what I saw by Luigi d’Albertis (Jared Diamond, 42)

No Enchanted Palace by Mark Mazower (Bill Easterley, 39)

Nonzero by Robert Wright (Bill Clinton, 6: "[This book] had a huge effect on me as the president…. [H]is argument in Nonzero [is] essentially that the world is growing together, not apart. And as you have wider and wider circles of interconnection — that is, wider geographically, encompassing more people, and wider in bandwidth, encompassing more subject areas — you begin with conflict and you end with some resolution, some merging…. In Nonzero he argues that ever since people came out of caves and formed clans, people have been bumping up against each other, requiring expansion of identity, subconscious identity.")

Not by Genes Alone by Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd (Nicholas Christakis, 50)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Ray Kurzweil, 71: "As I think about our thinking, its most unique characteristic is our ability to think in hierarchies. In our neocortex — incidentally only mammals have a neocortex, and ours is the largest, being the size of a table napkin — we are able to create elaborate hierarchies of symbols and call them ideas, knowledge, inventions, and sentences. If you want to see the most extraordinary examples of sentences representing fantastic hierarchies of images, ideas, and thoughts, then read the page-long sentences in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.")

Operation Shylock by Philip Roth (Jacques Attali, 86)

The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley (Bill Clinton, 6: "Another person I think has written some very interesting books on the ultimate imperative of cooperation … is Matt Ridley. The one that had a pretty good influence on me is The Origins of Virtue. And by virtue he doesn’t mean, I never take a drink, even on Saturday night. He means civic virtue. How do we treat one another in ways that are constructive, and work together? … At this moment in history, we need people who have a unique understanding of both how the world works and how it might be better, might be more harmonious.")

The Origin of Wealth by Eric Beinhocker (Andrew Mwenda, 98)

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Bill Clinton, 6: "I think Malcolm Gladwell has become quite important. The Tipping Point was a very good observational book about what happened and how change occurred. But I think his last book, Outliers is even more important for understanding how we all develop and for making the case that even for people we view as geniuses, life is more of a relay race than a one-night stand by a one-man band or a one-woman band. I thought it was a truly exceptional book.")

Over Here by David Kennedy (Robert Kagan, 66: "A brilliant account of domestic politics and policies during World War I. The Wilson administration’s infringements on civil liberties, especially the suppression of free speech and persecution of German-Americans, during the war makes George W. Bush look like Martin Luther King.")

Palestinian Walks by Raja Shehade (Salam Fayyad, 61)

The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz (Esther Dyson, 70)

Paris 1916: Six Months that Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan (Nick Bostrom, 73)

The Parity of the Sexes by Sylviane Agacinski (Valerie Hudson, 97)

A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin (Hans Rosling, 96)

Phantoms of the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee (Ray Kurzweil, 71: "Told as a series of engaging stories about patients with brain injuries and diseases and experiments with cognitive function, this book provides many tantalizing clues as to how the brain works. The authors also discuss the elusive and thousand-year-old problem of dealing with the apparent gap between the brain’s objective processes and our subjective experience, or ‘qualia.’ Do I see the same thing that you see when I see ‘red’? Maybe my experience of red is the same as your experience of blue? How can we resolve such dilemmas? They offer an interesting mental — and eventually, real — experiment involving direct mental connections to try to resolve this.")

Prezza: My Story by John Prescott with Hunter Davies (Rajendra Pachauri, 5)

Prisoner of the State by Zho Ziyang (Fernando Henrique Cardoso, 11: "The journal of the Chinese Prime Minister and Communist Party Chairman Zhao Ziyang at the time of the events at Tiananmen Square is vital for understanding the decision-making processes inside China.")

The Quran (Xu Zhiyong, 62)

The Reckoning by Charles Nicholl (Mario Vargas Llosa, 63)

Replenishing the Earth by James Belich (Paul Collier, 39)

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy (Andrew Mwenda, 98)

Science, Truth, and Democracy by Philip Kitcher (John Holdren, 34)

Sharpe’s Battle by Richard Cornwell (Peter W. Singer, 82)

South of Broad by Pat Conroy (Thomas Friedman, 21)

Spain, Europe, and the Wider World by J.H. Elliott (Enrique Krauze, 95)

Spent by Geoffrey Miller (Andrew Mwenda, 98)

Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott (Willem Buiter, 91)

A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World by William Bernstein (Rizal Sukma, 92)

Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle by Dan Senor and Saul Singer (Richard Haass, 75)

Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World by Gary Hirshberg (John Holdren, 34)

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (Nicholas Christakis, 50: "In a speech delivered on January 4, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy famously and poetically noted that the U.S. GNP ‘measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile, and [tells] us everything about America, except why we are proud to be Americans.’ Many governments and individuals focus on money as a measure of the return on our efforts, but the real reason that people strive to do anything is their accurate and — here is where Harvard professor and psychologist Daniel Gilbert is especially brilliant — inaccurate perceptions of what will make them happy. Stumbling on Happiness is trenchant, illuminating, humorous, creative, novel, and important. As Gilbert argues, ‘The production of wealth does not necessarily make individuals happy, but it serves the needs of an economy, which serves the needs of a stable society, which serves as a network for the propagation of delusional beliefs about happiness and wealth. Economies thrive when individuals strive, but because individuals will only strive for their own happiness, it is essential that they mistakenly believe that producing and consuming are routes to personal well-being.’ This book has changed the way I see the world. Jeremy Bentham long ago argued that humans serve ‘two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure.’ Gilbert shows how these masters have their power, and how individuals and societies might really come to be happy.")

The Sum of All Heresies by Frederick Quinn (Tariq Ramadan, 49)

Summer Farms in Sweden, 1550 to 1920 by Jesper Larsson (Hans Rosling, 96)

Superfusion by Zachary Karabell (Robert Wright, 27)

Read an excerpt.

TalBotvinnik by Mikhail Tal (John Arquilla, 81: "Ostensibly a chess book, [this] is really an allegory about the enduring tension between art and science.")

Talking to Terrorists by John Bew, Martyn Frampton, and Inigo Gurruchaga (David Kilcullen, 44)

Terrorism: How to Respond by Richard English (John Arquilla, 81: "The clearest thinking on this scourge to have come along in many years.")

The Theological Aspect of Reformed Judaism by Max Margolis (Abdolkarim Soroush, 45)

This Time Is Different by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff (Willem Buiter, 91; Mohamed El-Erian, 16)

Read an excerpt.

A Thousand Hills by Stephen Kinzer (Robert Zoellick, 33)

To Live or to Perish Forever by Nicholas Schmidle (David Petraeus, 8)

Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt (Chris Anderson, 24)

Tribes by Seth Godin (Jaqueline Novogratz, 85)

True Compass by Edward M. Kennedy (Anwar Ibrahim, 32)

Turbulence by Giles Foden (Clare Lockhart, 20: "A novel that tells the story of the art and science of weather prediction during World War II. Books such as these that explain how people have solved problems and set about understanding the world about them — with the right mixture of humility and imagination — I find enormously useful in my own work. As our world becomes more interconnected and seemingly complex, this ability to see and comprehend patterns without losing sight of the humanity of our condition is enormously valuable. Literature that conveys the alienation, disorientation and frustration of enormous swathes of people confined to lives of poverty and exclusion by dint of the nature of their leaderships or their geographic positions, is important as it makes personal and human what otherwise can often appear to policy makers merely as numbers. Finally, accounts of remarkable individuals — whether fictional or real — and their struggles to transcend their inheritance to live wisely, make fair decisions, and make an impact whether in large scale or very local terms, serve as an inspiration and guide.")

Unscientific America by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum (John Holdren, 34)

Verzamelde Gedichten by Hendrik Marsman (Willem Buiter, 91)

Waiting by Ha Jin (Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, 60)

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 48)

Wars, Guns, and Votes by Paul Collier (Hans Rosling, 96; Rizal Sukma, 92)

The Weary Titan by Aaron Friedberg (Robert Kagan, 66: "One of the best books ever written about the decline of a great power, in this case Great Britain at the end of the 19th century. It is instructive in the ways the United States of today may be like but also strikingly unlike Britain.")

When China Rules the World by Martin Jacques (Rizal Sukma, 92)

Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity by Samuel P. Huntington (Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 48)

A Whole Mind, by Daniel Pink (Ashraf Ghani, 20: "A very interesting book. It is about the whole divide between the right-brain- and left-brain-dominant people, and how new technology will shift power to the right-brain, more creative people.")

Wired for War by Peter W. Singer (Jamais Cascio, 72)

Woodrow Wilson: A Biography by John Milton Cooper (Robert Kagan, 66: "A scholar who has in the past written the most incisive and balanced studies of Wilson’s presidency.")

The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman (Salam Fayyad, 61)

Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel (Abdolkarim Soroush, 45)

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