Feature

Yascha Mounk recommends 6 political books

The political scientist recommends works by Tomasi di Lampedusa, Jonathan Haidt, and more

Political scientist Yascha Mounk is a professor at Johns Hopkins, a contributor to The Atlantic, and a podcast host. In his latest book, The Great Experiment, he examines how to prevent the collapse of democracies by bridging internal divides.

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1958)

You can't understand politics without reading fiction. There is no deeper novel about how political change does — and, just as importantly, ­doesn't— happen than the engrossing story of the Principe di Salina and his ambitious nephew, set in Sicily during the turbulent years of Italy's unification. Buy it here.

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt (2012)

One key reason it's so challenging to build diverse democracies is that human beings are deeply "groupish." This book helped me understand the powerful hold that an attachment to the in-group has over the human psyche — often for ill but also, under the right circumstances, for good. Buy it here.

The Narrow Corridor by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson (2019)

In the 20th century, it was mostly the state or a tyrannical majority that oppressed minority groups. But this important book shows how people throughout history have been locked up in a "cage of norms" constructed by their own communities. To be truly free, we need to enjoy protection from both dangers. Buy it here.

Racecraft by Barbara J. Fields and Karen E. Fields (2012)

This beautiful book chronicles the cost of racism in the U.S., but also warns it will be impossible to overcome racism while those who believe they are fighting against it uncritically subscribe to racial categories. A plea to overcome such "racecraft" is deeply countercultural right now, and all the more relevant for it. Buy it here.

The Great Demographic Illusion by Richard Alba (2020)

Scholars and pundits have a habit of talking about the U.S. as though the country were composed of two monolithic blocks: "whites" and "people of color." This book explains why that is, thankfully, a myopic way to conceive of today's ­reality — or tomorrow's future. Buy it here.

Liberalism and Its Discontents by Francis Fukuyama (2022)

The basic values of liberal democracy are now under attack from foreign dictators, like Vladimir Putin, and domestic enemies, like Donald Trump. This book explains how illiberal political forces came to be so ­­powerful — and why the fundamental values of our political system are worth fighting for. Buy it here.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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