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Jonathan Powell's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Jonathan Powell recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Jonathan Powell's favorite book recommendations of all time.

Correspondent Ahmed Rashid brings the shadowy world of the Taliban—the world’s most extreme & radical Islamic organization—into sharp focus in this enormously insightful book. He offers the only authoritative account of the Taliban available to English-language readers, explaining the Taliban’s rise to power, its impact on Afghanistan & the region, its role in oil & gas company decisions, & the effects of changing American attitudes toward the Taliban. He also describes the new face of Islamic fundamentalism & explains why Afghanistan has become the world center for... more
Recommended by Jonathan Powell, and 1 others.

Jonathan Powell9/11 was a big shock. When the first plane hit I thought it was an accident. When I was told of a second plane, I assumed it was a loop on the film. Once I knew the truth, I spent the rest of the day dealing with the consequences and trying to make sure the UK wasn’t under attack. (Source)

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In an age of terror, our national leaders face such critical decisions every day. Should we negotiate with the Taliban? Iran? North Korea?

In private disputes you too may face such adversaries: a business partner who has cheated you, a sibling grabbing part of your inheritance, a greedy divorcing spouse.

Across a wide range of difficult conflicts, Mnookin explains how to make wise decisions. He identifies the traps to avoid—emotional, strategic, and political—and the elements that are critical for success.

Mnookin’s real life case studies cover a...
Recommended by Jonathan Powell, and 1 others.

Jonathan PowellIt was put together about 25 years ago. People from different faculties and disciplines at the university have been looking at the theory and practice of conflict resolution and negotiation. My reason for choosing this book (I also recommend the more-famous The Power of Yes that preceded it) is that for many years no one seemed to think of negotiation as a skill or discipline. It’s bizarre that... (Source)

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In these pages, Sir Harold Nicolson outlines a history and definition of diplomacy, the art of implementing foreign policy by negotiation. The historical development of diplomacy is traced from primitive origins (when, hypothetically, the concept of diplomatic immunity arose from the realization that it was impractical to kill and eat an emissary before he had delivered his message), to modern times, when diplomatic procedure has become highly sophisticated and is controlled by strict conventions. Sir Harold also describes the ideal diplomatist, the varying types of European diplomacy, and... more
Recommended by Jonathan Powell, and 1 others.

Jonathan PowellIn my time, there was no training to be a diplomat. I think we had a half-day induction course and went straight into a department. They gave us a guide on where to sit at dinner and a copy of Diplomacy, which I still have. (Source)

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The Prince [with Biographical Introduction]

Niccolo Machiavelli's "The Prince" is intended to be a treatise on ruling and is considered by many to be a classic of political science. In the book Machiavelli offers many bits of practical advice on how to rule and even though the book was written in the early 16th century its ideas are still very relevant today. Where "The Prince" differs from other political literature before it is in its separation of the lofty idealism of morality and ethics from the practical demands of governing. It is this very aspect of Machiavelli's work that has made his name synonymous with an almost immoral... more

Eric RipertA fascinating study and still wholly relevant. (Source)

Neil deGrasse TysonWhich books should be read by every single intelligent person on planet? [...] The Prince (Machiavelli) [to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it]. If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world. (Source)

Ryan HolidayOf course, this is a must read. Machiavelli is one of those figures and writers who is tragically overrated and underrated at the same time. Unfortunately that means that many people who read him miss the point and other people avoid him and miss out altogether. Take Machiavelli slow, and really read him. Also understand the man behind the book–not just as a masterful writer but a man who... (Source)

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A brilliant, sweeping history of diplomacy that includes personal stories from the noted former Secretary of State, including his stunning reopening of relations with China.

The seminal work on foreign policy and the art of diplomacy.

Moving from a sweeping overview of history to blow-by-blow accounts of his negotiations with world leaders, Henry Kissinger describes how the art of diplomacy has created the world in which we live, and how America’s approach to foreign affairs has always differed vastly from that of other nations.

Brilliant, controversial, and...

Bogdan SavoneaKissinger's "Diplomacy", Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" and Machiavelli's "The Prince". They pretty much shaped the first part of my life, defined my University choice and career path up until my late 20s. (Source)

Jeremy GreenstockThe importance of Kissinger’s book is that it is fundamentally about power. It’s amazing how seldom people – newspapers, blogs, speeches – talk about power, but power is the raw thing at the heart of every political unit. Kissinger is a great figure of 20th-century diplomacy and therefore it is about his experience; you’re looking at diplomacy through the eyes of a great exponent of the... (Source)

Jonathan PowellKissinger said that the original American idealism was a mistake. He remains the grand old man of foreign policy. (Source)

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