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Steve Crawshaw's Top Book Recommendations

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


King Leopold's Ghost

In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million--all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury... more
Recommended by Steve Crawshaw, Suzannah Lipscomb, and 2 others.

Steve CrawshawLarge parts of the Belgian establishment loathe this book. It tells, as its sub-title says, ‘a story of greed, terror and heroism’. It lays bare the absolute fiction that King Leopold’s fief in the Congo was based on some philanthropic urge – a line that Leopold managed to peddle with extraordinary success at the time. I don’t know if what Leopold did would be called ‘genocide’ today or not. But... (Source)

Suzannah LipscombThis is an incredibly powerful, horrifying, and utterly brilliant study of Belgian colonialism of the Congo and the brutality and genocide that followed in its wake. (Source)

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Former UN Ambassador Samantha Power's Pulitzer Prize-winning analysis of America's repeated failure to stop genocides around the world

In her Pulitzer Prize-winning examination of the last century of American history, Samantha Power asks the haunting question: Why do American leaders who vow "never again" repeatedly fail to stop genocide? Power, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and the former US Ambassador to the United Nations, draws upon exclusive interviews with Washington's top policymakers, thousands of declassified documents, and her own reporting from modern...

Steve CrawshawWhen Power was writing, the Rwandan genocide had already happened, but Darfur was still to come. The sub-title of her book is ‘America and the age of genocide’, and she started work expecting to investigate how American foreign policy had coped so badly. Terrible events, including the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey early in the 20th century, and Pol Pot’s mass killings in Cambodia 60 years... (Source)

Norman NaimarkThis was an extremely important and timely book in calling attention to the deep-seated hypocrisy that lay at the heart of American policies when facing genocide over the past century. Power’s criticism of the devastating combination of American timidity and wishful thinking in face of mass killing, especially in the mid-1990s in Bosnia and Rwanda, is palpable throughout the book. Through... (Source)

Peter W. GalbraithSamantha Power first came to the public notice for her work on the American response to genocide in Bosnia, or to be more precise, the lack thereof. The title, A Problem From Hell is a quote from Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s congressional testimony about the situation in Bosnia, explaining why the United States couldn’t do anything to stop the genocide there. She was a young reporter... (Source)

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The Power of the Powerless

The Power of the Powerless (Czech: Moc bezmocných) is an expansive political essay written in October 1978 by the Czech dramatist, political dissident and later politician, Václav Havel. The essay dissects the nature of the communist regime of the time, life within such a regime and how by their very nature such regimes can create dissidents of ordinary citizens. The essay goes on to discuss ideas and possible actions by loose communities of individuals linked by a common cause, such as Charter 77. Officially suppressed, the essay was circulated in samizdat form and translated into multiple... more
Recommended by Timothy Snyder, Steve Crawshaw, and 2 others.

Timothy SnyderIn the end I think Havel will be remembered as the outstanding East European dissident writer, and he will be remembered as such above all for this essay. Its central point is that even a communist regime that controls the media and exercises a great deal of power depends ultimately on an almost visible collaboration with society – society meaning individual decisions taken by individuals, which... (Source)

Steve CrawshawThis is absolutely a human rights book, and it contains one of the most magical essays in political philosophy ever written, which pays tribute to the importance of what Havel calls ‘living in truth’. Imagine yourself back in 1978, ten years after Soviet tanks had entered Prague, when it seemed that nothing could change. Havel’s argument in The Power of the Powerless, roughly speaking, was that... (Source)

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Shah of Shahs

In Shah of Shahs Kapuscinski brings a mythographer's perspective and a novelist's virtuosity to bear on the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran, one of the most infamous of the United States' client-dictators, who resolved to transform his country into "a second America in a generation," only to be toppled virtually overnight. From his vantage point at the break-up of the old regime, Kapuscinski gives us a compelling history of conspiracy, repression, fanatacism, and revolution. less
Recommended by Steve Crawshaw, Jasmin Darznik, and 2 others.

Steve CrawshawKapuściński’s writing has a poetry to it that I adore. He was a journalist, working for the Polish state news agency, writing a lot of routine stories. Books were his release, a chance to get at the inner truth of what was happening. Some have accused him of imagining too much, but I remain loyal. Fundamentally, he doesn’t distort in the big picture. He lets things speak. It’s like a playwright’s... (Source)

Jasmin DarznikKapuscinski is widely regarded as the greatest travel writer of the 20th century. Polish by birth, he witnessed some 40 revolutions and wars during his time as a journalist. He had already built a long and illustrious career when he found his way to Iran on the eve of the 1979 revolution. At that moment it was still a populist revolution rather than an Islamic one – the contours of the revolution... (Source)

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Freedom from Fear

Aung San Suu Kyi, human-rights activist and leader of Burma's National League for Democracy, was detained in 1989 by SLORC, the ruling military junta. Today, she is newly liberated from six years' house arrest in Rangoon, where she was held as a prisoner of conscience, despite an overwhelming victory by her party in May 1990.

This collection of writings, now revised with substantial new material, including the text of the Nobel Peace Prize speech delivered by her son, reflects Aung San Suu Kyi's greatest hopes and fears for her people and her concern about the need for international...


Bertil LintnerThis is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand today’s Burmese politics. (Source)

Sean TurnellIt’s an extraordinarily inspirational book, as befits someone who has stood up for things and made such immense sacrifices. (Source)

Steve CrawshawFor more than two decades, every conversation in Burma or about Burma has ended up being about Aung San Suu Kyi. (Source)

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