The Best Political Science Books of 2021

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If you are interested in politics, then you probably know that there is no one single best political science book because the topic is vast. But we reviewed the most recommended political science books on a variety of subtopics. These books have proved their significance over the years and some even over the centuries.

Undoubtedly, any of the eight political works will open your yeas to the history of politics, political systems, concepts, contradictions, and much more. If you are not sure how to choose political books to fit your knowledge level, scroll down to our advice.

If you want to just get back to studying, get our top pick for political science books here.

Our Top Favorite
Understanding the Political World (12th Edition)
Our Top Runner Up
The Republic
Our Top Value Pick
Democracy in America
Book Title
Understanding the Political World
The Republic
Democracy in America
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Favorite
Understanding the Political World (12th Edition)
Book Title
Understanding the Political World
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Runner Up
The Republic
Book Title
The Republic
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Value Pick
Democracy in America
Book Title
Democracy in America
Prime Eligible?

Last update: 2021-07-23

Our Favorites for Best Political Science Books

Understanding the Political World by James N. Danziger, Charles Anthony Smith

With this political science college textbooks, even anyone new to politics will understand complicated abstract political concepts. The authors encourage you to connect these concepts to your own life.

From this textbook, you will learn about political systems and structures, their relation to the economy, political challenges, and how politics is understood in different countries. The book encourages you to analyze events from a political scientist’s point of view.

The book does well to give an in-depth understanding of the quickly-changing and evolving political world. New editions of the books are often published with the latest data to provide readers with the most accurate view of global politics. Make sure you are getting the newest edition unless you need an older one.

Why Choose this Book:

  • It uses interesting real-life stories and experiences to explain abstract political concepts. The boxes on the pages connect the material to the current or past events in the world and make politics more understandable.
  • The book is well-written with the authors’ styles. The explanations are clear and always to the point and help any reader make sense of politics.

What Makes this Political Science Book Unique:

  • A book supplement for interactive learning is helpful. The supplement includes videos, quizzes, tests, text, and audio. Note that used items don’t guarantee full access to the supplements.
  • The book is fact-based and unbiased and highlights controversial issues without trying to steer your opinion toward either side.
On Sale
Understanding the Political World (12th Edition)
  • James N. Danziger (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 528 Pages - 01/09/2015 (Publication Date) - Pearson (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-07-23


Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making by Deborah Stone

It is one of the must-read political science books for graduate-level students. This work is vital in the field of policy analysis.

The “paradoxes,” the author writes about, are contradictions that occur in politics and that traditions political theory fails to explain or explains incorrectly.

Some of the core concepts are political decision making, public policymaking, and analysis, questioning embedded assumptions, the connection between addressing policy issues, and economics-based analysis of policy ideas.

The third edition has been revised, updated with examples, and most recent paradoxes have been included.

Why Choose this Book:

  • This political book is beautifully written with some humor, colorful metaphors, and illustrative examples. The text is accessible, comprehensive, and free of unnecessary terminology. It covers most of the relevant information that a political analyst needs to consider.
  • Stone critiques the major weaknesses in an economics-based politics analysis. She states that economics-based politics neglect certain aspects of our societies, such as fairness, equality, liberty, etc.

What Makes this Political Science Book Unique:

  • The book is humanistic, which is rare in politics literature. It provokes to think about important issues in current public policy.
  • Most readers get this book for their politics courses and often reread it, refer to it during their career, and keep it on their bookshelves.
On Sale
Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making
  • Stone, Deborah (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 416 Pages - 12/16/2011 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-07-23


Justice for Hedgehogs by Ronald Dworkin

This political science reading is on the list of Harvard recommended books.

The hedgehog from the title, according to the Greek poet Archilochus, knows one big thing. So, what is this thing that you are going to learn from this book?

Dworkin states that there is one principle that unites all moral values and impacts every aspect of our lives. He deeply analyzes political, ethical, and moral concepts like law, freedom, liberty, equality, truth, living good and living well, and many others. In the final part of the book, the author connects these concepts to political theory.

Why Choose this Book:

  • Dworkin’s statements are thought-provoking, clear, detailed, and to the point. Even though his language is abstract and sophisticated, he does everything to keep your attention.
  • The book’s main point is to provide you with frameworks for finding answers to political, ethical, and philosophical questions. You won’t find concrete answers in this text.

What Makes this Book Unique:

  • Don’t be fooled by the cute cover; it is not an easy read. But if you have some background knowledge of politics and philosophy, you will be amazed by Dworkin’s ideas. If you don’t know anything about Kant, John Stuart Mill, Hume, or Rawls, spend some time googling these names before you get the book.
  • The author invites readers to discuss and critique his ideas on a specially created website. There you will find many people disagreeing, supporting, and expanding his statements.
Justice for Hedgehogs
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Dworkin, Ronald (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-07-23


Runner Ups for Best Political Science Books

The Republic by Plato

It is one of the most famous classic political science books ever written. In it, Plato discusses the notion of a perfect society and ideal individuals within it.

It is not only about the ideal utopia. Other major and lesser questions arise on the pages of The Republic, such as what goodness is, the purpose of education, the role of men and women in society, etc.

Reading this book may be easy, but understanding it is harder than you can think, as it is not a textbook but a work of literature.

There are many translations available, and some are even free since they are out of copyright. We recommend reading free samples of a few translations and choose the one you like best. The most popular translations are by Bloom, Waterfield, Grube, Jowett.

Why Choose this Book:

  • Plato uses dialogues to introduce thoughts and concepts. The book is enjoyable and asks and resolves excellent questions with some humor and wit.
  • Plato was one of the first people to come up with and document these thoughts around 375BC. Even if some of the ideas seem outdated, they laid the foundation for modern politics and philosophy.

What Makes this Political Science Book Unique:

  • There is plenty of criticism and complaints about Plato. Some call him racist for embracing slavery, and some dislike his hatred of democracy. But he is unquestionably one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived, and his works must be read by everyone interested in politics and philosophy.
  • Plato makes you think deeply. He is not trying to persuade you to agree with his point of view. Instead, he wants you to question everything and disagree when needed
The Republic
  • Plato (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 206 Pages - 02/15/2021 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-07-23


The Politics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by DK Publishing

It is one of the most recommended political science books for beginners. Students and general readers will find the abstract political theories clearly explained.

The book covers more than 100 revolutionary ideas in political thought history. It will introduce you to famous political theorists and thinkers of all times who have shaped modern politics.

This award-winning book is perfect for anyone who doesn’t have any knowledge or has little and wants to understand how politics works. There is a glossary and a directory of essential ideologists if you have trouble with terms and names.

Why Choose this Book:

  • The book covers political concepts in chronological order starting from Ancient Political Thought and Medieval Politics to modern political theories. You don’t need to read this book from cover to cover and can skip sections that are not your fields of interest.
  • The graphic part of the book is fantastic. The tables, graphics, highlighted main points, quotations, text boxes help to follow the material. The text is very accessible, straightforward, and well-organized.

What Makes this Political Science Book Unique:

  • You may think that Internet resources make this book not as useful. Sure, Wikipedia articles provide you with lots of biographical information. The book provides you with this information, explains its context, expands the ideas, and clarifies everything you need to know in an accessible and cohesive way.
  • The book covers political concepts and theories in different countries in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. You will be surprised to learn that happened everywhere and you had no idea about it.
The Politics Book (Big Ideas)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • DK Publishing (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-07-23


A Theory of Justice by John Rawls

Rawls is considered one of the most remarkable political philosophers of the 20th century. His Theory of Justice is one of the first titles in every recommended list of political science books.

The author writes about justice as a prime virtue and that it is equal to fairness and names his theory the “Justice as Fairness” theory. The book provokes deep thoughts and discussions on justice’s real nature and proposes a distributive model of human goods and justice based on equality.

The book was initially published in 1971 and later revised in 1975 and 1999, with a few difficulties cleared up. But readers most often refer to the first edition, and it was republished in 2005.

Why Choose this Book:

  • Before Rawls, justice was only analyzed from historical and theoretical points. Rawls brought about a new way to think about justice as a real-world problem and whether the political and social world is morally well-organized.
  • It covers every aspect of society, from family politics to constitutional conventions. Rawls argues that equality, justice, fairness, and ethics should be applied to everyone and everywhere

What Makes this Political Science Book Unique:

  • It has been shaping political philosophy discussions since the first publication in 1971. Rawls’ ideas remain pertinent and fresh. His influence on understanding justice will last for the decades to come.
  • The book is an academic work of political philosophy, and it is not an easy read. The language is a little verbose and abstractive. But unlike other books in the field, it is accessible to non-philosophers. If you have some underlying political and philosophical knowledge, you will quickly comprehend the text.
On Sale
A Theory of Justice
  • Belknap Press
  • Rawls, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-07-23


Value Picks for Best Political Science Books

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

It is a political science essential reading for every person who lives in the U.S. or believes in democracy. It is one of the most excellent books ever written on America and its government. The first part was initially published in 1835 and second in 1840.

The author came to America from France for nine months to study the American prison system. He wrote the book about the political, economic, social life of American citizens. In it, Tocqueville writes in detail about how young democracy functioned in the northern and southern states. He tries to understand why democracy worked in America but failed in other countries.

There are many editions and translations of the book. The closest ones to the original text are Arthur Goldhammer’s edition in the Library of America series and University of Chicago Press edition.

Why Choose this Book:

  • The book was written to educate European people about politics in America and includes every detail the author observed. It is a long read, but you won’t learn more about the establishment of democracy in the U.S. in any other book.
  • It helps Americans realize where they came from, and people from different countries better understand American thinking.

What Makes this Political Science Book Unique:

  • You rarely meet a book that is written by a traveler and a political philosopher. His observations are brilliant, and they are analyzed from a political point with a hint of criticism. Tocqueville answers not only what-questions but also why.
  • Written in the first half of the 19th century, the book has everything: economics, art, strained relations among different races, gender issues, free press and politics affected by the media, corruption, and many other democracy problems.
Democracy in America
  • Alexis de Tocqueville (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 722 Pages - 04/01/2002 (Publication Date) - University of Chicago Press (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-07-23


The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe's Twentieth Century by Sheri Berman

It is a must-read for everyone who wishes to understand the political situation in 20th century Europe.

This work in an excellent account of the current social democracy background. It explains how political regimes and ideologies emerged, their concepts, why ones failed, and the others succeeded. Berman writes about their political motivation. And if you think you already know a lot about these aspects, the author will show you how much you don’t know.

It is mostly theoretical and less historical.

The book shows us the importance of social democracy to modern politics, how it still leaves to this day, and how some of the worst political regimes created one of the highest forms of civilization.

Why Choose this Book:

  • The author looks at the social democracy history from its beginning in the late 19th century and up to this day. She analyzes how and why it beat out its rivals like National Socialism and Fascism.
  • The arguments are thought-provoking and well-supported. The writing style can get a little dry, but it is very readable. Berman managed to put the pieces and details together on less than 250 pages.

What Makes this Political Science Book Unique:

  • Berman investigates the political causes of World War II. She writes about the successes and failures of the European countries’ political parties that led to the confrontations. She explains why social democracy spread across Europe after the war.
  • The book is not only an essential study of the past, but it also provides us with crucial lessons for the present about the possible political mistakes.
The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe's Twentieth Century
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Berman, Sheri (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-07-23


How to Choose the Best Political Science Books for You

Picking an excellent political science book can be confusing, especially if you are new to this field. We will make it easier, dividing the most popular books by political science knowledge levels.

What are Good Political Science Books for Beginners?

If you are just starting to learn about politics, we recommend choosing books that explain the basics. By that, we mean the most important concepts, political theory and philosophy, political systems, and institutions of individual countries.

Books for beginners from our post are Understanding the Political World, The Republic, and The Politics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained.

Some other recommended books for beginners are textbooks by Andrew Heywood, Jonathan Wolff’s An Introduction to Political Philosophy,The Challenge of Politics: An Introduction to Political Science by Douglas W. Simon, Joseph Romance, Neal Riemer, Thomas M. Magstadt’s Understanding Politics: Ideas, Institutions, and Issues.

Make sure to prepare to read each book by looking up essential concepts, terms, people, and events mentioned in it. Also, read a little about the author and why the books’ topics were significant for them. Choose books with glossaries and indexes for more straightforward navigation.

Many readers prefer ebooks because they are convenient for information search and making notes.

What are Good Political Science Books for Intermediate or Advanced Students?

When you have some knowledge about politics, we recommend choosing books on narrower categories based on your interest, such as international politics of a particular country, the government structure, history of one of the political ideologies, etc.

There is an endless variety of good books that cover political science subtopics; some of them are The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein on the U.S. government or Introduction to the Constitution of India by Durga Das Basu.

Books for intermediate students from our post are Policy Paradox, Justice for Hedgehogs, Democracy in America.

Try to write down book and article titles mentioned in the books you read. This way, you will build your own political science books and authors list.

We advise advanced learners to read classic books on political theory, history of politics, and books, that conflict with their beliefs and opinions. Check out The Primacy of Politics, A Theory of Justice, or any other recommended books.

What Political Science Books are Often Recommended in College Courses?

We are not going to recommend textbooks but will look at the recommended additional readings.

If you have a specific course in mind, try checking the syllabus without taking the course.

Some of the most often recommended books are On Liberty, The Communist Manifesto, The Road to Serfdom, The Wealth of Nations, Two Treatises of Government, The Prince, by Aristotle,The Republic by Plato. These books are the classics and are even required readings for some classes.

You don’t always need to read the books on political science from cover to cover. You can simply read the part that relates to the topic of your interest and can often skim through many chapters.

Wrapping Things Up: The Best Political Science Books

We’ve gone over a lot today. Here’s a helpful table to consolidate every political science books we went over:

Our Top Favorite
Understanding the Political World (12th Edition)
Our Top Runner Up
The Republic
Our Top Value Pick
Democracy in America
Book Title
Understanding the Political World
The Republic
Democracy in America
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Favorite
Understanding the Political World (12th Edition)
Book Title
Understanding the Political World
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Runner Up
The Republic
Book Title
The Republic
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Value Pick
Democracy in America
Book Title
Democracy in America
Prime Eligible?

Last update: 2021-07-23

Political science books can be complicated to choose and read. But we hope that our advice and recommended political science books will help you make a choice.

To help you pick the right topic, let us say that Understanding the Political World is one of the most accessible books on introduction to political science. If you want to understand political contradictions, choose Policy Paradox. In Justice for Hedgehogs, Dworkin establishes a connection between political ideologies and moral values. If you are looking for a classic in political philosophy, The Republic written 24 centuries ago and relevant to this day, will be a perfect choice. The Politics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained is the best political theory book for beginners, accessible to everyone without a hint of knowledge in political science. A Theory of Justice explains how we understand justice, how it should be understood, and how it should affect politics.

Remember to choose books according to your knowledge level. Check the table of contents and the index before you buy the book. If you realize that the text you chose is too challenging, don’t force yourself to read it. Save it for later when you are ready.

Prepare yourself for reading each book and pick the right format. Audiobooks can be helpful too.

If you don’t know what book to pick, go for the classics as they have proved their importance over the years.

Did you find this post helpful? Then you may also like our post on the best political books of all time here.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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