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Over the decades, some of the world's most prominent authors have spoken about their new books at Carnegie Council. From the past five years of lectures, we chose 10 of our favorite modern world history books that will be useful for college-bound high school and college classrooms.

As an additional analysis tool, we have added the author's Carnegie Council lecture, often accompanied by the full audio, video clips, and half-hour TV show. Students can explore these to get a better understanding of the process and theories behind the books and to discover whether the author presents any bias in their historical interpretations.

Jump to books on: Africa, China, East Asia, Latin America, Middle East,
United States, World History (general), Geography, Ethics & War 


 

AFRICA:
Of Africa
by Wole Soyinka (2012)
Soyinka offers a wide-ranging look into Africa's culture, religion, history, and identity. He seeks to understand how the continent's history relates to the histories of others, while exploring Africa's truest assets: "its humanity, the quality and valuation of its own existence, and modes of managing its environment—both physical and intangible."
Recommended by a teacher because: so much of what can be required in history curriculum about Africa focuses on its weaknesses and moments of failure. This book will help students to understand the assets of the continent and see it as a diverse place with strong cultural and historical contributions.
Carnegie Council lecture 


 

CHINA: 
Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China
by Ezra F. Vogel (2011)
How China embraced globalization, confronted the damage wrought by the Cultural Revolution, dismantled the cult of Maoism, lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, and opened trade relations with the West is a remarkable story that unfolds around a single, yet controversial individual: Deng Xiaoping.
Recommended by a teacher because: when studying modern world history and globalization, one must pay attention to the impressive rise of China. This book will help students understand, from a leadership point of view, many of the changes that happened in the country from Maoism to today. 
Carnegie Council lecture, audio, and video clip


 

EAST ASIA:
Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy by Eri Hotta (2013)
A groundbreaking history that examines the attack on Pearl Harbor from the Japanese perspective and is certain to revolutionize how we think of World War II in the Pacific.
Recommended by a teacher because: every American student learns about the attack on Pearl Harbor but few can explain the Japanese narrative. From this book, we learn how and why, Hotta argues, the Japanese entered a war they knew they were almost certain to lose and engaged in "reckless militarism couched in traditional notions of pride and honor."
Carnegie Council lecture, audio, and video clip 
Additional teaching tool: Timeline: The Last Days of Imperial Japan (CFR)


 

LATIN AMERICA:
Redeemers: Ideas and Power in Latin America by Enrique Krauze (2011)
Krauze is one of Mexico's foremost thinkers, and in this book he profiles 12 of the most influential figures in 19th, 20th, and 21st century Latin America. The lives and ideas of these characters—who represent history, revolution, and literature among other subjects—have greatly influenced not only the region's past but also its modern political mind. 
Recommended by a teacher because: the book provides a great overview of major players in modern Latin American history. It also can help students to think about leaders in terms of the short and long-term effects of their ideas vis-à-vis development, identity, and politics in the region. 
Carnegie Council lecture, audio, video clip, and TV show 


 

MIDDLE EAST:
I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity by Izzeldin Abuelaish (2011)
Dr. Abuelaish was born and raised in a Palestinian refugee camp and worked in Israel while living in the Gaza Strip. During the 2009 Gaza War, three of his daughters were killed by Israeli shells. His response was to call for the people of the Middle East to begin talking, to learn to settle things peacefully, and to treat each other as they are, brothers in humanity.
Recommended by a teacher because: this story puts a human face on the Israel-Palestine conflict and shows that there is hope for peace and reconciliation. Students can learn from this book about hope, faith in human decency, and the ability to transcend political and religious boundaries.
Carnegie Council lecture, audio, video clips, and TV show 
Additional teaching tool: Crisis Guide: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (CFR, 2008) 


 

UNITED STATES:
Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era by Joseph Nye (2013)
This book examines the foreign policy decisions of the presidents who presided over the most critical phases of America's rise to world primacy in the 20th century, and assesses the effectiveness and ethics of their choices. 
Recommended by a teacher because: this book allows students to not only learn about the foreign policy of different presidents but also to assess their decision making skills. An interesting way to teach the book would be to first teach about Nye's concept of soft power, and then interpret his analysis and bias of decision-making based upon this theory.
Carnegie Council lecture, audio, video clips, and TV show


 

WORLD HISTORY (General):
Year Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Buruma (2013)
Year Zero makes a compelling case that many of the modern triumphs, such as the European Union, the United Nations, and Japanese pacifism, as well as some of the world's unresolved conflicts in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, all took root in this fateful year of retribution, revenge, suffering, and healing.
Recommended by a teacher because: causes of war often receive far greater attention than war's end. This is a great book for studying cause-effect relationships of WWII and modern history as well as interpreting how leaders have dealt with uncertainty and new beginnings on a global scale.
Carnegie Council lecture, audio and video clips 

Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama  (2014)
Fukuyama examines the essential question of how societies develop strong, impersonal, and accountable institutions. His story goes from the French Revolution to the Arab Spring while also paying particular attention to the
 dysfunctions of contemporary American politics.
Recommended by a teacher because: as a follow-up to The Origins of Political Order, this book is great as a reference tool for analyzing issues such as corruption and governance, legacies of colonialism, and the future of democracy. Also can be used like a textbook for teaching chapters of global history from a thematic and comparative lens.
Carnegie Council lecture, audio, video clips, and TV show 
Also recommended: The Origins of Political Order: from Prehuman Times to the French Revolution lecture, audio, video clips and TV show


 

GEOGRAPHY:
The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate
by Robert Kaplan (2012)
The Revenge of Geography "displays a formidable grasp of contemporary world politics and serves as a powerful reminder that it has been the planet’s geophysical configurations, as much as the flow of competing religions and ideologies, that have shaped human conflicts, past and present."—Malise Ruthven, The New York Review of Books
Recommended by a teacher because: this is a great read for geography students that puts a study of maps, land structures, and bodies of water into context.
Carnegie Council lecture, audio, video clips and TV show 


 

ETHICS & WAR:
WAR by Sebastian Junger (2010)
The author of The Perfect Storm travels with American troops on the front line of the Afghanistan War during a 15-month tour of duty. He tells the story of individuals, how they got there, the reality of combat, and explains what it’s like to serve, with stories of hell, brotherhood, and honor.  
Recommended by a teacher because: WAR can be used to teach a more human dimension of armed conflict. What are the backgrounds, stories and feelings of people on the front line? The book can be read like a modern day, non-fiction All's Quiet on the Western Front.
Carnegie Council lecture, audio, video clips and TV show 
Additional teaching tool: Timeline: U.S. War in Afghanistan (CFR)