The Best Political Books To Read Now


In the age of social media and 24-hour rolling news, politics is a sport that plays out in real time. To get a sense of what’s really going on, though, it pays to take a step back and look at the big picture. From an ex-PM’s autobiography to the reflections of a legendary broadcaster, these 11 recently released books will all give you new insight into our tumultuous times…

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Alan Duncan – In the Thick of It: The Private Diaries of a Minister

Watching Prime Minister’s Questions during a Wednesday lunchtime, you can only wonder if the Palace of Westminster is just as rowdy behind the scenes as it appears behind the dispatch box. Former Foreign Office minister and deputy to Boris Johnson, the then-foreign secretary, Alan Duncan bears all in what the Daily Mail described as “one of the most explosive political diaries to ever be published”. Covering the period from the eve of the 2016 referendum to the UK’s eventual exit from the EU, Duncan spills the beans with unfiltered daily entries, providing a behind-the-scenes look at what the engine room of British politics looks like.

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Marina Hyde – What Just Happened?!: Dispatches from Turbulent Times

Ask anyone nowadays what they think of the state of politics today and more often than not, you’ll hear that it’s all just beyond satire or ridicule. Seasoned Guardian columnist Marina Hyde seems just as incredulous as us, as she tries to make sense of our recent political history. From the revolving door in Number 10 to the rise of Trump to the highest elected office in the world, What Just Happened!? provides a necessary shot of humour and sanity to a political landscape that has seemed to outrun the bounds of farce.  For Hyde, you’ve got to laugh (while making a serious point), otherwise it’s just sad.

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David Dimbleby - Keep Talking: A Broadcasting Life

For numerous generations, David Dimbleby was the face of the British political circus. After 50 years in broadcasting, chairing Question Time for 25 years and covering election night after election night for the BBC, Dimbleby was a rare constant in the constant revolving door surrounding Westminster. In this witty and revealing account, Dimbleby reflects on a life spent at the heart of broadcasting and the challenges of impartiality, before letting himself off the leash and giving his own takes on the state of Britain and its monarchy and politics.

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Andrew Gimson – Boris Johnson: The Rise and Fall of a Troublemaker at Number 10

Love him or loathe him, it’s fair to say Boris Johnson was not your typical prime minister. Some dismissed him as a liar, charlatan and tasteless joke to the seriousness of British politics, while others saw him as the ideal charismatic leader in a new populist age. Former Telegraph parliamentary sketch writer Andrew Gimson documents the rise and fall of the ‘troublemaker at Number 10’. From ‘getting Brexit done’ to the lows of the Partygate scandal, Johnson’s story is told in the only way it can be: through a series of entertaining, controversial vignettes which demonstrate the man behind the character.

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Ed Miliband – Go Big: 20 Bold Solutions to Fix Our World

Ask former Labour leader Ed Miliband what his biggest regret was in failing to convince the British public in the 2015 general election, he routinely answers that he didn’t think he was imaginative or bold enough in his proposed policies. In Go Big, he tries to rectify this, providing a rare beacon of positivity in these politically turbulent times. Mining through the many ideas discussed on his Reasons to be Cheerful podcast, Miliband tackles the big issues of the day – climate change, inequality, global cooperation – with appropriately big, hopeful solutions. 

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Maggie Haberman – Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America

Maggie Haberman covered Donald Trump’s presidency for the New York Times. She pulled no punches in her reports, but was one of the few members of the mainstream media to retain some sort of relationship with him. This means her sources for this remarkable book about the man, the president and the phenomenon include interviews with the man himself. With Trump suggesting recently that he will run to regain the White House next year, Confidence Man is an invaluable – and definitive – account of how this polarising figure came to be president first time around. 

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Gordon Brown - My Life, Our Times

Arguably the junior partner in the New Labour double act, the influence of Gordon Brown on UK politics should not be underplayed. While his relationship with Tony Blair arguably soured as Blair put off handing over the reigns to Brown for 10 years, he still became prime minister on the precipice of the catastrophic 2008 financial crisis. Brown tells his story, from his upbringing in Scotland and near loss of his eyesight to becoming Britain’s longest-serving chancellor. If you want to understand the man behind the UK’s response to the crash, this is a must-read.

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Andrew Small – The Rupture: China and the Global Race for the Future

Late last year, Andrew Small delivered the insider’s guide we had all been waiting for – the one that explains why China is increasingly seen as threat by the West. The Covid pandemic is at the heart of this story. Beijing’s response to this unprecedented event prompted many of its most fervent supporters in the West to pivot. As they have distanced themselves, China’s leadership has sought to build a new coalition, involving national administrations from Moscow to Kabul. The upshot, according to Small, is that Europe will play a crucial role in an intensifying cultural clash between Beijing and Washington.

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Michael Crick – One Party After Another: The Disruptive Life of Nigel Farage

He might have repeatedly failed to become a Westminster MP, but pint-loving ex-City boy Nigel Farage has played an outsized role in British politics over recent years. Don’t think of this controversial, contradictory figure as a caricature, though. Political correspondent Michael Crick’s investigative biography reveals Farage to be a multifaceted human being, while serving up some delicious stories along the way.  

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Mark Galeotti – Putin’s Wars: From Chechnya to Ukraine

Mark Galeotti is the subject-matter expert who previously brought you the indispensable A Short History of Russia. He hasn’t been short of work since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine almost 12 months ago and created the biggest geopolitical story of the age. His newest book sets the context for Putin’s latest act of aggression, and goes a long way to explaining what might have seemed unfathomable. Thanks to Galeotti’s unrivalled contacts book, Putin’s Wars is also loaded with anecdotes of military life and personal snapshots of conflict.

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Henry Kissinger – Leadership

Ever wondered what it takes to be a political leader? Henry Kissinger, the 99-year-old ex-US secretary of state, is as well placed as anyone to offer up some answers. In this remarkable book, he profiles six people who have been there and done it – including Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher and Charles de Gaulle – and reveals the strategies they used to make the most of both their own character and the wider historical moments into which they were thrust.

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