Contact usCareers
Set of books

10 Best International Relations Books to Read in 2023


The realm of International Relations is a dynamic and ever-evolving landscape, where nations, organisations, and individuals interact on the global stage. If you have a keen interest in understanding the complexities of international politics, diplomacy, and global affairs, Oxford Summer Courses invites you to embark on a transformative journey through our International Relations program. Explore the intricate web of international relations, gain insights into global challenges, and develop the skills to analyse and navigate this interconnected world.


Please note that the following list of books is recommended reading to broaden your knowledge and deepen your understanding of International Relations. While some of these books may be included in the Oxford Summer Courses curriculum, the specific content of the summer school can vary. If you wish to study International Relations with us, you can apply to our International Relations programme.


Subscribe to our newsletter to receive helpful insights, tutorials, and thought-provoking articles that can inform and inspire your journey in International Relations. Sign up here.

1. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, by John Mearsheimer

  • "In the anarchic world of international politics, states must constantly worry about relative gains and relative losses."
  • Published in 2001, "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics" is a cornerstone text in International Relations. John Mearsheimer's realist perspective challenges conventional wisdom and explores the driving forces behind global power dynamics.
  • Discussion: How do the concepts of offensive realism in "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics" resonate with contemporary international conflicts?

2. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, by Samuel P. Huntington

  • "The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural."
  • In this influential work from 1996, Samuel P. Huntington argues that future global conflicts will be shaped by cultural differences, leading to a "clash of civilizations" as a central theme in international affairs.
  • Discussion: How does the idea of a "clash of civilizations" in Huntington's work relate to modern-day geopolitical tensions and cultural conflicts?

3. Diplomacy, by Henry Kissinger

  • "Each period of history imposes special requirements of statesmanship."
  • Henry Kissinger's "Diplomacy," published in 1994, offers a comprehensive exploration of diplomacy as an essential tool in international relations. He draws from his own experiences as a diplomat and statesman to provide invaluable insights.
  • Discussion: How can the principles of diplomacy outlined in Kissinger's book be applied to address contemporary global challenges?

4. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It, by Paul Collier

  • "The countries at the bottom coexist with the twenty-first century, but their reality is the fourteenth century: civil war, plague, ignorance."
  • Published in 2007, Paul Collier's "The Bottom Billion" focuses on the challenges faced by the world's poorest countries. He explores the factors contributing to their struggles and proposes strategies for addressing their unique development issues.
  • Discussion: How do the insights from "The Bottom Billion" inform our understanding of global poverty and development in today's world?

5. Theories of International Politics and Zombies, by Daniel W. Drezner

  • "In this world, rationalist arguments and rationalist defenses for existing policy positions are generally sufficient."
  • Daniel W. Drezner's unconventional book, published in 2011, uses a playful approach to explore various international relations theories and applies them to a world threatened by a zombie apocalypse.
  • Discussion: How does "Theories of International Politics and Zombies" help us rethink traditional international relations theories and their applicability to contemporary global challenges?

6. The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics, by Paul Bracken

  • "In the Second Nuclear Age, deterrence will still play a role, but it will be supplemented and even dominated by other forms of restraint."
  • Published in 2012, Paul Bracken's book delves into the evolving dynamics of nuclear weapons and strategies in the 21st century. He explores how the proliferation of nuclear capabilities is reshaping global security.
  • Discussion: How do the concepts of the "Second Nuclear Age" in Bracken's work relate to current nuclear disarmament efforts and global security concerns?

7. The Ethics of War and Peace: An Introduction, by Helen Frowe

  • "There is no one right way to prosecute a war; the way wars are fought depends on the values and beliefs of those who fight them."
  • Helen Frowe's book, published in 2011, provides a comprehensive introduction to the ethical dilemmas surrounding war and peace. She explores the principles and moral considerations that guide international conflict.
  • Discussion: How can the ethical frameworks outlined in Kissinger's book be applied to address contemporary global challenges?

8. The Post-American World, by Fareed Zakaria

  • "It is impossible to understand the world without understanding America's role in it."
  • Published in 2008, Fareed Zakaria's book examines the shifting global landscape and the rise of new global powers. He explores the implications of a world where America's dominance is no longer unchallenged.
  • Discussion: How does "The Post-American World" inform our understanding of the current distribution of global power and the role of the United States in international relations?

9. The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World, by Stephen Castles and Mark J. Miller

  • "Migration has been part of the human experience since our origins as a species, but we live in an age of migration."
  • Published in 2003, this book provides a comprehensive analysis of international migration trends and their impact on societies, economies, and international relations.
  • Discussion: How do the insights from "The Age of Migration" help us understand the complex challenges and opportunities associated with contemporary migration patterns?

10. The Future of Power, by Joseph S. Nye Jr.

  • "Smart power means developing an integrated strategy that combines hard-power resources with soft-power techniques."
  • Joseph S. Nye Jr.'s book, published in 2011, explores the evolving nature of power in international relations. He introduces the concept of "smart power" and examines how states and non-state actors wield influence on the global stage.
  • Discussion: How does "The Future of Power" guide our understanding of the role of soft power and influence in modern international relations?


Oxford Summer Courses invites you to immerse yourself in the captivating world of International Relations. In this blog post, we present a meticulously curated list of 10 seminal books that will expand your understanding of global dynamics and international affairs. From John Mearsheimer's realist perspective in "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics" to Joseph S. Nye Jr.'s exploration of "smart power" in "The Future of Power," these works will transport you into the complex realm of international relations. Through our International Relations programme, you will have the opportunity to analyse and discuss these influential texts, gaining valuable insights into the ever-changing dynamics of our interconnected world. Join us on this intellectual journey and embark on a transformative experience that will enrich your comprehension of global issues. Who knows, you might even discover a profound passion for International Relations!


Apply now in 2024 to study International Relations at Oxford Summer Courses and elevate your understanding of the world's complexities. Join a community of motivated learners from around the world and embark on a transformative educational experience. Apply here.

Share this article


Ignite your passion for international relations at Oxford Summer Courses. Immerse yourself in a carefully selected list of books that delve into international relations theories, geopolitical studies, and the intricate web of global diplomacy. Gain valuable insights from experts in the field and embark on a transformative journey to enhance your expertise in international relations.

Get Our Newsletter

We deliver helpful tips, tutorials and thought-provoking articles to inform and inspire your professional development.

Our privacy policy states Oxford Summer Courses will use this information to contact you.

Oxford Summer Courses LTD

18 Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2NA, United Kingdom

+44 01865 818403

B Corp Logo

Juniors 9-12


Oxford Summer Courses is an organisation which contracts with the colleges of the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London for the use of facilities, but which has no formal connection with the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London.
Oxford Summer Courses © 2024
Oxford Summer Courses is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 08011543