Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936)
No matter your interests and passions, chances are high that you will end up in a job that requires you to deal with other people… and dealing with people can sometimes be tough. As sad as it might be, a large part of where you will end up within International Relations depends on how well you can get along with other people rather than on your other skills. Luckily, psychologist Dale Carnegie already provided the solution to this problem over 80 years ago. In his hugely influential work How to Win Friends and Influence People, which sold over 15 million copies worldwide, Carnegie provides simple yet effective guidelines that will help you deal with and persuade all kinds of different people. All of these are straightforward concepts, yet Carnegie was the first person to link them together in such an enjoyable and accessible way. Note that the primary aim of this book is not to help you forge long-term friendships and meaningful relations. It simply provides effective guidelines that you can follow to be perceived as a likeable person, as well as helping you to persuade others of the merit of your ideas – two things that can never hurt someone pursuing a career within our field.
Nicolò Machiavelli – The Prince (1532)
The infamous book that gave meaning to the term ‘Machiavellian’ is nevertheless a must-read for anyone remotely interested in politics and power relations. The Prince has been criticized for promoting violence and immoral behaviour, and while this is true to a certain extent, it is far from the main reason as to why it was written. Machiavelli’s masterpiece is all about power – how to obtain it and how to keep it. While certain parts of The Prince were only relevant in the time in which Machiavelli wrote it, many of his other lessons are as relevant today as they were back then. Anyone considering a career in politics would be wise to take the time to read this short book. In the arena of politics, you have to play the game by the rules, and few people understand these rules better than Machiavelli.
Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011)
The human brain is a complex organ. Why do we think the way we do, and what influences our decisions? Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman gives an extensive answer to these questions in his bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow. The book provides eye-opening information on topics that are completely overlooked in our course, all of it applicable to real-life, everyday situations. How do you select the best candidates for a position by minimising your own bias? How do you accurately estimate the time needed to complete a certain project? How do you identify easily preventable mistakes? How do you deal with risk in a rational way? How do you efficiently process all the information that you come across each day? All of these questions and many more are extensively answered by Kahneman’s phenomenal and highly enjoyable book. After reading it, you will be in a much better position to understand the behaviour of others and, more importantly, yourself. And once you understand it, you will also know how to change it in a way that suits your goals and ambitions.
Henry Kissinger – Diplomacy (1994)
Love him or hate him, former Secretary of State and Nobel Laureate Henry Kissinger is undoubtedly one of the most experienced and qualified diplomats of the past century. In this monumental work, he provides an enjoyable and insightful overview of the history of diplomacy and the many ways in which great statesmen have pursued their goals. Diplomacy is jam-packed with useful information for students of International Relations. It covers all of international relations history, from the European balance-of-power system to the fall of the Soviet Union. Kissinger describes the actions of some of the most influential statesmen of the past few centuries, carefully analysing the most important foreign policy decisions made by Richelieu, Bismarck, Stalin and most American presidents. On top of that, he also elaborates on the lessons he learned while negotiating America’s rapprochement with China in the 1970s. If you could read only one book to prepare yourself for a career in diplomacy or policy-making, it would be hard to find a piece of work that does a better job than Diplomacy. No other book provides so much information about history and international relations while at the same time being so accessible.
Sun Tzu – The Art of War (5th century B.C.)
Don’t let the title of this book fool you – while it was originally written as a military treatise, the lessons taught by Sun Tzu millennia ago are arguably even more relevant today than they were back then. This tiny book, which you can finish in a mere evening, has inspired countless of generals, politicians and businessmen throughout the centuries. It stands as one of the most influential texts ever written and its simple lessons on strategy, leadership, organisation and information can prove invaluable to anyone. No matter what ‘battle’ you have to ‘fight’, be it getting promoted or setting up your own business, this poetic text by one of China’s greatest philosophers will definitely give you a head start in formulating your very own winning strategy.
'Talk to someone about themselves and they'll listen for hours’
‘He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command’
‘We can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness’
‘History teaches by analogy, shedding light on the likely consequences of comparable situations’
‘Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake’