The world is going to become more populist, and the oldest continuous democracy is going to be in trouble in 2020. A careful look at the foundations of democracy shows that these threats aren’t just a bunch of crazy talk.
With the U.S. elections coming up, you might be having a lot of talks about your preferences and how to make the best decisions. To have a good conversation with someone, you need to learn about them first. Here is a list of books about democracy in different forms that you can read to start.
What Makes a Democracy?
Equality in Voting and Inclusion
It’s very important for every democracy to have people who are able to work together to run the country well. The number of people who vote in a country looks simple, but it’s actually a complicated number that isn’t really accurate. Many people don’t get to vote because of outdated laws or other ways to keep people from voting. Books on democracy to read again as a refresher: Here are some that you can read again.
Field Notes on Democracy by Arundhati Roy
Raj: Roy is one of the most critical people in the world about one of the world’s most democratic countries: India. This is a good book to read if you want to learn more about how some people aren’t able to vote because they don’t have enough money or resources from the government. Writings like this one are a great reminder that any democracy needs to keep changing so that it can listen to all the people.
Uncounted: The Crisis of Voter Suppression in America by Gilda R. Daniels
A great way to learn about how people are still kept from having their voices heard, especially people of color. This book is a great way to start. Make sure you know what your rights as a voter and what you should do are before you vote.
ACCOUNTABILITY AND GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE
Another important part of democracy is accountability. They may have won the election, but they still have the power to change their mind. Most democratic governments have checks and balances in place so that people can say what they don’t like about their government and get it fixed. Sometimes, all of these checks and balances fall apart. Here are two works that talk about why they walk a tightrope.
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy D. Snyder
In this book, the author tells us to be careful about tyranny caused by being alone. There are changes in the political climate, and he shows us how to look for signs of tyranny and authoritarianism in the people who live around us, as well. This is a great book to turn to when you’re not sure what else you can do to protect your freedom and the freedom of those around you.
TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY BY ANNE APPLEBAUM
Pulitzer Prize-winning author: At the heart of his book is the fact that democracy is not self-sustaining and needs to be worked on by the people and their representatives every day. Many people are drawn to homogeneity and don’t like diversity in any area of life, which puts democracy at risk all the time. In order to move forward, we need to get to know people who have different political views from us. This is a good one to read.
A Brief History of Present Day Democracy
Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama
This is a must-read piece of political commentary in the modern world. There are countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa that show how political societies have grown over time, and this shows how. Taking apart the institutions and government structures that allow some countries to grow faster than others, Fukuyama shows how they work. This is a great look at how democracy has changed around the world.
These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore
This book is a little narrow. It only talks about the history of democratic institutions in the United States. It’s very rare for a political act to happen on its own. There are long-standing institutions that have set the stage for it over the years. There is a lot you can learn by reading this book. It will help you understand how the current democracy, with its system of checks and balances, came into being and where it has yet to go.
What’s Next for Democracy?
To move forward, we have to figure out how to get there. We stay hopeful, we do our best to teach everyone we can, and we vote. These books show us how.
The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Political narrative can be hard to find because there aren’t many works that are all together. In today’s globalized world, only talking about the U.S. democracy when talking about democracies is an act of willful ignorance. Zakaria looks at the political and economic factors that have helped different countries become more democratic (including the U.S.). Why do governments succeed or fail? He gives you an in-depth look at how governments work, and he will help you come up with your own checklist for looking at different policy options.
Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit
These writings by Solnit are a creative look at why it’s important to stay hopeful. Solnit’s ideas make sense even when it feels like one’s voice isn’t being heard. She talks about thinking of activism and participation as a journey and celebrating small victories as they happen. Hope is what keeps us going at the end of the day.