The Best Books About The United Nations

“What are the best books about The United Nations?” We looked at 105 of the top UN books, aggregating and ranking them so we could answer that very question!

The top 11 titles, all appearing on 2 or more “Best United Nations” book lists, are ranked below by how many lists they appear on. The remaining 75+ titles, as well as the lists we used are in alphabetical order at the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!



Top 11 Books About The United Nations



11 .) Backstabbing for Beginners: My Crash Course in International Diplomacy written by Michael Soussan

Backstabbing for Beginners: My Crash Course in International Diplomacy

Lists It Appears On:

  • Book Depository
  • Goodreads

The year is 1997, Michael Soussan, a fresh-faced young graduate takes up a new job at the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food Program, the largest humanitarian operation in the organization’s history. His mission is to help Iraqi civilians survive the devastating impact of economic sanctions that were imposed following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. As a gaffe-prone novice in a world of sensitive taboos, Soussan struggles to negotiate the increasing paranoia of his incomprehensible boss and the inner workings of one of the world’s notoriously complex bureaucracies. But as he learns more about the vast sums of money flowing through the program, it becomes clear that all is not what it seems. Soussan becomes aware that Saddam Hussein is extracting illegal kickbacks, a discovery that sets him on a collision course with the organization‘s leadership. On March 8, 2004, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed editorial, Soussan becomes the first insider to call for “an independent investigation” of the U.N.’s dealings with Saddam Hussein. One week later, a humiliated Kofi Annan appointed Paul Volcker to lead a team of sixty international investigators, whose findings resulted in hundreds of prosecutions in multiple countries, many of which are still ongoing. Backstabbing for Beginners is at once a witty tale of one man’s political coming of age, and a stinging indictment of the hypocrisy that prevailed at the heart of one of the world’s most idealistic institutions.



10 .) Emergency Sex written by Kenneth Cain

Emergency Sex

Lists It Appears On:

  • Book Depository
  • Goodreads

In the early 1990s three young people attracted to the ambitious global peacekeeping work of the UN cross paths in Cambodia. Andrew strives for a better world through his life-saving work as a doctor. Heidi, a social worker, is in need of a challenge and a paycheck, and Ken is fresh from Harvard and brimful of idealism. As their stories interweave through the years, from Rwanda, Bosnia and Somalia to Haiti, the trio reveal a world of witnessed atrocities, primal fear, desperate loneliness and base desires. They fend off terror and futility with revelry, humour and sex; ask hard questions about the world order America has created, the true power of the UN, and whether there is any possibility for change. This is a startling celebration of the power of humour and friendship, of the limits of human compassion, and the need for a warm body and a cold beer during a Condition Echo lockdown. A book that shows the human cost of global politics and the tragic truth that wars are much more avoidable than our governments would ever admit. A brilliant, provocatively funny and fast moving book.



9 .) Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda written by Michael Barnett

Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda

Lists It Appears On:

  • Books For Understanding
  • Goodreads

Why was the UN a bystander during the Rwandan genocide? Do its sins of omission leave it morally responsible for the hundreds of thousands of dead? Michael Barnett, who worked at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations from 1993 to 1994, covered Rwanda for much of the genocide. Based on his first-hand experiences, archival work, and interviews with many key participants, he reconstructs the history of the UN’s involvement in Rwanda. In the weeks leading up to the genocide, the author documents, the UN was increasingly aware or had good reason to suspect that Rwanda was a site of crimes against humanity. Yet it failed to act. In Eyewitness to a Genocide, Barnett argues that its indifference was driven not by incompetence or cynicism but rather by reasoned choices cradled by moral considerations. Employing a novel approach to ethics in practice and in relationship to international organizations, Barnett offers an unsettling possibility: the UN culture recast the ethical commitments of well-intentioned individuals, arresting any duty to aid at the outset of the genocide. Barnett argues that the UN bears some moral responsibility for the genocide. Particularly disturbing is his observation that not only did the UN violate its moral responsibilities, but also that many in New York believed that they were “doing the right thing” as they did so. Barnett addresses the ways in which the Rwandan genocide raises a warning about this age of humanitarianism and concludes by asking whether it is possible to build moral institutions.



8 .) Five to Rule Them All: The UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World written by David L. Bosco

Five to Rule Them All: The UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World

Lists It Appears On:

  • Book Depository
  • Goodreads

Five to Rule Them All tells the inside story of this remarkable diplomatic creation. Drawing on extensive research, including dozens of interviews with serving and former ambassadors on the Council, the book chronicles political battles and personality clashes as it opens the closed doors of its meeting room. What emerges here is a revealing portrait of the most powerful diplomatic body in the world. When the five permanent members are united, David Bosco points out, the Council can wage war, impose blockades, redraw borders, unseat governments, and levy sanctions. There are almost no limits to its authority. Yet the Council exists in a world of realpolitik.



7 .) Global Governance and the United Nations System written by Volker Rittberger

Global Governance and the United Nations System

Lists It Appears On:

  • Book Depository
  • Books For Understanding

This book offers a wide ranging analysis of changing world order at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It examines the progression from international to global governance, focusing on the fundamental change of actors, agendas, collective decision making, and the role of the UN system. Globalization does not only mean a change of relationship between governments and market forces. It also has important implications for the identities and activities of transnational social actors. International governance, the authors argue, faces three different challenges: the technological revolution, globalization, and the end of the Cold War—leading to jurisdictional, operational, incentive, and participatory gaps in governance with which international governance systems cannot adequately cope.



6 .) Kofi Annan written by Fred Eckhard

Kofi Annan

Lists It Appears On:

  • Book Depository
  • Five Books



5 .) The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power written by James Traub

The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power

Lists It Appears On:

  • Five Books
  • Goodreads

A man who had won the Nobel Peace Prize, who was widely counted one of the greatest UN Secretary Generals, was nearly hounded from office by scandal. Indeed, both Annan and the institution he incarnates were so deeply shaken after the Bush Administration went to war in Iraq in the face of opposition from the Security Council that critics, and even some friends, began asking whether this sixty-year-old experiment in global policing has outlived its usefulness. Do its failures arise from its own structure and culture, or from a clash with an American administration determined to go its own way in defiance of world opinion? James Traub, a “New York Times Magazine” contributor who has spent years writing about the UN and about foreign affairs, delves into these questions as no one else has done before. Traub enjoyed unprecedented access to Annan and his top aides throughout much of this traumatic period.



4 .) The United Nations Security Council and War: The Evolution of Thought and Practice Since 1945 written by Vaughan Lowe

The United Nations Security Council and War: The Evolution of Thought and Practice Since 1945

Lists It Appears On:

  • Book Depository
  • Goodreads

This is the first major exploration of the United Nations Security Council’s part in addressing the problem of war, both civil and international, since 1945. Both during and after the Cold War the Council has acted in a limited and selective manner, and its work has sometimes resulted in failure. It has not been–and was never equipped to be–the center of a comprehensive system of collective security. However, it remains the body charged with primary responsibility for international peace and security. It offers unique opportunities for international consultation and military collaboration, and for developing legal and normative frameworks. It has played a part in the reduction in the incidence of international war in the period since 1945. The United Nations Security Council and War examines the extent to which the work of the UN Security Council, as it has evolved, has or has not replaced older systems of power politics and practices regarding the use of force. Its starting point is the failure to implement the UN Charter scheme of having combat forces under direct UN command. Instead, the Council has advanced the use of international peacekeeping forces; it has authorized coalitions of states to take military action; and it has developed some unanticipated roles such as the establishment of post-conflict transitional administrations, international criminal tribunals, and anti-terrorism committees. The book, bringing together distinguished scholars and practitioners, draws on the methods of the lawyer, the historian, the student of international relations, and the practitioner. It begins with an introductory overview of the Council’s evolving roles and responsibilities. It then discusses specific thematic issues, and through a wide range of case studies examines the scope and limitations of the Council’s involvement in war.



3 .) The United Nations: A Very Short Introduction written by Jussi M. Hanhimäki

The United Nations: A Very Short Introduction

Lists It Appears On:

  • Book Depository
  • Goodreads

The United Nations has been called everything from “the best hope of mankind” to “irrelevant” and “obsolete.” With this much-needed introduction to the UN, Jussi Hanhimaki engages the current debate over the organizations effectiveness as he provides a clear understanding of how it was originally conceived, how it has come to its present form, and how it must confront new challenges in a rapidly changing world. After a brief history of the United Nations and its predecessor, the League of Nations, the author examines the UN’s successes and failures as a guardian of international peace and security, as a promoter of human rights, as a protector of international law, and as an engineer of socio-economic development. Hanhimaki stresses that the UN’s greatest problem has been the impossibly wide gap between its ambitions and capabilities. In the area of international security, for instance, the UN has to settle conflicts–be they between or within states–without offending the national sovereignty of its member states, and without being sidelined by strong countries, as happened in the 2003 intervention of Iraq. Hanhimaki also provides a clear accounting of the UN and its various arms and organizations (such as UNESCO and UNICEF), and he offers a critical overview of how effective it has been in the recent crises in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, for example–and how likely it is to meet its overall goals in the future. The United Nations, Hanhimaki concludes, is an indispensable organization that has made the world a better place.



2 .) An Insider’s Guide to the UN written by Linda Fasulo

An Insider's Guide to the UN

Lists It Appears On:

  • Book Depository
  • Books For Understanding
  • Goodreads

The United Nations increasingly finds itself at the center of world events in an age of rapid globalization. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we understand its structure and functions. In this highly readable book, a prominent news correspondent at the UN provides a colorful introduction to its activities and goals. UN correspondent Linda Fasulo draws on her own observations as well as on the insights of other individuals who have been active in the UN, including US ambassadors Richard Holbrooke, Madeleine Albright, and John Negroponte. She explains how the UN came into existence, what governing principles guide its operation, and what it is like to be a participant. She describes the organization, responsibilities, and often-tense politics of the Security Council. Surveying the many humanitarian, crime-fighting, and peacekeeping programs of the UN, Fasulo concludes that there are important reasons for Americans to give the United Nations their support.



1 .) Chasing the Flame written by Samantha Power

Chasing the Flame

Lists It Appears On:

  • Book Depository
  • Five Books
  • Goodreads

Chasing the Flame’ tells the life story of a remarkable man. Sergio Vieira de Mello was born in 1948, just as the post-World War II order was taking shape, and died in a terrorist attack on UN Headquarters in Iraq in 2003, just as the battle lines in the 21st century’s great struggle were being drawn.




The 75+ Additional Best Books About The United Nations



# Books Authors Lists
12 A Billion Lives Jan Egeland Five Books
13 A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 Andrew Roberts Goodreads
14 A House in the Sky Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett Bustle
15 A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad Robert S. Wistrich Goodreads
16 A Life in Peace and War Brian Urquhart Five Books
17 A Problem from Hell Samantha Power Goodreads
18 A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini Bustle
19
A Workshop for Peace: Designing the United Nations Headquarters
 
Books For Understanding
20 Act Of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations : A Story of Superpowers, Secret Agents, Wartime Allies and Enemies, and Their Quest for a Peaceful World Stephen C. Schlesinger Goodreads
21
Ahead of the Curve?: UN Ideas and Global Challenges
 
Books For Understanding
22 An Introduction to International Organizations Law  
Book Depository
23 At War’s End  
Book Depository
24 Basic facts about the United Nations  
Book Depository
25 Behind the Beautiful Forevers Katherine Boo Bustle
26 Behind the Glass Wall: Inside the United Nations Aleksandar Hemon Goodreads
27
Bread Not Bombs: A Political Agenda for Social Justice
 
Books For Understanding
28 Brokeback Mountain Annie Proulx Bustle
29
Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice
 
Book Depository
30 Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid Jessica Alexander Goodreads
31
Code of Peace: Ethics and Security in the World of the Warlord States
 
Books For Understanding
32
Collective Insecurity: The Liberian Crisis, Unilateralism, and Global Order
 
Books For Understanding
33 Diplomacy for the Next Century  
Books For Understanding
34 Dorothy V. Jones  
Books For Understanding
35 Endgame  
Book Depository
36
Enhancing Global Governance: Towards a New Diplomacy
 
Books For Understanding
37 FDR and the Creation of the UN  
Books For Understanding
38 Geneva Switzerland Holiday Llewelyn Pritchard Goodreads
39 Girl in Translation Jean Kwok Bustle
40
Globalization: The United Nations Development Dialogue Finance, Trade, Poverty, Peace-building
 
Books For Understanding
41
Globalizing Family Values: The Christian Right in International Politics
 
Books For Understanding
42 Hammarskjold Brian Urquhart Goodreads
43 Hammarskjöld: A Life Roger Lipsey Goodreads
44 Here Come the Black Helicopters!: Exposing the Liberal Plan for Global Government Dick Morris Goodreads
45 Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth Marc Peyser Goodreads
46 I am Malala Malala Yousafzai Bustle
47
International Authority and the Responsibility to Protect
 
Book Depository
48
International Security Management and the United Nations
 
Books For Understanding
49 Interventions: A Life in War and Peace Kofi Annan Goodreads
50 Ireland, the United Nations and the Congo  
Book Depository
51 Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Bryan Stevenson Bustle
52 Kofi Annan: A Man of Peace in a World of War Stanley Meisler Goodreads
53 LEARN FROM THE PAST, CREATE THE FUTURE: Inventions and Patents Maria de Icaza Goodreads
54 Les Miserables Victor Hugo Bustle
55 Little Bee Chris Cleave Bustle
56 Madam Secretary: A Memoir Madeleine K. Albright Goodreads
57 MAKING A MARK: An Introduction to Trademarks for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises World Intellectual Property Organization Goodreads
58 Modern Treaty Law and Practice  
Book Depository
59 Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight Against Zionism as Racism Gil Troy Goodreads
60 No Enchanted Palace  
Book Depository
61 Peacekeeping and Public Information: Caught in the Crossfire Ingrid A. Lehmann Goodreads
62 People in Glass Houses Shirley Hazzard Goodreads
63 Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos Hardeep Singh Puri Goodreads
64 Prioritizing Development  
Book Depository
65 Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey Brian Urquhart Goodreads
66
Re-Envisioning Peacekeeping: The United Nations and the Mobilization of Ideology
 
Books For Understanding
67 Reading Lolita in Tehran Azar Nafisi Bustle
68
Restructuring World Politics: Transnational Social Movements, Networks, and Norms
 
Books For Understanding
69 Safe Area Goražde: The War in Eastern Bosnia, 1992-1995 Joe Sacco Goodreads
70 Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda Roméo Dallaire Goodreads
71 The Creation of States in International Law  
Book Depository
72 The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism Daniel Jonah Goldhagen Goodreads
73
The Future of the United Nations: Potential for the Twenty-first Century
 
Books For Understanding
74 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot Bustle
75
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
 
Book Depository
76 The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World Oona A. Hathaway Goodreads
77 The Legitimacy of International Organizations  
Books For Understanding
78 The No-Nonsense Guide to the United Nations  
Book Depository
79 The Nobel Prize: A History of Genius, Controversy and Prestige Burton Feldman Goodreads
80
The Oxford Handbook of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations
 
Book Depository
81 The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations  
Book Depository
82 The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations Paul Kennedy Goodreads
83 The Seductions of Quantification: Measuring Human Rights, Gender Violence, and Sex Trafficking Sally Engle Merry Goodreads
84 The Thin Blue Line  
Book Depository
85 The United Nations  
Book Depository
86 The United Nations and Changing World Politics Thomas G. Weiss Goodreads
87 The United Nations at 70: Restoration and Renewal Martti Ahtisaari Goodreads
88
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
 
Book Depository
89 The United Nations Secretariat and the Use of Force in a Unipolar World: Power V. Principle Ralph Zacklin Goodreads
90 The United Nations, Peace and Security: From Collective Security to the Responsibility to Protect Ramesh Thakur Goodreads
91 The Virtue of Nationalism Yoram Hazony Goodreads
92
Themes in International Relations: International Law and International Relations
 
Book Depository
93
Toward a Just World: The Critical Years in the Search for International Justice
 
Books For Understanding
94 Towards A Theory Of United Nations Peacekeeping A.B. Fetherston Goodreads
95 Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global Chaos Dore Gold Goodreads
96 Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt H.W. Brands Goodreads
97 Under The Blue Beret: A U.N. Peacekeeper in the Middle East Terry Burke Goodreads
98 United Nations Intellectual History Project  
Books For Understanding
99
United Nations Peace-keeping Operations: Ad Hoc Missions, Permanent Engagement
 
Books For Understanding
100
United Nations-sponsored World Conferences: Focus on Impact and Follow-up
 
Books For Understanding
101 Universal Declaration of Human Rights United Nations Goodreads
102 Veilige gebieden Joris Voorhoeve Goodreads
103 We the Peoples  
Book Depository
104 What Is Intellectual Property ? World Intellectual Property Organization Goodreads
105 Zionism at the UN Eliahu Elath Goodreads


5 Best United Nations Book Sources/Lists



Source Article
Book Depository United Nations & UN Agencies Books
Books For Understanding Books for Understanding: The United Nations
Bustle 11 Books to Read for Human Rights Day That Take a Good, Hard
Five Books The Best Books on The UN
Goodreads Popular United Nations Books

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