FSOT Reading List

FSOT Reading List

In 2013 the State department published a official FSOT reading list.  This Foreign service exam reading list is critical in helping to give potential Foreign Service Officers a path in which to follow and guidance into which material to invest their time.

However, as you'll find out, if you were to purchase and read each and every book in their list, it would equate to a couple thousand dollars, and over 28,000+ pages read.

In truth, none of us have that time.  So, to help you with this, created two sections for you:

FSOT Reading Lists:

  1. My personal Top 12 Books You HAVE to read
  2. The Complete FSOT Reading List

My Personal Top 12 FSOT Books You HAVE to Read

Because it's near impossible to read every book on the list, I pooled some of my FSO colleagues, and we created a list of the 12 books that every FSO candidate should ABSOLUTELY read.  Granted it would be best to read as many of the official books as you can, but

Now, before you jump into that giant reading list... Let me give you the top 12 books that I believe you should focus on first.

The Official Foreign Service Reading List:

Below is the official FSOT Reading list with links that will direct you to where you can either purchase the book or in some cases, access them for free.  But regardless, I highly recommend that you take our free FSOT practice test and look at which areas you struggled with the most.  From that information, you can make a better-concentrated decision on where to start and where to focus more of your attention.

Foreign Service Reading List: United States

Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938 (592 pages)

Nation of Nations: A Narrative History of the American Republic(629 pages)

Racial and Ethnic Relations (528 pages)

International Relations (608 pages)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (672 pages)

American Foreign Policy: the Dynamics of Choice in 21st Century (768 pages)

American Diplomats: The Foreign Service (320 pages)

A People and a Nation: A History of the US (729 pages)

American Foreign Relations: A History (608 pages)

The Politics of United States Foreign Policy (544 pages)

Women and the American Experience (640 pages)

FSOT Reading List: World History

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (544 pages)

International History of the 20th Century and Beyond (640 pages)

The Heritage of World Civilization (976 pages)

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (496 pages)

Civilization: the West and the Rest (433 pages)

A History of the Twentieth Century: The Concise Edition of the Acclaimed World History (832 pages)

From the Ruins of Empire: the Revolt against the West and Remaking of Asia (500 pages)

Foreign Service Exam Reading List: Area Studies

Modern South Asia: History, Culture, and Politics (300 pages)

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA (736 pages)

The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know (224 pages)

Understanding Contemporary Africa  (511 pages)

Postwar: A history of Europe since 1945 (960 pages)

The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus  (328 pages)

Russia Since 1980 (374 pages)

Afghanistan from the Cold War Through the War on Terror (544 pages)

Central Asia: The Challenges of Independence (304 pages)

Wealth and Power: China’s long march (496 pages)

China Goes Global: The Partial Power  (432 pages)

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World (832 pages)

FSOT Reading List: Consular and Immigration

Immigrants and the Right to Stay  (128 pages)

Citizenship and Immigration (200 pages)

Deportation Nation: Outsiders in American History (352 pages)

Immigration Stories (388 pages)

Americans in Waiting, the lost story of immigration (256 pages)

A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (529 pages)

FSOT Reading List: Economic and Public Policy

Macroeconomics: economic growth (576 pages)

Principles of Microeconomics (520 pages)

The Shaping of Grand Strategy (294 pages)

Public Policy in the United States: At the Dawn (496 pages)

Economic Policy Beyond the Headlines (249 pages)

FSOT Reading List: Management

Psychology and Life (624 pages)

The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (296 pages)

Psychology 8th ed (715 pages)

Fundamentals of Management: Core Concepts and Applications (512 pages)

Organizational Behavior: Managing People (624 pages)

Managing Across Cultures (352 pages)

Employment Discrimination Law (384 pages)

FSOT Reading List: Public Affairs and the Media

The Dynamics of Mass Communication (496 pages)

The investigative reporter’s handbook (608 pages)

News Writing and Reporting for Today’s Media (560 pages)

Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands (592 pages)

Public Speaking (480 pages)

Intercultural Communication (528 pages)

Understanding Intercultural Communication (352 pages)

Computer Applications

New Perspectives on Computer Concepts (880 pages)

The Longman Guide to Style and Writing on the Internet (488 pages)

Grand Total

Cost: ~$2200 USD
Pages: ~28,000


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In Sum:

If you were to read every page and purchase every book, you would be looking at 28,000 pages and over $2200 in books.   That's ridiculous.

But remember that you don't have to read everything.  This is only a guideline.

Instead, it is important that you use the FSOT reading list and a suggestion tool and choose which books fit your needs.  If you struggled in Economics or have little background in that area, then I would recommend choosing a couple of our top recommended books in that area to read and prepare for.  If you are super prepared for World History, then only improve on the sections you aren't familiar with but spend more time in other areas.

Also, don't forget to signup for my newsletter and I'll send you my personal list of the Top 10 Books that every potential FSO should read to help prepare for the FSOT.  There are a couple of books on this list, but some are not and NEED to be.  Like I said when I started this article...the state department created this FSOT reading list in 2013...it's already a little outdated.


  1. Julia Salazar
    June 12, 2018 at 05:43

    I would like to get your Top 10 Book List recommendation.

  2. Wendy Harris
    July 9, 2018 at 07:18

    I’m interested in learning about your personal top 10 books.

    Thank you

  3. Justin
    January 16, 2019 at 18:56

    Hi, I’d like the top ten book list also. Thanks.

    January 18, 2019 at 05:00

    What’s your top 10 books?

  5. Karen Schneider
    February 13, 2019 at 21:34

    I believe a top ten reading list of your personal favorites would be very helpful . I would appreciate your sharing this valuable information .

    Thank you

  6. alan shaw
    February 18, 2019 at 20:00

    I’m interested in hearing your current personal top 10 books.


  7. Maxene
    February 21, 2019 at 17:30

    I’m interested in your top 10 too

  8. Saba Rashid
    July 16, 2019 at 12:04

    I would like to have the recent book list.

  9. Cecilia Ngu
    October 9, 2019 at 23:55

    I would like to get your Top 10 Book List recommendation. I am preparing for 2020.

  10. Cecilia Ngu
    October 9, 2019 at 23:57

    I would like to get your Top 10 Book List recommendation. I preparing for 2020.

  11. Joy Henry
    June 5, 2020 at 17:10

    I would like a top 10 list for 2020.

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