Department of State Suggested FSOT Reading List

Suggested FSOT Reading List

Below is a list of reading material suggested by the Department of State (January 2020) to help you pass the Foreign Service Officer Test.

This is a great resource, and I recommend that you take the time to review the suggestions and consider purchasing a publication in the area(s) you believe you need to improve your knowledge.

Not sure the area(s) to improve? Take a practice test to find out!

From the U.S. Department of State Information Guide to the Foreign Service Officer Selection Process:

The Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) measures broad knowledge in world and national affairs, usually gathered over an extended period of time through education, reading, and life experiences. The best preparation is a good education, ideally one that includes courses in U.S. and world history, U.S. government and politics, international relations, political science, international economics and trade, geography, literature, English, management, and public administration. Familiarity with American society and culture is important.

Because the test covers such a broad range of topics, it is difficult to provide a formal, comprehensive reading list that will prepare someone to pass the test. Below, we suggest an illustrative list of the types of books and other readings that could prove useful.

English Language Usage

The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition

By University of Chicago Press Staff

While digital technologies have revolutionized the publishing world in the twenty-first century, one thing still remains true: The Chicago Manual of Style is the authoritative, trusted source that writers, editors, and publishers turn to for guidance on style and process. For the sixteenth edition, every aspect of coverage has been reconsidered to reflect how publishing professionals work today. Though processes may change, the Manual continues to offer the clear, well-considered style and usage advice it has for more than a century.

The sixteenth edition offers expanded information on producing electronic publications, including web-based content and e-books. An updated appendix on production and digital technology demystifies the process of electronic workflow and offers a primer on the use of XML markup, and a revised glossary includes a host of terms associated with electronic as well as print publishing. The Chicago system of documentation has been streamlined and adapted for a variety of online and digital sources. Figures and tables are updated throughout the book—including a return to the Manual’s popular hyphenation table and new, comprehensive listings of Unicode numbers for special characters.

The Elements of Style, 4th Edition

By Strunk and White

You know the authors’ names. You recognize the title. You’ve probably used this book yourself. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. A new Foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered. This book’s unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of “the little book” to make a big impact with writing.

United States (culture, foreign policy, history, politics)

Nation of Nations: A Narrative History of the American Republic, 6th Edition

By Davidson,‎ DeLay,‎ Heyrman,‎ Lytle, and Stoff

Known for its friendly narrative style and careful blending of political and social history, Nation of Nations offers a balanced approach to teaching the American history survey course. The story presented by the authors reflects their belief that the American past can only be fully understood when linked to events worldwide. As a result of this view, Nation of Nations has become the leader in the integration of global material, done in a sensible and thoughtful way. This sixth edition features expanded coverage of environmental and pre-colonial history by new coauthor Brian DeLay, as well as a completely redesigned map program, additional After the Fact content, and a new online version of the popular Primary Source Investigator.

Racial and Ethnic Relations, 9th Edition

By Feagin and‎ Feagin

A theoretically informed and empirical exploration of the diversity, depth, and significance of racial and ethnic relations in the U.S., this book is organized by racial-ethnic groups rather then by issues. Drawing heavily on a broad range of research sources — that dig deep into the “what,” “why,” and “how” of racial and ethnic oppression and conflict — it examines 15 major racial and ethnic groups with regard to their incorporation, economic circumstances, political development, and experience with exploitation — with special reference to the assimilation and power conflict (theoretical) perspectives. Covers a comprehensive new theory of racial oppression; increasing demographic concentration of people of color; racism; issues of racial change; and housing discrimination & segregation.

International Relations, 10th Edition

By Goldstein and‎ Pevehouse

The bestselling text in its field, International Relations is praised for being the most current and comprehensive introduction to international relations theory as well as security, economic, and global issues. From war and trade to human rights and the environment, this survey explores relations among states and the influence of transnational actors and events.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know

By Hirsch,‎ Kett,‎ Goldstein, and‎ Pevehouse

In this fast-paced information age, how can Americans know what’s really important and what’s just a passing fashion? Now more than ever, we need a source that concisely sums up the knowledge that matters to Americans — the people, places, ideas, and events that shape our cultural conversation. With more than six thousand entries,The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy is that invaluable source.Wireless technology. Gene therapy. NAFTA. In addition to the thousands of terms described in the original Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, here are more than five hundred new entries to bring Americans’ bank of essential knowledge up to date. The original entries have been fully revised to reflect recent changes in world history and politics, American literature, and, especially, science and technology. Cultural icons that have stood the test of time (Odysseus, Leaves of Grass, Cleopatra, the Taj Mahal, D-Day) appear alongside entries on such varied concerns as cryptography, the digital divide, the European Union, Kwanzaa, pheromones, SPAM, Type A and Type B personalities, Web browsers, and much, much more.As our world becomes more global and interconnected, it grows smaller through the terms and touchstones that unite us. As E. D. Hirsch writes in the preface, “Community is built up of shared knowledge and values — the same shared knowledge that is taken for granted when we read a book or newspaper, and that is also taken for granted as part of the fabric that connects us to one another.” A delicious concoction of information for anyone who wants to be in the know, The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy brilliantly confirms once again that it is “an excellent piece of work . . . stimulating and enlightening” (New York Times) — the most definitive and comprehensive family sourcebook of its kind.

A People and a Nation: A History of the United States, 10th Edition

By Norton,‎ Kamensky,‎ Sheriff, Blight, and Chudacoff

A People and a Nation is a best-selling text offering a spirited narrative that tells the stories of all people in the United States. The authors’ attention to race and racial identity and their inclusion of everyday people and popular culture brings history to life, engaging readers and encouraging them to imagine what life was really like in the past.

The Politics of United States Foreign Policy, 6th Edition

By Rosati and‎ Scott
A definitive work on U.S. foreign policymaking, The Politics of United States Foreign Policy uses three levels of analysis to demonstrate how government, society, and the historical-global environment all impact policymaking. Focusing more on the process of creating policy than the history, this comprehensive text blends substance, history, and theory in a lively narrative that is engaging, accessible, and informative. Streamlined and up to date, the Sixth Edition presents theory in the context of the most current coverage available, including the 2012 elections, the new Congress, the global economic crisis, updates on the wars and crises abroad, the Obama administration’s foreign policy, and more.

Women and the American Experience, 5th Edition

By Woloch
This comprehensive synthesis of women’s history from the 17th century to the present draws on the past four decades of scholarship in the field. The book’s unique dual-chapter format pairs a narrative “episode” that vividly evokes a particular individual or event with a synthesis chapter that places each episode carefully within its broader historical context. This pairing of the concrete and specific with the general and historic creates a richly compelling reading experience.

World History and Geography

Atlas of the World, 24th Edition

By Oxford University Press
The only world atlas updated annually, guaranteeing that users will find the most current geographic information, Oxford’s Atlas of the World is the most authoritative atlas on the market. Full of crisp, clear cartography of urban areas and virtually uninhabited landscapes around the globe, the Atlas is filled with maps of cities and regions at carefully selected scales that give a striking view of the Earth’s surface. It opens with a fascinating look at world statistics, a six-page special on “The Future of the Oceans and Seas,” and satellite images of earth, including eleven stunning new images sourced from NASA’s latest Earth Observation Satellite, Landsat 8, launched in 2013. The extraordinarily extensive front matter continues with a “Gazetteer of Nations” that has been comprehensively checked and updated to include recent economic and political changes, and a 48-page “Introduction to World Geography,” beautifully illustrated with tables and graphs on numerous topics of geographic significance, such as the geology and atmosphere of Earth, food and water supply, biodiversity, energy, global conflict, human health, and standards of living. The hundreds of city and world maps that form the body of the Atlas have been thoroughly updated for this 21st edition.

The Heritage of World Civilizations, 10th Edition

By Craig,‎ Graham,‎ Kagan,‎ Ozment,‎ and Turner
The Heritage of World Civilizations provides an accessible overview of Asian, African, Middle Eastern, European, and American civilizations with an emphasis on the role played by the world’s great religious and philosophical traditions throughout history. Leading scholars in their respective fields, the authors empower students to view the events and processes that have shaped our increasingly interdependent world through a comparative, global lens.

Central Asia: Challenges of Independence

By Rumer and‎ Zhukov
The economic, political, and international profile of Central Asia has been the subject of much speculation since the region emerged from under the Soviet banner. This book offers systematic, informed analysis of developments in the newest of emerging market regions by a team of international experts, including leading in-country specialists. After an astute survey of political regimes by Umirserik Kasenov, Boris Rumer and Stanislav Zhukov present a comprehensive analysis of economic development and integrated issues. In the final four chapters, focused attention is devoted to foreign investment and trade questions and the most critical challenges confronting the two largest states, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Modern Latin America, 8th Edition

By Skidmore,‎ Smith,‎ and Green

Now thoroughly updated in its eighth edition, Modern Latin America is a lively interpretive history and the leading text in the field. Featuring vivid, anecdotal illustrative boxes, the book uses case studies to discuss the major countries and themes of the region over the past 200 years. For each country, Thomas E. Skidmore, Peter H. Smith, and James N. Green examine such central themes as European-New World interaction, racial mixtures, military takeovers, and U.S. intervention in the area.

Economics and Public Policy

Macroeconomics: Economic Growth, Fluctuations, and Policy, 6th Edition

By Hall and Papell
The Sixth Edition incorporates the most current data and theory into the text’s signature single-model approach, clearly demonstrating the real-world applications of macroeconomic theory. Additionally, the Sixth Edition has been revised to include updated and expanded coverage of long-run economic growth, the Taylor Rule, and international economics. A revised study guide and a new online edition of Macrosolve, the innovative multimedia learning resource, are fully integrated with the text.

Principles of Microeconomics, 7th Edition

By Mankiw

With its clear and engaging writing style, Principles of Microeconomics, Seventh Edition, continues to be one of the most popular books on economics available today. Mankiw emphasizes material that you are likely to find interesting about the economy (particularly if you are studying economics for the first time), including real-life scenarios, useful facts, and the many ways economic concepts play a role in the decisions you make every day.

Public Policy in the United States: At the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century, 4th Edition

By Rushefsky
This text uses the policy process (problem identification – adoption and implementation – evaluation – policy succession) as a framework for examining all the major policy making realms. Each chapter includes a case study of a major policy issue (e.g., the 1996 welfare reform; school choice), as well as a list of key concepts and questions for reflection and discussion.

Economic Policy Beyond the Headlines, 2nd Edition

By Shultz and Dam
Drawing from their experience as government insiders, George P. Shultz and Kenneth W. Dam show how economic policy is shaped at the highest levels of government. They reveal the interconnections between economic, social, and international policy, covering issues such as the advocacy system and the role of the individual in shaping policy. A new chapter, ‘A Changed World,’ explores the various influences of our increasingly global economy on economic strategy. With rare candor, authority and breadth of vision, Shultz and Dam have produced a brilliant introduction to economic policy, its principles, and practice.

Management and Human Behavior

Psychology and Life, 20th Edition

By Gerrig
Psychology and Life, 20th edition provides the perfect balance of science and accessibility so that students can understand research and its application to daily life. Richard Gerrig combines classic and cutting-edge research studies with an engaging and student friendly writing style. When paired with the new Pearson Experiments Tool and MyPsychLab, this new edition truly brings psychological research to life.

Psychology, 8th Edition

By Gleitman, Gross, and Reisberg
The most intelligent book ever written for the course, reinvented for today’s students.The Eighth Edition has been reorganized and streamlined to mirror the organization of today’s courses, updated to include extensive coverage of the latest discoveries and research, and reimagined with new pedagogy, figures, and technology.James Gross, co-author of the text and Director of the Psychology One Teaching Program at Stanford University, believes in an integrated approach that looks at multiple perspectives to understand the larger complexities of the field. In the Eighth Edition, the authors present psychology as a central discipline that connects to the humanities as well as the exciting advances in neuroscience.

Fundamentals of Management, 8th Edition

By Griffin
Prepare for success in management today with this brief, inviting approach from leading management author Ricky Griffin. FUNDAMENTALS OF MANAGEMENT, 8E combines a streamlined approach with a strong theoretical and functional framework clearly organized around the planning, leading, organizing and controlling functions of management. The book’s proven balance of theory and practice incorporates numerous, engaging learning features and memorable examples to help you develop and strengthen your management skills. New and revised “First Things First” opening vignettes immediately show you the relevance of each chapter’s content, while clear learning objectives and chapter outlines, summaries of key points and key terms, skill applications and new cases keep you focused and actively learning. “You Make the Call” end-of-chapter features bring the students back to the opening case with the newfound knowledge they’ve gained after reading the chapter. New “Building Skills” exercises and “Skills Self-Assessment Instruments “equip future managers to handle some of today’s most critical business situations. Following our state of the art, Engage, Connect, Perform, and Lead model, students truly learn to think and act like managers.

Organizational Behavior: Managing People and Organizations, 12th Edition

By Griffin, Phillips,‎ and Gully
What happens when you take two great books and merge them into one? You get the best of both! Griffin/Phillips/Gully combines Griffin’s market leading, content-driven text with Phillips/Gully’s outstanding pedagogical approach based on student assessment, engagement, and digital elements. Together they form an unbeatable team. The applied approach of Organizational Behavior: Managing People and Organizations, 12th Edition, balances classic management ideas with the most recent OB developments and contemporary trends. New cases, end-of-chapter exercises, in-chapter assessments, end-of-chapter video cases, activities, and optional cases and exercises help you equip your students with the assets, tools, and resources to compete effectively amid a world of change and learn how to Think and Act like managers.

Managing Across Cultures, 3rd Edition

By Schneider, Barsoux, and Stahl
As more and more companies gain a global reach, managing cultural differences is an increasingly important part of every job. This book demonstrates how culture affects management practice, from organizational structure to strategy and human resource management. Drawing upon evidence from the authors’ research, it encourages managers to reconsider, explore and transfer alternative practices across national boundaries. As well as providing an insight into other cultures, this text provides readers with an increased awareness of their own. The third edition of this book serves to expand the discussion of the impact of culture on effective management and on utilizing differences to create competitive advantage. Employing tools of observation, questioning and interpretation, the book challenges assumptions and encourages critical reflection on the influences of culture in business. Managing Across Cultures will appeal to both managers and executives working within an international business environment, as well as to students on a growing number of MBA and other undergraduate, postgraduate and post-experience courses.

Employment Discrimination Law, 7th Edition

By Twomey
This text is specifically designed to provide management students with a concise guide to employment discrimination and related laws. The content raises awareness of issues in the workplace and enables future business managers to provide the informed leadership necessary for a discrimination-and-harassment-free working environment.

Communication and the Media

The Dynamics of Mass Communication: Media in Transition, 12th Edition

By Dominick
Well-known for its balanced approach to media industries and professions, Dynamics of Mass Communication offers a lively, thorough, and objective introduction for mass communication majors and non-majors alike. Dynamics of Mass Communication takes a comprehensive and balanced look at the changing world of mass media. Social media, ‘apps’ and the new media Goliaths are new and major themes of the 12th edition. Explore how the traditional mass media are dealing with shrinking audiences, evaporating advertising revenue and increased competition from the Internet. The 12th edition brings students up-to-date on the latest developments in the media world including cyber-bullying; new media business models; e-book readers’ affects on the traditional print publishing industry; online video sites such as YouTube and; the decoupling of advertising from media content, and much more.

Investigative Reporter’s Handbook: A Guide to Documents, Databases, and Techniques, 5th Edition

By Houston and Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc.
Published with Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. (IRE), The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook is the best-selling classroom and newsroom classic. Useful as a textbook in advanced journalism courses and as a reference for professional journalists, this book shows students how to use fundamental news reporting and writing skills like gathering sources, tracking information, and interviewing to pursue investigative stories in a variety of beats — from the government and education to healthcare, the environment and real estate. In addition to discussing the latest techniques and challenges in the profession, the fifth edition is now thoroughly streamlined, making it easier to locate the resources that investigative reporters need to get the story.

News Writing and Reporting for Today’s Media, 7th Edition

By Itule and Anderson
News Writing and Reporting takes students on the beat, into the press box, council chambers, and courthouse, and to a speech and press conference. It introduces them to current issues such as cultural sensitivity, multimedia journalism, and legal and ethical considerations that journalists face every day. Throughout the text, reporters and editors offer their down-to-earth advice, and, whenever possible, professional journalists covering actual stories are used as instructional models. Students are exposed to the work of professionals while gathering the tools to follow in their footsteps.

Kiss, Bow, Or Shake Hands, 2nd Edition

By Morrison and Conaway
The most comprehensive and authoritative text of its kind, Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands, 2nd Edition is your must have guide to proper international business protocol. With countries such as China and India taking on a more significant role in the global business landscape, you can’t afford not to know the practices, customs, and philosophies of other countries. Now fully revised, updated, and expanded with over sixty country provides, Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands, 2nd Edition provides invaluable information on how to handle common business interaction with grace, respect, and an appreciation for different cultures.

Public Speaking: Finding Your Voice, 10th Edition

By M. Osborn, S. Osborn, R. Osborn, and Turner
This top-selling, comprehensive introductory public speaking title highlights and develops the theme of “Finding Your Voice.” It helps students develop as speakers and as people, as they gain presentation skills and confidence, discover causes that interest and engage them, and give them a sense of purpose. This theme reinforces the book’s primary goal of helping students to become better communicators in their classrooms, workplaces and communities.

Intercultural Communication: A Reader, 14th Edition

By Samovar, Porter, McDaniel, and Roy
This new special, anniversary edition of Intercultural Communication: A Reader, celebrates 40 years of publication. In compiling this Fortieth Anniversary Edition, the editors reviewed over 600 articles from the previous 13 editions and selected those essays that educators, both in the United States and abroad, have considered foundational to intercultural communication teaching and research. These essays also illustrate the growth and direction of the field since the early 1970s. This edition offers a series of essays that enables students to gain an appreciation and understanding of intercultural communication. Material is presented in a context that assists students in comprehending and then applying course concepts to their lives.These core readings also demonstrate the historical development and philosophical evolution of the field. As with prior editions, the Reader continues to convey the idea that successful intercultural communication is a matter of highest importance in this globalized, interconnected world. The concluding chapter, “New Perspectives: Prospects for the Future,” contains five new essays by leading intercultural communication scholars. These original works offer insight into new directions for intercultural communication in the coming decades.

New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations

By Melissen
After 9/11, which triggered a global debate on public diplomacy, ‘PD’ has become an issue in most countries. This book joins the debate. Experts from different countries and from a variety of fields analyze the theory and practice of public diplomacy. They also evaluate how public diplomacy can be successfully used to support foreign policy.

Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy

By Snow and Taylor
The Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy provides a comprehensive overview of public diplomacy and national image and perception management, from the efforts to foster pro-West sentiment during the Cold War to the post-9/11 campaign to “win the hearts and minds” of the Muslim world. Editors Nancy Snow and Philip Taylor present materials on public diplomacy trends in public opinion and cultural diplomacy as well as topical policy issues. The latest research in public relations, credibility, soft power, advertising, and marketing is included and institutional processes and players are identified and analyzed. While the field is dominated by American and British research and developments, the book also includes international research and comparative perspectives from other countries.

Computer Applications

The Longman Guide to Style and Writing on the Internet

By Sammons
The Internet Writer’s Handbook is an easily accessible, vital reference tool for those who want to write and format effective Web documents. Too often, writers attempt to create Web pages by simply using the same techniques they use for print documents. The Internet Writer’s Handbook offers those writers specific advice on writing and designing on-line hypertext documents. The book has been updated to reflect the latest Web writing terms and concepts such as Web page elements, Web page design, and types of Web writing. This dynamic handbook will appeal to anyone who needs help in creating a Web page.

New Perspectives on Computer Concepts 2016

By Parsons
Give your students the full understanding of today’s digital world that they need with the cohesive framework and logical organization found only in New Perspectives on Computer Concepts 2016. Newly revised and reorganized, this dynamic book by leading technology author June Parsons provides the latest updates on emerging technology with engaging learning features, informative visuals and hands-on activities proven to increase learning effectiveness. A new introduction highlights today’s digital evolution, while new coverage of social media and online security examines concepts behind the trends. Your students explore the underlying principles supporting and to reflect the wide scope of digital devices in use today, with the book’s enhanced focus on the connectivity that pervades modern life.

11 thoughts on “Department of State Suggested FSOT Reading List”

  1. Great resource. I would note that Inside a U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy at Work is also recommended by the State Department: . Another recommendation from that primary State list is the monthly Foreign Service Journal — for insights into the career and to foreign affairs through a Foreign Service lens. Keep up the good work.
    Shawn Dorman, IUSE and FSJ Editor

    PS If you might be interested in writing something for the Foreign Service Journal relating to your ambassador backgrounds study, please be in touch. [email protected]

  2. Thank you for the wonderful information. I have put together an order of a good selection from this list. I hope you have set up an affiliate link and are getting something for your hard work. Might be something to think about. Anyway, great stuff.

    1. Hi Brett, all the books are connected to an affiliate link with Amazon. Glad to hear you enjoyed the resource and it was helpful. I truly appreciate the support. Best, Jack

    1. Hi Travelingcat, I completely agree with you! Great book and one I have read myself. The books listed above are ones specifically suggested by the State Department, which is why ‘Diplomacy at Work’ is not mentioned. I do plan on promoting that book further as this blog grows.

      Glad to see you are a fellow blogger and love your tagline! I also definitely agree with your post, ‘expect the unexpected’. I was a FSO dependent growing up and the experience was amazing! Hope you and your kids are enjoying it!

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