What I read last week
World Order (Henry Kissinger)
World Order provides an analysis of the major civilizations of past and present through the lens of Westphalian sovereignty, the foundation of modern international law. Kissinger starts with an overview of the very concept of a state came to be, explaining the religious and political forces that propelled pre-Enlightenment Europe into what we see today. From these beginnings, the story turns to the conceptions of world order in the US, Asia, and the Middle East, the latter two of which Kissinger argues have largely accommodated the current world order out of convenience rather than ideological compatibility. Despite the clear Western (and US) bias as well as a convenient glossing over of the US’s policies in Southeast Asia, this read provides a great overview of how people have organized themselves into the world we see today.
Dune (Frank Herbert)
Dune is a much-hyped book, and I now believe much of it is warranted. At its core, the story follows a classic “hero’s journey” trope in the harsh deserts of Arrakis, dense with struggle and mysticism. The combination of worldbuilding and realpolitik is incredible (the parallels with Game of Thrones are eerie), and the ecological and philosophical elements are far ahead of this story’s time. With a rich culture and history, the plot is highly immersive, and even the appendices are worthwhile reads. There’s certainly a lot of context to fit in, but I found myself engaged after the first few chapters. The level of tech in the book is no barrier at all – artificial intelligence is more or less nonexistent. I’m excited for what the sequels have in store.
What I’m reading this week
The Singapore Story (Lee Kuan Yew)
Lee Kuan Yew is regarded as the founding father of Singapore. In his three decades as prime minister, he oversaw the transformation of the city-state from a freshly independent center of racial and political strife into one of the wealthiest and least corrupt countries in the world. In this memoir, Lee provides a first-hand glimpse at his life and the founding of his nation.
The Secret History (Donna Tartt)
The Secret History covers an inverted murder mystery at a small liberal arts college. I read her novel The Goldfinch a few years ago, and I’m looking forward to this one. Recommended by Mohak Jain.
The Evolution of Cooperation (Robert Axelrod)
From an evolutionary perspective, cooperation is peculiar. Given the obvious rewards of selfishness, the emergence of collective behavior must reflect some subtle yet substantial benefits. In this book, Axelrod (a political scientist at the University of Michigan) provides a game-theoretic take on how cooperative principles emerge and shape lives, society, and culture.
Lean Analytics (Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz)
Starting a successful business from scratch requires a keen sense of how things are doing. In this book, Croll and Yoskovitz explain how a company is built – ranging from validation, customer outreach, monetization, to advertising – utilizing the lens of metrics and statistics.