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A "Social Distancing" Reading List from Our Fellows at FPI

With summer upon us and most vacation plans canceled, books are more important than ever as a source of distraction and solace. See what our fellows recommend!

FPI Fellow Bilal Baloch recommends:

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The Design of Business by Roger Martin

A wonderful intro-level quick read into “design thinking” and the bridge between method and innovation (whether in organizations or, perhaps, even in how we articulate and think about research hypotheses). The focus on heuristic over analytic frameworks when designing products is a helpful one.  




Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

A highly valuable insight for any business owner or manager into the life of a commerce titan. Knight’s challenges in building Nike are sobering and you join his emotional journey with each page; while his global lens was ahead of its time. The book illustrates just how significant privilege — as a social, cultural, or monetary capital — can be, even in the life of a “Shoe Dog”. 




MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed Bin Salman by Ben Hubbard

This is a true page turner from Hubbard. Writing contemporary political history is a tricky task and can often run into reading as a mosaic of stitched together op-eds. But even for MENA watchers—who will know many of the issues and moments in the book —Hubbard does a very good job of flushing out political and strategic calculations with impressive interviews, not to mention a layered unveiling of the “palace intrigue” in Saudi Arabia, within a richer geopolitical context.

FPI Fellow Tiffany Basciano recommends:

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The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance by Laurie Garrett

All policy makers should read this volume to be prepared to manage emerging diseases and global pandemics.

FPI Senior Fellow Cinnamon Dornsife recommends:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Essential reading in this era of deep questions about structural racial inequities. The book is written as a letter to the Coates' teenage son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being Black in the United States.






Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future by Paul Krugman

Drawn from Krugman’s New York Times columns, the book is an accessible, easy read on a wide range of major policy issues. Krugman discusses issues such as social safety nets (including social security), universal health care, austerity, and the Euro. How can we be expert on all of them, important as they are?




The Overstory by Richard Powers

It is summer – so we should read at least one great piece of fiction. It is a book for all readers who despair of humanity’s self-imposed separation from the rest of creation and who hope for the transformative, regenerating possibility of homecoming. If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us?


FPI Director Carla Freeman recommends:

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How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr

Immerwahr offers a new perspective on the role the United States' territorial empire played and continues to play in its contemporary form in shaping American identity today that has broader implications for understanding America's role in the world. It's a timely angle on the United States in the current period of rapid global change. And it is written in an engaging, flowing style.

FPI Senior Fellow David M. Lampton recommends:

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Fateful Decisions: Choices that Will Shape China's Future by Thomas Fingar and Jean C. Oi 


This forward-looking edited volume examines several critical aspects of China's contemporary development, not to predict particular future outcomes, which generally are uncertain, but rather to focus attention on the key areas shaping China's future domestic and international behavior. The book focuses on governance choices; domestic policy choices; and, choices with respect to international behavior. It is well-edited and written and brings together sober thinkers about China's future.

FPI Senior Fellow James Mann recommends:

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To Change China: Western Advisors in China by Jonathan Spence

This classic history by the great historian Jonathan Spence is as relevant today as it was when first published a half-century ago. It is a readable series of essays about different individuals – from Jesuits to Communist International agents — who were frustrated in their efforts to bring about change in China.

FPI Senior Fellow Afshin Molavi recommends:

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A Modern Contagion: Imperialism and Public Health in Iran's Age of Cholera by Amir Afkhami

This is a particularly timely work of history as Iran has become one of the hardest hit countries in the COVID-19 crisis. It's a brilliant piece of scholarship from a medical doctor with a flair for writing history that demonstrates how various cholera pandemics starting in 1821 weakened the Iranian state in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, transforming society, politics, geopolitics, and the very future of the country.


Super Continent: The Logic of Eurasian Integration by Kent Calder

Calder offers a sweeping tour d'horizon of growing interconnectivity across the Eurasian landmass, a process that has accelerated over the last three decades, and one that will likely grow over the next three decades as well as long after COVID-19 is a bad memory.


How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

The narrator of this short novel is a rags-to-riches businessman in an unnamed South Asian mega-city. Written in the faux "How-To" style of self-help books, the short novel packs a big punch as we gradually go into the underbelly of business, urbanization, and globalization and the sacrifices (and the bodies buried) in the rise to the top, complete with a touching ending.

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Al-Harthi (translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth)

A multi-generational novel that goes deep inside an Omani family grappling with modernity and tradition, patriarchy and women's empowerment, and the interior lives of multiple characters. Arabian Peninsula homes are generally set behind tall walls. What this International Man Booker Prize novel does is take you behind those walls, into the female drawing rooms, the men's conversations, and the tragedies, hopes and disappointments of a wide array of individuals.


China's Western Horizon: Beijing and the New Geopolitics of Eurasia by Daniel Markey

With all of the macro pronouncements about the implications of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) among policymakers, it's vital to understand what is actually happening on the ground in key parts of the BRI world. Markey offers a compelling, clear-eyed, insightful deep dive into how China's signature initiative is playing out across South Asia, Central Asia, and parts of the Middle East.




A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel by Amor Towles

At the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution, a Russian aristocrat with vaguely revolutionary leanings is spared death and sentenced instead to life confinement in the Hotel Metropol, Moscow's most cosmopolitan and luxurious hotel. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov retains his sense of dignity, his zest for life, and his basic humanity even as his personal indignities rise. A wonderfully imagined work that is also a good reminder of how the heat and hope of the Russian Revolution and Communism descended into corruption and thuggery.  

The Great Firewall of China: How to Build and Control an Alternative Version of the Internet by James Griffiths

Griffiths writes very well, and paints a picture of today's China, today's Chinese technological prowess, and the challenges that the Chinese political system presents to the world as Chinese technology and economic influence expands. As China's influence expands and China rises up the technological ladder, China's system is now presenting the rest of the world with their alternative internet universe once limited to the People's Republic of China. 

FPI Senior Fellow Gregory Moore recommends:

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