3 Books Weekly #17: Life in a changing world
09.00, Monday 27 Jun 2016 Link to this post
The following was first posted on the 3 Books Weekly email newsletter and has since been archived here.
An eventful week last week. I figured I would delay this edition of 3 BOOKS WEEKLY from Friday till today.
We’ve got a great selection today – Daniel Fogg has given us recommendations for three books that I would never have encountered otherwise. And, for me, that’s what this is about: New perspectives, a chance to see through the eyes of someone who really knows their stuff.
More recommendations wanted! If you’d like to share your 3 books for this newsletter, or for the vending machine, please do contribute using this form.
Have a great week, and look after yourselves
#1. How to Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid
This is a story about, well, you! Told in the rarely-used second-person, and written in the popular style of a self-help book, the author places you in the position of the unnamed protagonist at several key points in your life. It shows how you go from nobody to somebody, from poor to rich, from alone to in love, in a claustrophobic, chaotic unnamed city in South Asia. Intense, funny and incredibly well observed, this book is an empathy overload and it had a big impact on me. I have worked in India and Pakistan, developing and deploying new technology in some of the poorest, toughest parts of these two fascinating, complex societies. For me, this book reveals more about life in South Asia than any article or account that I have read.
#2. Eastern Approaches (Penguin World War II Collection), by Fitzroy MaClean
This book was lent to me by a boss and mentor I worked with in the security industry when I was 24, and it reinforced my desire to travel and work in some of the world’s most interesting/dangerous countries. Not because of the adventure (although that is, admittedly, part of it), but because I believe you can never truly understand a place or its people without going there and getting involved. This is a man who happened to be involved in some of the 20th century’s most important geopolitical events. He travelled incognito to early-Soviet Central Asia, attended Stalin’s show trials, was recruited into an early incarnation of the SAS to fight Nazi Germany in the Middle East and, at the personal request of Winston Churchill, helped Tito form an underground resistance to Hitler’s forces in Yugoslavia. It is this remarkable career that has led many to believe Ian Fleming used MacLean as inspiration for James Bond. MacLean provides a fascinating account of life on the frontline during WWII.
#3. Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla, by David Kilcullen
When people think about military theory, they think about Sun Tzu, Clausewitz and probably Machiavelli. While the lessons from those books are still valid, the nature of modern conflict is changing fast. “Out of the Mountains” is about the future of urban warfare and how communication technology, population growth, resource scarcity and urbanisation will define the future of crime, violence and armed conflict. Its author, David Kilcullen, is one of the world’s most respected and most interesting military theorists. He writes clear, simple prose and supports his unified theory of “competitive control” with fascinating case studies from Kingston, Mogadishu, Lagos, Benghazi and Mumbai. For me, this is a key text for understanding the chaotic nature of modern conflict. It helped me understand why people support ISIS, why our military is often ineffective against terrorism and why criminals are sometimes better than governments.