Prisoners of Geography was a recent recommendation by Deepak, when I shared the fun geopgrahy videos of GateNerd on TikTok. Written by international journalist Tim Marshall, the book looks at how the geography of 10 key regions on the planet shaped the past and constrain the future of the nations there.
Pretty much the entire planet is covered in the book: Russia, USA, Latin America, Western Europe China, Africa, Middle East, India-Pakistan, Japan-Korea and the Arctic. For each region we are introduced to the geography of the place with a topographic map. We learn how the geographic features, neighboring regions (and sometimes culture) have shaped the history of that place. And coming to the present day, a clear picture is painted of how the ambitions of leaders and the populace shape the region’s current events and possible future.
The book is a good guide to the geopolitics of these regions: the culture, military ambitions, political colors and what keeps the leaders awake at night. It is pretty sad to realize that the destinies of most people and nations in the world have a clear ceiling due to their geography (even if politics and religion did not interfere). Also sad is how colonial powers drew arbitrary borders in most of Africa and Asia, completely messing up the people and nations there to the present day.
For many years now, I have read The Economist religiously every week to learn about things happening in every corner of the world. (I also used to read The Financial Times a few times a wweek for that, but no longer have the time.) So, I did have a scattered picture of the geography and politics of hundreds of places in the world. What I loved about this book was that it stitched together all the pieces of my understanding into a interconnected whole. A while ago I started enabling topography in all maps and the maps in this book with geographical features further convinced me that I am on the right track.
This book is a fast and easy read, finishing one region in each sitting is simple. If you have any interest in gepolitics, this is an excellent summarization of the current world - a recommended read.