Final installment of stochastically best books to read on each country

These are past suggestions from MR readers, pulled from the comments, endorsed by me only on a stochastic basis:

Michela Wrong, Eritrea

Rwanda: something Prunier, probably Rwanda Crisis though it stops in 1996

Uganda: Season of Thomas Tebo, though it’s fiction (is that disqualifying?)

Eastern Congo: Jason Stearns Dancing with Monsters (like China, the country is too big for one book)

The Government of Ethiopia – Margery Perham’s Ethiopian answer to Ruth Benedict’s Japanese The Sword and the Chrysanthemum.

Ethiopia: – Wax and Gold by Donald Levine – Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia (edited by E. Ficquet & G. Prunier

Pre-colonial Africa: The Scramble for Africa

For DRCongo, I recommend The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja. It does a great job of distinguishing between the dizzying array of political factions in Congolese history. It’s shortcomings are in culture and economics. Not a lot to choose from with DRC unfortunately!

From Genocide to Continental War, by Gérard Prunier

In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz was excellent, as was King Leopold’s ghost on the DRC.

Zimbabwe – The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe by David Coltart

Great Lakes region: this was actually good

On Australia: Robert Hughes’ “The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding”

On Hong Kong: Gordon Mathews’ “Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong”

Tyler mentioned Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s book on the Caribbean for the region, so how about Paul Theroux’s book about the South Pacific, “The Happy Isles of Oceania”?

And if Boston were a country: J. Anthony Lukas’ “Common Ground” J. Anthony Lukas

What about outer space? Best book on Mars? The moon?


Hi Tyler, can you explain what 'endorsement on a stochastic basis' mean for the uninformed ?

I think it means he endorses the process of getting recommendations from commenters as one that is likely to produce good results, but he does not endorse the specific recommendations.

I am unsure as well. For what its worth I went to the trouble of looking up the definition but am not exactly sure either;


having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analysed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.

I think he means his commenters are dumb as a box of Brownian particles, but something of value might randomly emerge from our reading habits.

Although it seems like "stochastically-chosen" would be the better phrasing, so maybe I am on the wrong track.

I think he means these are not necessarily the best books to read if you only want to read one book on a country.

I would say for Mars it would be the Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy from Kim Stanley Robinson. It won many awards and covered Mars colonization from many different aspects ranging from the technical and gradual terraforming, to environmental, economical and political aspects.

This, absolutely. Love the series and re-read it every couple of years. The utopian vision is interesting even if somewhat ludicrous. I just wish an editor had not convinced Robinson to set the first chapter of book one in the future.

Hughes on Australia writes bad history. Whether he's as bad as the Grand Old Man of Ozzie history was, Manning Clark, I'll leave to others.

I suspect Hughes ones one of the rare talents who keep every decent impulse they ever have from being translated into words or actions.

Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan; Asimov on Astronomy; A House in Space by Henry Cooper; The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space by Gerrard K. O'Neill - all older books, but all very readable..

The best thing about this post. No:

Dick the Butcher
So Much for Subtlety
Art Deco
Thiago Ribeiro

and the usual cucks that made the comments section a dumpster fire.

... pretty sure Art is here.

there was this guy I knew who would take other guys aside and disapprovingly say, you know, most baseball players are gay, most of the NBA players are gay, they don't fool me, poor guy was - and there are almost nobody like this anymore - a closeted gay

you must be a blast at parties, people love it when other people go on and on about how good their gaydar is, or in your case, how good their ability to assume a bunch of guys, some of whom might not even be married, are married to women who are good looking enough that anyone would want to commit adultery with them

smoke some weed, dude, and lighten up


And if Boston were a country: J. Anthony Lukas’ “Common Ground” J. Anthony Lukas

One of the notable features in the work was Lukas' refusal to draw the obvious conclusions about Arthur Garrity and the lawfare artists who were his co-conspirators. That bit of cowardice should take the book off any 'best' list.

CONGO - Epic history of a people. I Found this is be great, especially as I was traveling there.

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