The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn (Univ. of Chicago, $15). Kuhn argued that science does not always progress through the gradual accumulation of knowledge. Major revolutions periodically change everything we know about, say, physics or biology. While Kuhn's 1962 book is about the field of science, it is also, implicitly, about any fundamental power shift among factions.
The March of Folly by Barbara W. Tuchman (Ballantine, $17). What do the Trojan War, Britain's loss of the American colonies, and the Vietnam War have in common? Folly. Men pursuing policies contrary to their own interests because, as Tuchman writes, "the power to command frequently causes failure to think."
The Advent of Netwar by John Arquilla and David F. Ronfeldt (RAND, $35). The book that anticipated how decentralized networks of nontraditional combatants would pose unprece-dented challenges to conventional armies. Traditional military thinking, its authors wrote in 1996, will "prove inadequate to cope with nonlinear, swarm-like information-age conflicts."
The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel García Márquez (Vintage, $16). Simón Bolívar knew power. When he died, at 47, he had liberated six nations and served as the head of state of five of them. Yet he died powerless, consumed by tuberculosis and abandoned by former allies. This masterful, fictionalized account of Bolívar's drawn-out demise says as much about the human condition as it does about power's fleeting nature — and the connection between the two.
Pathfinders by Felipe Fernández-Armesto (Norton, $22). One of the best books I've read on globalization. Through the gripping adventures of early explorers, historian Fernández-Armesto shows how across 5,000 years human groups "got back in touch," copied each other's lives and cultures, and "became more like each other again."
Essence of Decision by Graham Allison (Pearson, $29). Assuming that decision makers behave in a rational way is often a mistake. Allison's classic 1971 book about the Cuban missile crisis explains why, and shows what other forces shape decisions.
— Columnist Moisés Naím is the former editor of Foreign Policy and a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In his latest book, The End of Power, he highlights power's erosion in every field, and the costs of not adapting.