What We Are Reading Today: Unfabling the East 

Updated 30 August 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Unfabling the East 

During the long 18th century, Europe’s travelers, scholars, and intellectuals looked to Asia in a spirit of puzzlement, irony, and openness. In this panoramic and colorful book translated to English by Robert Savage, Jürgen Osterhammel tells the story of the European Enlightenment’s nuanced encounter with the great civilizations of the East, from the Ottoman Empire and India to China and Japan.

Here is the acclaimed book that challenges the notion that Europe’s formative engagement with the non-European world was invariably marred by an imperial gaze and presumptions of Western superiority. Osterhammel shows how major figures such as Leibniz, Voltaire, Gibbon, and Hegel took a keen interest in Asian culture and history, and introduces lesser-known scientific travelers, colonial administrators, Jesuit missionaries, and adventurers who returned home from Asia bearing manuscripts in many exotic languages, huge collections of ethnographic data, and stories that sometimes defied belief. 

Osterhammel brings the sights and sounds of this tumultuous age vividly to life, from the salons of Paris and the lecture halls of Edinburgh to the deserts of Arabia, the steppes of Siberia, and the sumptuous courts of Asian princes. He demonstrates how Europe discovered its own identity anew by measuring itself against its more senior continent, and how it was only toward the end of this period that cruder forms of Eurocentrism — and condescension toward Asia — prevailed.

A momentous work by one of Europe’s most eminent historians, Unfabling the East takes readers on a thrilling voyage to the farthest shores, bringing back vital insights for our own multicultural age.


What We Are Reading Today: The Man Who Ran Washington

Updated 27 September 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Man Who Ran Washington

Edited by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser

In The Man Who Ran Washington, veteran reporters Peter Baker (no relation) and Susan Glasser, a husband-and-wife team, offer an illuminating biographical portrait of James Baker, one that describes the arc of his career and, along the way, tells readers something about how executive power is wielded in the US capital.

“This is a biography any would-be power broker must own: The story of legendary White House chief of staff and secretary of state James A. Baker III, the man who ran Washington when Washington ran the world,” said a review in goodreads.com. 

Samatha Power, former US ambassador to the UN, said in a review for The New York Times: “Given Baker’s legendary reserve, one of the most touching parts of the book is its examination of the deep, humorous and also rivalrous friendship he maintained with former US President George H. W. Bush. The relationship, which began on the Houston tennis courts, ended up defining both of their lives.”

Power is the author of The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir.