We cannot understand our complex world without grasping the basic elements of evolutionary theory. All of Gould’s books on evolution and natural history are superb, but Panda’s Thumb is my favourite and is a good place to start.
Even more enlightening than Machiavelli’s The Prince, this book describes power takeovers and social organizations in a chimpanzee colony and argues that power politics is part of the evolutionary heritage that we share with our closest nonhuman relatives. I’ll never look at academic or corporate politics the same way, and I understand their machinations much better for having read this book. Chimps, unlike humans, do not cloak their political pretenses in rhetoric, so we can see more clearly the process at work and thereby learn much about ourselves.