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'The Power Broker' by Robert Caro is ostensibly a biography, but it's actually about how power works. The protagonist starts out employing idealistic methods, but falls flat on his face, and comes to delight in any means of achievement. I found that once I understood the protagonist's raw goal-seeking, and the dynamics that emerge from it, I started to recognize similar dynamics at many levels of society and government.

Barack Obama read it at 22 and said it was mesmerizing and that it shaped how he thinks about politics.

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