There are any number of serious and worthy reasons to write a book on Alexander the Great, and author and historian Rachel Kousser gives several—including that Alexander’s world was more “globally connected” and “integrated” than our own and how “Alexander’s story does not just give us a different perspective on the past; it also helps us to imagine the future”—but one suspects that in the end it’s that Alexander’s is a ferociously good story. Kousser can be forgiven for that: Alexander has been considered the best of stories going on for 24 centuries. And she tells it well.

There is much about the way international relations is framed—from the so-called rules-based order to the nation-state itself—that has its origins in the Western history, philosophy and experience. It stands to reason that the traditional view might not map very well onto two non-Western countries an order of magnitude larger than almost any other in the original dataset. In his new book Civilization-States of China and India, Ravi Dutt Bajpai posits that India and China are something other than “nation states”.

Alexander Grigorenko’s previous book Mebet, set among the Nenets people of the Siberian taiga, was such an unique literary experience that one could be forgiven for opening Ilget, the next book in the trilogy (a rather loose trilogy, it would appear), with some trepidation, anxious that it repeat or at least not surprise in same measure. But if anything, Ilget is better; although-steeped in mythology and the supernatural, as the people it writes about were and are, it feels more rooted in reality and rather than being fully immersed in magic-realism, only dips its toes in it.

The title (and cover) of Andrew Hillier’s new book The Alcock Album: Scenes of China Consular Life 1843-1853 might lead one to think that it is primarily a collection of drawings and paintings; but while the volume is indeed profusely-illustrated, it is rather more a biography of Henrietta Alcock, the wife of Rutherford Alcock, one of the first British consuls in the treaty ports of Xiamen, Fuzhou and Shanghai in the years immediately after the First Opium War. Both were, as it turns out, proficient at both sketching and watercolors.