Shelf Life: The New Silk Roads

Short, concise and engaging, The New Silk Roads is an excellent follow-up to the original book.

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Shauna Costache
Stratford Public Library

A few years ago, I had my socks knocked off by a book I almost didn’t read. Peter Frankopan’s 2016 The Silk Roads was an absolute tome, clocking in at nearly 700 pages. I like to consider myself up for a reading challenge, but my kid had just entered daycare. As anyone who’s cared for a child under three knows, endeavours requiring sustained concentration are almost certainly doomed.

Still, The Silk Roads was so well reviewed, I felt I couldn’t afford to miss it. I was pleasantly surprised to discover Frankopan’s magnum opus lilted along in an accessible, conversational tone. It whisked me along through a couple millennia of Eastern European, Middle Eastern, Asian and North African history. Most valuably, it managed to tie ancient history to modern history, and both of those to recent geopolitical upheaval in a way that made the news just click.

However, a lot has changed in the world since Frankopan wrote the original book in 2015. So much, in fact, that it became clear that the epilogue he was writing for a new edition of The Silk Roads was meant to be its own book, and so The New Silk Roads was born.

Much shorter than the original, The New Silk Roads focuses entirely on geopolitical shifts since 2015, including Trump’s presidency, the formation (and subsequent reformation after Trump’s withdrawal) of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (along with several other trade agreements binding the areas typically associated with the silk roads), and the realignment of global wealth from west to east.

In clear, concise prose, Frankopan makes it obvious the rise of so-called Western nations since the industrial revolution is an anomaly in world history, and one that is currently correcting itself. He lays out the policy decisions at national and international levels that are feeding this shift without fearmongering, or making anyone seem like the bad guy. Frankopan even makes a convincing case that the Trump administration’s economic and foreign policy decisions are simply an exaggeration of those of previous administrations, starting in the 1980s, and that those policies were bearing fruit long before Trump stepped into the Oval Office.

Short, concise and engaging, The New Silk Roads is an excellent follow-up to the original book. It also stands alone beautifully, for anyone more interested in politics, economics and foreign policy than history.

Shelf Life is a column provided by the librarians of the Stratford Public Library. Find this title – and thousands of others– at the Stratford Public Library or by visiting