I have a few books that I find particularly instructive.
The Singapore story (volumes 1 and 2)
Lee Kuan Yew describes how he conducted post-war Singapore from a fragile independence under constant sway from Malaysia and communist China to being a first world country in the span of one generation. A must read for any aspiring nation builder.
World Order by Henry Kissinger
Kissinger explores the trajectory of the Westphalian international order we take for granted today and puts it in a global and historical perspective, contrasting it with ancient systems that have existed for much longer and encompassed much of the world. I learned a great deal from this book and it certainly puts our notions of countries in perspective.
Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty
The authors do a broad exploration with comparative politics to try to discern what features hold for successful and poor nations. They frame the set of common features under a model of “extractive” and “inclusive” economic institutions as being the root cause of prosperity or misery. I haven’t finished reading it yet.