Judy Dempsey has asked leading experts to share their literary preferences with Strategic Europe’s readers by providing their suggested reads for the summer.

James W. Davisdirector of the Institute of Political Science, University of St. Gallen

Foreign Policy

I'm reading Jonathan Steinberg's  “Bismarck: A Life”. I'm interested in how the other "Great Chancellor" handled the question of Germany in Europe. In the 19th Century, Prussia was too big for Germany, but too small for Europe. Today, Germany is too big for Europe but too small for the world.

Other Non-fiction

I'm reading Sam Harris’ “The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values”. In what sense can we ascribe responsibility to political leaders charged with promoting the general welfare in a complex world? Harris makes a strong case that advances in neural science show us which choices promise to promote human wellbeing. Indeed, he claims that in light of scientific advances, the fact/value dichotomy that has governed our understanding of science since Hume is no longer tenable. I am skeptical of the claim but looking forward to the read.

Steven ErlangerParis bureau chief, the New York Times

Foreign Policy

Robert Cooper's “The Breaking of Nations: Order and Chaos in the Twenty-first Century”. Failed states and why.

Other Non-fiction

Peter Beaumont's “The Secret Life of War: Journeys through Modern Conflict”. A fine journalist's effort to understand what he's seen, and what it's done to him.

Fiction

William Vollmann's “Europe Central”. An amazing effort to connect the twin sisters of Nazism and Stalinism through fictionalized biographies, including Tchaikovsky.

Guilty Pleasure

Jane Gardam’s “Old Filth”. Mordantly funny, about a lawyer who failed in London and went to Hong Kong.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

James Joyce’s “The Dead”.

Constanze Stelzenmüllersenior transatlantic fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States

Foreign Policy

“George F. Kennan: An American Life” by John Lewis Gaddis. Brilliant strategist, not-so-good diplomat, world-class agonizer, sublime prose stylist—Kennan was all this and more. Gaddis weaves thirty years of research and a lifetime of erudition into a compelling biography of one of the greatest strategic thinkers of the twentieth century.

Other Non-fiction

Does an autobiography count as non-fiction? Probably not. But "The Education of Henry Adams"— written by the eponymous Bostonian aristocrat and gentleman academic—is a gracefully ironic self-portrait of an individual in his age, an autobiographical Bildungsroman notable as much for its unforgettable set pieces—the provincial squalor of mid-nineteenth century Berlin—as for what it leaves out—the suicide of Adams' wife Clover.

Fiction

"Bring up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel. The second of three volumes, a fictionalized biography of Henry VIII's chief minister and supreme fixer Thomas Cromwell, who helped his sovereign rid himself of childless wives and political enemies, and was himself finally beheaded. Magisterial, enthralling, and moving.  

Guilty Pleasure

Absolutely-not-guilty pleasure: comics. See only “Quai d'Orsay: Chroniques Diplomatiques”, voulmes one and two—by Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain. About life as speechwriter to former French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, portrayed as a raging egomaniac—made me laugh so hard I nearly fell out of bed. Then it hit me that a similar comic about a German foreign minister would be deeply unfunny. Depression ensued. Also: “L'homme est-il bon?”, a compilation of classic bandes dessinées by Moebius, who died recently. One of the most beautiful examples of the ligne claire, and some deeply bizarre stories.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

Jane Austen. Elizabeth Gaskell. Theodor Fontane.

Stephen F. Szaboexecutive director, Transatlantic Academy

Foreign Policy

Robert Kagan, “The World America Made”.

Other Non-fiction

Steve Coll, “Private Empire: Exxon Mobil and American Power”.

Fiction

Henning Mankell, “The Troubled Man”.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

Sándor Márai, “Embers”.

Dr Alexandros Yannis

Foreign Policy

“George F. Kennan: An American Life”, by John Lewis Gaddis. Because the meeting between George F. Kennan and John Lewis Gaddis is an extraordinary encounter.

Other Non-fiction

“Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu”, by Lawrence Bergreen. Because the fascination with China is an old story and Lawrence Bergreen is a great story teller.

Fiction

“The Joke”, by Milan Kundera. Because it is the first and perhaps the best book written by Milan Kundera.

Guilty Pleasure

“The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road”, by Paul Theroux. Because both Paul Theroux and travelling are great sources of inspiration.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

“Invisible Cities”, by Italo Calvino. Because the story of each of these cities opens up new opportunities to think and dream – and because the story of Perinthia perhaps best evokes the state of our world today.