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

Giovanni Grevisenior researcher and research coordinator at FRIDE

Foreign Policy

Daron Acemoğlu and James Robinson’s Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. They challenge conventional wisdom on the rise and fall of nations and give us important lessons on how to support those on the right path and prevent weak countries from sliding further down.

Fiction

Marguerite Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian. Not the first time I read this, but every now and then, I go back to it to break with routine and take a deeper look into human nature and the chances of life with what I find to be a wonderful, if a little melancholic, novel.

Guilty Pleasure

Christophe Blain and Abel Lanzac’s Quai d'Orsay : chroniques diplomatiques.

Josef Janningdirector of studies at the European Policy Centre, Brussels

Foreign Policy

Summer is the time to pick those books you always wanted to read but thought were too long to be finished during the working season. This summer, I will pick up Jared Diamond's monumental 2005 Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Paul Kennedy in his epic study focused mostly on big politics and grand strategies of empires—I expect Diamond to be more insightful on social, cultural, and economic reasons for the rise and fall.

Other Non-fiction

Another one of those non-reads from the shelf is Beatrice Heuser's great study, Den Krieg denken (2010) —sounds like an echo of Clausewitz but should be a thorough review of strategic thinking from the last 2000 years.

Fiction

In this section I would not want to recommend anything I have not (yet) enjoyed reading. Therefore my choice has to be Ian McEwan's latest masterpiece Solar (2010)—a great book, a wonderful story told with the subtle irony the English language was invented for. And it has to do with renewable energy, although, that doesn't really matter but might help some of you eggheads to justify time spent on fiction.

Guilty Pleasure

Category does not apply to me...

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

To qualify as a summer classic, a book has to be long established, easy to read, and entertaining enough to be read and read again, to be recommended to family and friends. There's a little book, first published in 1889, that meets all criteria: The Wrong Box, written by Robert Louis Stevenson and his stepson Lloyd Osbourne. I have always found a hot summer evening and black comedy to be a good match. Have read this book at least half a dozen times.

Patrick Kellercoordinator foreign and security policy, Konrad Adenauer Foundation Berlin

Foreign Policy

David E. Sanger: Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power

A strangely disorganized book, offering lots of reporting and little analysis. Still, it is an entertaining read—as an example of a liberal struggling (and failing) to explain the virtues of Obama’s foreign policy without giving due credit to George W. Bush.

Other Non-fiction

Johnny Ramone: Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone

The memoir of the late guitar player of America’s greatest rock and roll band, The Ramones, is a treasure chest of fan lore and a wonderfully designed book. No kindle crap for one of the few outspoken conservatives in punk music.

Fiction

John Irving: In One Person

The first Irving novel since A Prayer for Owen Meany that doesn’t seem like it was put together by an only mildly advanced text computer. The interplay between theater anecdotes and the drama of developing a sexual identity is done with such exuberance that even Irving’s incessant preaching of tolerance is…tolerable.

Guilty Pleasure

All of the above. But a true pleasure: Neil Gaiman’s groundbreaking series of graphic novels, Sandman.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

Thomas C. Schelling: Arms and Influence

With nuclear crisis looming in the Middle East, it is a refreshing as well as sobering experience to re-read this hardheaded classic on deterrence theory from the dawn of the nuclear age.

Daniel Korskiadviser to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

This list should probably be of books that I WON'T BE READING, as I always set off on holidays with more books than I manage to get through—to the sole benefit of easyJet's extra luggage charge.

Foreign Policy

This summer I am reading a great new book called Why Nations Fail, by the Harvard political scientist James A. Robinson and MIT economist Daron Acemoğlu. Experts have long argued over why one nation prospers while another fails. Is it geography (David Landes), culture and religion (Max Weber), over-exploitation (Jared Diamond). The authors use a range of tools to hone in on what they believe is the most important factor that explains state failure and what I guess must be its corollary, "state take-off"—inclusive institutions. So far, a great read and a good argument that I am intrinsically in favor of.

Other Non-fiction

David Brooks, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, isn't known for his interest in evolutionary biology. He writes about U.S. elections, the invasion of Iraq, and the economic crisis. But I have always found that his columns dig beneath the headlines, to an underlying set of factors that drive behavior. In his new book, The Social Animal, that's my second gift to easyJet's pension pot, Brooks examines the latest discoveries by scientists, philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists to understands what moves people. Using two characters—Harold and Erica, a married couple and successful professionals—he follows their lives from birth to Harold's death and I am hooked like I've never been on a non-fiction book.

Fiction

This summer I have decided to read Julian Barnes' Man Booker prize winning novella A Sense of an Ending. I haven't begun yet, but I gather it is a story about a man who revisits the past later in his life.

Guilty Pleasure

Wulff & Morgenthaler sounds like a crusty Third Avenue law firm or a German First World War gun manufacturer. But the name comes from two comedians—one a script writer, the other a cartoonist. And together they are a modern-day Monty Python of strips—brilliant, insulting, weird, and laugh-out-loud funny. I take the latest strips on holiday, but you can also see them on the web: http://wumocomicstrip.com

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

Anything by John le Carré.