Lionel BarberEditor of the Financial Times

Foreign Policy

The Fate of the West: The Battle to Save the World’s Most Successful Political Idea, by Bill Emmott. An excellent diagnosis and prescription from the ex-editor of the Economist on what has gone wrong with Western democracies. Written before French President Emmanuel Macron’s triumph, but still prescient and relevant.

Fiction

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. A wonderful uplifting story about twins, rivalry, and conflict in Africa (Ethiopia). I defy anyone to escape without tears.

Home Country (United Kingdom)

The Spanish Civil War, by Hugh Thomas. The great history polymath died this year, but his definitive book on the origins and course of the Spanish Civil War lives on.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

Hostages, the Israeli-made TV series, is tension in motion. A brilliant devious plot involving rogue Mossad agents, a dodgy prime minister, and a courageous female surgeon. Say no more.

Alice BaudryHead of international affairs at the Montaigne Institute

Foreign Policy

The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope Are Reshaping the World, by Dominique Moïsi. A senior adviser at the Montaigne Institute, Moïsi picks an original lens through which he maps the world: understanding the clash of emotions—fear, humiliation, and hope.

Fiction

The Promised Land, by Erich Maria Remarque. This final (and unfinished) novel by Remarque, about a German Jewish immigrant going through Ellis Island to reach America, is a powerful reminder of the war, the discrimination, the memories of inhuman experiences, and the fate of Jews in the postwar years.

Home Country (France)

Une initiation. Rwanda (1994–2016), by Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau. An exceptional, disturbing, thought-provoking book by Audoin-Rouzeau, a French anthropologist and historian. This very informative nonfiction work is about the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, in which over 800,000 victims were killed in three months. What happened, and why? Throughout the book, Audoin-Rouzeau reminds the reader of these questions in an attempt to offer elements of an answer.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

Le Bureau des légendes on Canal+. This thrilling TV series, created by Eric Rochant, launched in France in 2015 and is now in its third season. Find out what the DGCE—the French secret service—is up to abroad, and follow stories of special agents with fabricated identities.

Carl BildtCo-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations

Foreign Policy

After Tamerlane, by John Darwin. On the rise and fall of global empires from 1400 to 2000. Grand history. Lessons for our time?

Fiction

If there is time, I think I will reread the memoirs of Arthur Koestler. Unrivaled in exploring the century that has passed.

Home Country (Sweden)

Gustaf Mannerheim: aristokrat i vadmal (Gustaf Mannerheim: An Aristocrat in Cloth), by Henrik Meinander. Fabulous on the Finnish military leader and statesman Gustaf Mannerheim as Finland turns one hundred. In Swedish, although the author is a prominent Finnish historian.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

I guess it’s seeing Star Wars with my son. May the force be with us!

Ian BremmerPresident of Eurasia Group

Foreign Policy

Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America’s Role in the World, by Robert D. Kaplan. Nobody does big lyrical sweeping geopolitics and history like Kaplan. This book is a pleasure—could almost be a beach read. Call it a lakeside read.

Fiction

American War, by Omar El Akkad. Depressing as hell, but the best dystopian novels give you characters you can believe in and a story that’s just plausible enough. El Akkad wins on both counts.

Home Country (United States)

The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream, by Tyler Cowen. Cowen is a national treasure. He cares deeply about our country getting things right, and he has values that any decent person would embrace. This book will help us get it right.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

Movie: Sing. Yes, I’m a dork that way.

TV series: Black Mirror. Hopefully not where we’re heading. But just in case . . .

Documentary: The Putin Interviews, by Oliver Stone. Because the Russian president just gets away with anything.

William J. BurnsPresident of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Foreign Policy

Kissinger: The Idealist, 1923–1968, by Niall Ferguson. A fascinating first volume of the biography of one of the most consequential figures in the history of American foreign policy.

Fiction

The Russia House, by John le Carré. Reread recently. Written at the end of the Cold War, but still captivating.

Home Country (United States)

Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam, by Mark Bowden. Powerfully told, and a vivid depiction of individual courage and national hubris.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

Veep. A parody eclipsed by reality.

Judy DempseyNonresident senior fellow at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of Strategic Europe

Foreign Policy

Strangers at Our Door, by Zygmunt Bauman. In this short and powerful book, Bauman analyzes how and why many European leaders have demonized refugees and migrants fleeing wars and famines. Leaders want to keep migrants away or separate from society, as if they will upset Europeans’ sense of well-being and comfort zone. For Bauman, it is a crisis of humanity that cannot be sustained.

Fiction

The Noise of Time, by Julian Barnes. Barnes delves into the moral dilemmas faced by Dmitri Shostakovich in particular and the role of artists living under totalitarianism in general. A coward, a realist, or naive in thinking it might give him more freedom, Shostakovich often toed the artistic line dictated by Stalin and other Communist leaders until his death in 1975.

Home Country (Ireland)

I opted instead for one from Hungary: László Krasznahorkai’s Satantango. This is a fascinating novel. First published in Budapest in 1985, it’s about the pull of one person who returns to a poor, dilapidated village and the power he has over simple (and always drunk) people who have been left behind and long for a savior. There’s a strange timelessness but also a relevance to this very special piece of writing.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

I don’t have any. But maybe the book A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution could double up as a documentary. I met one of the authors, Jennifer A. Doudna, (the other is Samuel H. Sternberg) and was awed but also frightened by the impact of gene editing, or CRISPR. Doudna explained how manipulating DNA can bring huge benefits when it comes to combating malaria and HIV/AIDS and increasing crop yields. As for the political and ethical ramifications, they are just frightening.

Thomas de WaalSenior fellow at Carnegie Europe

Foreign Policy

For my money, a good history book beats a good foreign policy book, and that’s the case with Stefan Zweig’s extraordinary memoir, The World of Yesterday. Zweig captures vividly the astonishing changes in era and zeitgeist that shook Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. A portrait of fragility and change that should be compulsory reading for those who forget that Europe’s darker side is never far away.

Fiction

Francis Spufford’s novel Golden Hill (he is also an author from my home country) is a brilliant evocation of Manhattan in the eighteenth century, when it was still a small colonial town but was already feeling its independence from London and about to become a center of global capital, thanks in large part to the slave trade. It’s beautifully written, witty, and a page-turner.

Chrystia FreelandMinister of foreign affairs of Canada

Foreign Policy

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, by Timothy Snyder.

Fiction

The Diviners, by Margaret Laurence.

Home Country (Canada)

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

Kim’s Convenience, a Canadian TV sitcom.

Florence GaubSenior analyst at the European Union Institute for Security Studies

Foreign Policy

The St. George Hotel Bar: International Intrigue in Old Beirut—An Insider’s Account, by Said Aburish. I am a bit of a fan of the tactical level of foreign policy, I must admit. In this book, the wars of the Middle East are told through the prism of the St. George Hotel in Beirut (former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri was killed on its steps, and spies met in its bar). In the end, foreign policy is about people meeting in a bar, isn’t it?

Fiction

An Unnecessary Woman, by Rabih Alameddine. This story of a lonely literature-loving woman in Beirut is heartwarming and uplifting even if you don’t like literature, don’t know Lebanon, or are not a woman. A masterpiece.

Home Country

From France: L’Arabe du futur (The Arab of the Future), by Riad Sattouf. A comic about a French-Syrian childhood in Libya and Syria; non-PC, funny, thoughtful, and clever.

From Germany: Die Konferenz der Tiere (The Animals’ Conference), by Erich Kästner. Ostensibly a children’s book, it is actually a stab at the failure of the international system to prevent war. Frustrated with the humans, all the animals gather at a UN-style meeting to achieve peace once and for all. An always-modern parable and must-read for diplomats who want to giggle for once.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

The obvious thing to write here would be West Beirut or House of Cards, but I’ll go with Dynasty. My dad wouldn’t let me watch this American TV soap opera in the 1980s, so I have nine seasons of shoulder pads and flying champagne glasses to catch up on.

Charles GrantDirector of the Centre for European Reform

Foreign Policy

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, by Timothy Snyder. This account of the lands between Germany and Russia from 1930 to 1945 is not only tragic but also revelatory. Snyder’s sober description of what happened to Poles, Balts, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians highlights that many more people died from famine, from being shot, or from being incarcerated than from being killed in Nazi death camps.

Fiction

The Big Green Tent, by Russian novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya. A fine novel that analyzes the evolution of Russian society in the final decades the Soviet Union, seen through the eyes of three boys who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. It is unusual for a book to be so perceptive about both people and broader social and political trends.

Paul HaenleDirector of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy

Foreign Policy

By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael Green. In his newest book, Georgetown professor Michael Green explores the history and evolution of U.S. grand strategy in Asia. He challenges the conventional wisdom that America’s focus on the region arose only in the past few decades. Instead, he explores the reasons behind the fluctuations in U.S. policy across the region and demonstrates why American commercial and strategic stakeholders have long had a vested interest in free navigation and open markets in Asia.

Fiction

The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin. Published in 2006 as the first of a trilogy, The Three-Body Problem is one of only a few Chinese science-fiction novels to be translated into English. Set in China during the Cultural Revolution, it is an opportunity for those interested in exploring the growing genre of Chinese science fiction from one of China’s top fiction authors.

Home Country (United States)

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present, by John Pomfret. For those interested in a nontraditional overview of U.S.-China relations, Pomfret’s latest book goes back to the very beginning of the relationship, just as the United States became a nation. The book explores the cultural, economic, and strategic paths that led the two countries to where they are today and is a refreshing read for those looking for a broader perspective on the history of U.S.-China bilateral relations.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

The Americans, Season 5. Russian spies infiltrating America—a thing of the past, right? This TV series, set in the Cold War under the Reagan administration, explores the lives of two KGB spies posing as Americans in Washington, DC. Beyond exciting spy exploits and intrigue, the series examines the complexities of raising a family and upholding the facade of an arranged marriage while living across the street from an FBI agent tasked with unearthing spies in the United States.

Jonas Parello-PlesnerHead of the foreign policy department at the Embassy of Denmark to the United States

Foreign Policy

My coming project at the Hudson Institute, where I will work from August onward, zooms in on stabilization in Iraq and Syria. In that line, I have picked Joel Rayburn’s great book on Iraq’s unraveling, Iraq After America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance, which is based on his firsthand military experience. And Nadia Schadlow’s War and the Art of Governance: Consolidating Combat Success Into Political Victory argues for clear political outcomes following military intervention (win the peace, in short). Both books are very topical for the aftermath of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Both authors occupy senior positions on the current U.S. administration’s National Security Council.

Fiction

Everything Paul Auster. I just finished his most recent great “What if?” book. It is titled 4 3 2 1. The numbers refer to the protagonist Ferguson’s four different lifespans. Each life story starts out similarly, but several big life-changing episodes differ (Ferguson’s father dies in one, he dies in another). In the end, one life story is left on the book’s final pages. The reader is gifted with pondering the multiple trajectories in Ferguson life—and in the reader’s own.

Home Country (Denmark)

I press the repeat button on this: Out of Africa, by Danish writing goddess Karen Blixen, often known in the Anglophone world by her pseudonym Isak Dinesen. My favorite is Seven Gothic Tales, great storytelling that breathes beauty into the Danish language.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

The TV series The Americans, of which we have binge-watched several seasons. The series tracks a suburban family with a twist—the parents are KGB illegals! The series skillfully mixes everyday family life with undercover missions in the 1980s in Washington, DC, our current family home. Great indoor activity if summer weather fails you.

Marc PieriniVisiting scholar at Carnegie Europe

Foreign Policy

“Ur-Fascism” by Umberto Eco, in the June 22, 1995, issue of the New York Review of Books. In Italian, there is a longer version: “Cinque scritti morali”; and in French, a short version: “Reconnaître le facisme.”

Fiction

The Weight of the Butterfly by Erri de Luca is a minute and fascinating description of the relationships between man and wildlife, and between man, wildlife, and the environment.

Home Country (France)

Simone, éternelle rebelle, by Sarah Briand. An homage to the recently deceased Simone Veil, a French politician and academic, an Auschwitz survivor, and a dedicated European. It is one of several books, including Veil’s own, that shed light on an exceptional figure who was emblematic of European contemporary history.

Radosław SikorskiSenior fellow at Harvard University and distinguished statesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

Foreign Policy

My current favorite on foreign policy is Ivan Krastev’s After Europe, which provokes one to think how the EU might not survive the refugee crisis.

Fiction

Recent fiction I loved was the Cicero trilogy by Robert Harris, which brilliantly captures the unchanging rhythm of politics and the fragility of nondictatorship.

Home Country (Poland)

Sadly, because of current developments, I have had to return to a book by Aleksander Bocheński published in 1947 called The History of (Political) Folly in Poland.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

My wife and I are gripped by the U.S. TV series The Americans, which portrays a couple of Soviet illegals in 1980s Washington pretending to be an American family.

Peter SpiegelNews editor at the Financial Times

Foreign Policy

In the last few months, recent geopolitical events have prompted me to reread books about the West in the prewar years in an effort to reorient myself to what it was like when nationalism, militarism, and balance-of-power politics ruled. I thought it might help to think about the world if the postwar international order begins to disintegrate. Much to my surprise, Barbara Tuchman’s classic The Guns of August really stands the test of time. It is the classic study of the tendency of political and military leaders to fight the last war and overestimate their own geostrategic position and strength.

Fiction

Ahead of a recent work trip to Hong Kong, a colleague based there told me I had to read Noble House by James Clavell to get a sense of the business history of the place. Not a great work of literature, but a fun read for the long flight from Heathrow and back, and perfect for the beach. Enough of Clavell’s tales are based on true-life incidents to get a good sense of how the original home of capitalism’s Wild East came to be.

Home Country (United States)

Tom Wolfe has always been my journalism hero, bringing literary writing to journalism and a journalist’s eye to literature. His best work of fiction is The Bonfire of the Vanities, which captures mid-1980s New York City better than any work of nonfiction from the era (and it’s timely again, given a certain New Yorker stuck in the 1980s now lives in the White House). For nonfiction, I’ll always have a big soft spot for The Right Stuff, which is also newly relevant as a reminder of what it was like when American leaders called on the better angels of our nature to be great again.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

I know it’s trite, but any time The Godfather or The Godfather, Part II is on TV, I can’t not watch. Leave the gun; take the cannoli.

Jake SullivanSenior fellow in Carnegie’s Geoeconomics and Strategy Program

Foreign Policy

Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department, by Dean Acheson. I read it when I was a student, and it sparked my interest in serving in government.

Fiction

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. Twain mixes humor and humanity to tell a distinctly American story.

Home Country (United States)

I am a sucker for anything written by Bill Bryson. I love his stuff.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

A Few Good Men (movie), The Wire (TV series), and Baseball, created by Ken Burns (documentary).

Jan TechauDirector of the Richard C. Holbrooke Forum at the American Academy in Berlin

Foreign Policy

The School for Dictators, by Ignazio Silone. Silone wrote this book in 1939, analyzing the rise of fascism in his native Italy and in Germany. It comes in the form of a book-long conversation among four archetypal intellectual characters. A more instructive and entertaining book about how democracy dies if it is not properly defended is hardly imaginable.

Fiction

The UnAmericans, by Molly Antopol. When writing comes as smart, deep, humane, and wise as this, it is hard to understand why short stories are still a tougher sell than novels. Antopol tackles the essential—and often heartbreaking—questions of identity and belonging, brotherly love, family, and guilt against the backdrop of American, Israeli, and European history and politics. A perfect read.

Home Country (Germany)

Austerlitz, by W. G. Sebald. Sebald, who died in 2001, is a legend in the UK but almost completely ignored in his native Germany. Austerlitz is his magnum opus, a lyrical, pensive, whimsical, richly loaded novel about Jacques Austerlitz, a melancholic loner raised in rural Britain whose inquiry into his own identity unearths the full tragedy of twentieth-century European history.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

When Paul Came Over the Sea, directed by Jakob Preuss. Paul is a refugee from Senegal who has made it all the way to the North African coast and now seeks to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. Award-winning German filmmaker Preuss follows him from Morocco to Berlin, covering the tragic, funny, Kafkaesque, and touching twists and turns of one refugee’s journey. Whether you like the documentary’s politics or not, its humanity will be with you long afterward. In movie theaters this summer.

Maha YahyaDirector of the Carnegie Middle East Center

Foreign Policy

A reread of Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, and Resentment in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe by Roger D. Peterson. This book considers the role of emotions in twentieth-century conflicts and challenges conventional wisdoms such as ancient hatreds or fear used to explain them. Another is Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy (in Arabic), which provides a nuanced and painful but strategic overview of the evolution of the Syrian war and Syrian-led solutions for ending it.

Fiction

The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud is a retelling of Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger but from the perspective of the brother of the man shot by Meursault on a hot day in Algeria. The book provides a brilliant and layered commentary on Algeria’s contemporary politics, the legacy of French colonialism, and religious politics.

A memoir rather than fiction, The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar sheds light on the devastation wrought by the authoritarianism of former strongman leader Muammar Qaddafi on Libya through the anguish of a family history. Perhaps Matar best captures the sense of post-Qaddafi Libya as place that “is so burdened with memories yet full of possibilities”—possibilities that have since diminished as the country’s history threatens to unravel once more.

Home Country (Lebanon)

The novels of Hassan Daoud, who stitches his books into an intricate tapestry of life in a city suspended between past and present. His latest novels, Transfer Your Passion and The Penguin’s Song, capture the sense of isolation and the search for a lost love in the broken city of Beirut without getting caught up in the politics of post–civil war reconstruction. No Road to Heaven portrays the complex relations of individuals to religion, love, and passion in a context marked by traditions and customs.

Movie, TV Series, or Documentary

Movie: I Am Not Your Negro, directed by Raoul Peck. Focused on the novelist, playwright, and essayist James Baldwin, who passed away thirty years ago, the movie poses a profound meditation on the psychology of racial conflict in the United States and serves as an uncanny reflection on race relations today and the continued burden of history.

Music: Dorsaf Hamdani, a Tunisian singer with an astonishing voice who sings the songs of Barbara and Fayrouz in French and Arabic.