People in foreign policy have a hard, but glamorous life. Freed, for the most part, from the tedious duties of law-making, their days are spent juggling the latest crisis, reacting to breaking news, and rushing from one conflict hot spot to the next. The relentless flow of events around the globe keeps them on edge 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and rare are the moments that a dyed-in-the-wool international affairs junkie can sit down, take a deep breath, and reflect. Foreign policy, it is said, is 99 percent improvisation, and 1 percent inspiration.

This romantic image of the foreign policy community is, of course, a caricature, but it breeds the inevitable question: what about that 1 per cent? How do they get inspired when they are not wired? Which, in turn, leads to the inevitable question: what are they reading?

In the summer of 2012, Carnegie Europe asked international men and women of mystery what was on their reading lists for their off-duty time. Twenty-one of them replied, and their answers provide a fascinating and inspiring literary panorama. It is a valuable seismograph of what the world is concerned about, and how foreign policy analysts and practitioners try to find guidance in hectic times. It also allows a glimpse into the personalities behind the recommendations. The Strategic Europe Summer Reading List was published in five installments in July and August of 2012 on Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe. This document compiles all recommendations in one handy volume. We hope it will serve as an inspiration to all interested in books and the world—and the hard life of foreign policy practitioners.

Merete Bildepolicy advisor, European External Action Service

Foreign Policy

I'm reading The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East by Marc Lynch.

Other Non-fiction

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Fiction

I don't have time for fiction.

Guilty Pleasure

Marie Claire or How to sheng fui your life.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger.... still not through it.

Hugo Bradysenior research fellow, Centre for European Reform

Foreign Policy

Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoğlu and James Robinson.

The best book that I have read so far this year and possibly for a number of years (am almost finished—it's quite long). Acemoglu and Robinson seek the holy grail of international relations: Why do some countries succeed and others fail? They reveal the answer with understated elegance and almost frightening intellectual rigor. Of course you can quibble with parts of their analysis. For example, they rightly point out that religion is no indicator of potential prosperity but fail to explain why no protestant country is poor. Nonetheless, it really is a magisterial effort. Favorite bits include the discussion on Zimbabwe and analysis of the limitations of development aid. Made me feel like a big baby for complaining that the subject of my last research paper (the Schengen area) was "too difficult and broad" to write about. All credit to Daniel Korski for putting this book in my path.

Other Non-fiction

The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age by Simon Schama.

I have long been fascinated by the Dutch and their history. My choice here is very much indicative of why I found Why Nations Fail so interesting. How did a small country which should, by rights, be mostly underwater, go from being the embattled home of a small religious sect to fighting off two world empires, taking over a third, and establishing the first truly capitalist nation? Simon Schama has become more famous for other things since this book was published but I think this is his most original and intellectually serious work.

Fiction

Flashman at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser.

If you have not yet made the acquaintance of Sir Harry Flashman—a sort of Victorian James Bond—give the first novel (Flashman) a try. They are hilariously funny, beautifully written, and meticulously researched. For example, in Flashman and the Tiger, I learned that more people were killed in China's Taiping Rebellion in the late 19th century than in the entire First World War. These are facts we may all learn to appreciate better in a post-Western-centric world. This is my main beach book: It's set against the backdrop of the Crimean War. There's an unconfirmed rumor that Michael Fassbender, the German-Irish actor of Inglourious Basterds and Shame, has signed up to play Sir Harry in a forthcoming film. Can someone please, please confirm it?

Guilty Pleasure

Dracula by Bram Stoker.

People seem to silently judge me when I say this, but I've always loved the novel, Dracula. It's a great mix of a unique structure, historical research, chilling imagery, and good old-fashioned Irish story-telling. The author was Irish, like myself, and also a bit political: He was a lifelong believer in a limited independence for Ireland within the British empire. (I really wish he had lived long enough to write a sequel, it might have spared us all those hammer films in the 1960s and 1970s.) I'm just not odd enough to take Dracula to the beach, but I may well settle down with it with some quiet evening in August, when Brussels is deserted and quiet and even spookier than usual....

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.

Judy Dempseynonresident senior associate, Carnegie Europe; editor-in-chief, Strategic Europe

Foreign Policy

Trust and Violence: An Essay on a Modern Relationship by Jan Philipp Reemtsma. It is a very complex book and I still think very pessimistic analysis about the interplay of violence and torture and power over the centuries. You really sense the fragility of human nature.

Other Non-fiction

Political Corruption in Ireland 1922-2010, A Crooked Harp? by Elaine Byrne. After reading this, I concluded that Ireland's economic crisis and Angela Merkel's tough medicine dosed out to the Irish would finally put an end to the endemic corruption and patronage.

Fiction

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje. A real gem of a sea voyage from Sri Lanka to England, as told through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy.

River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh. Am really getting into this epic tale.

Canada by Richard Ford. Told through the eyes of a teenager. I thought it fell away towards the end. Beautifully written.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

The Spy who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré. Started re-reading his Cold War novels. Still captivating.

Steven Erlanger Paris 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.

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.

Jacqueline Halesenior policy analyst at the Open Society Institute - Brussels

Foreign Policy

I'm reading David Keen Useful Enemies: When Waging Wars Is More Important Than Winning Them. A great book about why wars last so long, and the political, economic, and psychological reasons that make warring parties more interested in fighting than brokering a peace.

Other Non-fiction

I'm reading Nicholas Carr The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember. This is a book for convinced luddites who have an occasional interest in pop-neuroscience. I love it! Its central thesis is that the internet is remoulding our brains and making us unable to sit still long enough to think about complex ideas. Quite a scary take on evolutionary ‘progress’ and appropriate for a holiday without the joy of twitter and emails!

Fiction

Jack Kerouac On the Road. I always meant to read it and am reading it now for inspiration as I’m going on a long trip! Some great purple prose, you can almost smell the desert highways and taste the dust in the Midwest air.

Guilty Pleasure

Mark Forsyth Etymologicon. A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language. Hilarious and irreverent. It is about the origins of words and highlights the connections between California and the Caliphate, and between Bread and Sex.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

George Orwell Down and Out in Paris and London. One of my favourites. Orwell has so much to say that is appropriate to our age. It’s an insight into poverty (and dignity) and how poor people are agents rather than recipients of hand-outs. A strangely uplifting book about a depressing subject.

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

This 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 Keohanehead of strategic affairs at FRIDE, Brussels

Foreign Policy

I'm reading Robert D. Kaplan Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, a compelling history of the Indian Ocean explaining why this area may determine the future of the world.

Other Non-fiction

I'm reading Tom Holland In the Shadow of the Sword. Following his sweeping histories of the Roman and Persian empires (Rubicon and Persian Fire), Tom Holland turns his attention to the Islamic origins and rise of the Arab empire from the seventh century onwards.

Fiction

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, an historical novel exploring the relationship between Danton, Desmoulins, and Robespierre—a must for anyone interested in the personalities and complexities of the French Revolution.

Guilty Pleasure

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly, This Champagne Mojito is the Last Thing I Own, a well-known cult fictional character in Ireland who epitomises the stereotype of a well-off South Dublin rugby fan, truly hilarious depiction of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

L'Étranger by Albert Camus.

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.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

Anything by John le Carré.

Jonas Parello-Plesnersenior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations

Foreign Policy

Well, foreign policy in Europe has sadly been reduced to economics during the euro crisis so some of the reading will be Le réveil des démons: La crise de l'euro et comment nous en sortir by Jean Pisani-Ferry and Europa braucht den Euro nicht: Wie uns politisches Wunschdenken in die Krise geführt hat by Thilo Sarrazin.

Other Non-fiction

I’m reading Rebecca MacKinnon’s book Consent of the networked, a strong and well-argued plea for internet freedom not just in authoritarian states but also in Western liberal democracies where new versions of censorship and curtailment of free speech are popping up. I picked it mainly for Rebecca’s insight on China—a shared interest but the broader arguments are very compelling as well making one think about everything from one’s internet provider to the choice between Facebook and Google plus when it comes to privacy settings (I have gone for the latter).

On my kindle, I have also just bought, Parag and Ayesha Khanna’s new e-book Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization that I look forward to reading over the summer.

Fiction

Haruki Murakami is a favorite and, unfortunately, I have just finished his latest, the 1Q84 trilogy. It was a wonderful and compelling universe that I would have wanted to have stayed longer in.

Right now, I’m reading Christian Jungersen Du forsvinder. A great Danish writer whose previous book, The Exception got critical acclaim including in the New York Times and got translated into many languages. I hope the new one will as well. It is the story about a man that suffers from a brain tumor, which completely changes his personality and is a terrifying narrative about what—if anything—actually constitutes our unique identity and if there is anything innate in us beyond our brain and neurophysiology.

Guilty Pleasure

Donald Duck with my son.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

Munro Leaf The Story of Ferdinand—the bull that didn’t want to fight.

Jamie Sheadeputy assistant secretary general for Emerging Security Challenges, NATO

Foreign Policy

All the Missing Souls by David Sheffer.

David Sheffer was the U.S. ambassador-at-large for War Crimes during the Clinton administration and I worked with him closely during the Kosovo crisis in 1999. He has written a superb and personal memoir about war crimes in the late 20th century and about the difficult, even tortuous process of establishing the war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the International Criminal Court. What makes the book remarkable is the mixture of great analysis and personal anecdotes and Sheffer's unflagging efforts to overcome objections within his own government as well as within the United Nations community more generally.

Other Non-fiction

The Second World War by Antony Beevor.

There are thousands of books on the Second World War and even with growing historical distance, the number of new productions never seems to flag. This said, Beevor's book is a great read because he tells this familiar story with panache also from the perspective of those caught up in this dreadful cataclysm, both the soldiers and civilians. Even those people who think they know their history will find plenty of new facts and original observations to sustain their interest.

Fiction

Suite Française by Irène Némirovski.

The classic portrait of France in the dreadful summer of 1940, with thousands on the roads fleeing South from the advancing German army. Némirovski wonderfully depicts the egotism and pettiness of human nature once society starts to collapse and people are put under pressure. But she shows the generous side as well. Apart from being a wonderfully historical document, Suite Française is also a powerful reminder to us that civilization and its stabilizing benefits are fragile and that we need to be eternally vigilant not to let the jungle back into Europe.

Guilty Pleasure

Tottenham Hotspur Fixture List for the 2012-2013 Season.

The celebrated former manager of Liverpool, Bill Shankley, once said, "some people think that football is a matter of life and death; but it is much more important than that". The week in Brussels may be fun and full of interesting political events but nothing beats escaping to London on the Eurostar on a Saturday afternoon to sit on the terraces of White Hart Lane and watch my beloved Spurs. Lots of legendary contests against Arsenal, Chelsea, and Man U, to look forward to, and this season even against our old rivals West Ham who are fortunately back in the Premiership.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.

As an old timer who remembers the Cold War, I still find this one of the best evocations of life under Communism. At the same time, I am always trying to improve my knowledge of foreign languages and I have now read this novel in so many different languages and got to know the text so well, that it gives me the illusion that my foreign language skills are better than they really are. Have not been able to try it in the original Czech yet, however.

Olga Shumylo-Tapiolavisiting scholar, Carnegie Europe

Foreign Policy

Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright. More than just a political memoir, it’s a unique combination of an American dream coming true, the challenges faced by a professional woman in top-level positions, and very sharp personal and political portraits of leaders.

Other Non-fiction

The Branch of Sakura and The Roots of an Oak-Tree by Vsevolod Ovchinnikov, a famous former political journalist. A two-part book about Japan and England, as one may guess from the title, it provides a delightful insight into Japanese and British cultures, traditions, and lives through the prism of Soviet eyes.

Planning to start Masha Gessen’s The Man Without a Face - one of the latest and perhaps most daring books on Vladimir Putin.

Fiction

The Spinoza Problem by a wonderful American psychologist named Irvin Yalom. Two parallel stories of Baruch Spinoza, a genius from the Age of Enlightenment and Alfred Rosenberg, a demon and intellectually influential member of the Nazi Party that get constantly intertwined. A good read, close to my favorite is When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin Yalom.

To be followed by Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun and Lawrence Durrell’s The Avignon Quintet.

Guilty Pleasure

Shantaram, a 900-page novel by Gregory David Roberts. His take on India and its people is what really makes me invest time in reading this lengthy book.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

Yasunari Kawabata’s novel Thousand Cranes for its tenderness, allusions, and search for beauty and Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, love at first sight.

Ulrich Speckeditor, Global Europe

Foreign Policy

In The World America Made, Robert Kagan argues against the declinist view of American power. Obama has praised the book, and Kagan is listed among Romney’s foreign policy advisors. A good reminder that Washington is determined to shape the twenty-first century—with or without Europe on its side.

Other Non-fiction

For centuries maritime Britain was a key player in the Mediterranean, so Robert Holland’s Blue-Water Empire: the British in the Mediterranean since 1800 looks like it could be a great help in understanding what makes London's foreign policy tick, even today.

Fiction

The Japanese writer Haruki Murakami is to the novel what Hayao Miyazaki is to the movie: he is moving us into that fantastic universe which is just one step behind our rather ordinary world. Only that they still know how to get there, and take us with them. Murakami’s latest novel is called 1Q84.

Guilty Pleasure

If you’ve started once with Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and have continued with Eric Ambler, you will probably love the sinister world of Michael Connelly. It’s of course good vs evil, detective vs killer, virtue vs sin, in a monochrome universe, beyond redemption. His latest page-turner in a long series is The Drop.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws deserves to be studied a lifetime, as the Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu distillates the political knowledge of the classic world for us moderns—and warns us against hubris.

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, volumes 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.

Jan Techaudirector, Carnegie Europe

Foreign Policy

The New North by Laurence Smith. The climate shifts, and so do global growth and power. The north, once more, looks like the winner. Written by a geographer, so it’s solid analysis, not the usual punditry.

Other Non-fiction

Geschichte des Westens by Heinrich August Winkler. Opus magnum on the history of the West by Germany’s pre-eminent historian. History as great story-telling.

Fiction

The Maigret novels by George Simenon. The setting is from an era just recently gone by, but how Simenon dissects human aspiration, folly, and failure, is for eternity. And they are all very short, too…

Guilty Pleasure

Jeeves and Wooster by P.G. Wodehouse. What, ho – great, wonderful, heartening stuff. To be read anywhere, all the time.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. For me this has all the magic of American fiction. Behind the pastoral quaintness lies human longing—and the nervous restlessness of a country on the verge of modernity. Beats most of Hemingway hands down.

Sylke Tempeleditor-in-chief, Internationale Politik

Foreign Policy

Jonathan Fenby, Tiger Head, Snake Tails—neither overly enthusiastic nor prone to doomsday scenarios, Fenby manages a paradox: he provides a sober account of China’s breathtaking development.

Other Non-fiction

In the Shadow of the Sword, Tom Holland—supposedly a history of early Islam plus biography of the prophet describing the "Battle for global empire and the end of the ancient world"—really a most elegantly written tour the force thru Persian, Jewish, Byzantine, Arab religious, and political history.

Fiction

Nicole Krauss, Great House. After The History of Love, another wonderful, warmhearted novel by Krauss. Leaves me with one question: How can a person that young be that wise?

Guilty Pleasure

It is rather an envy pleasure: The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitfords, about the life of Hons, the difference between Us and Non-Us (Upperclass and non upperclass) and the necessity of "run-away-money". I wish I was a subject of the Queen (U, of course) and yes: rule Britannia.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

Hannah Arendts letters and anything by Isaiah Berlin and Karl Popper.

Kurt VolkerSenior fellow and managing director of the Center on Transatlantic Relations, Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies

Foreign Policy

The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service, by Henry A. Crumpton. Hank Crumpton was a friend and colleague in the State Department. I knew about his role in Afghanistan, but never asked about his career before that. Apart from the riveting stories, there are two great things about this book. First, he demonstrates that the gritty work of intelligence is an honorable pursuit when anchored in supporting core human values. Second, he expects people in high positions to show leadership. Refreshing.

Other Non-fiction

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson. Having grown up outside Philadelphia, Franklin was already a hometown hero. But this biography really puts into relief Franklin's extraordinary leadership qualities—industriousness, determination, creativity, cunning, humor, and rock solid commitment to human values without being a prude. To paraphrase Isaacson, he's the founding father who you'd most like to have a beer with, and if he were alive in the 2000s, he would have invented the iPhone, had Steve Jobs not already done so.

Fiction

Though I would love to, I haven't read a great fiction book for a while, so I'll go with another non-fiction: Ian Bremmer's Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World. I admire Ian and think this is a terrific book, but I see the world very differently. For me, the world is measured in the irrepressible advancement of human freedom and human development, of which the United States has been a leader for two centuries. I don't believe in declinism—even relative—because the real story is the rise of humanity, which continues apace even as measures of global political economy power shift. The United States doesn't lose standing, but gains a better world.

Guilty Pleasure

Any of the Jeeves stories by P.G. Wodehouse.

A Classic, or Book You Always Return to

Every once in a while, I go back to Henry Kissinger's Years of Upheaval and read the chapter on the "Year of Europe". Great reminder that while it seems like things have changed, they really haven't.

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.