Time for Strategic Europe’s annual summer reading suggestions! Carnegie Europe has asked a cross section of diplomats, policymakers, and analysts to share their favorite books.
Hugo BradySenior research fellow, Center for European Reform
The Passage to Europe: How a Continent Became a Union by Luuk Van Middelaar. Perhaps the definitive book on the EU, and unusually well-written, by Herman Van Rompuy’s speechwriter. Van Middelaar is the new poster child for those who believe that the EU is destined neither to be a federal state nor to collapse in ignominy as a failed, ahistorical experiment.
The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa. The line “everything needs to change so that everything can stay the same” probably defines our time too, with reference to the eurozone crisis, the decline of the West, and Britain’s possible exit from the EU.
Book from your home country (Ireland)
Selected Poems by Patrick Kavanagh. Beloved of both rural and urban Ireland, Kavanagh—not Yeats—holds the key to the Irish heart, and the universal themes in his poems have stood the test of time far better. Read Bank Holiday: it’s breathtaking.
For my sins: A Journey: My Political Life by Tony Blair. The great seducer—the globalist liberal—still seduces me. A bit.
Caroline de GruyterJournalist, NRC Handelsblad
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber. A fascinating account of how mankind has coped with debt over many centuries: by making it part of the social fabric. The inescapable conclusion is that nowadays we deal with debt in a most narrow-minded way.
The Emperor’s Tomb by Joseph Roth. An intriguing unfinished novel about the aftermath of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire. An imperfect book, but more economically written than The Radetzky March. The reader keeps wondering which parts of our society, of our Europe, will survive this crisis.
Book from your home country (Netherlands)
Moeten wij van elkaar houden? (Should We Love Each Other?) by Bas Heijne. A powerful essay about the roots of populism, in which Heijne argues that populism is a rejection of all the ideals of the Enlightenment.
A pile of old New Yorker magazines during the summer vacation.
Patrick KellerForeign and security policy coordinator, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung
Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics by Stephen F. Knott. A sober and well-argued indictment of America’s intellectual elites—especially tenured professors—who rushed to falsely condemn the Bush administration as one of the worst (and most lawless) in U.S. history. The necessary first shot in what is sure to become a genre of its own: revisionist reappraisals of George W. Bush’s policies.
Ghost Story by Peter Straub. A literary horror classic you can always return to. Straub puts himself firmly in the tradition of Hawthorne and James, yet evokes a distinctly modern sense of place, time, and fear.
Book from your home country (Germany)
Angela Merkel: Die Kanzlerin und ihre Welt (Angela Merkel: The Chancellor and Her World) by Stefan Kornelius. An unusual biography of the most powerful woman in international politics, focusing on how her view of the world came together and how it influences her foreign policy making today. Concise, written in very accessible prose, and sound in its judgments.
Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young. Repetitive, often dull, always incoherent: this is a very bad autobiography. It is also the ultimate treat for fans, a book like a Neil Young guitar solo—highly original, stubborn, inspiring.
Michael PettisNonresident senior associate, Carnegie’s Asia Program
Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression, 1919–1939 by Barry Eichengreen. This is one of the best books on what may well be the most interesting time in history for anyone concerned with financial history, monetary policy, sovereign debt crises, geopolitical turmoil, or trade war—in short, for anyone interested in what is happening in the world today.
Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkuhn As Told by a Friend by Thomas Mann. The story of the slow, tortuous esthetic development of Adrian Leverkuhn, theologian turned composer, can be re-read any number of times without ever losing its impact.
Book from your home country (United States)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I have read this book perhaps a dozen times and can never get over the poetry and the sense of unbearable loss that fills every page. I haven’t seen the new movie, but from the previews I can tell you that they get the mood completely wrong.
Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud. I feel I am too old to love Rimbaud as much as I still do, so I always cover the book when I read it on the subway.
Radosław SikorskiPolish foreign minister
Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not For Turning by Charles Moore. A great read, offering some lessons from the life of a remarkable person, someone I greatly admire and whom I consider my political role model. A magnificent and monumental biography.
Lucky Bastard by Charles McCarry. Not a new release, but far from outdated. An interesting study of power, political influence, and intelligence operations. The story line abounds in the lead character’s encounters with attractive women. Written by one of the most talented American political novelists, this racy thriller rings true in many aspects. A phenomenal read.
Book from your home country (Poland)
Pakt Ribbentrop-Beck (A Ribbentrop-Beck Pact) by Piotr Zychowicz. Who doesn’t like alternative histories? Who doesn’t ask “what if” questions? What if Poland had acted differently shortly before World War II? What if our politicians had decided to act strongly against the Soviet Union, in a certain alliance? Would that have prevented the war from becoming global? (Not available in English.)
The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst. Warsaw in the late 1930s: a city oblivious to the annihilation that is to come. A perfect playground for Polish and foreign intelligence officers, friends and foes alike, fighting their behind-the-scenes battles as the devastating war looms on the horizon. . . . Fictitious but fits into the “what might have been” category.