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

Nonfiction

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.

Fiction

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.

Guilty pleasure

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

Nonfiction

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.

Fiction

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.

Guilty pleasure

A pile of old New Yorker magazines during the summer vacation.

 

Judy DempseyNonresident senior associate and editor in chief of Strategic Europe, Carnegie Europe

Nonfiction

Warped Mourning: Stories of the Undead in the Land of the Unburied by Alexander Etkind. This is a fascinating and haunting study of how successive Kremlin leaders and the intelligentsia have explained the Gulag and Stalin’s crimes. There is no confrontation of the past that the Germans have undertaken. Putin’s attempts to close down the international civil rights society Memorial show his unwillingness—and fear—about opening this long and ignominious chapter of Russia’s history.

Fiction

Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier. This is very special novel that throws open a window on Salazar’s Portugal.

Book from your home country (Ireland)

The Dalkey Archive by Flann O’Brien (alias Myles na Gopaleen). I can’t resist going back to this—it’s completely irreverent and just so funny. I hope his wit, humor, and musings are accessible.

Guilty pleasure

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. This boundless tale—fiction, politics, and history all in one—takes the reader through the twentieth century with an irrepressible optimism in human nature and little time for the arrogance of power.

 

Steven ErlangerParis bureau chief, soon to be London bureau chief, New York Times

Nonfiction

Assassins of the Turquoise Palace by Roya Hakakian. A deep look at the murders in Berlin, ordered by Ayatollah Khomeini, of Iranians opposed to the Islamic Revolution. Hakakian examines the roots of the regime as well as the reaction to the murders by Germany, which was dragged into providing justice.

Fiction

All That I Am by Anna Funder. The story of the London murders of political opponents of Hitler, fictionalized with elegance by the author of Stasiland.

Book from your home country (United States)

Anything by James Salter, who has just published another novel: All That Is.

Guilty pleasure

Capital by John Lanchester. A very enjoyable Balzac-wannabe novel about booming London, spun from the tales of those living and working on a street of overvalued houses.

 

Florence GaubSenior analyst, EU Institute for Security Studies

Nonfiction

Daughter Of The Desert: The Remarkable Life Of Gertrude Bell by Georgina Howell. The story of Gertrude Bell never ceases to inspire me. She was a smart, unmarried, determined woman exploring the Middle East under impossible conditions, which is why I like to think of her as my spiritual mentor.

Fiction

Beirut Blues by Hanan al-Shaykh. Set against the Lebanese civil war, this novel takes the reader into the hearts and minds of a population torn apart by war and conflict. It made me fall in love with Lebanon even more.

Book from your home country

As I have two home countries, I suggest two books.

France: Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies’ Delight or The Ladies’ Paradise) by Emile Zola. Zola’s greatest talent consists of building a parallel universe you can lose yourself in for months, only to emerge sad over the loss of your characters once the novel is over. In his typical Darwinistic way, Zola depicts the emergence of Parisian department stores in the nineteenth century and takes a modern, critical look at female shopping addiction.

Germany: Das kunstseidene Mädchen (The artificial silk girl) by Irmgard Keun. Keun is probably one of the most underrated German authors, partly due to the fact that she wrote little and drank a lot. This novel, written in 1932, is so amusing, modern, yet sad that it doesn’t feel in the least outdated.

Guilty pleasure

The Green Book by Muammar Qaddafi. Not intended as a fiction book, this is truly the work of a fantastic mind.

 

Misha GlennyAuthor and broadcaster

Nonfiction

Money: The Unauthorized Biography by Felix Martin. Thanks to Martin, a broadly educated but deep thinker, we know now exactly who to blame for recurrent historical mistakes and who not to. Beautifully written for the specialist and nonspecialist alike, full of surprises and illumination.

Fiction

Trieste by Dasa Drndic. A marvellously taut retelling by a very gifted Croatian writer of the deportation of Trieste’s Jews.

Book from your home country (UK)

The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century by Peter Watson. I can almost forgive the unwieldy subtitle because this is such a stunning explanation of the intellectual greatness of a country whose achievements were utterly eclipsed by its subsequent political failure. Unputdownable history.

Guilty pleasure

Daemon by Daniel Suarez—one of the greatest thrillers of the digital age. My second choice: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran—just super, witty modern writing with real insight.

 

Ulrike GuérotSenior policy fellow and head of the Berlin office, European Council on Foreign Relations

Nonfiction

The Vertigo Years: Change and Culture in the West, 1900–1914 by Philipp Blom. This remarkable book catches history in a very unusal way. It is not about high politics, but about people’s feelings—and their fears, especially with regard to modernization, technological innovations, and societal changes. It’s a bottom-up book that basically tells you that the things we love and hate are astonishingly stable, whereas systems and regimes come and go!

Fiction

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Above all, this is the best English I have ever read: short, breathtaking sentences that capture millions of moments in just a few words. A very sad and beautiful story about a life that apparently has no goal other than to be.

Book from your home country (Germany)

Kürzere Tage (Shorter Days) by Anna Katharina Hahn. Set in bourgeois Stuttgart, this may be a very German novel about female lifestyle choices in modern Germany, but for anybody who has raised children in Germany while working, it is a very compelling story.

Guilty pleasure

Böse Schafe by Katja Lange-Müller. A touching story about a woman in 1980s West Berlin. A beautiful, loving encounter leads to a life that looks like a failure and a permanent struggle for survival, but probably isn’t.

 

Patrick KellerForeign and security policy coordinator, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

Nonfiction

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.

Fiction

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.

Guilty pleasure

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.

 

David LidingtonUK minister for Europe

Nonfiction

Millennium by Tom Holland (published in the United States as The Forge of Christendom). Holland combines rigorous scholarship with vivid narrative prose of a kind you usually only get from a top novelist. This book is a perfect cure for anyone so misguided as to think medieval history is dull reading, and tells the story of a vitally important stage in the shaping of Europe.

Fiction

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. This is a tale of physical, mental, and social imprisonment that has a sharp relevance today. The Circumlocution Office still lives in London and Brussels and naive investors are still duped by financial con artists like Mr. Merdle. Throughout, you sense Dickens’s joy in characterization and in both the inventiveness and the ambiguity of the English language.

Book from your home country (UK)

The New Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250–1950 by Helen Gardner (ed.). This really speaks for itself. If I lost every other book in the world, this is the one to which I would cling.

Guilty pleasure

C.J. Samsom’s Shardlake novels. Detective stories set in mid-Tudor England. He’s done his homework bringing the period to life and keeps you turning the pages. Start with the first in the series: Dissolution.

 

Jonas Parello-PlesnerSenior policy fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations

Nonfiction

I’m running happily through the pages of my former colleague Ben Judah’s excellent book Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin. Stagnant Putinism will be Russia’s decline, Judah predicts.

On my Kindle, I’m clicking through David Shambaugh’s China Goes Global: Partial Power, a well-crafted and insightful account of modern China’s foreign policy.

Fiction

The Music of Chance by Paul Auster. This remains a favorite with its powerful and cutting narrative that runs as smoothly as a straight line.

Book from your home country (Denmark)

I enjoy reading Peter Høeg, who has a masterful command of the Danish language. Don’t delve into Høeg through Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne (Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow), which was an international hit, but rather through Fortællinger om natten (Tales of the Night), which has Karen Blixen moments with sentences as beautiful as scenic landscapes.

Guilty pleasure

I am reading guidebooks to Washington, D.C., since my family and I will relocate there in August. With my Danish-speaking sons, I read the The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss to train their English—and to be entertained about feline mischief.

 

Thomas PaulsenExecutive director for international affairs, Körber Foundation

Nonfiction

Regional Disorder: The South China Sea Disputes by Sarah Raine and Christian Le Mière. Raine and Le Mière offer a compelling summary of one of the most important conflicts in Asian regional security. In the last section they map out four possible scenarios for how the conflict could evolve. A must-read for anyone dealing with Asian security issues and the great power conflict between China and the United States.

Fiction

The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany. In his best-selling (and taboo-breaking) 2002 novel, Al Aswany—later an active supporter of the Tahrir Square revolution—reveals the darker aspects of pre-revolutionary Egypt: violence, corruption, bigoted sexual morals, and a brutal class society. Against the backdrop of current developments in Egypt, The Yacoubian Building makes for an even more intriguing and unsettling read.

Book from your home country (Germany)

Die Diktatur der Demokraten: Warum ohne Recht kein Staat zu machen ist (Dictatorship of the Democrats) by Juli Zeh. Zeh, an acclaimed German novelist and legal scholar, recently published her first non-fiction book. Taking postconflict mechanisms in the Balkans as an example, she makes the case for improving the legal basis of international state-building missions. Democracy promotion will fail if its legal basis is fundamentally flawed. A provocative read! (Only available in German.)

Guilty pleasure

Asterix and the Black Gold by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. The Gaulish heroes are sent to the Middle East in search of a vital ingredient for Getafix’s magic potion: petroleum! Asterix and the Black Gold is full of brilliant ironic stabs at the oil industry and the intricacies of Middle Eastern politics.

 

Michael PettisNonresident senior associate, Carnegie’s Asia Program

Nonfiction

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.

Fiction

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.

Guilty pleasure

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.

 

Marc PieriniVisiting scholar, Carnegie Europe

Nonfiction

Dining with al-Qaeda: Three Decades Exploring the Many Worlds of the Middle East by Hugh Pope. A voyage through the convulsions of the Middle and Near East by an experienced journalist turned foreign policy analyst. You don’t dine with al-Qaeda on each and every page, though.

Fiction

Silk by Alessandro Baricco. This is a tiny book, yet one that takes the reader on an eerie voyage from France to Japan in the nineteenth century. Hard to imagine before reading it that so few pages can create such an imaginative journey.

Book from your home country

From my first home country (France): Rue des Voleurs (Street of Thieves) by Mathias Enard. This novel, which straddles Morocco and Spain, offers an impossible love story against the background of the Arab Spring.

From my “second home country” (Turkey): The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk. This is a big book, as Pamuk likes them, and a minute depiction of the Istanbul bourgeoisie of the 1970s together with a poignant (and multiple) love story. Captures the imagination and triggers some good laughs, too.

Guilty pleasure

Panique à Bamako (Panic in Bamako) by Gérard de Villiers. A spy novel, this author’s 195th (!), so well-informed that you could read the events of January 2013 back in September 2012. I’m not a big fan of the more graphic parts of the book, as de Villiers has a distinct tendency to copy-paste this feature of his novels.

 

Jamie SheaDeputy assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges, NATO

Nonfiction

The Lights that Failed and The Triumph of the Dark, both by Zara Steiner. These two volumes trace European history from the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. They are a tour de force and, to my mind, the best account of Europe in the interwar years. Steiner has a great talent for assessing how one event impacts on another as she does not pull her punches when assigning political and moral responsibility for statesmen’s failures. But she also shows that the interwar years were not simply an interlude between one great war and another. The 1920s in particular were a time of great innovation in diplomacy, disarmament, science, technology, and social welfare, which could have led to a very different era had it not been for the Great Depression and the rise of the dictators.

Fiction

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks and Regeneration by Pat Barker. The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War will soon be upon us, so this is a good time to re-read two of the best novels dealing with life in the trenches on the Western Front. Both are great feats of historical recreation where attention to detail is skillfully meshed with very moving stories of the individuals caught up in this great conflagration.

Guilty pleasure

The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War by Lara Feigel. Feigel recounts the lives and loves of a group of well-known literary figures who stayed in London during the Blitz in 1940. Even while death, devastation, fear, and chaos reign all around them, these writers still find time for highly intensive love affairs and bouts of literary activity. Feigel shows how even the worst of human experiences can inject a curious energy and passion for life in all of us, and how chaos can be strangely liberating from the conventions of normal life. The book is beautifully written and reminds us that today’s e-mails and tweets are no substitute for revealing yourself in the exacting prose of letter writing.

 

Radosław SikorskiPolish foreign minister

Nonfiction

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.

Fiction

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.)

Guilty pleasure

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.

 

Julianne SmithFormer deputy national security adviser to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden

Nonfiction

Wild by Cheryl Strayed, because I always dream of putting on a pair of hiking boots and hitting the trail.

Fiction

The Book of Jonas by my friend Stephen Dau (a Brussels resident). Fantastic writing and well-suited for those working on national security.

Book from your home country (United States)

Giving a shout out to my dear friend Amy Stolls for her outstanding second book The Ninth Wife. A delightful summer read that is both touching and hysterically funny.

Guilty pleasure

Back issues of Bon Appétit magazine because I love to cook (and finally have the time now to do so).

 

Peter SpiegelBrussels bureau chief, Financial Times

Nonfiction

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll. The kind of book that I always wanted to write myself: a work of deeply reported journalism that reads like a novel, complete with spies, warlords, and superpower intrigue.

Fiction

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. Another journalist who brings his reporting eye to make fiction read like literature. Is there a better insight, in fact or fiction, into Manhattan’s sometimes combustible interplay of class, race, and religion?

Book from your home country (United States)

What It Takes: The Way to the White House by Richard Ben Cramer. The political book to end all political books—and everything modern campaign writing should be, but isn’t: nuanced, insightful, and compelling, with fully drawn and surprisingly sympathetic portraits of some of the United States’ most important but underappreciated leaders of the last century: Bob Dole, Joe Biden, George H.W. Bush.

Guilty pleasure

Early works by Tom Clancy, especially The Hunt for Red October, The Cardinal of the Kremlin, or Red Storm Rising. Spies, Soviets, nuclear brinkmanship. Ah, to be Cold Warriors again . . .

 

Stephen SzaboExecutive director, Transatlantic Academy

Nonfiction

Bismarck: A Life by Jonathan Steinberg and Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947 by Christopher Clark. Both superb treatments of the making of modern Germany.

Fiction

A Delicate Truth by John le Carré. While le Carré has moved from gray to black-and-white, he can still write a gripping story and portray characters and the changing techiques and nature of international espionage better than anyone else writing today. In this book, he focuses on security as a case study for the implications of privatization in an era of globalized markets.

Book from your home country (United States)

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If the new movie brings readers back to this wondeful novel, it will have been worth the cost. This remains the quintessential novel about the American Dream and the lessons from the original gilded age for the current era. Fitzgerald’s prose is still unmatched, and his simultaneous repulsion and attraction to wealth—as well as his romanticism—are compelling.

Guilty pleasure

The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell. The last of the Wallander novels and a gripping beach book for foreign policy addicts.

 

Jan TechauDirector, Carnegie Europe

Nonfiction

The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz. A classic from the early 1950s that, shamefully, I have discovered only lately. A razor-sharp, disillusioning analysis of why intellectuals so often fall for totalitarian ideas.

Fiction

The Maigret novels by Georges Simenon. Each one is an X-ray view of the human condition.

Book from your home country (Germany)

Theodor Heuss by Peter Merseburger. The long-overdue biography of West Germany’s first president. One of Germany’s few genuine liberals and a hero of mine, Heuss arguably shaped the young Federal Republic just as much as Konrad Adenauer, but is largely forgotten today.

Guilty pleasure

Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro. Yes, this is straight-out tacky chick lit, but it is also an ur-American tale of reinvention and self-improvement, in this case through learning a thing or two about why elegance is more important than beauty.

 

Alexandros YannisPolicy coordinator, European External Action Service

Nonfiction

The End of Power by Moisés Naím. Naím’s neo-Hobbesian approach to the current challenges of power is original and thought-provoking.

Fiction

Balthasar’s Odyssey by Amin Maalouf. A nostalgic Mediterranean adventure by one of the last polymaths of our time.

Book from your home country (Greece)

Aesop’s Fables. What else?

Guilty pleasure

Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky. This book wonderfully merges geography, history, adventure, and imagination to make it the perfect holiday companion.