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.

 

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

Fiction

Orpheo by Richard Powers. Powers’s intense interest in music moves to the clash of culture and freedom pre- and post-9/11.

Book from your home country (Ireland)

Ancient Light by John Banville. Set in Ireland in the 1950s, this is a book about a boy who has an affair with the mother of his best friend. Wonderful writing set in layers of deep affection, innocence, and guilt.

Recommendation for the EU’s next foreign policy chief

In Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture by George Steiner. Four remarkable essays on the profound ideological changes Europe has undergone since the French Revolution and what the destruction of the Judaic-Christian tradition means for Europe’s values.

Guilty pleasure

Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumal Hrabal. A gem, particularly as memories are short about dissidents’ lives under Communism. Hrabel, no longer alive, tells how his hero rescues books from the pulping mill with his irrepressible humor and dignity.

 

Steven ErlangerLondon bureau chief at the New York Times

Fiction

The Stories of Jane Gardam by Jane Gardam. A slightly uneven collection but piercing social observations of Englishness, sometimes satirical, sometimes heartbreaking.

Book from your home country (United States)

Redeployment by Phil Klay. The best fiction so far to come out of the failed American war in Iraq.

Recommendation for the EU’s next foreign policy chief

The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds. An insightful study of how World War I changed us.

Guilty pleasure

For fun, Ian Rankin novels of Scottish crime, given Scotland’s upcoming independence referendum; but for solace, Montaigne.

 

Samuel GreeneFounding director of the King’s Russia Institute at King’s College London

Fiction

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov. “Favorite” is a loose category when it comes to fiction, but Pnin will do for now. As an (albeit American) academic who just left Russia for the West, I thought Nabokov’s elegy to a Russian professor utterly stranded in middle America might strike a chord. I wasn’t wrong!

Book from your home country (United States)

Collected Stories by Saul Bellow. Bellow sums up America in the ardor of its aspirations and the glory of its failings, and the short-story form finds him at his finest. Perhaps America, too.

Recommendation for the EU’s next foreign policy chief

At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War by Michael Beschloss and Strobe Talbott. I’m tempted to say she (or he?) should pick up a copy of my new book, Moscow in Movement: Power and Opposition in Putin’s Russia, out in August from Stanford University Press. But better to dust off Beschloss and Talbott’s seminal anatomy of the end of the last Cold War, before we launch into a new one.

Guilty pleasure

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Rediscovering it as a bedtime book for my six-year-old, I find myself reading on and on, long after she’s fallen asleep. And learning something about Russian politics along the way.

 

Lina KhatibDirector of the Carnegie Middle East Center

Fiction

In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar. This beautifully written yet harrowing tale of life in Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya is a sharp reminder of why the Arab uprisings happened in the first place.

Book from your home country

I am British Lebanese so I really should be allowed to pick two books, but I will go for Heart of Beirut: Reclaiming the Bourj by Lebanese writer Samir Khalaf. I was fortunate to have Khalaf as a professor, and his writings on urban space and society in Lebanon and their mutual devastation as a result of the country’s civil war forever changed my understanding of cities and conflicts.

Recommendation for the EU’s next foreign policy chief

How Wars End: Why We Always Fight the Last Battle by Gideon Rose. This has been one of the sharpest and most inspiring analyses I have read on U.S. foreign policy. Although the book focuses on the United States, its thesis more generally shows how damaging the domestic and foreign consequences can be when a state or political entity keeps repeating the same foreign policy mistakes as its ego grows, especially when it doesn’t have internal or external checks on its behavior.

Guilty pleasure

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. This mind-expanding book should be recommended reading for anyone interested in management, as much for the inspiration and drive to “think different” as for how not to engage with fellow human beings.

 

David LidingtonUK minister for Europe

Fiction

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Striking prose, and a powerful narrative, from the father of African literature in English.

Book from your home country (United Kingdom)

State of Emergency: The Way We Were by Dominic Sandbrook. His perceptive and rollicking history of postwar Britain reaches the 1970s. Sandford does full justice to the influence of TV and rock music as well as to politics.

Recommendation for the EU’s next foreign policy chief

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–56 by Anne Applebaum. A reminder of how free societies were subverted and destroyed and how fragile our democratic institutions can be.

Guilty pleasure

Rudyard Kipling is an unfashionable author, but his short stories are some of the best in the English language. I defy anyone to read The Gardener—especially in this centennial of 1914—and not be moved.

 

Marc PieriniVisiting scholar at Carnegie Europe

Fiction

The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany, also available in French as L’Immeuble Yacoubian. A satire of Egyptian society after the rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser, with a subtle critique of the country’s political system. Al Aswany’s most recent novel, Automobile Club d’Égypte (Egyptian Automobile Club, English version not yet published), is a satire of Egyptian society under the monarchy that preceded the Nasser revolution.

Book from your home country (France)

Les secrets de la mer Rouge (The Secrets of the Red Sea) by Henry de Monfreid is the first autobiographical novel of a man who left everything behind in France to take part in various trafficking activities in the Red Sea in the 1910s and 1920s. True and real adventures in a historical context.

Recommendation for the EU’s next foreign policy chief

My Grandmother: A Memoir by Fethiye Çetin (also available in French as Le livre de ma grand-mère). The heartbreaking story of a Turkish woman (the author) who discovers late that her grandmother was an Armenian Christian who had escaped the 1915 genocide and had been adopted by a Turkish Muslim family. This type of story was an absolute taboo in Turkish society until very recently. A second recommendation is The Caucasus: An Introduction by Thomas de Waal. As the title says, this is an introduction to a region with an immensely complex geography and history.

Guilty pleasure

Kamal Jann by Dominique Eddé. The saga of a Syrian-Lebanese clan deeply involved in power and spy games. The concluding words say it all: “Death is always a solution. What don’t you try life meanwhile?”