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. The full selection of reading lists is available here.
Lionel BarberEditor of the Financial Times
Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department by Dean Acheson. A gripping narrative built around America’s ascent to the pinnacle of power in the world and the establishment of the national security state. Those wise men from the east coast are in short supply today.
The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth. A bitter-sweet elegiac novel about the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Stunning prose that captures historian A. J. P. Taylor’s dictum that the Habsburg empire’s condition was “hopeless, but not serious.”
Home Country (United Kingdom)
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. Forget the shift to digital journalism, here is the unvarnished comic version of British newspaper reporting from the 1930s, featuring the anti-hero William Boot.Hilarious, irreverent, and right on the money.
Listening to The Velvet Underground.
Carl BildtFormer foreign minister of Sweden
Reading two very different books: The Fog of Peace by Jean-Marie Guéhenno (2015) on recent events and The Lombard Communes by W. F. Butler (1906) on somewhat more distant European troubles.
Home Country (Sweden)
Rereading Utvandrarna and Invandrarna (The Emigrants and The Immigrants) by Wilhelm Moberg, an epic sweep of novels on the exodus from Sweden to America in the nineteenth century.
A small pile of books on Balkan diplomacy as it unfurled two decades ago. To remember, revisit, and reevaluate . . .
Judy DempseyNonresident senior associate at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of Strategic Europe
Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada. First published in 1947, this is a powerful political novel about the tenants of a Berlin apartment block, each of whom finds his or her own way to deal with the cruelty and power of the Gestapo. The vulnerability and the choices made by each individual are just as relevant today, seventy years since the end of World War II.
Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams. A superbly written novel about the quest for freedom exemplified through hunting for buffalo. In the end, it is a quest that shatters dreams as the American way of life and the wild frontier changes.
Home Country (Ireland)
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann. With tremendous sympathy and ambiguity, McCann weaves history, narrative, and fiction—from British aviators Alcock and Brown flying across the Atlantic in 1919 to former U.S. senator George Mitchell’s noble efforts in forging the Good Friday peace deal in North Ireland in 1998.
I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. A spy novel narrated by an American agent who has to thwart a major terrorist attack on the United States and, in so doing, throws up big questions about terrorist motives, security, and loyalty.
Stratos PourzitakisPhD student at the Department of Government and International Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University, under the scholarship of the EU Academic Program in Hong Kong
By All Means Necessary by Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael Levi. The authors examine the impact of China’s quest for energy and natural resources. Beijing has initiated an unprecedented global campaign for resources, deploying whatever means it needs to satisfy the country’s thirst for economic growth. The authors provide a comprehensive analysis of Beijing’s strategy and offer clear insights into how that strategy has affected China and the wider world.
The Seventh Day by Chinese novelist Yu Hua. The main character, Yang Fei, is roaming in the land of the dead, meeting people from his past who are also dead and who, like him, cannot find peace. Adopting a complex yet interesting metaphor with a taste of black humor, Yu takes a critical position vis-à-vis modern China.
Home Country (Greece)
In his book Populism and Crisis Politics in Greece, Takis Pappas offers an excellent analysis of the Greek crisis. He traces its seeds in the prevalence of populism over liberalism after the fall of Greece’s military regime in 1974 and the reestablishment of Greek democracy. The book can serve as an excellent analytical tool not only to understand the events that led to the Greek crisis but also to determine ways to bring the country back to stability.
The Yunnan Cookbook: Recipes From China’s Land of Ethnic Diversity by Annabel Jackson and Linda Chia. The book includes 120 recipes from Yunnan as well as reflections from their travels to China’s southwestern province, portraits of people they met there, and a well-supported analysis of the roots and characteristics of Yunnan cuisine. Unfortunately, the book cannot be part of my PhD bibliography!