Rosa BalfourSenior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States

Politics or history
The book I have been quoting most often recently—and receiving nods of recognition from those who have read it—is Peter Mair’s Ruling the Void about how the decline of political parties has hollowed out democracy in the West. It is an enlightening study and a must-read for anyone trying to understand the quagmire of Western politics.

Tony Judt is one of those historians I like to read over and over again. Written in Vienna in the mid-1990s, his essay on Europe, A Grand Illusion?, prophetically captures some of the historical legacies that Europe is struggling with today.

Fiction
Anyone reading this blog must read Chimera, a brilliant dystopian political thriller set in our times and dealing with our fears, the first novel by my friend Alexandros Yannis. I also like to devour gripping tomes that glue one to the sunbed, such as Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. My (not guilty) pleasure, as I travel south toward the Mediterranean, is to read the latest Montalbano story by Andrea Camilleri. His vivid flavors and colors of Sicily mark my transition toward the summer.

Movie, documentary, or podcast
I would like to suggest a break from screens. Failing that goal, I recommend watching Citizen Kane again—widely considered the best film ever. I would like to find out how it is relevant today.

Judy DempseyNonresident Senior Fellow at Carnegie Europe and Editor in Chief of Strategic Europe

Politics or history
Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain by Fintan O’Toole. After reading this trenchant analysis, I wondered why the UK ever joined the EU. O’Toole has fascinating insights into English paranoia about Europeans, especially the Germans—and now the Irish. After reading it, I’m so glad that Ireland is in the EU, whatever becomes of Brexit.

Moscow, 1937 by Karl Schlögel. This is a monumental tribute to memory, the forgotten, the innocent, and the accused (and often the perpetrators) who ended up in the dock during the tumultuous year of 1937. This great German historian takes you along an immense, complex, and emotional narrative of the cultural, political, and ideological struggles that took place under Stalin during the late 1930s.

Fiction
My number one is The Goose Fritz by Sergei Lebedev. It’s so special. It’s about how the relationship between a grandmother and her grandson unfolds beautifully in the German cemetery just outside Moscow. During these visits, the past is revealed to Kirill, the narrator. Slowly, Kirill traces the choices made by his German ancestors, some of whom moved to Catherine the Great’s Russia. It’s an intense novel. Its enduring quality is the discovery of memory, the past, and the tribulations of the extraordinarily complicated relationship between Germans and Russians.

Can I sneak in Ian McEwan’s The Children Act? This is a great novel that combines the legal, emotional, ethical, and religious tensions of a lawyer protecting a teenager torn between dogmatism and wanting to live. And McEwan’s newly published Machines Like Me. Not wanting to give it away, it’s about a shambolic young man who buys a synthetic human. The setting is 1980s London. Prophetic.

Movie, documentary, or podcast
Les choristes (The Chorus), directed by Christophe Barratier. This is a marvelous, moving film. It’s about a teacher who moves to a boarding school for difficult children. It is set in a very conservative, strict environment. The teacher, Clément Mathieu, uses singing to disabuse the idea that children cannot change, engage, and laugh. 

Steven ErlangerChief Diplomatic Correspondent for Europe at the New York Times

Politics or history
Our Man, George Packer’s compelling biography of the almost great Richard Holbrooke. The U.S. diplomat did not in fact represent the American century—let alone its end—as the subtitle claims, but it is a fine, ultimately sad book about a fascinating figure.

Fiction
Making my way through the astonishing Anniversaries by Uwe Johnson. The New York Times is a crucial character in this story of a year, 1967–1968, in the life of German émigré and her daughter in New York.

Movie, documentary, or podcast
Cold War. An elegant and honest look at blighted love in Communist Poland, by Paweł Pawlikowski, the director of Ida, which is also marvelous.

Jessica T. MathewsDistinguished Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Politics or history
I haven’t read it yet, but based on the two earlier volumes I’ve got Nigel Hamilton’s third volume War and Peace: FDR’s Final Odyssey at the top of my pile. It’s clear that our understanding of World War II would be quite different if U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to write his own memoirs.

Movie, documentary, or podcast
Command and Control, a 2016 documentary about the nearly catastrophic accident to a Titan II missile in Arkansas in 1980, is really worth watching for anyone interested in nuclear arms, arms control, and nonproliferation.  

Volker PerthesExecutive Chairman and Director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs

Politics or history
On Grand Strategy by John Lewis Gaddis. A philosophical journey through the art of matching ambitions and capabilities. Otherwise a well-written history book.

Fiction
The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes. A masterful fictional piece about composer Dmitri Shostakovich maneuvering between art, fear, and opportunism under and after Stalin.

Movie, documentary, or podcast
Coconut the Little Dragon 2: Into the Jungle. Not exactly my age group or favorite genre. But it taught my son something about collective action and the benefits of working in foreign lands.

Paul TaylorContributing Editor at Politico

Politics or history
The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World by Robert Kagan. A provocatively written warning of the dangers of global anarchy if the United States pulls back from leadership of the West, by the neoconservative American historian who coined the phrase “Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus.”

Fiction
It ain’t new, but I’m a sucker for crime thrillers set in authoritarian states where an honest cop tries to solve cases despite the system, so I adored the Philip Kerr series of Bernie Gunther novels set in Nazi Germany and its aftermath.

After a recent visit to Cuba, I was intrigued to read Havana Red by Leonardo Padura Fuentes. A tropical Marlowe out of favor with the regime is called out of suspension to investigate the murder of a cross-dresser, and lifts the lid on the LGBT world in Havana and its unavowable connections with the powers that be.

Movie, documentary, or podcast
El reino (The Candidate) by Rodrigo Sorogoyen. An efficient Spanish political-corruption thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat and pushes all the buttons of power, ruthlessness, brutality, and journalism’s schizophrenic relationship with the rich and powerful.