Robert CooperUK Council Member at the European Council on Foreign Relations

Politics or History

An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent by Owen Matthews. This is about Richard Sorge, maybe the best spy in history. That makes it interesting in itself, but you also learn a lot about the Soviet Union and Japan in the lead-up to World War II.

The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli. Important to use good edition; I recommend the one by Cambridge University Press edited by Quentin Skinner.

Fiction

Silas Marner by George Eliot. This was the author’s own favorite, and she ought to know.

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

Politics or History

Wolfszeit: Deutschland und die Deutschen 1945–1955 by Harald Jähner. A compelling political, social, and economic journey through post-war Germany based on diaries, newspaper archives, novels, plays, and songs.

Fiction

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. A special crime novel based in rural Poland. The main character, Janina Duszejko, is subversive, anti-authority, and sticks up for defenseless individuals and the environment.

Film or TV Series or Podcast

Igor Levit interpreting Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas. Any recording of Grigory Sokolov playing Rameau’s Les Cyclopes and Brahms’sIntermezzi, Op. 117 in B-flat minor.

Guilty Pleasure

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher crime novels. And Sarah Cooper’s takeoffs of U.S. President Donald Trump are priceless.

Lykke FriisDirector of Think Tank EUROPA and Co-Chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations

Politics or History

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre. A gripping Cold War spy story which partly centers around my hometown Copenhagen, where the double agent Oleg Gordievsky was based.

Fiction

The Turncoat by Siegfried Lenz. The book was published posthumously in 2016. In the early 1950s in post-war West Germany, a novel about a German soldier defecting to the Soviets was too controversial. Today, it is a fascinating read about the moral dilemma of a young solider but also about his life in the German Democratic Republic after the war.

Film or TV Series or Podcast

Das Boot produced for Sky One. The original Wolfgang Petersen movie from 1981 is obviously unbeatable, but the new version, which also focuses on the French resistance, got me through some of the first weeks of coronavirus lockdown. At certain stages, lockdown felt a bit like being on a submarine.

Guilty Pleasure

Simon Critchley’s What We Think About When We Think About Football. A brilliant read for anyone who has missed football during the coronavirus crisis and was looking forward to the now-postponed European football championship.

Brigid LaffanDirector of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute

Politics or History

Following Ireland’s election to the UN Security Council, Ireland: A Voice among the nations by John Gibney, Michael Kennedy, and Kate O’Malley offers a comprehensive analysis of a centenary of Irish foreign policy, from 1919 to 2019. It’s not just of Irish interest but offers insight into small-state foreign policy, with wonderful visuals in addition to serious scholarship.

Fiction

Isabel Allende’s latest novel A Long Petal of the Sea is beautifully written and resonates with our times. The lives and loves of two refugees from the Spanish civil war who found safety and a future in Chile are at the center of the novel. Pablo Neruda has a walk-on part, and his poetry is dotted through the book.

Film or TV Series or Podcast

There is a new podcast series called the Transformation of European Politics by Tarik Abou-Chadi, assistant professor in political science at the University of Zurich. It is a must listen for those of us wanting to understand what is happening in politics.

Guilty Pleasure

Tiramisu from a little Italian restaurant (takeout), Belli dentro Caffé in Dún Laoghaire, to remind me that I will get back to Italy soon.

Jovana MarovićExecutive Director of Politikon Network

Politics or History

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt. This book doesn’t need much explanation, while my plan is to get back to it this summer.

Fiction

The Walnut Mansion by Miljenko Jergović. This “rhapsody in blue” is the history of the twentieth century, the chronology of suffering, the philosophy of rebellion, but also a simple story about the search for happiness.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. The very end of the book is a storm. It offers a truly original interpretation for all Hamlet lovers. My three most beloved novels are The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and The Palace of Dreams by Ismail Kadare.

Film or TV Series or Podcast

The Handmaid’s Tale—with many ups and downs over three seasons, it is a glossary of totalitarianism and, more importantly, feminism.

Guilty Pleasure

Harry Potter, always and forever. Peaky Blinders, also.

Paul TaylorContributing Editor at Politico Europe

With the coronavirus pandemic, it feels like summer came early for everyone this year. It has conflated your categories of film, series, TV, and guilty pleasure.

Politics or History

I recommend one highly topical book that was published in the midst of the pandemic: The Last President of Europe: Emmanuel Macron’s Race to Revive France and Save the World, by journalist-author William Drozdiak. Crammed with in-the-room anecdotes, it benefits from great access to the French leader as well as to senior German, EU, and U.S. officials.

Jackie Wullschlager’s beautifully written Chagall: A Biography on the tumultuous life of the Jewish-Russian painter of fiddlers on roofs and flying cows and goats over onion-domed churches of his native Vitebsk. It is a great exploration of the ravages of exile on the Russian soul and the Jewish identity.

Ruth Goodman’s How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life. It’s the essential companion to Hilary Mantel’s series of historical novels about Thomas Cromwell.

Guilty Pleasure

Binge-watching Nordic noir crime series with the flimsy excuse that I’m in the middle of writing a report on Arctic security. Some are excruciatingly topical.

Two that mine the love-hate, son-of-a-bitch-neighbor theme between Finland and Russia are Bordertown (three series) and Arctic Circle (just one series so far). Another Finnish chiller is Deadwind, which ties in green energy, real-estate skullduggery, and a dash of perverse religious.

Then there are two great Icelandic offerings: Trapped, which includes a Chinese bid to turn an Icelandic backwater town into a megaport (polar Silk Road, anyone?); and The Valhalla Murders, which adds pedophilia to the standard Nordic noir mix.

Sinan ÜlgenVisiting Scholar at Carnegie Europe

Politics or History

Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman. The book is a good read, especially in these difficult times. It sets out a number of interesting and controversial policy proposals—like distributing free money to the really poor—designed to address the deep social challenges of our times.

Fiction

The Quantum Spy by David Ignatius. It is a smart techno–spy thriller set against the backdrop of the technological race between the United States and China. It also describes the potential of quantum computing.

Film or TV Series or Podcast

Das Boot. This is a remake of what is most probably the best and most realistic movie on World War II submarine warfare, focusing on the German U-boat fleet. It has been turned into a TV series that also includes a story line on the French resistance in La Rochelle, which was a German submarine base during the war.