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.

 

Lionel BarberEditor of the Financial Times

Foreign Policy

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.

Fiction

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.

Guilty Pleasure

Listening to The Velvet Underground.

 

Carl BildtFormer foreign minister of Sweden

Foreign Policy

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.

Guilty Pleasure

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

Foreign Policy

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.

Fiction

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.

Guilty Pleasure

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.

 

Steven ErlangerLondon bureau chief of the New York Times

Foreign Policy

Germany matters, so in combination: Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor, with wonderful illustrations and insight, based on the British Museum exhibition; and Reluctant Meister: How Germany’s Past is Shaping its European Future by Stephen Green.

Fiction

Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish. A deeply moving and deeply reported novel about an illegal Chinese immigrant and an Iraqi war veteran, struggling to make a life in the far boroughs of New York City.

Home Country (United States)

The Harder They Come by T. C. Boyle. A great novel of Californian and American obsessions with independence, the wilderness, and violence—but with a weak title, presumably derived from the Jimmy Cliff movie.

Guilty Pleasure

Not so guilty, but the novels of Kent Haruf, who recently died, about the people of a Colorado town of the imagination. Especially Plainsong and Benediction.

 

Sandro GoziItalian minister for European affairs

Foreign Policy

The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics by Hedley Bull. The strength of this book is that Bull wrote it when the world was bipolar, but the analysis fits perfectly nowadays, in a multipolar scenario. The anarchical society, one of the outstanding works of the English School of international relations, represents a precious attempt to combine order and cooperation at the international level—a lesson that is still extremely crucial in the current world.

Fiction

American Pastoral by Philip Roth. In my opinion, the highest level reached by Roth. The rise and fall of a family and a society, described by Roth’s mastery at its best, beginning with the astonishing opening words: “The Swede.”

Home Country (Italy)

Bar Sport (Sports Bar) by Stefano Benni. A forty-year-old book that will make you laugh from the first to the last page. The Italian society that lives in the Bar Sport doesn’t exist anymore, but some of its characters—in a mix of irony, humanity, and curiosity—still live in our collective imagination.

Guilty Pleasure

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. Given that I am a runner, with the experience of several marathons, I could not exclude this formidable essay by Murakami. In this book, you can feel all the passion that comes from running amid day-to-day struggles.

 

Ryan HeathSenior EU correspondent at Politico Europe

Foreign Policy

The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History by Boris Johnson. No one writes better about politics, and no one mattered more in politics.

Fiction

Wild Things by Brigid Delaney. There are deep, unpleasant racial and class undercurrents in most societies—mix them in with the rashness of youth, and you can get a nasty cocktail.

Home Country (Australia)

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas. The author of The Slap kept me turning the pages during the last Australian summer as he depicted an outsider’s struggle to rise and detailed the surprising choices he makes after he falls.

Guilty Pleasure

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It’s better than the movie, and it’s great for that rainy day when you can’t go to the beach.

 

Dominik JankowskiChief specialist for crisis management at the Security Policy Department of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Foreign Policy

War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars by Richard N. Haass. Since 2014, another war in Iraq has been looming. Yet, it is still not clear in the West whether one should treat it as a war of necessity or a war of choice. This book could serve as a much-needed political and military compass.

Fiction

L’art français de la guerre (The French Art of War) by Alexis Jenni. This Goncourt Prize–winning novel not only dissects France’s colonial past and its wars in Indochina and Algeria but also serves as a secret passage to understanding the current European challenges with multiculturalism.

Home Country (Poland)

Obłęd ’44 (The Madness of ’44) by Piotr Zychowicz. A very controversial book for Poles. It formulates a hypothesis that the 1944 Warsaw Uprising was a disastrous political and military mistake for Poland and a strategic gift for the Soviet Union. Still, Zychowicz analyzes in a fascinating way the political decisionmaking process in times of war.

Guilty Pleasure

Le printemps des Arabes (The Spring of the Arabs) by Jean-Pierre Filiu and Cyrille Pomès. Is there a better way to portray a revolution of a generation of young Arabs who redefined the use of social media and rediscovered youth for international relations than to do so in a comic book? #AdultsReadComicBooks #YoungGenerationPower

 

Mark LeonardCo-founder and director of the European Council on Foreign Relations

Foreign Policy

China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa by Howard French. This is an amazing story about the million or more Chinese settlers who are remaking the African continent and pioneering a new model of globalization. That model is defined not by the West but by Chinese entrepreneurs, banks, and construction companies who roam the planet in search of outlets for their money and goods and the markets and raw materials needed to sustain China’s growth.

Fiction

The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq. The map is more interesting than the territory according to the protagonist in this typically cynical tome by one of France’s most controversial authors. The book provides a sobering picture of the future available to European countries such as France in a world where economic and military power are moving elsewhere.

Home Country (United Kingdom)

The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics by Andrew Small. With America withdrawing from Afghanistan and China launching its monumentally ambitious Silk Road projects, Small’s remarkable book could not be more topical. It shines a light on China’s most intense and secretive relationship, which was forged in the Cold War but which now offers the prospect of helping China move from being a regional to a global power by building a series of ports, pipelines, and other connections with the rest of the world.

 

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

Foreign Policy

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.

Fiction

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.

Guilty Pleasure

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!

 

Radosław SikorskiFormer Polish foreign minister

Foreign Policy

The Great Powers and Poland, 1919–1945: From Versailles to Yalta by Jan Karski. The Polish courier who told U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt about the Holocaust was also a considerable scholar.

Fiction

Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. Every war reporter’s must-read on how to grab your readers’ attention.

Home Country (Poland)

Madame by Antoni Libera. A brilliant rendering of an anti-Communist childhood in Communist Poland.

Guilty Pleasure

Lucky Bastard by Charles McCarry. A spoof of a political thriller with a testosterone overdose.

 

Jan TechauDirector of Carnegie Europe

Foreign Policy

Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor. Britain’s foremost museum genius and history story teller delivers a lighthearted yet deeply erudite inquiry into what made Germany the nation it is today. Highly relevant for those interested in today’s tricky European affairs.

Fiction

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon. What if the Jewish homeland had been founded in Sitka, Alaska, not in the Holy Land? What if the lease on that territory were about to expire? I am rereading this mock-hard-boiled, dystopian story about murder, redemption, and American-Yiddish culture this summer because it had a strange, lasting grip on me when I first read it years ago.

Home Country (Germany)

Vormacht wider Willen (Unsought Dominance) by Stephan Bierling. Hands down the best analysis of Germany’s newfound importance as a foreign policy power, and of the domestic and external factors that shape its actions.

Guilty Pleasure

Confessions of an Art Addict by Peggy Guggenheim. This chatty, bubbly, entirely unconventional and hugely fascinating autobiography of the famous art collector, who was a truly independent, larger-than-life character, still has lots of freshness more than fifty years after its first publication. It is also, of course, a treasure for anyone in love with Venice.