The summer-is-still-not-over reading list

Welcome to your summer reading list! No, summer is not over yet, and no, you won’t be tested on these. Here at ECFR we have scoured our international networks on your behalf to pick out the reads we think will not just inform, but also entertain, you about the world we live in today. Whether you are by the sea, up a mountain, or back in the office, there will be something here for you. 

And the world may well be serious right now but that doesn’t mean thinking about it needs to get us down. From sci-fi to hidden treasure to Bobby Kennedy and the Swan King, there is more than one way to look at today’s international affairs. ECFR’s policy fellows, staff, and friends have let us know what they’d suggest you pick up and ponder on. Please check out the recommendations below.

Happy reading!


by Tom Hillenbrand

Ulrike Franke says, “German sci-fi that takes places in Paris and London – what’s not to like??” The novel paints a spectacular picture of our society at the end of the 21st century. If artificial intelligence is able solve the world’s problems, then are we ready to relinquish control? The book is only available in German at the moment, but Hillenbrand’s previous novel “Drone Land”, which Ulrike equally recommends, is available in French and soon in English too.


“Urban-rural splits have become the great global divider”

by Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

Many things have been blamed for causing Brexit, least of all the growing gulf between London and the rest of the UK. Small-town America has been blamed for electing Trump. But this political phenomenon is global, and it is pitting metropolitan elites against small-town populists everywhere, claims Gideon Rachman in this piece. Does this mean that in our globalised world, domestic politics could become “more important” than relations between nations?


“How Far Can Becky Hammon Go in the N.B.A.?”

by Louisa Thomas for the New Yorker

The former women’s basketball star has broken convention by becoming the league’s first female assistant coach. There are few things better than a good sports read!


“Attitudes Towards National Identity, Immigration, and Refugees in Italy”

by the More in Common initiative

Our Deputy Director Alba Lamberti has been reading this report, which demonstrates that, despite the election of a populist coalition government and frustration with both globalisation and migration policy, most Italians reject extreme views about migrants and refugees. Italians support the principle of asylum and believe that welcoming the stranger is an important part of Italian identity in this historically Catholic country. But they are also deeply frustrated by the European Union’s lack of assistance for Italy in managing the migration crisis, and they worry about their country’s ability to integrate the newcomers. The report shows that the landscape of public attitudes in Italy is more complex than in many other European countries, with seven distinct segments of opinion among Italians – and a clear division between the supporters of the Five Star Movement and Lega coalition partners.


“Occupied” / “Okkupert”

directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg

Based on an idea by Jo Nesbo, “Occupied” is set in Norway in the near future, where a series of events – kicked off by a climate change-related disaster – leads to the EU-supported Russian occupation of the country. This show is a very realistic political thriller with real-world consequences.


​”The End We Start From”

by Megan Hunter

This novel tells the story of one family’s displacement by an environmental and political crisis after London is flooded. The family are forced to flee to higher ground and live in refugee camps. Susi Dennison, the director of our European Power programme, found the speed with which normality and community dissipate in the book terrifying, but the anchor of the relationships within the family through the refugee experience means that it is still in some ways a heart-warming and life-affirming book.


“Bobby Kennedy For President”

directed by Dawn Porter

In a recent episode of ECFR podcast, our Director Mark Leonard and Research Director Jeremy Shapiro discussed this show, which tells the story of American politics in the 1960s, Bobby’s assassination, civil rights, and justice. Was America ever simpler??



by Amélie Nothomb

Some books stay with you long after you’ve read them; “Péplum” is one of them for Ulrike Franke. It is a fictional autobiography of a writer named A.N. who, after minor surgery, wakes up in a hospital in the year 2580. A very interesting conversation follows.


“Auf Messers Schneide”

by Holger Afflerbach

Was the outcome of the first world war on a knife edge? Gustav Gressel, our senior policy fellow, brushes up on his German military history with Holger Afflerbach’s analysis of the German defeat, the military developments, and political-strategic decisions which show that the war could have ended differently.



by Kapka Kassabova

This is a non-fictional and very personal account of the borderlands between Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey. This area, where identities are fluid and ever-changing, where forest spirits live and hidden treasure awaits, is full of little-known yet important historical weight, making it one of our Head of Communications Ana Ramic’s favourite reads from the last few years.  


“Tongues of Fire”

by Doreen Baingana

Jeremy Shapiro shared with us a sneak peek into the forthcoming novel by Doreen Baingana in a recent episode of The World in 30 Minutes. It is a story of the evolution of a woman who becomes a guerrilla leader in Uganda in the 1980s. You can hear Jeremy discussing it the recent episode at minute 32. 


“The Swan King: Ludwig II of Bavaria”

by Christopher McIntosh

If you fancy a bit of Bavarian mystery, this book should do the trick. Discussed in a recent World in 30 Minutes episode, it is a look at the life of a 19th century King Arthur, a man surpassed by his own mythological persona.


“The Big Lebowski”

directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

The Dude. The American cult hero by the Coen brothers has turned explainer of the Trump-Putin summit – just ask Jeremy Shapiro and Kori Schake. The film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the US Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”


“Les Falsificateurs”

by Antoine Bello

Tara Varma, our Paris office coordinator, has spent her summer with Antoine Bello’s trilogy, centred around the Consortium for the Falsification of Reality – or CFR (not to be confused with ECFR!) – a secret organisation which rewrites history and falsifies the world as we know it. The trilogy has taken on new significance with the current debate around fake news and manipulation of information.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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