It has been a strange, hard year. Covid-19 is sprinting through the Greek alphabet, threatening us all. Our experts have been especially prolific in this past year, but even they need a rest from time to time. We will be taking a break from publishing policy briefs in late July until late August, but our experts have clued us in on what they will be reading, watching, and listening to during that time. If you are looking for comic books about a Soviet Superman, a podcast about food, or anything in between, you have come to the right place.
Until September, happy reading and listening!
The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life by Ryszard Kapuscinski
Recommended by: Ulrike Franke
Ryszard Kapuscinski was the first African correspondent for the Polish Press Agency, starting his work there in the early 1960s. In The Shadow of the Sun, he collects fragments of the incredible stories he lived and experienced in different African countries over some 30 years of work, combining them into a deeply insightful and fascinating description of Africa and its people.
Emmanuel Macron: Der revolutionäre Präsident by Joseph de Weck
Recommended by: Ulrike Franke
So far, this book has only been published in German, but it is deserving of a translation. Josef de Weck has written a great book that not only explains Macron, his approach, and his ideas but is full of brilliant observations about France. Highly recommended to anyone trying to understand the French and French politics better.
The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks
Recommended by: Joanna Hosa
A beautiful, honest account of life in the United Kingdom’s Lake District – the author is a shepherd who follows the traditional ways of his forefathers. If you go to the mountains this summer, the book will make you look beyond the landscape and appreciate the role of people who aren’t just visiting.
Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West by Catherine Belton
Recommended by: Chris Raggett
A book now at the centre of a lawsuit involving the owner of Chelsea Football Club. Come for the insights into authoritarians’ alleged use of illicit finance, stay for their alleged abuse of the English legal system.
Archipelago by Inger-Maria Mahlke
Recommended by: Marlene Riedel
A great European family novel illustrating the special role the Canary Islands played in twentieth century European history. The book is set on Tenerife, a geopolitically important island that was an arena for European power games but so far off the grid that it was easy to forget during stormy events on the mainland. The book includes perspectives on class, socialism, communism, fascism, and colonialism, and touches on the Western Sahara dispute.
When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut
Recommended by: Ana Ramic
A book about the complicated links between scientific and mathematical discovery, madness, and destruction. Fritz Haber, Alexander Grothendieck, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger: these are among the luminaries into whose troubled minds we are thrust as they grapple with the most profound questions of existence. Some of their discoveries revolutionise our world for the better; others pave the way to chaos and unimaginable suffering.
The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker
Recommended by: Susanne Baumann
A bold new approach to how we gather that will transform the ways we spend our time together – at work, at home, in our communities, and beyond.
Red Son/Genosse Superman by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, and Kilian Plunkett
Recommended by: Christopher Eichberger
Red Son, or Genosse Superman, from 2004, is a “what if” story about what would Superman have been like if his craft landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States when he was a baby.
Smart Mouth podcast by Katherine Spiers
Recommended by: Rafael Loss
Last year, I jumped onto the lockdown bandwagon and started baking sourdough bread. Now, I even pickle my own onions. Katherine Spiers’ podcast “Smart Mouth” has been a great inspiration along the way, teaching me more about tacos, key lime pie, and mofongo than I ever thought there was to know. Great for the beach, poolside, and balcony.
Grand Union by Zadie Smith
Recommended by: Andreas Bock
In 19 short stories about race, gender, class divides, family, friendship, and identity, Zadie Smith captures the sound of the past and present. Surprising characters, literary experiments, and an entertaining writing style make it a decent summer read. Just pick the stories you like and let her entertain you!
If, Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future by Jill Lepore
Recommended by: Oz Russell
This book, by Jill Lepore, is a history of the Simulmatics Corporation, the first company to try to predict human behaviour with computers. They worked for the JFK campaign, the New York Times, and the US military in Vietnam, but almost all their contracts ended in catastrophic failure. The book is more a history of the first popular “computer panic” that Simulmatics caused, as well as of the network of early social scientists, political parties, and the US government in the 1950s and 1960s.
A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past by Lewis Hyde
Recommended by: Engjellushe Morina
A profound work that deals with not only memory but also forgetting, trauma, and recovery, as well as reconciliation and forgiveness. A crucial theme of the book is the importance of forgetting (not forgiveness) – so, being stuck in the past could be equally detrimental to not dealing with the past. A helpful read for those who work on the Western Balkans.
Jean Lartéguy: Le dernier des centurions by Hubert Le Roux
Recommended by: Hugh Lovatt
The life of Jean Lartéguy closely follows all the ups and downs of the second part of the twentieth century. A soldier, war reporter, and winner of the Albert Londres Prize, Lartéguy has a reputation that extends beyond the borders of France. The author of The Centurions, The Praetorians, and The Yellow Evil, he left behind a considerable body of work whose analyses are still relevant today. But who was he, really?
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
Recommended by: Julia Reischle
A great read for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of China in the twentieth century, following the life story of three generations of women: grandmother, mother, and daughter. This international bestseller, published in 37 languages, yet still banned in mainland China, is a great testament to women’s daily struggles and their courage.
India and Asian Geopolitics: The Past, Present by Shivshankar Menon
Recommended by: Frédéric Grare
Shivshankar Menon, former Indian foreign secretary and national security adviser, traces India’s approach to the shifting regional landscape since its independence in 1947 – from its leading role in the “nonaligned” movement during the cold war to its current status as a perceived counterweight to China. Menon makes a powerful geopolitical case for an India that is increasingly and positively engaged in Asia and the broader world in pursuit of a pluralistic, open, and inclusive world order.
Les Invisibles by Antoine Albertini
Recommended by: Mathilde Ciulla
A really good read, by a former Le Monde journalist, about the dark side of the island of Corsica and how it treats illegal workers from North Africa. Albertini reconstructs the story of a man shot in the back with a shotgun and, through this man’s tragic fate, reveals the fate of thousands of invisible men slaving away on the dark side of an otherwise paradisical island.
In the Country of Others by Leila Slimani
Recommended by: Tefta Kelmendi
The first in a trilogy based on the author’s family’s inspiring history – starting with the story of her grandmother, then her mother, and finishing with her own. The trilogy draws on issues of women empowerment, resilience, and race.
The Free World by Louis Menand
Recommended by: Anthony Dworkin
A new intellectual and cultural history of cold war America. At a time when many policymakers and scholars in the US are once again looking at the world through the lens of ideological competition – and in some cases explicitly calling for a “free world strategy” to face down China and other authoritarian powers – this seems like a timely, if lengthy, read.
The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.