It was a strange and difficult year. Covid-19 is sprinting through the Greek alphabet, threatening us all. Our experts have been particularly prolific over the past year, but even they need to rest from time to time. We’ll take a break from publishing guidance notes from the end of July until the end of August, but our experts have told us what they’ll be reading, watching and listening to during this time. If you’re looking for comics about a Soviet Superman, a podcast about food, or anything in between, you’ve 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 News Agency, beginning his work there in the early 1960s. The shadow of the sunhe collects fragments of the incredible stories he has experienced 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: The Revolutionary President by Joseph de Weck
Recommended by: Ulrike Franke
So far this book has only been published in German, but it deserves a translation. Josef de Weck has written an excellent book which not only explains Macron, his approach and his ideas, but which is full of brilliant observations on France. Highly recommended to anyone trying to better understand French and French politics.
The Life of the Shepherd: A History of the Lake District by James Rebanks
Recommended by: Joanna Hosa
A beautiful and honest account of life in the UK’s Lake District – the author is a shepherd following the traditional ways of his ancestors. If you go to the mountains this summer, the book will make you look beyond the landscape and appreciate the role of people who are not just visitors.
Putin’s people: How the KGB took over Russia and then went after the West by Catherine Belton
Recommended by: Chris Raggett
A book now at the center of a trial involving the owner of Chelsea Football Club. Come for insight into the 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 romance illustrating the special role that the Canary Islands have played in 20th 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 addresses the Western Sahara conflict.
When we stop understanding 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 immersed as they wrestle with the deepest questions of existence. Some of their discoveries are revolutionizing our world for the better; others open the way to chaos and unimaginable suffering.
The art of coming together: how we come together and why it matters by Priya Parker
Recommended by: Susanne Baumann
A bold new approach to how we come together that will transform how 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 Superman would have been like if his contraption had 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 on the lockdown bandwagon and started making sourdough bread. Now I even pickle my own onions. Katherine Spiers’ “Smart Mouth” podcast has been a big inspiration along the way, teaching me more about tacos, key lime pie and mofongo than I ever thought there would be. had to know. Ideal for the beach, pool and balcony.
Great Union by Zadie Smith
Recommended by: Andreas Bock
In 19 short stories about race, gender, class divisions, family, friendship and identity, Zadie Smith captures the sound of past and present. Surprising characters, literary experiments, and an entertaining writing style make for a decent summer read. Just choose the stories you like and let her entertain you!
If, then: how Simulmatics Corporation invented the future by Jill Lepore
Recommended by: Oz Russel
This book, by Jill Lepore, is a history of the Simulmatics Corporation, the first company to attempt to predict human behavior with computers. They worked for the JFK campaign, the New York Times, and the US Army in Vietnam, but almost all of their contracts ended in catastrophic failure. The book is more of a history of the first popular “computer panic” caused by Simulmatics, as well as the network of early social scientists, political parties, and American government in the 1950s and 1960s.
An Introduction to Forgetting: Beyond the Past by Lewis Hyde
Recommended by: Engjellushe Morina
A profound work that deals not only with memory but also with forgetting, trauma and recovery, as well as reconciliation and forgiveness. A crucial theme of the book is the importance of forgetting (not forgiving) – so being stuck in the past could be just as damaging as not facing the past. Useful reading for those working on the Western Balkans.
Jean Lartéguy: The Last of the Centurions by Hubert Le Roux
Recommended by: Hugh Lovatt
The life of Jean Lartéguy closely follows all the vagaries of the second half of the 20th century. A soldier, war reporter and winner of the Albert Londres Prize, Lartéguy has a reputation that goes beyond the borders of France. The author of The Centurions, Praetoriansand The yellow evil, he left a considerable body of work whose analyzes are still current. 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 20th century, following the life story of three generations of women: grandmother, mother and daughter. This international bestseller, published in 37 languages, but still banned in mainland China, is a tremendous testimony to the daily struggles of women and their courage.
India and Asian geopolitics: the past, the present by Shivshankar Menon
Recommended by: Frédéric Graré
Shivshankar Menon, India’s former foreign minister and national security adviser, traces India’s approach to the changing regional landscape since its independence in 1947 – from its leading role in the “non-aligned “during the Cold War to its current status as a perceived counterbalance to China. Menon makes a powerful geopolitical case for an India that increasingly engages positively with Asia and the rest of the world in pursuit of a pluralistic, open and inclusive world order.
The Invisibles by Antoine Albertini
Recommended by: Mathilde Ciulla
A very good read, by a former The world journalist, on the hidden side of the island of Corsica and its treatment of illegal immigrants from North Africa. Albertini reconstructs the story of a man shot in the back and, through the tragic fate of this man, reveals the fate of thousands of invisible men working on the dark side of an otherwise paradisiacal island.
In the land of others by Leila Slimani
Recommended by: Tefta Kelmendi
The first in a trilogy based on the author’s inspiring family story – beginning with the story of his grandmother, then his mother, and ending with his own. The trilogy draws on issues of female 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 academics in the United States are once again looking at the world through the prism of ideological competition – and in some cases explicitly calling for a “free global strategy” to deal with China and other authoritarian powers – seems like a timely read, if long.
The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take a collective position. ECFR publications represent the views of its individual authors only.