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Our suggestions for what to read, watch or listen to this summer:

General news / MESSAGE
European Policy Centre

Date: 28/07/2022
Summer is here! While the European Policy Centre winds down its activities during the hottest holiday weeks, you can take a dip in our first-ever EPC summer recommendations list. Whether you will be relaxing on a sunny beach or in your garden, lounging on a balcony, a sofa or a hammock, here are some books, podcasts and movies our colleagues love and recommend to keep you company. We hope you will like them just as much.

Elizabeth Kuiper, Associate Director and Head of the Social Europe and Well-Being programme (@kuiper_em)

  • Cultural Evolution: People’s Motivations Are Changing, and Reshaping the World by Ronald F. Inglehart
A must-read in the current context, where COVID-19 and climate action continue to reinforce tensions between EU member states and increase fears about diminishing job security and rising inequality. Inglehart thoroughly examines how public support for issues like environmental protection and gender equality is linked to existential security, based on empirical evidence from over 100 societies. A fascinating yet sobering read.

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I always make sure to take a few novels with me on holidays, as they help me disconnect and immerse into a fictional world. This historical fiction novel gets under your skin, as it tells the violence of slavery in a way that explains the past and present of the United States. 

  • Pod Save America
My all-time favourite podcast is Pod Save America, hosted by former Obama aides Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor. They call it a “no-bullshit conversation”, and that’s truly what it is: a breakdown of (US) politics in a highly entertaining yet fact-based way, providing great insights into what’s going on on the other side of the pond.

Stefan Sipka, Policy Analyst, Sustainable Prosperity for Europe programme (@sipka_stefan)

  • Yes Minister (1980-1988) 
A hilarious take on British (and European) politics and civil service. Never gets old. A must for any policy-minded person. In my view, the best comedy series ever!

  • Bad Banks (2018-present)
A German-Luxembourgish series about the struggle for power in the European world of finance. It focuses on personal drama rather than the technical nitty-gritty, making it more appealing to wider audiences.

  • En thérapie (2021-present)
A French series about a Paris-based therapist and his encounters with his patients. Its minimalist and effective style mirrors similar formats undertaken in Israel and the US. The series also considers the impacts of wider crises (COVID-19, Bataclan) on the protagonists’ lives.

Irina Popescu, Programme Assistant, Sustainable Prosperity for Europe programme (@_irinapopescu)

  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carso
Published in 1962, this book is a classic and highly influential piece that still has a powerful impact on the environmental movement today. It uncovered the devastating and detrimental effects of synthetic pesticides on natural ecosystems, including animals and humans, as well as the chemical industry’s ruthless campaigning and disinformation, hiding well-known risks and misleading the public. Although met with fierce opposition from chemical companies, the book helped implement a US ban on the DDT insecticide for agricultural uses and led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency. 60 years later, it is still incredibly relevant today.

  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein
Klein examines the relations between climate change and the economy and argues that the climate crisis cannot be adequately addressed within our current deregulated neoliberal economic system, “carbon-fuelled capitalism” and exploitative extractivism. Klein’s pragmatic conclusions on the war between our economic and planetary systems call for a bold, structural change. She inspires readers to challenge the current systems in which corporations and the wealthy not only contribute but accelerate and exacerbate climate change. This book clearly highlights there is still a lot of work to be done and that the status quo is no longer an option.

  • We Organize to Change Everything: Fighting for Abortion Access and Reproductive Justice, edited by Natalie Adler, Marian Jones, Jessie Kindig, Elizabeth Navarro and Anne Rumberger
A timely and incredibly important collection of essays on abortion access and reproductive justice, bringing together voices from the movement for reproductive justice and feminist activists. It highlights how reproductive rights are human rights and covers structural racism, criminalisation, Indigenous People’s sovereignty, transgender rights and the white supremacist far-right. Published as a free e-book immediately after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, this is an important tool for the collective fight for collective rights.

Andrea G. Rodríguez, Lead Digital Policy Analyst, Europe’s Political Economy programme (@agarcod)

  • The Europeans by Orlando Figes
It’s one of the best books I have read in years. It is about the emergence of a pan-European culture & the sentiment of European integration through technology in the 19th century. The thesis would be something like: “because of railways and other advancements, Europeans could move faster and national cultures fused with others, so we can speak of a common European culture for the first time”. The book is wonderfully written and explores the topic through the lives of European intellectuals and artists of the era, such as soprano singer Paula García, writer George Sand and Ivan Turgénev, and Frederic Chopin.

Clara Sophie Cramer, Project Assistant, Connecting Europe 

  • On All Fronts: The Education of a Journalist by Clarissa Ward
A fascinating autobiography by the world-renowned conflict reporter Clarissa Ward. She not only provides direct insights into the root causes of some of the most brutal conflicts of the 21st century, illustrated with cases of consequential human suffering but also lets readers in on the troublesome mix of emotions that conflict reporters are confronted with on a daily basis. A sombre yet accessible publication that makes one appreciate the tremendous work of journalists reporting from crisis regions. 

Lucasta Bath, Programme Assistant, European Politics and Institutions programme (@LucastaBath)

  • On Nationalism by E.J. Hobsbawm
Many of the broad observations in these essays feel especially salient even today: a particularly interesting piece entitled Falklands Fallout examines the consequences of the British post-imperial identity crisis, with Hobsbawm observing that the war was about neither the Falklands themselves nor any such lofty principles as self-determination for the islanders, but rather about capitalising on trends in the British political landscape. “The people who said the war was pointless and should never have been started”, Hobsbawm concludes, “have been proved right in the abstract, but they themselves have not benefited politically and aren’t likely to benefit from having been proved right”. Plus, ça change! 

  • The Black Obelisk by Erich Maria Remarque
Remarque is far better known for his First World War novel All Quiet on the Western Front, but The Black Obelisk deals with Germany in the immediate post-war period, marked by hyperinflation and the unstable Weimar government. In brief, it’s a portrait of a society and a young generation in crisis, but despite these bleak themes, it’s also often very funny and moving. 

  • Tunnel 29 hosted by Helena Merrimn 
This podcast tells the true story of a group of students who tried digging a tunnel under the Berlin Wall to help friends escape from East Berlin. It’s an absolutely gripping story with more twists than you can imagine. It’s not the best thing to listen to if you’re trying to fall asleep, though!

Finally, like any self-respecting Gen Zer, I have a summer playlist: this year, it’s mostly filled with more laid-back music from artists like Tom Misch, Mayer Hawthorne and Tuxedo. 

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