Sunday 24 October 2010

Favourite EU books – mission impossible?

Cosmetic Uprise – UK and the EU had hardly returned to the Euroblog scene, when Mia Välimäki asked for the moon with regard to the European Union - a good read that doesn’t preach or teach: EU literature (23 October 2010).

This seemingly simple question was provocative and difficult enough to elicit comments from Eurogoblin, Gawain Towler and Nosemonkey, some of the best known Eurobloggers.

The question is relevant, but the replies are far from conclusive, so join the discussion on Cosmetic Uprise if you have ideas.

Four favourites

The question felt intriguing enough, so I fell into the trap as well; stopped for a minute to search my memory and to pick a few favourites from my bookshelf. Obviously, the legal stuff came nowhere near what Mia was looking for. The books had to be of general interest, so I thought about what I had enjoyed reading. Here is my reply:

Mia V,

As others have said, you didn’t ask for much, did you? But you left a back door open, by not explicitly requiring books in English.

It would be hard to describe them as “thrilling” or not trying to “teach”, but here are a few I have enjoyed.

Gerhard Brunn: Die Europäische Einigung von 1945 bis heute (republished by

Marie-Thérèse Bitsch: Histoire de la construction européenne – De 1945 à nos jours (Editions Complexe)

Bino Olivi & Alessandro Giacone: L’Europe difficile (Folio histoire in French; original in Italian)

Luciano Angelino: Le forme dell’Europa – Spinelli o della federazione (Il melangolo)

The morning after

This following morning an additional book has surfaced in my mind (despite much legal text):

Daniele Pasquinucci: Progetti di Costitutizione Europea – Dall’Assamblea “ad hoc” alla Dichiarazione di Laeken (Edizioni Unicopli)

I then remember that this autobiography is worth reading:

Jean Monnet: Mémoires 1-2 (Le Livre de Poche)

All in all, if not EU the institution, then at least European integration has produced a few memorable books for me. Notably, those mentioned were all written in another language than English.

If I want something inspiring in English, my mind travels to the other shore of the Atlantic: the Declaration of Independence, the Philadelphia Convention, the Constitution of the United States of America, and especially:

James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay: The Federalist Papers (various publishers)

It is hard to beat the Federalist’s mix of vision, courage and wisdom.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Fondation Robert Schuman – Le centre de recherches sur l’Europe – describes itself in English as: the French think tank on Europe. The Schuman foundation publishes interesting reports and thoughts in French and English. If you haven’t done so, you should subscribe to its newsletter in French, English, Spanish or Polish.


  1. It's telling that there aren't many really gripping narratives of the EU available in English. I'm sure they're out there - but there's certainly room for more.

  2. Eurogoblin,

    I quite agree, there must be gripping stories in English out there.

    But I found it remarkable that the books I came to think about spontaneously were in other languages than in English.

  3. I find it odd there isn't more English literature on the EU - isn't English practically the de facto lingua franca of Europe? Or even translated versions of these gripping narratives in other languages.

    That said, my enthusiasm in finding books in English is purely because I'm not fluent in French, German or Italian. But perhaps I'll dedicate my Christmas holiday to trying to decipher one in German...

  4. Mia,

    I agree with you; it is odd that no book in English about the EU cropped up, when I let my thoughts wander freely.

    When I ask why, I come up with at least three contributing causes, partly cultural and partly commercial:

    1) Most of the EU books in English are either scholarly or written for teaching purposes (politics, law).

    2) There are no British "Founding fathers", few "European Champions" and even the numbers of moderately pro-European people are small in the UK.

    3) Publishers see little commercial demand for the European Union, with the exception of course books and legal texts (and the odd conspiracy thriller).

    'Europeanism' has deeper roots in Itlay and France, the "Founding Fathers" have written and been written about, Franco-German issues have a long history, and the European Convention which prepared the Constitutional Treaty resulted in some noteworthy 'insider' books, but we see little of this in English.

  5. To all readers,

    More has been written about the European Union than anyone of the participants to date has read, or is aware of.

    This has to be the case for EU books in English as well.

    Thus, if you have suggestions, please share them with us on Cosmetic Uprise or here.


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