European Union Policy Studies


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This is a short list of books that you might consider reading over the summer to prepare for your fall term coursework. I’ve provided brief descriptions to give you a sense of each title. You are not required to read all of these books, but you must read at least three of them before orientation begins in August. I would particularly encourage students who need a refresher on the basics of EU policy-making to read Lelieveldt & Princen.  You should be able to order all of these books in any major bookstore; they are also available on Enjoy!

Lelieveldt, Herman and Sebastian Princen. 2011. The Politics of the European Union. Palgrave Press.

This is an easy-to-read, recently updated, and brief introductory textbook on EU politics. For students who have not studied the EU in some time, the book provides useful background for fall courses.

McCormick, John. 2010. Europeanism. Oxford University Press.

In this scholarly but accessible book, McCormick argues that the political, economic, and social ties that bind contemporary EU citizens to each other are more important than the national differences that media pundits and academic analysts tend to stress.

Baldwin, Peter. 2009. The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe are Alike. Oxford University Press.

Baldwin garners economic, political, social, and cultural statistics and argues (a) that the two sides of the Atlantic are much more similar to each other than many observers on both sides of the pond would care to admit and (b) that the differences among European states are often more substantial than the differences between the mean European state and the United States.

Kingsley, Patrick. 2016. The New Odyssey: The Story of Europe’s Refugee Crisis. Guardian Faber Publishing.

Kingsley is The Guardian’s migration correspondent and winner of the British Journalism Award for Foreign Affairs journalist of the year in 2015. This hot-off-the-presses book gives a well-rounded view of Europe’s current refugee crisis, the characteristics and stories of the refugees reaching Europe, and the struggles of European politicians and citizens to deal with the economic, social, cultural, and political implications of the refugee crisis.

Matthijs, Matthias and Mark Blyth, eds. 2015. The Future of the Euro. Oxford University Press.

Do not be put off by the fact that this is an edited volume published by a university press. The book is eminently readable and enjoyable. It brings together essays from some leading academics and gives a very clear and persuasive picture of the problems of Eurozone governance and the possible futures of Europe’s most ambitious (and perhaps most fraught) experiment in shared governance. Blyth’s Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (2015, also Oxford UP) is a shorter, more polemical, but also quite excellent analysis of an idea (austerity) that has become a topic of great debate among Europeans over the last five years.

Judt, Tony. 2006. Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945. Penguin Press.

This is not a short book, but it is relatively easy to read for such an exhaustive historical treatment. Judt provides a fascinating study of contemporary Europe and in particular of Europe’s impressive recovery after World War II. The book also is notable because of its excellent coverage of both western and eastern Europe. A New York Times review of this book last year (when it was named one of the 10 best books of the year) described it as such: “Both intellectually ambitious and compelling to read, thrilling in its scope and delightful in its small details, Postwar is a rare joy.” I highly recommend carving out some time to make your way through this—you’ll be amazed at what you learn!

Sheehan, James. 2008. Where Have All the Soldiers Gone? The Transformation of Modern Europe. Houghton Mifflin.

This is a brief, fascinating consideration of Europe over the course of the twentieth century. Sheehan describes a fundamental shift in Europe’s history over this time period, from a continent in which countries defined themselves by their willingness and ability to wage war to one in which material well-being, social stability and economic growth became paramount. Sheehan reveals how and why this happened and considers its implications for Europeans, for America, and the rest of the world. This is a great book for establishing some historical context for your studies.

Lowe, Keith. Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II. St. Martin’s Press.

Another valuable historical contribution. Not as long as Judt. Lowe’s temporal scope is more circumscribed than Judt’s. He focuses on the decade running from 1945-1955. He stresses that Europe was not a pretty place during that decade. The war was over, but the continent was a humanitarian, social, economic, and political ruin. A terrific antidote to a conventional wisdom that sees VE Day as the beginning of a happy half century for Europe. The book provides a great sense of how bad things were after the war and, indirectly, of how important the EU has been for promoting peace, prosperity, and reconciliation over the last few generations.

McCann, Colum. 2013. Transatlantic: A Novel. Random House.

An engaging novel that examines historical interdependencies and overlaps between Europe and the United States. The historical sweep is grand, but McCann is a masterful storyteller, and he encourages us to think about changes and consistencies in the transatlantic social and cultural landscape over multiple generations.


Reading any (or all!) of these books will accomplish two things: one, hopefully get you even more excited for the fall, and two, provide you with some perspective on life in Florence and Italy, your home for the next year. There is no requirement that you read most of these, but we hope you will make an effort to explore at least a few. They are all great reads—enjoy! We strongly recommend that you read La Bella Figura, if nothing else.  Note: most of the books listed in this and subsequent sections are available on

Severgnini, Beppe. La Bella Figura : A Field Guide to the Italian Mind. 2007. 217 pages. Broadway Books.

To make a good impression is an imperative for Italians—la bella figura is a must, and you will hear this expression all the time. This book sees behind the seductive face of la bella figura, looking into Italy’s maddening, paradoxical true self. The book is a hilarious trip into the hearts and minds of Beppe Severgnini's fellow Italians The destinations are the places where Italians are at their best, worst and most authentic: the chaos of the roads, the anarchy of the office, the theatrical spirit of the hypermarkets and garrulous train journeys, the sensory reassurance of a church and the importance of the beach, the solitude of the soccer stadium and the crowded Italian bedroom, the vertical fixations of the apartment building, and the horizontal democracy of the eat-in kitchen. Ten days, thirty places. From north to south. From food to politics. From the sheepfold of morality to the televisual zoo. This ironic, methodical and sentimental examination will help you understand why Italy-as Severgnini says-"can have you fuming and then purring in the space of a hundred meters or ten minutes." It also suggest the right approach to living in Italy: irony and curiosity, openness and patience. And the most important rule, which cannot be violated: never order a cappuccino after 10 a.m. This is worse than eating pizza in the middle of the day. It is non-negotiable....!

Severgnini, Beppe. Ciao, America! An Italian Discovers the U.S. 2003. 256 pages. Broadway Books.

Another fun book by Severgnini. Here, the author discusses what it’s like to be an Italian living in America.

Parks, Tim. 2014. Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo. W.W. Norton & Company.

Parks is a British citizen with an Italian wife who has been teaching and living in northern Italy for over 20 years. He has written a series of books (both fiction and non-fiction) examining Italians and their relationships to non-Italians. This is his latest book, and it’s terrific—particularly for people who know or soon will know the delights and frustrations of train travel in Italy.

Luzzi, Joseph. 2014. My Two Italies. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Luzzi is an Italian American who returns to the land of his parents and considers the many mysteries of Italy – he pays particular attention to the fact that Italy inspires such incredible art, cuisine, and inspiration while simultaneously being plagued by corruption, north-south divides, and political mistrust. Also some nice considerations of what it means to be an Italian American and what “Italy” means for various generations of Italian Americans.

There are a number of interesting travel/living in Italy books by Americans/Brits/other expats that you might also enjoy. Try anything by Annie Hawes, Marlena de Blasi, Tim Parks, or Frances Mayes.



Mary McCarthy. The Stones of Florence. 2003. 252 pages. Harcourt.

One of the classics in Anglo-Saxon literature about Italy. It is a unique tribute to Florence, combining history, artistic description, and social observation. A memorable portrait of the Florentine spirit and of those figures who exemplify this spirit, such as Dante, Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Machiavelli.

Tim Parks. Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics, and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence. 2006. 288 pages. W. W. Norton.

Banking was invented in Florence. One could argue that even the European monetary union was invented there, almost 600 years ago, through the Florin, which became the main currency of Medicean trade in the European world. This book is a good introduction to the fortunes and misfortunes of the power and money-hungry Florentine ruling family. You do not need a background in economics to appreciate this witty account of the Medici's bank rise and fall. It will help you understand the amazing architectural and artistic treasures you will admire in Florence.

Magdalen Nabb, The “Marshal Guarnaccia” Mystery Series

Nabb was an English author who moved to Florence at the age of 28 and lived there until her death, at age 60, in 2007. For most of her time in Florence, she lived just off of Piazza Pitti (a stone’s throw from Palazzo Capponi). She wrote a fun series of very readable Florence-based detective novels based around the wonderful character of Marshal Guarnaccia; much of the action in these novels takes place in the Santo Spirito neighborhood.  A few gems in the Guarnaccia series: Death of an Englishman, Death of a Dutchman, Death in Springtime, The Marshal and the Murderer, and The Monster of Florence.


Christopher Duggan. A Concise History of Italy (Cambridge Concise Histories). 1994.  334 pages. Cambridge University Press.

Since its creation in 1861, Italy has struggled to develop an effective political system and a secure sense of national identity. This concise history covers the period from the fall of the Roman Empire in the west to the present day, but focuses on the difficulties Italy has faced in forging a nation-state during the past two centuries. The opening chapters consider the geographical and cultural obstacles to unity, and survey the long centuries of political fragmentation in the peninsula since the sixth century. It was this legacy of fragmentation that Italy's new rulers had to strive to overcome when the country became united, more by accident than design, in 1859-61.

Ginsborg, Paul. A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics, 1943-1988. 2003.  592 pages. Palgrave Macmillan.

Ginsborg, a renowned English social historian, currently teaches at the University of Florence. This book has been defined the best history of the postwar period of any country. It combines thorough research and fine organization with a coherent and compelling thesis.  

Ginsborg, Paul. Italy and Its Discontents: Family, Civil Society, State. 2006. 544 pages, Palgrave Macmillan.

The sequel to Ginsborg's previous book, "A History of Contemporary Italy 1943-1988." Ginsborg traces the roots of Italian politics back to the structure and role of the family in Italian society. This is a quite controversial thesis that does not take into account institutional factors and their impact. Nevertheless, it has become a very acclaimed book. Ginsborg has been a political activist in the recent left-wing movement against prime minister Berlusconi. A history with a sociological twist.

Ginsborg, Paul. 2005. Silvio Berlusconi: Television, Power and Patrimony. 208 pages, Verso 2005.

This is yet another bestseller by Prof. Ginsborg. Unlike the former ones, this is more concise and concentrated on a single topic: Silvio Berlusconi. An essential book for anybody wanting to understand what is going on in Italian politics right now.

McCarthy, Patrick.  1997. The Crisis of the Italian State: From the Origins of the Cold War to the Fall of Berlusconi and Beyond. 256 pages, Palgrave Macmillan.

In the first full-length English language account of the Clean Hands Crisis of the Italian government (1993-94), Patrick McCarthy, Professor of European Studies at Johns Hopkins University, finds the roots of Berlusconi’s rise and fall in the practices of clientelism, the machinations of the Mafia, the corporate direction of Fiat, the edicts of the Vatican, and even the organization of the Italian soccer game. A useful political science account of the most traumatic postwar political crisis in Italy.

LaPalombara, Joseph. 1989. Democracy Italian Style. 308 pages, Yale University Press.

Now a classic, LaPalombara’s book presents the challenging thesis that Italian democracy works remarkably well and may have something to teach democracies of longer standing. For all those that are not convinced by the thesis of the crisis of Italian politics.

Saviano, Roberto. 2007. Gomorrah. 320 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

If you want to immerse yourselves in Italian contemporary debate, read this stirring book everybody in Italy is talking about right now. Its 30-year old author, a freelance journalist, lives under police escort, due to the threats he received from the Neapolitan mob after having published it. The movie inspired by the book won the Cannes Grand Prix this year. During your stay in Italy, surely you will seen people who sell counterfeit goods on the streets around the Ponte Vecchio: Prada purses, Gucci belts, Armani wallets, pirated CDs and DVDs, etc. Surprisingly, most of them are not made in China, but in underground factories in Naples, the same type of factories that make dresses for Hollywood stars. This is, however, only the beginning of the story Gomorrah tells. This is a story of the underground economy of Naples, the desperation of its society and underclass, and its exploitation by sophisticated yet short-sighted criminals. The tales are not unlike those of the underground economy of New York and Chicago, but southern Italian style.


Some students will come into the EUPS program with lots of Italian.  Others will come in with next to none, and still others will come in somewhere in the middle.  Wherever you find yourself right now, you can use the summer to increase your comfort level.  We strongly recommend that you do all of these things, as a familiarity with the language makes everyday life richer and more enjoyable and increases your social, academic, and networking opportunities., and/or

Free web sites that can help you to build up your Italian vocabulary, whether you’re a novice or someone who’s been studying Italian for years. Particularly helpful for comprehension and pronunciation. Great on a laptop or a tablet.

Classic Italian films on Netflix (or whatever)

Google “top 10 Italian films,” or something of the like.  If you’re a film nut and/or you get really into the films that you watch, go to the IMDb’s chronologically organized Top 200 Italian Films list ( A great way to become more familiar with the rhythms of Italian, Italian “psychology,” and Italian scenery.

Italian podcasts

There are quite a few good podcasts for English speakers who want to improve their Italian. Two podcasts that have received good reviews from past students: and

Italian periodicals on line

Many of the big Italian dailies (La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera, La Stampa, Leggo, Il Sole 24 Orehave significant on-line presences; many of them have multimedia apps for phones, tablets, etc.

Published: Friday, April 1, 2016

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 12, 2016

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