Need a book recommendation for the summer holidays? Curious about what ICCT has been reading this summer? Look no further! We have lovingly compiled this list of books recommended by our staff:


Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński

Having not left the Netherlands for the last 18 months, opening the pages of any of Kapuściński’s amazing travel essays is both self-punishment and a hope for the future. I love the author’s rich description of the different cultural and human experiences that he encounters on his journey across Central Asia amidst the collapse of the Soviet Union.

— Alexander von Rosenbach, Interim Director

Stolen Girls: Survivors of Boko Haram Tell their Story by Wolfgang Bauer

The book gives voices to former Boko Haram captives, allowing them to speak for themselves. Portraits and interview transcripts are complemented with an analysis of the historical and political context of the islamist insurgency in Nigeria.

— Méryl Demuynck, Junior Research Fellow

Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakami

Written in 1997, this collection of interviews provides a unique insight into the Japanese public’s reaction to the metro gas attacks by terrorist organisation Aum Shinrikyo. Fascinating look at how communities respond to traumatic events, as well as how individuals deal with pain and grief privately. This book provides both a public voice, as well as introspective self-reflection, bookended by Murakami’s own thoughful analysis. The psychology of terrorism both from victim and perpetrator perspectives.

— Anna-Maria Andreeva, Editor and Junior Research Fellow

Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

Wilkerson makes a compelling case for the fact that the US is a caste-based society, much like India or Nazi Germany. Ideal for anyone wanting to better understand systemic racism in contemporary America.

— Julie Coleman, Senior Research Fellow and Programme Lead

Hungry: Avocado Toast, Instagram Influencers, and Our Search for Connection and Meaning by Eve Turow-Paul

This book cover immediately caught my attention! I’m looking forward to reading about how Instagram “foodie” culture connects to psychological aspects of stress, loneliness, anxiety and depression in today’s technology-driven world.

— Eviane Leidig, Research Fellow

The Daughters of Kobani by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

For many years, I have been looking at women who traveled to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria. This book is a chance to read the stories the women in those countries who themselves fought against ISIS — people that history often overlooks.

— Joana Cook, Senior Project Manager and Editor-in-Chief

There’s a War Going On But No One Can See It by Huib Modderkolk

Modderkolk researches the downsides of technological developments and the internet. The book draws on past cases of internet hacks (such as the shutdown of the Rotterdam port and Dutch spies in Moscow) and other threats to explain the risk of our growing trust in the internet.

— Charlie van Mieghem, Communications Intern

Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves by Frans de Waal

Do you believe that morality, humour and grief are unique to us humans? Well, think again, but only after you read this wonderfully thought-provoking and entertaining book by world-renowned biologist Frans de Waal, whom you may know from this priceless YouTube classic.

— Teun van Dongen, Senior Research Fellow and Programme Lead

The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It by Owen Jones

A look at the inter-related worlds of Westminster, Fleet Street journalism, and city banking in the UK.

Jones is politically very left-wing and a lot of his writing centres around identity politics and the demonisation of the working-class. It’s particularly interesting to read his takes in the aftermath of Brexit since he himself has taken to some similar demonisation of Leave voters in his Guardian column since the referendum.

— Matthew Wentworth, Junior Research Fellow

The Power of Giving Away Power by Matthew Barzun

I heard the author speak on a podcast and appreciated his reframing of core leadership issues, especially the idea of a “constellation” (rather than pyramid) model of inspirational leadership.

I suspect this book will be a lesson in humility, but hope it will strengthen one’s approach to management and leadership.

— Alexander von Rosenbach, Interim Director

We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch

A chronicle of the Rwandan genocide told through interviews with survivors, it looks at the height of the genocide itself and the history of Rwanda leading up to the start of the killings.

— Matthew Wentworth, Junior Research Fellow

Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall

Based on ten maps, each chapter explains in-depth how geography influences politics. All in all, an easy read for those interested in geopolitics.

— Meike Döring, Financial Controller

Troost voor bedroefde harten: brieven van Vincent van Gogh by Nienke Bakker, Leo Janssen and Hans Luijten (eds.)

Vincent van Gogh, perhaps the greatest painter of all times, shows himself to also be a man of letters in this selection of his correspondence.

Insightful in what it shows about how the man worked, and moving in what it shows about his ambitions, his inner demons and his love for his tradecraft.

— Teun van Dongen, Senior Research Fellow and Programme Lead

Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East by Kim Ghattas

If you want to understand the contemporary dynamics of the Middle East — from the rise of violent extremism, to the Sunni-Shia split — this book is a must read.

From the watershed year of 1979, to 9/11, to the rise of ISIS, Black Wave compellingly explains developments across the region through the prism of the Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalry.

— Julie Coleman, Senior Research Fellow and Programme Lead

Only the Dead: The Persistence of War in the Modern Age by Bear F. Braumoeller

An engaging, lucid, strongly data-driven and ultimately convincing rejoinder to Steven Pinker’s famous claim that war is on the decline

— Teun van Dongen, Senior Research Fellow and Programme Lead

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

The book advocates for a different view of human nature. Discussing sociological, economical and historical notions of humankind. Not a scientific book, but a book about hope, ideas and presenting a different perspective on humankind.

— Antoinette van den Berg, General Affairs Officer

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

An insightful look into the defining social and technological phenomenon of our times.

Of interest to security studies scholars, it delves into how 9/11 and security crises fuelled the rise of increasingly pervasive surveillance in social media — and highlights the intertwined nature of the Global War on Terror and Silicon Valley’s biggest corporations.

— Teo Kai Xiang, Communications Officer


The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

As a Canadian, Atwood is required reading, and I’m looking forward to digging into this novel which follows on from The Handmaid’s Tale.

— Joana Cook, Senior Project Manager and Editor-in-Chief

Thousand Year Old Vampire by Tim Hutchings

A unique and compelling solo journalling game in a beautifully bound and illustrated book, taking you through the immortal life of a thousand year old vampire.

Perfect for creative introspection.

— Teo Kai Xiang, Communications Officer

Regeneration by Pat Barker

The novel explores the experience of British army officers being treated for shell shock during World War I at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh.

The novel explores the effect of the war on identity, masculinity, and social structure. Moreover, the novel draws extensively on period psychological practices, emphasising the main character’s research as well as Freudian psychology.

— Nicolas Libert, P/CVE Research Intern

When Memory Dies by Ambalavaner Sivanandan

Perhaps my favourite novel, this book traces the lives of three generations of a Sri Lankan family from colonial occupation to subsequent ethnic conflict. Deeply moving, inspiring, and heartfelt.

— Eviane Leidig, Research Fellow

Optimal by J.M. Berger

I downloaded J.M.Berger’s book as I expected it to be nonfiction, and was very surprised to learn that he published fiction. I am excited to see where he takes us, spinning today’s trends to a possible future.

— Meike Döring, Financial Controller

The Imperial Radch Trilogy by Ann Leckie

An amazing series of sci-fi writing, from the perspective of a sentient AI, subtly examining universal relationships, feelings and needs. There is great character and story development across the three books, and the pace continues throughout with the third book as compelling as the first one.

The author’s choice to integrate and use female personal pronouns as standard, as well as broader gender neutrality was fascinating and a really cool aspect. It made me wish to see more authors challenge norms like this. I devoured this trilogy and cannot wait to see what else Leckie will come up with!

— Anna-Maria Andreeva, Editor and Junior Research Fellow

Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

Ella Berthoud persuaded me to read this book: “Enthusiasm for a book is a great way to start a new friendship. There are some books that become a marker for a philosophy of life that may become life-defining. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins is one such book for me (and for me too) – if ever I see someone else reading it on the train, tube, or aeroplane, I have to accost them.”

“Our eyes meet, we will smile, and we will know that we both share a secret. I am not at liberty to tell you the secret – read the book, then next time we meet, we will smile at each other, knowing we share something unique.” Together with my travel chess set, I take this book with me everywhere I go, hoping to meet a fellow reader on the train, tube, or aeroplane.

— Maarten Visser, Editorial Research Intern

After the Crash by Michel Bussi

One of the books that I enjoyed reading the most, it won a lots of awards in French. I don’t know how good the English translation is though.

The story starts with a plane crash, where only one baby girl survives. Two very different families step forward to claim her and it will take more than 20 years for the investigation to find out who this baby girl was.

— Aude Gregory-Billet, Rule of Law Research Intern

The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

A powerful trilogy that makes the reader think about one’s relationship with nature and Earth, other people and ourselves. This is an empowering feminist series that really also questions gender norms and ideals in a unique and gripping way.

— Anna-Maria Andreeva, Editor and Junior Research Fellow

Books by ICCT staff and our wider network