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Institut Montaigne's 2019 Summer Reading List

BLOG - 7 August 2019

By Institut Montaigne

Farniente on the seaside, mountain hikes, total immersion in a bustling city or return to the family roots... Whatever your holiday style, it's often an opportunity to devour a good book. Before the summer break, we have asked our Visiting Fellows - Stefano Bottoni, Strobe Talbott - and big names in their fields - Anne Bouverot, Anne Le More, Laetitia Vitaud, Georgina Wright, Ethan Zuckerman - to share their must-reads.

Stefano Bottoni, PhD in Modern and Contemporary History, was a Visiting Fellow at Institut Montaigne in April 2019.


"German historian Philipp Ther examines the entangled development of the 'two Europes' after the great transformation of 1989, reaching a provoking conclusion. The old West-East developmental cleavage has been replaced by a new one between Northern and Southern Europe. Despite dangers like nationalism and neoliberalism, the former communist European peripheries have the unique opportunity to catch up with the European productive and political core."

Anne Bouverot is Chairperson of the Board at Technicolor, Chairperson of Fondation Abeona and Co-Chair of Institut Montaigne’s taskforce on algorithmic biases.


"We live in the age of algorithms. The decisions that affect our lives – which university we get admitted to, which job we get, how much we pay for health insurance - are increasingly being made by programs. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness, as everyone is judged according to the same rules. But a brilliant mathematician, Cathy O'Neil, reveals in this book that the opposite can be true. The models are often opaque. Most troubling, these Weapons of Math Destruction can reinforce bias and discrimination. How do we become more savvy about the AI algorithms that govern our lives?" 

Anne Le More (United Nations) was recently Chief of Staff at UN Environment.


"The single most powerful food trends & foodtech innovation coming from the US and spreading rapidly to parts of Europe and Asia is plant-based eating, to protect our planet and be more healthy. Global food production is the main driver of environmental degradation and current agriculture and land use practices are responsible for 1/4 of global greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, 1/3 of food is wasted, more than 800 million people remain undernourished and obesity is on the rise. New generations do not only want prosperity but also to live in a way which is more impactful and sustainable. They are the ones driving this radical transformation of our global food system in line with the Paris Agreement. Marco Borges gives you suggestions on how you can change your eating habits. Informative and inspiring."  

Strobe Talbott, former President of the Brookings Institution, was a Visiting Fellow at Institut Montaigne from April to May 2018.


"Robert Kagan has been tracing American foreign policy back to the 17th century. The second volume of a trilogy will be published later this year. The ironic title of the project is Dangerous Nation. A global power can’t help escape danger, for itself and others. Kagan this spring dashed off a small book with a big thesis. He sees Trump dismantling the liberal international order. If he succeeds, we’ll all be living in a sauve qui peut world. Or, as Kagan puts it, The Jungle Grows Back."    

Laetitia Vitaud is Writer on the future of work, President of Cadre Noir Ltd, Lecturer at Sciences Po and Paris-Dauphine and Co-Chair of Institut Montaigne's taskforce on platform workers.


"Writer, poet, painter and art critic, John Ruskin was one of Victorian Britain’s most influential intellectuals. He pilloried the early industrial model which he blamed for society’s every ill. He was an early environmentalist and champion of the return to craftsmanship. 200 years after Ruskin’s birth, FT’s Andrew Hill pays a vibrant homage to him in Ruskinland. This thoughtful, must-read book, retells the eventful life of an intellectual who is still much needed today, with themes highlighting his interest in nature, art, craft, and education."

Georgina Wright is Senior Researcher Brexit at the Institute for Government.


"The year is 1984. A baby is born to a black mother and a white father, a crime under South Africa’s Apartheid. He will go on to be one of the world’s greatest political talk show hosts. Trevor Noah’s autobiography paints a vivid picture of a divided 1980s South Africa on the brink of freedom. For him, South Africa’s problems are systemic, taking their roots in years of mistrust and fear of the other. But his mother, a central figure in his life, teaches him to stand firm and challenge social conventions – even in the face of adversity, violence and death. This is not eloquent prose, Noah says it as it is. And it is the perfect insight into the South Africa we think we know."

Ethan Zuckerman is Director of the MIT Center for Civic Media and Co-Chair of Institut Montaigne’s taskforce “Media Polarization 'à la française'? Comparing the French and American ecosystems”.


"I re-read Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism this past year, seeking insight into the ways in which unreality is being used as a political weapon. Arendt anticipated many of the trends we are seeing in the rise of extreme nationalism and offers deep, emotional insights into the ways in which a desire for simplicity, and a need to overcome alienation and loneliness can lead towards the acceptance of totalitarian thought."


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