Turning the page: public leaders share the books on their holiday reading list

By on 23/12/2020 | Updated on 27/01/2022
What will you be reading this holiday? Officials share the books they will be opening. Credit: Emily/Pexels

From Obama’s bestseller to biographies and science fiction, we find out what officials around the world are reading this festive season

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

This is a book I wanted to read for at least 15 years and I finally bought it: now I’m looking forward to reading this great piece of science fiction literature. Not by chance is Kim Stanley Robinson the winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel. Or, as the New York Times wrote in their review of the book: “Absorbing . . . a scientifically informed imagination of rare ambition at work.”

Dieter J. Tschan, E-government representative for the Swiss Confederation, Ministry of Finance, Switzerland

The Illustrated Baburnama by Som Prakash Verma

I believe the Mughal period in India was one of the richest in the country‘s history and culture. Babur was the first of the Mughal rulers, who came originally from what is now Uzbekistan; and the grandfather of Akbar, possibly the most enlightened ruler of India ever.  This period also links my Indian roots with my current work in Central Asia.

Sir Suma Chakrabarti, chair of board of trustees at the Overseas Development Institute think tank

Rentier Capitalism: Who Owns the Economy, and Who Pays for It? by Brett Christophers

This Christmas is going to be a quiet one, but I’m looking forward to spending lots of time on the sofa with a good book! I’ll be finishing off the brilliant Rentier Capitalism: Who Owns the Economy, and Who Pays for It? by Brett Christophers, and I’m hoping to unwrap Competition is Killing Us by Michelle Meagher on Christmas morning. If that all sounds a bit serious, I’ll be balancing it out with a few episodes of the Dear Joan and Jericha podcast that I have been saving up – not for the faint-hearted!

Dr George Dibb, head of the Centre for Economic Justice at the IPPR think tank, UK

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

I like to read, but mainly non-fiction – particularly biographies: Sebastian Mallaby’s biography of Alan Greenspan, A Man Who Knew, is my absolute favourite. This Christmas I do not know what Santa will give me, but I think Barak Obama’s A Promised Land would be nice to read. The new biography of John Lennon by Lesley-Ann Jones would be interesting too. If Santa brings me fiction, I hope it is a new novel by either Miika Nousianen or Kari Hotakainen. But most of all I wait for peaceful Christmas with my dear ones – and, of course, Boxing Day football.

Vesa Lipponen, chief information officer at the Ministry of Finance in Finland

Bismarck – Sturm über Europa by Ernst Engelberg

The first book I will read this Christmas is Bismarck – Sturm über Europa (storm over Europe), a biography of the first German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. I´m wondering if Bismarck’s policy has any relevance for policy in Europe: I fear we are noticing a crossroads for the further integration in the EU and the other huge challenges Europe is facing.

I´m also looking forward to reading the novel Let Me Be Frank With You (in German: Frank) by one of my favourite American writers, Richard Ford. His main character, Frank Bascombe, has accompanied me now for more than two decades. I quote: “…In his trio of world-acclaimed novels portraying the life of an entire American generation, Richard Ford has imagined one of the most indelible and widely discussed characters in modern literature, Frank Bascombe. Through Bascombe—protean, funny, profane, wise, often inappropriate—we’ve witnessed the aspirations, sorrows, longings, achievements and failings of an American life in the twilight of the twentieth century.”

Hans-Jörg Schäper, deputy director general of the Information Technology directorate at the Federal Ministry of Finance in Germany

About Kate Hodge

Kate is a journalist and editor, holding roles at both the Guardian and the Financial Times. She specialised in education and combines writing, commissioning and editing with social media and audience engagement. If you have any ideas you would like to pitch, or suggestions to improve the website, feel free to email her on [email protected].

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