Reading for academic purposes and for pleasure

Welcome to What We Read!

Reading for academic purposes and for pleasure

Welcome to What We Read!

Together We Empower

Webster Vienna Book Recommendations

We ask faculty and staff members which books they have read recently and what they would recommend to students — or anyone who wants something to read for pleasure.

The suggestions range from classics to science fiction to oral histories — there's something here for everyone.


2024 Favorites

trial of the kaiser book cover

Recommended by Marco Bocchese, Assistant Professor of International Relations at WVPU.

"The Trial of the Kaiser" by William A. Schabas is a compelling exploration of one of the most significant legal events of the 20th century.

Schabas examines the intricate legal proceedings that followed World War I, focusing on the controversial trial of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Through rigorous analysis, Schabas sheds light on the complexities of international law, politics and justice in the aftermath of a global conflict.

This book offers invaluable insights into historical events that continue to shape our understanding of accountability and the pursuit of justice on a global scale. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the intersection of law, history and international relations.

Bradley E. Wiggins, Associate Professor and Department Head of Media Communications, recommends two books.

goodreads dune book cover

"Dune" by Frank Herbert (1965)

I read the "Dune" book several years ago. After seeing the recent films, I felt a need to revisit it.

The story takes place many years in the future, after "The Great Revolt" in which artificial intelligence and scientific thinking machines waged 100 years of war against humanity.

This is why you don’t see any computers in the films, no screens or the like. Just hand-held knobs and controls, plus human-powered or driven machines. I’d recommend "Dune" for these and many other points.

goodreads the wager book cover

"The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder" by David Grann (2023)

The book’s focus is the story of HMS Wager, a square-rigged, sixth-rate Royal Navy ship, and the mutiny that took place after the ship's wreckage in 1741.

I’d recommend it as a compelling narrative very much lifted out of our modern digital- and social media-saturated lives.

greed book cover

Recommended by Prof. Dr. Armin Kammel, WVPU adjunct faculty member. Kammel is teaching business law, business ethics and corporate financial strategy.

The year 2024 marks the 16th anniversary of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2007-2008, which dramatically changed the regulatory environment of global financial markets since then. Massive regulatory intervention paved the way for the modern financial architecture, which has been designed to ensure the necessary stability of the global financial system.

Fast-forward to the first quarter of 2023: After the collapse of the FTX Trading Ltd. aka “Future Exchange,” a cryptocurrency exchange and crypto hedge fund in November 2022, the Silicon Valley Bank failed on 10 March 2023 followed by the collapse of the traditional Credit Suisse Bank and the rescue of First Republic Bank all happening during March 2023. Regulators, central banks, and experts were quick to stress that a GFC scenario as in 2007-2008 is very unlikely to happen again and probably the fast intervention and coordinated action contributed to somewhat calming down markets and avoiding the eruption of another (global) financial crisis.

Without wanting to analyze the regulatory and supervisory perspective on what has happened in March 2023, another key aspect had been convincingly laid out in the recent book “Games of Greed—Excess, Hubris, Fraud, and Theft on Main Street and Wall Street” by Torsten Dennin: greed.

The term greed is a phenomenon reflecting an uncontrolled longing for increase in the acquisition or use of material gain or social value has been considered as an undesirable pattern throughout human history, dating back to the works of Plato and Aristotle. However, although considered undesirable, we must acknowledge that greed (unfortunately often in combination with fear) is one of our strongest motivators in our decision-making processes.

This fact has been both comprehensively and convincingly underscored by Torsten Dennin in his newest book which connects the dots between Panama Papers, Bernie Madoff, Nick Leeson, Jéróme Kerviel, Elizabeth Holmes, the “Cryptokid” or Ruja Ignatova, aka “Cryptoqueen” by pointing out that all these first shiny than despised names can be associated with the as undesirable classified human behavior of greed.

Moreover, all these cases which ultimately lead to individual (rather seldomly collective) excess, hubris, fraudulent activities, or theft were driven by different shapes of greed. Moreover, another common denominator in all the different games of greed described by Torsten Dennin illustrate the catastrophic consequences in business and finance, typically hitting the unexperienced, less informed, and somewhat innocent or those acting in good faith.

Thus, the book “Games of Greed” is an entertaining eye-opener for all those wanting to gain both a better understanding of the financial scandals of the last century as well as to develop some sensors to better assess whether an extraordinary story may be too good to be true.

I read this book in fall 2023 and can highly recommend it as an entertaining, thought-provoking and easy to comprehend read which helps to better understand the different shapes of greed, human behavior and also the weaknesses of (financial) regulation.

nemesis book cover

Recommended by Nermin Podzic, WVPU Head of Marketing and Communication.

"Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic" by Chalmers Johnson is a deep dive into a topic I'm passionate about — American history.

It's a real eye-opener as it delves into the challenges the United States faces globally. Johnson's insights into the complex web of American military power, how it affects our domestic politics, and the erosion of democratic values are genuinely captivating. Once you start reading, you won't want to put it down until you've devoured every page.

With his meticulous research and critical perspective, Johnson paints a vivid picture of the perils of unchecked militarism and imperialism.

The book encourages us to look hard at our nation's policies and priorities. In today's world, it offers a timely and essential perspective on the American republic's challenges. If you care about the future of our democracy, this book is a must-read about the future of democracy in the United States.

2023 Favorite Book Recommendations from Webster Vienna Faculty

Homelands: A Personal History of Europe by Timothy Garton Ash book cover

Recommended by Franco Algieri, Associate Professor and Head of the WVPU International Relations Department

Timothy Garton Ash is one of the most experienced and critical observers of European history and the European integration process.

As Professor of European studies at the University of Oxford and a columnist for The Guardian, he constantly shares his analysis and observations of a multifaceted Europe.

His latest publication, "Homelands," is more than just the journey through European history starting in the second half of the 20th century. It is Ash’s personal history, and the reader is taken along with him through different phases of a destroyed, divided, rising, triumphing and faltering Europe. This book offers highly interesting perspectives based on the author’s personal experiences and creates hope for the future of Europe.

Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism edited by Yvonne Chireau and Nathaniel Deutsch book cover

Recommended by Benjamin Fasching-Gray, WVPU librarian

African Americans and Jewish Americans have over the centuries been neighbors, allies and antagonists, and many wonderful books have been written about how they encounter each other throughout U.S. history, focusing mainly on these social, political and economic relations. “Black Zion” is one of the few to look long and hard at religion.

When Christianized slaves learned the Old Testament stories of escaping to the "Promised Land," they found something strongly resonant in the new religion. African American religious and social movements often approach these sacred texts with a theology different from either traditional Judaism or mainstream Christianity.

When I lived in the United States, I personally met people from the Nation of Islam, Black Israelites and even Nuwaubians, and I was interested how the academics in this book would write about them.

“Black Zion” is scholarly but not dry. Most of part one tells the jaw-dropping, page-turning story of how a group of Chicago African Americans began to worship as Jews, then up and moved to the woods in Liberia, barely surviving in tents, before settling in the Negev in Israel, and how that worked out for them.

Part two examines Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam and his biblical exegesis, pointing to parallels in the Gnostic Gospels, before tackling Louis Farrakhan, an important African American leader in the 1990s who repeated many old antisemitic tropes. Still more complex are Malachi Z. York and the Nuwaubians, whose story rounds out this middle section.

Part three looks at African American Christian theologians and religious leaders who interpret sacred Jewish texts in new ways. The most exciting part of this section was about the relationship between the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, two progressive social activists allied during the Civil Rights Movement.

There’s more in “Black Zion,” like articles about Haiti, about the first Black Synagogues in the U.S., and about Black Churches that repurpose unused synagogues. I think of this book as a real treasure, and I was very happy to find it in Webster’s ebook collection.

good to great book cover

Recommended Emil Martirosyan, WVPU adjunct faculty member.

"Good to Great” by Jim Collins is dedicated to the substantial analysis of why some listed companies outperforming building up sustainable market capitalization increase in the long range prospective and the others are generating the profit affordable to keep the current interest of the financial investors.

The author is defining the key factors why due to internal organizational structure and motivation approaches one companies building high potential to value increase and lucrativeness for the strategic investors, while the others creating well-based profit performance and attracting the financial investors tending to get the dividend flow.

The author calls “Great” the companies with the long-standing capitalization increase and “Good” — the ones are profit focused. One of the key idea in the book is the transition from “Good” to ”Great” organization, which leads up in restructuring and reorganizing the internal structures, motivation models, leadership paths and corporate culture.

The book’s framework consists of the three main components:

Process: From setting up yourselves towards greatness (aka Build Up) to achieving an inflection point that takes you to greatness (aka Breakthrough).

Phases: There are three different phases in the "Good to Great" journey.

Flywheel: A quiet and deliberate process of figuring out what needs to be done for best future results and taking those step one by one, pushing the flywheel in a consistent direction until it achieves a breakthrough point.

My favorite quotes from the book are the following:

  • "By definition, it is not possible to everyone to be above the average."
  • “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”
  • “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”
  • “A company should limit its growth based on its ability to attract enough of the right people.”

111 Orte im Wienerwald, die man gesehen haben muss book cover

Recommended by Jasmina Dukovska, Front Desk Officer with the WVPU Facility Team

A book I recommend to anyone living in Vienna is entitled, “"111 Orte im Wienerwald, die man gesehen haben muss.”

The title of this travel guide, which is written in German, translates to “111 must-see places in the Vienna Woods.” This book helped me become acquainted to the surroundings and nature around the city in which I live. Reading this guide brought me closer to Austrian culture in terms of respect and attitude towards the nature, habits while interacting with it, and cast a light on how important nature is to the Austrian lifestyle.

This book covers the Wienerwald — the Vienna woods — its paths and signs, the beautiful hidden and not-so-hidden spots which are worth a visit not only for the nature itself, but for the cuisine, history, and social life of the Viennese people.

This guide is written in a precise, clear manner, with thorough instructions and apt descriptions, while at the same time using lighthearted language and not-so-complex use of the German language.

I hope everybody enjoys reading and being guided by this travel series just as we did.

chernobyl prayer book cover

Recommended by Anatoly Reshetnikov, Assistant Professor of International Relations.

Today, concerns about the possibility of another nuclear catastrophe have returned to the public discourse in response to Russia’s continued occupation of a nuclear power plant in Ukraine and the rising tensions between the world nuclear powers.

Alexievich’s book is a somber, albeit necessary, reminder about the real extent of such incidents, as well as their immediate and postponed effects on human lives. A Belarusian writer and Nobel Prize Laureate, who was recently forced into exile, Alexievich interviewed more than 500 people who either witnessed the 1986 Chernobyl disaster or had to deal with its devastating consequences over the decades that followed.

In her book, she gives voice to eyewitnesses, the members of cleanup brigades, firefighters, politicians, and scientists, but most importantly to ordinary people, whose lives had been changed forever by that disaster. As such, one of the most valuable things about this book is its perspective: the book is deeply personal, psychological, and as such, easily relatable, regardless of one’s cultural, historical or geographical distance from the described events. It is also a great example of well-crafted and well-narrated analysis that can be conducted on the border between journalism, ethnographic research and literature, combining the best features of all three genre. The huge success of the recent HBO miniseries, “Chernobyl,” owes a lot to Alexievich, as its creators were often relying on the testimonies presented in the book.

cover of righteous mind book

Recommended by Eva Zedlacher, WVPU Assistant Professor of Management.

I recommend "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion" by Jonathan Haidt.

This easy-to-read book by U.S. moral psychologist Haidt is a recommendation for anyone who is interested in social science research and the study on (individualist) ethical decision making in business and politics. Haidt reviews renowned experiments among children and adults to demonstrate why so many of our moral views and decisions actually take place intuitively and quickly, and how people often only reason after-the-fact about whether something is right or wrong.

For example, helping/not-harming those in need (e.g. small children) or returning favors are values which people hold intuitively and largely largely independent of age, culture, education or gender. But if this is the case, why are we so often divided by different “ethics”?

Haidt illustrates, via large-scale studies on moral beliefs of American voters, that despite common moral intuition, liberals and conservatives are divided by distinct values, among them the importance of group loyalty and purity/sanctity of the body.

Nevertheless, this book makes the case for more tolerance towards different (political) views and beliefs since after all, we all share some common intuition about what is “right” or “wrong.”

Bradley E. Wiggins, Associate Professor and Department Head of Media Communications at Webster Vienna, recommends two books.

A Queer History of the United States book cover

"A Queer History of the United States" (2011) by Michael Bronski

While reading "A Queer History," I’m reminded of the approach to historical narratives largely developed by renowned historian Howard Zinn, who’s book "A People’s History of the United States" certainly leaves an indelible impression on those who read it. In Bronski’s work of American social history, it becomes quite clear right away that queer lives are and have always been integral to the American project, despite many people living closeted lives. This work relies on primary documents, literature, and cultural histories to tell a story of how the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender experience shaped the United States' culture, and history. The book is a remarkable and timely reminder that significant progress has occurred, to be sure, but to quote the founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and one of the prominent figures associated with the Stonewall uprising in 1969, Marsha Johnson, ‘the first pride was a riot’.

Learn more about the commitment within the Webster University global network to embrace all human differences while building upon our commonalities as people on this web page.

Wittgenstein's Vienna book cover

"Wittgenstein's Vienna" (1996) by Allan Janik and Stephen Edelston Toulmin

Another history book, this taking place across the pond, is one read by Wiggins in the late 1990s.

I read this book for first time for a course called "Vienna" at the University of Pittsburgh where I completed my bachelor's and master's degrees. The book, "Wittgenstein’s Vienna," relies on analytical narrative to explore the depth and significance of Vienna’s contributions to philosophy, psychology, science, art, politics, the humanities and so much more.

It’s really a must-read for anyone with even the slightest interest in the fin-de-siècle (end-of-the-century) era of Vienna’s exit from the 19th and entry into the 20th centuries and beyond. I’m re-reading this book to prepare for a course to be offered in summer 2024 which will highlight Vienna’s intellectual contributions to the fields of media studies and public relations.

attachment therapy book cover

Recommended by Barbara Katharina (Katie) Reschenhofer, WVPU Language Center Tutor.

Attachment theory describes human behaviors of and attitudes toward attachment. According to attachment research, we form secure or insecure attachment styles very early on in childhood. Throughout life, attachment styles can develop in various ways and manifest in either secure or insecure behaviors when interacting with family members, peers, and partners. Understanding the basics of human attachment will therefore not only benefit anyone interested in child development and behavioral psychology, but it can also help individuals navigate intimate relationships formed later on in life.

In this revised edition, scholars of attachment and behavior - Dorothy Heard, Brian Lake and Una McCluskey — provide a rich and insightful look into how the study of attachment has developed since John Bowlby's (1969) and Mary Ainsworth's (1978) ground-breaking publications. Seminal research, such as Ainsworth's Strange Situation experiment and Bowlby's Caregiver-Careseeker model, is explored in detail and expanded on with new approaches to providing dynamic therapy.

The book moreover uses helpful terminology to suggest novel perspectives onto secure and insecure attachment styles and follows a clear, reader-friendly structure. The chapters are divided into three main parts: Part I discerns between and defines various types of the "self." Part II discusses structures and patterns of human interaction and therapy models. Part III is a collection of appendices which contextualize the origin of attachment theory and provide information on seminal studies in the field.

For anyone interested in attachment theory and the psychology behind human relationships, this book makes for a fantastic read.

I therefore recommend this book to both WVPU students who are pursuing a degree in psychology, as well as anyone interested in human behavior and the formation of different attachment styles and states beyond childhood. With a critical eye and an open mind, readers will certainly be able to gain fascinating new insights into this novel approach to examining adolescent and adult attachment.

uncommon sense book cover

Recommended by Dr. Emil Martirosyan, WVPU adjunct faculty member.

"Uncommon Sense, Common Nonsense" is dedicated to the reason analysis why one company achieves better market and financial results as compared to others.

The authors are creating a direct link to the outperforming potential that is based on human capital and leadership potential. These strategic components and advantages are creating the most valuable intellectual assets which are performing in their best conditions in company business models. Intellectual assets and the business model are the major factors for the long-standing sustainable capitalization growth.

The book “Uncommon Sense" consists of two main parts: first is a stack of fast-moving mini-chapters with real cases; the second part is a description of the Discovery Process and how to use discovery to transform the leadership teams in strategy for future success. Major lessons are devoted to human capital specifics, which forms different and sometimes unique competence-based teams and corporate structures.

My favorite quotes from the book are the following:

  • “Firms outperform their competitors by aiming to be different, not better.”
  • “Success is best measured by added value, not profit.”
  • “The strategy is not an attack-plan but the idea under study.”
  • “Winners are motivated more by meeting a need than by meeting a target.”
  • “The greatest threats to corporate performance are internal, not external.”
  • “Losers are typified by the 'catch up' strategy of a better product at a lower price."

The Fortress book cover

Recommended by Johannes Pollak, Rector and Professor of Political Science in the International Relations Department at Webster Vienna Private University.

The war in Ukraine has re-focused European attention to a region that was almost forgotten for the past 50 years — a region that has experienced terrible atrocities in the past. Alexander Watson’s book "The Fortress" looks back to one of the most important eastern strongholds of the Habsburg Empire in what was then Galicia, and charts a vivid picture of the enormous incompetence of the Habsburg military elite, the horrible human suffering on all sides, and the countless war crimes that surrounded the fall of the fortress Przemyśl.

The siege of 1914 and the final fall of the fortress in 1915 were accompanied by brutal attempts of Russification on the one side and the stubborn allegiance to a lost cause on the Habsburg side, and thus a harbinger of what was to come only a few years later.

Watson’s account of the longest siege in World War I is based on an impressive number of soldiers’ diaries, personal accounts of civilians, and chronicled events. It’s vivid narrative style does not hide the brutal face of war, quite the opposite. As such, it is yet another account of the sheer endless human folly.

The Big Short book cover courtesy Goodreads

Recommended by Karim Elatraby, WVPU Department Coordinator for the Business & Management and Psychology Departments.

"The Big Short" is a captivating and thought-provoking read that sheds light on the events leading up to the financial crisis of 2008.

The book follows a group of investors who predicted the collapse of the housing market and, in turn, profited from it. Lewis uses his signature narrative nonfiction style to provide readers with a detailed account of the inner workings of the financial industry and the people who made bets against the market. Even though the book utilizes some technical lingo, one of its main strengths is Lewis's ability to take complex financial concepts and make them accessible to everyone.

He provides clear and concise explanations of terms such as subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations, which can be confusing to those not familiar with the financial industry. In doing so, he makes the book a fascinating read for anyone, regardless of their level of expertise in finance. Another aspect of the book that I found particularly interesting was the way Lewis explores the ethical and moral implications of the actions of those involved in the crisis.

The book raises important questions about the responsibilities of financial institutions and the role of government regulators in protecting the public. It also sheds light on the greed and self-interest that motivated many of the players in the industry and the devastating consequences of their actions. One of my favorite chapters in the book is "The End of the Financial World as We Know It," which provides a vivid description of the events leading up to the collapse of the housing market. Lewis uses the story of a small hedge fund manager to illustrate the irrationality and excess that were pervasive in the industry at the time. The chapter provides a clear and compelling picture of the hubris and recklessness that led to the crisis.

Overall, "The Big Short" is a compelling and insightful book that offers readers a behind-the-scenes look at the financial crisis of 2008. Lewis's writing style is engaging and accessible, and the book is an excellent choice for anyone interested in finance, economics, or the inner workings of the financial industry. The book raises important questions about the role of financial institutions and regulators in protecting the public and provides a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked greed and self-interest.

Neuroscience for Leadership: Harnessing the Brain Gain Advantage

Recommended by Luca Ticini, PhD MBA, Professor, Head of Psychology Department at WVPU

I recently had the opportunity to read "Neuroscience for Leadership: Harnessing the Brain Gain Advantage" by Tara Swart, Kitty Chisholm and Paul Brown, and I must say that I was thoroughly impressed. The book provides a comprehensive overview of the latest research in neuroscience and how it can be applied to leadership and management. The authors do an excellent job of explaining complex concepts in an accessible and engaging way, making the book suitable for readers with a wide range of backgrounds.

One of the things I appreciated most about the book was the way that it seamlessly blended scientific research with practical advice and examples. The authors provide a wealth of tips and strategies for how leaders can use the principles of neuroscience to improve their own performance and that of their teams.

Overall, "Neuroscience for Leadership" is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to deepen their understanding of how the brain works and how it can be harnessed for success in the business world. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to improve their leadership skills and achieve greater success in their career.

“Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, expanded edition” (2021), by Robert B. Cialdini

Recommended by Hon.-Prof. Univ.-Doz. Dr. Claus Ebster

How do you get others to do what you want them to do? The question is a simple one, but the answer is anything but. Throughout our lives, we are constantly confronted with situations in which we need to influence and persuade others. How do you get your children to clean up their room? How do you persuade your boss to give you the promotion you deserve? How do you convince your colleagues to make a donation to a charity about which you care deeply? And how do you get investors to financially support your startup idea?

These are all challenging endeavors with no simple solutions. Fortunately, several years ago, I (together with five million other readers) discovered the book, “Influence — The Psychology of Persuasion.” It was written by Robert Cialdini, arguably the most well-known social psychologist of our times, and it can help you with all of these dilemmas. In the book, now available in an expanded edition, Cialdini distills decades of rigorous psychological research into seven highly relevant and applicable principles: reciprocation, liking, social proof, authority, scarcity, commitment, and unity. If you want to know more about these principles, read the book!

Unlike a myriad of unconvincing pop psychology books that merely use fancy terms to state the obvious, Cialdini succeeds in giving the reader actionable advice that is based on hard-nosed psychological experiments. What I like as much as the research-based approach of the book is the author’s accessible and humorous writing style. Judging from the limited interactions I have had with the author (who once generously helped one of my students), this is a reflection of Cialdini’s personality. His light-hearted yet meticulous, fact-based approach to writing sets an example that I aspire to as a writer myself.

One of my favorite passages in the book is a letter written by a fictional (?) first-year student, Sharon, in which she informs her parents that her academic studies are not going as expected. She uses the principle of perceptual contrast to put the unpleasant matter in perspective by first making her parents believe that a series of serious calamities, such as a fire in the dorm, a crippling disease, and an unwanted pregnancy has happened to her. Knowing that all of this is just make-believe, her letter is truly hilarious. In a dry note, Cialdini remarks, “Sharon may be failing Chemistry, but she’d get an A in psychology.” While Sharon may deserve an A, In my humble opinion, Cialdini’s book undoubtedly merits an A+.

"Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ," (2006) by Daniel Goleman

Recommended by Luca Ticini, PhD MBA, Professor, Head of Psychology Department at WVPU

“Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman is a thought-provoking and well-written book that explores the concept of emotional intelligence and its role in our personal and professional lives. Goleman argues that emotional intelligence, which is the ability to understand and manage one's own emotions and the emotions of others, is a critical factor in success and fulfillment in both our personal and professional lives.

One of the key strengths of the book is Goleman's ability to clearly and concisely explain the concept of emotional intelligence and its components, including self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Through a combination of research, case studies, and personal anecdotes, Goleman provides a compelling argument for the importance of emotional intelligence in our lives and the many benefits it can bring.

Another strength of the book is its focus on the practical applications of emotional intelligence. Goleman provides a range of tips and strategies for developing and improving emotional intelligence, and he offers specific advice for applying emotional intelligence in different areas of our lives, including work, relationships, and parenting.

Overall, "Emotional Intelligence" is a valuable and thought-provoking read for anyone interested in improving their emotional intelligence and achieving greater success and fulfillment in their personal and professional lives.

Favorites From 2022

The World for Sale

Recommended by Prof. (FH) Dr. Armin Kammel, LL.M., MBA; teaching business law, business ethics and corporate financial strategy at WVPU

In today’s world it is evident that commodities are an essential underlying for various economic activities, products — and politics. Latest with the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, it became clear to everyone that commodities, aka the earth’s resources, are important. Several reasons are underpinning this understanding, ranging from individual cost reductions this winter to reducing an overdependence from several countries to their sustainable consumption for general environmental efforts to achieve a climate-neutral economy.

The term commodity can be traced back to the Latin term “commodus” which means — among others — “advantage” or “benefit”. This meaning strictu sensu has traditionally been applied by commodities traders which are the subject of a fascinating book by Javier Blas and Jack Farchy entitled “The World for Sale — Money, Power and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources”.

Javier Blas and Jack Farchy describe in a fascinating manner roughly a dozen of billionaires who have been supplying the world with oil, coal, metals and food based on talks with these people who typically do not talk. These talks in combination extensive research covering company reports, prospectuses as well as legal filings introduce the reader to a globe-spanning corporate thriller which underscores that business can be truly global and overcome any political or economic hurdle. Hence, the book offers a compelling chronicle of global commodity trading from the end of World War II until today.

Hence, the book covers the emergence of multinational companies such as Glencore, Cargill, or Vitol as well as the multifaceted lives of traders such as the well-known Marc Rich, Ivan Glasenberg or John Deuss. These traders conducted their business despite of any economic sanctions, ignored any ideological obstacles or political impossibilities, had no issues dealing with any politician, unscrupulous despots or shady businessmen and focused only on one thing — executing the deal.

The continuous demand for commodities transformed the commodity traders to merchants of power. Despite the increasing awareness of climate change and the need for a more sustainable commodities consumption, the global CoVID19 pandemic demonstrated again that with the world in lockdown, it was again the commodities traders that would continue with their business against any obstacles.

I read this book in summer 2022 and can highly recommend it as a gripping, thought-provoking and remarkable read which helps to better understand global business, the limitations of political powers and the real meaning of economic power.

Russia and the Future of Europe

Recommended by Nermin Podzic, Head of Marketing and Communications, Webster Vienna Private University

This book sheds light on how Member States and EU neighbors relate to Russia. It includes their historical, financial and political ties, as well as the public perception of the national population vis-à-vis Russia. Each chapter builds on these factors to elucidate the country’s position towards Russia and provides a prediction on the future of these relations. This volume shows the diverse relations that the EU member states and neighbors have with Russia, spanning from tense and confrontational to more eased and friendly, highlighting the contrasts between the national state and the EU as a whole.

The book also presents the reader with concrete aspects in different policy areas, via recommendations on how single countries and the EU should deal with Russia. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 23rd February 2022 will change the relationship between the West and Putin’s Russia for decades to come. No doubt that this blatant violation of International Law and the incomprehensible human suffering of Ukrainian citizens will massively change the attitude of the countries analyzed in this book.

Apartheid Studies Manifesto

Review by Dr. Anthony Löwstedt, Professor, Strategic Communication

The author’s motto, "colonialism on steroids," sums up the central thesis of this monumental effort well. Three further volumes are planned for publication in the coming years (2023-2025).

The South African state authorities and white "civil" society enforced racial segregation of beaches, parks, libraries, post office entrances, staircases, elevators, dry cleaners, churches, schools, prisons, sports clubs, swimming pools, cafés, restaurants, hospitals, ambulances, professions, rights, duties, residential areas, etc., leaving the inferior options in each instance as the ones reserved for non-whites, including the indigenous Black majority population. Many of the hundreds of racist laws and associated kinds of practices involved amount to "world records" in racism, so to speak.

"Apartheid Studies: A Manifesto" deals with the connections between these records, with the system of apartheid. It is also a critique of a widespread denialism, not only in South Africa, but across the world, which assumes that apartheid is a thing of the past, that it can be safely reduced to South Africa under National Party (NP) rule, 1948-1994. That misinterpretation flies in the face of international law. The United Nations’ International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973) states that the definition of the crime of apartheid, a crime against humanity … shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa’ (Article 2). Thus, the worst thing about Apartheid Studies is that they have come so late, nearly half a century after the international community implicitly called for them. The best thing is that they are finally here. There is today a plethora of MA and PhD programs and even academic departments and research centers, each dedicated separately to the study of genocide, colonialism, decolonization or post-colonialism, but not yet even one such program for apartheid, anywhere in the world. Why?

The author, Nyasha Mboti, associate professor of communication at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein tries to answer this question, too. The facts that Apartheid Studies did not exist anywhere until now, and that apartheid is not even mentioned once in the new South African Constitution, are both prime examples of what Freud called "Verdrängung" (repression). Severe trauma is forgotten on purpose — and is bound to cause very serious pathological conditions, including schizophrenia. Apartheid could be understood not only as steroid-induced, "raging bull" madness, but also as full-blown social schizophrenia, with accompanying hallucinations, paranoia and psychoses. And then, it is also an ice-cold economic algorithm, a calibrated optimization of the rate of oppression.

And those are just mental/structural aspects. Apartheid societies are also extremely violent in the physical sense. Apartheid South Africa had nuclear weapons; it used biological and chemical weapons and conducted large-scale military invasions and starvation campaigns against neighboring countries. Millions were killed. Its methods of torture, especially of child victims, are notorious.

Africans are often, perhaps mostly, the victims of apartheid through history, but they are not the only ones, as Israel/Palestine, in particular, shows us still today, and Guatemala, at least until the late 1990s. This state of affairs is well reflected in the numerous examples of apartheid victims that Mboti provides. There are mainly African apartheid victims, overwhelmingly apartheid victims who are people of color, but there are also other non-white and even some white victims. And there are many people of all colors in the grey zone between criminal guilt and moral responsibility. At least in Liberia since 1849, Africans (or rather, former African Americans) are even the main perpetrators of it, whereas indigenous Africans were victimized, yet again. There probably is a color-blind definition of apartheid, but according to Mboti, it should never be ripped out of historical context. It should not be separated from the facts.

The history of apartheid is long, horrific, and contains many unexpected twists. A classical historian at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, Simon Davis, published a book on late ancient apartheid in Egypt soon after the first NP election win ("Race-Relations in Ancient Egypt: Greek, Egyptian, Hebrew, Roman," London: Methuen, 1951). It is quite possible that the architects of apartheid in South Africa even learned from ancient Macedonian, Greek and Roman forebears, as well as from, for example, the Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman conquests in Britain and Ireland.

There are many dilemmas involved in the liberation from apartheid: You cannot morally chase all the invaders and their descendants out of the country or accuse them of not having added anything at all to the economy. They were sometimes only parasites, perhaps mostly only parasites, but not always only parasites.

Mboti concludes: "Apartheid does not end through a change of government, or the coming of democracy." There is a 90% non-white majority in South Africa today, yet the whites remain disproportionately rich and powerful, and they still own most of the arable land. And that is only one of the many unresolved apartheid issues facing not only South Africa, but the world. There is much urgent work ahead for Apartheid Studies.

The Hero's Way: Walking with Garibaldi from Rome to Ravenna by Tim Parks

Review by Dr. Jozef Bátora, Professor, International Relations

Many of us connect the unification of Italy with the famous Expedition of the Thousand ("Spedizione dei Mille"), successfully led by Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1860. But for those who are familiar with the origins of the Risorgimento, there is another expedition — or actually, a painful retreat — that played an equally important, if not even more fundamental role for the then future project called unified Italy. It was the march of about 4,000 exhausted revolutionary troops led by Garibaldi retreating across the mountains from Rome to Ravenna following the fall of the Roman Republic in June 1849. The Roman Republic was a revolutionary project that managed to oust Pope Pius IX from Rome and sought to establish republican principles of rule. However, it lasted for only a few months and was then destroyed in a siege of the city by French and Neapolitan troops organized quickly to reinstall papal power. In a hopeless fight on the heights of the Gianicolo Hill, many of the young revolutionaries lost their lives — among them the author of the lyrics of the current Italian anthem, the young poet Goffredo Mameli. And the spirit of unified Italy lived on. But it had to be kept alive. And this book describes how it was done in the first weeks after the fall of the Republic during this arduous retreat that laid the foundation for later victories.

The author — a graduate of Harvard and Cambridge, a professor of English at one of the universities in Milan and living in Italy since 1977 — has studied a number of works and archival material regarding the retreat. Besides works by historians, it included diaries of an aide-de-camp of Garibaldi, the young Bavarian officer Hoffstetter, who carefully recorded where the troops stayed; how they got food and money; the tactics to deceive the enemy armies pursuing them including — in particular — the French and the Austrians; and not least the more practical day-to-day concerns such as making sure that the troops maintained proper hygiene. An important figure in the whole story is Garibaldi’s Brazilian wife Anita who despite her pregnancy has decided to leave a comfortable refuge in Nice and join her husband in the defense of Rome and then retreated with the revolutionary troops. She carried weapons and ammunition and even got involved in fighting when necessary. Unfortunately, she died of malaria in Ravenna in early August 1849 and her bravery and dedication make her a highly respected figure of the Risorgimento until this day.

What makes this book particularly interesting is that it is not just a historical book but also a travelogue. The author and his girlfriend have namely decided to walk the entire trip once taken by the garibaldini. They negotiate the hardships of the summer heat and blisters on the feet, and stop in the same small towns and villages where also Garibaldi and his troops once stopped. And there they meet people in little piazzas, in stores and in bed & breakfasts, and discuss with them about various aspects in their everyday lives. It is about the little towns with almost no youngsters around, about the hate of immigrants and the sources of support for the likes of Salvini, and about the lack of motivation to develop businesses in abandoned places that seem to have no future. But it is also about the unexpected friendliness of café owners where you expected no cafés at all. And about the unwavering strength of family networks that undergird the staying power of individuals even in the harshest of economic troubles. This is hence not simply a book about historical events but also a set of reflections about Italy today — about the country that Garibaldi and his followers dreamt about while marching through the ravines and steep hills of Lazio, Tuscany, Umbria and Veneto. Was it all worth it? Many of us who love this country think so.

P.S. My copy has espresso stains; the price tag is from a small English book store in Trastevere, and some of the pages are shriveled from Tyrrhenian sea salt. No tablet or electronic reader gives you the same enjoyment as a proper book.

The Interpretation

Review by Dr. Anatoly Reshetnikov, Assistant Professor, International Relations

I would recommend an old book this time, which I currently re-read for the third or fourth time for one of my ongoing research projects — the classic collection of essays “The Interpretation of Cultures” (1973) by the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz. It is indeed puzzling to me why Geertz, one of the most politically — and internationally- minded scholars, remains a relatively marginal voice in the disciplines of International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Political Science more generally. For, half a century ago, he seemingly said all there is to say about ideology, nationalism, decolonization, but also — the more traditionally anthropological — religion and ritual, as aspects of human culture(s) and political life.

Well… certainly not ALL of it, but quite a lot, and I often find it funny to read about allegedly ‘ground-breaking’ discoveries in the contemporary explanations of domestic and international political processes, realizing in the back of my mind that they read as simply less eloquent iterations of what Geertz’s ideas. For those who would like to learn more about one of the most effective interpretivist methods, thick description, which was perfected and practiced by Geertz, I specifically recommend his essay about the Balinese cockfight.


Review by Dr. Marc Mehu, Associate Professor, Psychology

In Oil, Power, and War, Matthieu Auzanneau presents a well-documented and provoking analysis of the history of petrol. The narrative revolves around the intricate relationships between the technological innovations made possible by the versatility of crude oil, the societal changes that these innovations induced, and the political efforts of Western nations to control this precious resource. Auzanneau points to our society's dependence on petrol in virtually all areas of modernity, which had already started before the advent of thermic engines. As oil gradually replaced charcoal as the main source of energy for vehicles and war machinery, international relations intensified and opened new alliances (as well as conflicts...) between countries. While it is interesting to see that the political actors involved tend to adopt different strategies around the control of oil, the clash between the opportunism of Western nations and the moral values they are proud to vehiculate cannot be better exemplified than by the avid race towards energetic independence. The theater of international relations depicted by Auzanneau in this book resembles a Shakespearian drama, with the somewhat sad underthought that such drama is not fictive. Realistic accounts of history have a natural tendency to sound negative and pessimistic, and this book is no exception. The comprehensiveness of Auzanneau's analysis, however, does compensate for the darkness of the content. This work should be interesting for students of international relations and socio-economic processes.

I read the original French edition of the book published in 2015 (Or Noir, meaning "Black Gold"), which may slightly differ from the new edition. For further information, you may want to read a more detailed review of the English translation of the book.

Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement

Review by Mag. Katrin Kristjansdottir, Lecturer, Psychology Department and manager of the student counseling services

From the founder and activist behind the largest movement of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Tarana Burke shares her never life story of how she first came to say me too and launch one of the largest cultural events in American history.

This book is more about the person than the movement, which is also important as the book explains the complexities of sexual assault in the black community so well with Tarana’s raw and personal story. How the history of Black men being falsely accused of raping white women (and being killed for it) makes it so much harder for Black girls and women to talk openly about their abuse, which makes them more vulnerable. An important read for us to better understand the me too movement. The book is available at the Webster Vienna library.


Review by Dr. Martin Altenburger, Assistant Professor, Accounting; Business and Management Department

The author, Daniel Kahneman, is a professor of psychology and public affairs emeritus, who received the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

In his book, Kahneman clusters human thinking into two different modes: "System 1" is a fast, automatic and emotional thinking process, whereas "System 2" is a slow, effortful and logical thinking process. He shows that although we believe that we make decisions mostly by using our System 2, the reality is often very different. For example, people’s judgments are frequently influenced by showing them random numbers before they make their judgments; so-called anchoring.

This anchoring process led to different age estimates of Ghandi by people who were asked beforehand whether Ghandi lived more than 114 years, and those who were asked beforehand whether he lived more than 34 years. The book also shows numerous other findings from studies in the field of behavioral economics over the last decades. While more graphical illustrations might have made the book more attractive for “non-scientists,” it is a must-read for anybody who is interested in human (economic) decision-making.

The Sex Lives of African Women: Self-Discovery, Freedom, and Healing

Review by Dr. Eva Zedlacher, Assistant Professor, Management

The members of the Webster Ghana Book club currently read the bestseller "The Sex Lives of African Women" by Ghanaian writer Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah — so I joined in. The book entails experiences of over 30 women stemming from different African countries and cultural/educational backgrounds — and many of them having moved to other countries or continents.

Many experiences are about suppression of sexuality and the search for liberation. While the interview stories are not of high literary value, the book is nevertheless an interesting read.


Review by Mag. Katrin Kristjansdottir, Lecturer Psychology Department and Manager of the student counseling services

As we are all going through difficult and crazy times, I found this book very interesting to read. It does not go under the self-help category as it is a well-documented scientific exploration on the topic resilience.

This book identifies 10 key ways to weather and bounce back from difficulties, stress and trauma. It incorporates latest research both done by the authors themselves and others. Including dozens of interviews with trauma survivors, giving the book a storytelling feel to it.

It looks at post-traumatic stress and provides practical advice on how to build emotional, mental and physical resilience. I found the focus on the concept behind community resilience very timely and to give hope for the current world situation.

Before the West

Review by Dr. Anatoly Reshetnikov, Assistant Professor, International Relations

How would the history of international relations in "the East" be written if we did not always read the ending — the Rise of the West and the decline of the East — into the past? With this nontrivial question, the Cambridge-based International Relations scholar, Ayşe Zarakol, starts her inquiry into the grand political narratives of historical (Eur)Asia, the region connected through both norms and political institutions, which still bear trace of the once super-mighty Mongol Empire.

Both the inverted commas around "the East" and the critique of the Rise of the West, frequently presented as the only meaningful factor in the political history of the modern world, are essential here. In her book, Zarakol tries to break free from the elusive, yet still suffocating, nets of proverbial and all-pervasive Eurocentrism, which dominates most of the existing historical accounts of international relations. Admittedly, she does so with flying colors.

For those interested in how the relations between different (Eur)Asian polities were managed during the time of the Chinggisids, the Timurid, and the Ming, as well as how those world orders affected the polities which emerged in that region later (e.g. the Ottoman Empire and Muscovy), this book is a must-read. Yet, even those, for whom the above royal dynasties and polities ring no bells, will find Zarakol’s book easy-to-read and delightful, as well as refreshingly different from all the Eurocentric analyses. And hey, it would also be a great chance to learn the meaning of some important, but undeservingly neglected non-Western political concepts, such as ‘Cihannüma’.

A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy

Review by Dr. Bradley E. Wiggins, Associate Professor and Head of Strategic Communication Department

Perhaps coinciding with the Trump presidency or the apparent rise in conspiracy theorizing in online spaces, this book offers a critical perspective on conspiracism. One of the highlights of the book is how the authors contextualize conspiracism. One version, what the authors call old conspiracism, actually has some merit. Consider informal conversations about 9/11, the Kennedy assassination, or the Apollo moon landing … a perspective in old conspiracism basically means that those historic events attract questions and scrutiny and that’s really normal because it is a kind of start to a scientific process, i.e., posing questions, discussing them, looking for answers, etc. The authors don’t claim that believing that the Apollo moon landing was fake as scientific, but having a dialogue about it or questions regarding the vaccine for COVID, etc. are all indications of a reasonably healthy society able to question events and occurrences as time goes by.

By stark contrast, new conspiracism is defined by bold innuendo, bald-face claims and conjecture. Any attempt to discuss it signifies an outsider challenging a marginalized view held by people who’ve increasingly retreated from any discernible public sphere. Simply claiming something as fake news is sufficient in new conspiracism. Its tautology suggests that the mere anointment of something as fake is proof enough, especially when made by a credible figure in new conspiracism, such as former President Trump.

Yuval Noah Harari: “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”

Review by Dr. Maria Madlberger, Head of Department and Full Professor; Area Coordinator for Marketing

The historian and Professor Yuval Noah Harari has written a book that would contradict any advice students are usually given: it is addressing the really big picture. With “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, the author offers nothing less than the invitation to a fascinating journey of mankind, from its very beginning two million years ago to an outlook on our future. The book shows how cognition and knowledge, collaboration, and economy have emerged over the millennia and how they shaped human lives and the way we are living together then and now. It reveals how the interplay of science, capitalism, and politics resulted in a drastic intellectual and technological progress and formed the world as we know it nowadays. And it does not forget to take a critical view at multiple destructive and cruel impacts this progression has brought — for humans, animals, and the planet.

A huge challenge such as telling the history of mankind can only work well if the author has an extensive, multidisciplinary knowledge in order to identify the most significant developments and understand their relationships. Harari succeeds in this respect by presenting a broad array of scientific evidence in the form of expressive anecdotes and striking comparisons which are not only exceedingly interesting, but also humorous and entertaining. His unorthodox view on many issues — for example a direct comparison between the Code of Hammurabi and the United States Declaration of Independence — opens new viewpoints and evokes unanticipated questions.

Reality taught me a special lesson from the book. I finished reading it few days before Feb. 24, 2022. This day made some optimistic outlooks on a more peaceful future obsolete in a painful way. It has reminded in a brutal manner of one of the book’s core messages, namely that mankind has the future in its hands. In times that are so uncertain, confusing, and ambiguous, the book’s insight that threatening periods have accompanied us at all times can give some sort of orientation by helping to ask important questions, especially the last one raised in the book: Where do we want to go?

Europe's Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years War (2010)

Review by Univ. Prof. Dr. Johannes Pollak, Rector, Webster Vienna Private University

The frontispiece of this book (paperback) could not be more telling: a massive tree in the middle of an army camp with scores of corpses hanging from its branches.

What seems to be a bizarre choice for a book cover turns out to be an apt symbol for the unspeakable barbarity taking place between 1618-48. It was a mixture of battles, sieges, long years of starvation and utter devastation that was set off by the so-called ‘Defenestrations of Prague’. In 1555 the Peace of Augsburg settled the religious disputes in the Holy Roman Empire by allowing a King to determine the religion of his subjects.

Alas, the tensions simmered on. What started as a conflict between Catholics and Protestants soon turned into the bloody contractions of the European system of nation states. 2018 marked the 400 anniversary of the beginning of the 30 Years War, i.e. there is not shortage on new books on the subject. Wilson’s book from 2009 still stands out in seeing religion as but one element in the war. Excellently written, we learn about the role of the Swedish King Adolph, the industrious Wallenstein, and the notorious Cardinal Richelieu.

We also learn, once again, about the incredible folly of the ruling class who could not care less for ordinary people. My recommendation would be to read it alongside the diaries of Peter Hagendorf, a mercenary for 23 years in this war in order to better understand Europe’s formative years.

Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics (2014)

Review by, Marco Bocchese, Assistant Professor, International Relations

David Bosco’s Rough Justice is the best account so far of the trajectory of the ICC from its optimistic origins to the more constrained court of today. Through extensive interviews with court officials, diplomats, and activists, the book examines the reciprocal relationship between international prosecutors and powerful states. In so doing, it makes a number of important contributions to our understanding of the relationship between global justice and international politics and to the explanatory power of realist and norm-based theories of compliance with international law. Written in an engaging and accessible style, the book should be of interest to the nonspecialist as well.

The primary focus of the book is the relationship between the United States and the ICC. U.S. opposition to the court had its origins in the decision at Rome to create a court whose institutional design limited direct control through the Security Council. As a result, the Clinton administration voted against the Rome Statute and the Bush administration pursued a strategy of active marginalization. The response of the ICC’s first chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, was strategic and conciliatory, seeking to reassure the United States regarding the court’s agenda. Bosco makes a strong circumstantial case that Moreno- Ocampo backed this up by also acting pragmatically, declining to open formal investigations of alleged British war crimes in Iraq and in other situations that would have clashed with U.S. interests (for example, Gaza, Colombia, and Afghanistan). This pattern is also evident vis-à-vis other great powers, as suggested by the fact that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has not moved from a preliminary examination to a formal investigation of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. As a consequence of this pragmatism, all of the ICC’s investigations have taken place in Africa, within what Bosco refers to as a “major-power comfort zone” (p. 173).

About the Author: David Bosco is an associate professor at Indiana University's Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.


This book sheds light on how member states and EU neighbors reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of European solidarity, what they expect from the EU and other member states, and how they are ready to contribute to common action.

The volume reveals how European countries experience and perceive solidarity from the EU and toward the EU in different policy dimensions, such as intra-EU mobility, health care and financial and economic aspects of Europe’s recovery. The book offers national perspectives and perceptions of solidarity and concrete aspects in different policy areas. It includes a Foreword by the Vice Presidents of the European Parliament, Katarina Barley and Othmar Karas.

About the editors

Dr. Michael Kaeding is Jean Monnet Professor for European Integration and European Union Politics at the Institute of Political Science of the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. He is visiting fellow of the European Institute of Public Administration in Maastricht and member of the flying faculties of the College of Europe, Bruges, and the Turkish-German University in Istanbul. Between 2016-2019 he was the chairman of the Trans European Policy Studies Association.

Dr. Johannes Pollak is Professor of International Relations and rector of Webster Vienna Private University, Austria. Prior to this position, he headed the Department for Political Science at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna (on leave). In summer 2019, he was elected chairperson of the Board of the Institute of European Politics in Berlin.

Paul Schmidt is the Secretary General of the Austrian Society for European Politics, which promotes and supports analysis and communication on European affairs. Prior to that he has worked at the Oesterreichische Nationalbank, both in Vienna and at their Representative Office in Brussels at the Permanent Representation of Austria to the European Union.


Review by Univ. Prof. Dr. Johannes Pollak, Rector, Webster Vienna Private University

Having family living by the ocean in the US, this book about jellyfish seemed like an appropriate literature for vacation. Those almost ephemeral creatures are beautiful, light, and elegant as long as you only encounter them in an aquarium. That they are so much more, an indicator of the precarious state of our oceans, their amazing adaptability, that they possess enormous power is what this book is about.

We learn various stories about those powers and abilities: how box jellyfish — the only one with eyes — nearly made the triathlon events impossible at the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000; how in 2009 gigantic jellyfish that weighed over 450 pounds each capsized a fish trawler or how they brought down a US Navy nuclear power ship and nearly caused a catastrophe; how 150 tons of jellyfish have to be removed daily from the cooling system of a single Japanese nuclear power station; how they can “de-grow” if they fall on hard times. It is a book by one of the foremost experts on this remarkable, astonishing creatures — and a book that leaves you with the feeling that, in the authors’ words, ‘we humans have pushed the oceans beyond the tipping point’.

What Happened to You?

Review by Mag. Katrin Kristjansdottir, Lecturer, Psychology Department and Manager of the student counseling services

This book is very accessible for all audience, it explains the function of how the brain processes memories and how attachment and trauma affects the development and mental health. It combines the scientific knowledge with personal emotional stories. The duo conversational style also provides a personal touch to the book.

It is full of personal stories and case studies that makes the book a very easy read and engaging.

However, there is very little information on examples or actionable suggestions on how to heal after a trauma.

Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking What;s wrong with you? to What happened to you? Our earliest experiences shape our lives far down the road, and What Happened to You? provides powerful scientific and emotional insights into the behavioral patterns so many of us struggle to understand.

Here, Winfrey shares stories from her own past, understanding through experience the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma and adversity at a young age. Joining forces with Dr. Perry, one of the world’s leading experts on childhood and brain development, Winfrey and Dr. Perry marry the power of storytelling with science to better understand and overcome the effects of our pasts.

In conversation throughout the book, the two focus on understanding people, behavior, and ourselves. It’s a subtle but profound shift in our approach to trauma, and it’s one that allows us to understand our pasts in order to clear a path to our future opening the door to resilience and healing in a proven, powerful way.


Review by Dr. Marc Mehu, Associate Professor, Psychology

In "Noise," Daniel Kahneman, Cass R. Sunstein, and Olivier Sibony show how noise contributes significantly to errors in all fields, including medicine, law, economic forecasting, police behavior, food safety, bail, security checks at airports, strategy, and personnel selection. And although noise can be found wherever people make judgments and decisions, individuals and organizations alike are commonly oblivious to the role of chance in their judgments and in their actions. Drawing on the latest findings in psychology and behavioral economics, and the same kind of diligent, insightful research that made Thinking, Fast and Slow and Nudge groundbreaking New York Times bestsellers, Noise explains how and why humans are so susceptible to noise in judgment — and what we can do about it.

My personal judgment is that this book is a good introductory popular science contribution to the subject of decision making. It is easily accessible (if a bit boring for a purely academic audience) and explains the problem of how random fluctuations can affect judgment in all sorts of fields, such as justice, medicine, and education.

The systematic (machine-like) application of simple rules, while not completely eliminating this randomness, can reduce it somewhat.

Of course, the goal of psychology is to find ways to understand and reduce the sources of noise, and research will eventually succeed in explaining much of it (i.e., converting the noise into understandable biases).


Review by Dr. Eva Zedlacher, Assistant Professor, Management

Well Nigeria is not Ghana, but since I plan to travel to Lagos during my stay, I am re-reading one of my favorite books: Americanah — by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — a love story between two Nigerian students settled in Lagos in the 1990ies. It is also a book about Nigerian history, immigration to the US and identity search.

What I love about this book are the very thorough descriptions of all “shades of grey” when it comes to racism and colonialism. The author has opened my eyes in many ways — for example, the way we/Westerns think about what Standard English is as well as the “danger of a single story” about the African continent and its people.

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