Favourite Readings 2020 – Introduction

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At the end of 2014 Isabel Feichtner invited EJIL Board members to reflect on the books that had impacted them that year. This has started a tradition of ‘Favourite Readings’ contributions that we are continuing to this day in order to celebrate books, the process of reading, and the influence reading has on us all. This post marks the start of ‘Favourite Readings 2020’: between now and the new year, we aim to feature around one contribution per day, from ‘Favourite Readings’ regulars and new entrants. In fact, the first contribution, Joseph Weiler’s 10 Good Reads, has gone up already.

2020 has been different from previous years, and this is mirrored in our selection of ‘Favourite Readings’. We heard from numerous colleagues, anecdotally and as part of our work editing the review section of EJIL, that they have struggled to find time and space to enjoy reading. Between home schooling and transforming teaching for online delivery, many have not been able to read nearly as much this year. For others, the absence of other activities has given them more time to read.

This series allows us to celebrate the impression the act of reading leaves on us and how books change us. The end of this year marks the end of Trump’s Presidency and the end of UK’s transition to Brexit. These two events were accompanied and buttressed by the denigration of reading, intellectual activities and expertise. Yes, a critique of experts is essential, but, as the pandemic has shown us, expertise is also essential to society.

We hope to create a space each year for continuing conversations about books – and more importantly the ideas contained within them – with this series, one that sparks inspiration and offers reflection for EJIL readers. Perhaps this series can give everyone inspiration for future reading when they find some time. Past choices from EJIL editors have inspired us and every single year, we have read books as a result of these recommendations.

Over the years, we have broadened the scope of this series to include all our favourite readings not only those related to international law scholarship. This is a curious trend, and one driven by the ‘reviewers’ in this series. This year, their selection of favourite readings includes a diverse and broad range covering all manner of genres including doctrinal law scholarship, critical scholarship, history, fiction, politics, biography, and philosophy – and we have sought to impose neither structure nor standards, but simply let these personal selections speak for themselves. A real treasure trove of inspirational reads is ahead: Hegel’s 250th birthday is celebrated, Black Lives Matter is revisited, poetic prose praised, and a clarion call for the realisation of international solidarity is issued, among many other delights.

What is noticeable is a lack of reading about Covid and pandemics. Given the prevalence of Covid-19 this year, in our lives, grant applications, EJIL:Talk blog posts, workshops, special events, this is perhaps surprising. It might not be a stretch to construe from this that our readings on this topic, given the existential dread the pandemic has brought, were simply not our favourites. Or conceivably it is difficult for someone to write something profoundly interesting about a crisis we are in. Maybe in years to come, and once distance is found from 2020, we can read about its events more favourably.


You will be able to read all the posts in this series here


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