Mark Mazower: Dark Continent. Europe's Twentieth Century, New York 2000.
This is a book for anyone on your Christmas list who is interested in twentieth-century Europe. It is a very well written overview of the century, and it questions the traditional, teleological narrative of the triumph of democracy. Mazower describes how liberal democracy, communism, and fascism are all native to European history.
Tara Zahra: Kidnapped Souls. National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948, Cornell 2008.
For someone interested in East Central Europe and the nationality question the new book by Tara Zahra is a must. Zahra innovatively examines what scholars traditionally see as the dividing line in the region: ethnicity. Instead of a mosaic of peoples, divided by nationality, Zahra describes a sense of national indifference among German and Czech speakers in Bohemia. It was rather the nationalist leaders, on both sides, who struggled to make people, especially children, German or Czech.
Rogers Brubaker: Nationalism Reframed. Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe, Cambridge 1996.
Scholars and non-scholars alike will find Brubaker's collection of essays enlightening. Since 1996, he has published Ethnicity without Groups (2004) and Nationalist Politics and Everyday Ethnicity in a Transylvanian Town (2006), but for those unfamiliar with his work, I would highly recommend starting with Nationalism Reframed. It is here where Brubaker questions our static view of nations and in its stead proposes that we understand nationness as a process. He proffers a triadic nexus of nationalizing state, homeland nationalism, and national minority to explain nationhood.
Europa Europa. DVD. Directed by Agnieszka Holland. 1990; Century City: MGM, 2004.
In my opinion one of the best films about the chaos of the Second World War is Agnieszka Holland's "Europa Europa." Even though it is now two decades old, I continue to show it every semester to my students. Not only is it an engaging movie, but it generates discussion about life across Nazi occupied Europe. It would make a great gift for anyone interested in the Second World War.
Fateless. DVD. Directed by Lajos Koltai, Velocity 2006.
Another must see is the newer film by Lajos Koltai based upon the semi-autobiographical novel Fateless by Imre Kertész. This is Koltai's directorial debut, and his background as a cinematographer is evident in this beautifully presented film. I could also recommend the novel, which is available in both German and English translation. The original is in Hungarian. The film avoids a portrayal of solely the good and the bad during the Holocaust; instead it confronts everyday problems of survival and the element of chance that determines so much of our lives.