I am looking for two books, to give to someone. Ideally, I want each book to require very little prior knowledge about their subject on the part of the reader. I would also like each book to be fairly short, or at least small - so that the cost of posting them would not be too great. I'd also like the books not to be too expensive, as I am a bit of a tightwad. You are erudite people, maybe you can recommend books for me. The subjects I am looking for are:
1. A book about Ireland, tracing the country's history roughly from independence to the Celtic Tiger and peace process Northern Ireland. The most convincing candidate I have seen so for is some book of Irish social and cultural history by that Terence Brown fellow.
2. A book about Europe during the Cold War. I have seen two possible candidates for this, both of which have their problems. First of all, there is Tony Judt's book about post war Europe (possibly even called "Post War" - very impressive looking, and by someone who is brainy and says sensible things I agree with, but it is a bit porky. The other one is Mark Mazower's Dark Continent - nice and concise, by a well regarded writer, but it covers Europe's whole 20th century, not just the Cold War period.
Do you have any better suggestions?