We LOVE good books! They make the perfect travel companion to while away the hours at airports, train stations, or on a grassy trail or sunny café terrace. And books you read at home provide the perfect introduction to a new place: the more you learn about a particular city or region through the eyes of a character, native, or traveller writing from her own memories, the more you are drawn to that place.
We’ve built up quite a library of books for children as well as adults, in a variety of languages, which offer a look into some special places. Here are a few of our favorites, available in English:
Eastern Europe and Russia:
Down the Volga, by Marq de Villiers, a fascinating memoir set in the Volga-region of Russia.
Lenin’s Tomb, by David Remnick. Modern Russian history. This book gives an in-depth description and analysis of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and was written by a leading journalist who wrote about it for the Washington Post as it occurred.
The Deceit of Riches, by Val Karren. Historical fiction / crime thriller set in Russia directly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. This novel is based on the author’s first-hand experiences as a student in provincial Russia in the mid-90s. Click HERE to read a sample.
Imperium, by Ryszard Kapuscinski (translation by Klara Glowczewska). Soviet history, and a memoir of the author’s life and travels in the Soviet Republics, from the entrance of Soviet troops into Poland in 1939 to the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.
A Train to Potevka, by Mike Ramsdell. Historical fiction / spy thriller. A down-to-earth yet gripping view of undercover life in the final years of the Soviet empire, written by a Utah-born former spy.
The Bridge at Andau, by James Michener. Historical fiction based on the events of the Hungarian Revolution. This book is written like a novel, with a view into the lives of fictional characters who lived through these events, but as Michener was present at the Austrian border in 1956, assisting Hungarian refugees of Communism, he has personally been affected by the events he describes.
Forest of the Hanged, by Liviu Rebreanu. An epic novel set in Romania during the First World War, which deals with the difficulty of war, national identity and loyalty to one’s homeland.
The Uprising, by Liviu Rebreanu. An historic novel, and masterpiece of Romanian literature, set in Romania in 1907 when an actual peasant uprising occurred.
The Exile, by Zinaida Tulub. A biographical novel about the life of Taras Schevchenko, who is considered to be the father of independent Ukrainian thought.
Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. Historical fiction. This nobel-prize winning, British-born author uses this novel to explore the difficult balance between duty and conscience, as demonstrated among the staff of a landed estate in post-World War England.
The Mother Tongue, by Bill Bryson. An historical and humorous look at the English language.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato-Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows. Wartime historical fiction. A look at everyday life in a confusing time, written in letter form and set in England and France.
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. Historical fiction. Set in France and Germany during World War II, this novel, filled with beautiful imagery, shows an compelling parallel and relationship between a blind French girl and a German boy in Nazi-occupied France.
The Seven Ages of Paris, by Alistair Horne. A very comprehensive and thoughtful history of Paris, as well as larger France, told in seven stages of time.
Vermeer’s Hat, by Timothy Brook. A look into commercial society in the Netherlands during the 17th century, through the works of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. The book also visits many other parts of the world to show how Dutch culture was affected by global trade.
The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom. A memoir set in occupied Netherlands detailing the heroic work of one family in the Dutch resistance.
Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes. A memoir set in Italy, where a middle-aged couple choose to renovate and inhabit an old Italian farmhouse.
A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle. A memoir set in southern France, where a man realizes his dream of moving in to an old farmhouse in a remote part of Provence.
The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. A mystery/thriller set in Spain. Zafon’s work will lead you to know and love the streets and alleys of his native Barcelona.
The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Mystery / thriller set in Barcelona.
Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell. Political history and memoir which focuses on Orwell’s own experiences during the Spanish Civil War.
Uncertain Glory, by Joan Sales. Epic novel of the Spanish Civil War, written by one of Spain’s literary greats.
Raised From the Ground, by José Saramago. An historical novel set in 20th Century Portugal, among the families of destitute farm laborers. Saramago won the Nobel prize in 1998 for literature.