10 Books to Fall in Love with Your Destination
From Stockholm to Madrid: discover the European capitals through their best books - Use the time of your journey to read and get inspiration to plan your trip as a local
Munich, October 2019 – Autumn is a season full of contrasts, giving us a bittersweet feeling as we leave summer behind but also inspiring us with breathtaking colors and beauty. With inspiration in the air, fall is perfect time to read a good book and plan a trip to your favorite city! The following 10 novels are FlixBus’ top picks to help you discover some of the leading European capitals from a local perspective. No time to read at home? You can use the time on the road during your FlixBus journey and make it an experience by itself.
Prague – The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Milan Kundera, one of the most prolific and famous Czech writers, describes in this novel the lives of four people with a look into their ambitions and fears, which are determined and impacted by a specific historical context called ‘The Prague Spring’ – the start of democracy and political liberalization in Czech Republic, after many years under the Soviet Union’s regime. The novel makes us empathize deeply with each one of the characters while it also shows a city, Prague, transformed by a short period of freedom.
Berlin – Book of Clouds by Chloe Aridjis
There are many books that depict the intense and dark recent history of Berlin. Book of Clouds, however, is mainly a reconstruction of the city’s past to understand its future direction. The main character, a Mexican girl named Tatiana, finds a busy and dynamic city that, inevitably, still lives from its memories, as does she. Blurring the lines between the real and imagined, Aridjis gives a profound portrait of the city and how to settle in a place that still has not outran its past.
Madrid – The Seamstress by Maria Dueñas
Sira Quiroga is the child of a single mother that works as a seamstress in Madrid and is engaged to a government clerk. Her life is turned upside down by two men: a salesman that becomes her lover and the father she never knew. She decides to follow her lover to Morocco where she is abandoned and must reinvent herself as a famous seamstress. But, as the Second World War approaches, she returns to Madrid and enters the world of espionage. The novel is full of amazing descriptions of historic Madrid – the area where Sira goes to buy her thread, the Salamanca neighborhood, is still there today, with shops that have been trading for well over a century.
Rome – That Awful Mess on Via Merulana by Carlo Emilio Gadda
A peculiar and melancholic detective, Ciccio, investigates two crimes that were committed simultaneously in an apartment in central Rome. He soon discovers that almost everyone in the building is connected to the case, and with each development the mystery widens. This novel is a unique detective story in which Gadda not only depicts an unfiltered picture of fascist Italy and the Eternal City but shows us the infinite complexity of fate and how it comes into conflict with the demands of justice and love. Italo Calvino, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Alberto Moravia all considered That Awful Mess on Via Merulana to be the great modern Italian novel.
Amsterdam – The Dinner by Herman Hoch
During a summer's evening in Amsterdam, two couples meet at a trendy restaurant. Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The boys have committed together a horrible act, caught on camera, and their blurry images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified - by everyone except their parents. As the dinner reaches its end, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they can go to protect their loved ones.
Paris – The Piano Shop on The Left Bank by Thad Carhart
Thad Carhart, an American living in Paris, decides to buy a second-hand piano from a local piano dealer and repairman, who not only sells him the instrument, but becomes his mentor and makes him fall in love with the instrument again. The book is ideal for music lovers and people that seek to reawake old passions, but also to experience an intimate and warm portrait of the secret Paris – the one that only a few know.
Warsaw - Nine by Andrzej Staziuk
Pawel finds his apartment destroyed by loan sharks as he owes them money. Unable to pay back the debt, he asks his friends – Bolek, a drug dealer, and Jacek, a drug addict – for help. Irvine Welsh, the author of Trainspotting wrote in the New York Times Book Review about the book: “Nine feels like a major work of modern fiction, a portrait of an uprooted and restless generation of Eastern Europeans and of a city resigned to the fact that post-Communism is not quite as advertised.” Staziuk captures in this novel the environment in Warsaw in the early 90s and helps the reader understand how post-communism influenced the current city and its inhabitants.
Budapest- Fatelessness by Imre Kertész
Nobel Prize winner, Imre Kertész, narrates in a semi-autobiographical story the life of a 14-year-old Jewish boy, living in Budapest who was sent to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. He does not particularly think about himself as a Jewish, so he becomes an outsider among his fellow prisoners. He survives and returns to Budapest after the war. Once back home, he must adapt to life in a city that had completely changed and come to terms with the full extent of what had happened.
Stockholm – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The first in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, is mainly set in Södermalm, one of Stockholm’s best known and hippest districts. The books became an international phenomenon and were made into films, starring Daniel Craig. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tells the story of two people, the journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the hacker Lisbeth Salander, seeking to investigate a billionaire with criminal connections. For the biggest fans: there are tours you can take around Stockholm to see some of its most famous locations.
Vienna – Buchmendel by Stefan Zweig
Buchmendel is a 1929 short story by one of the most important literary figures in Austria, the writer Stefan Zweig. It tells the tragic story of an odd but exceptional book peddler, Jakob Mendel, who spends his days trading in Café Gluck in Vienna. Tip: read it inside a Viennese coffee house for ultimate authenticity.