Books To Take On My Travels #1

I have a little routine with my reading habits whenever I go away be it a work trip or a holiday. I really like to try and learn about the places I am going through books be they nonfiction, travel guides or fiction itself (new, old, any genre). Well as I am off again in the next few weeks for a long weekend I thought I should ask in advance for some of your recommendations on what books I should be hunting out. It would help if I told you where I was going really wouldn’t it?

Yes I am off to Amsterdam for work, a travel feature, in a few weeks and so I could really do with some recommendations of books that I should take with me. I am already doing some of my ‘lead up reading’ as I grabbed as many guidebooks from the library as I could find the other day, however what I really want is some books that I can read once I am there.

Amsterdam Guides

I have already had a think and, of course, Amsterdam’s most famous book is ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ and one of the things that is firmly written down in mine (and The Beard’s, as managed to get him a place on the trip) itinerary is to make sure we visit the Anne Frank house. I only read that infamous book last year so it might be a little early for a re-read, and also I read Etty Hillesums diaries and letters this year, so with going and the pre-reading I think I need something different to be reading whilst I am there. The only other book I could think of was Ian McEwan’s ‘Amsterdam’ but that was only for the title and indeed I have read that one already too.

So, what books written about Amsterdam, set there or indeed by someone from Amsterdam should I be tracking down before I go away to pack in my luggage?


Filed under Books To Take On My Travels, Random Savidgeness

21 responses to “Books To Take On My Travels #1

  1. Love Amsterdam, have been there twice. Off hand can’t think of a recommendation but do be sure and visit the Anne Frank house. It is an extremely humbling experience and makes the book seem incredibly real but plan to do something light hearted and fun afterwards as the house is a sad experience. Have fun.

  2. Yey for Amsterdam! 😀 It’s an absolutely beautiful city and there is no way that you won’t enjoy it! In fact, you may not even have time to read! xD
    But if you do find some time to read, here are my recommendations:

    1. Rock Bottom by Michael Shilling

    Washed up has-beens only two years after they were bound for glory, LA band the Blood Orphans have hit rock bottom. What’s worse, they’ve hit it in Amsterdam on the last date of their European tour.
    On their final day together they find themselves in on various paths of destruction, excitement, stupidity and just maybe redemption.

    2. Porno by Irvine Welsh (this one is a bit heavy though…)

    The sequel to Trainspotting, Renton owns a nightclub in Amsterdam and so some of the book is set here. No prizes for guessing it’s not all tulips and clogs from Welsh. Each chapter authored by Renton (the other key characters tell their stories too) begins with “The Whores of Amsterdam Part…”

    3. Apothecary’s House by Adrian Mathews

    Set in modern day Amsterdam an art historian begins looking into the true ownership of a Nazi-looted painting hung in the Rujksmuseum. She begins receiving dangerous threats, but presses on, only to discover secret symbolism within the painting.

    Hope I helped a little! 🙂

  3. I don’t have any book suggestions off the top of my head, but I wanted to say…

    Have a great time! Take lots of photos to share with us. 🙂

  4. How about the Van der Valk crime novels by Nicholas Freeling, about an Amsterdam detective by that name? It was made into a very successful TV series ages ago which you could probably also catch on YouTube. It’s a fabulous city and you will have a great time.

  5. David

    David Park’s ‘The Light of Amsterdam’ is I think the only novel I’ve read about the city, but it’s a good one. Wasn’t it on last year’s Fiction Uncovered list?

  6. Erika W.

    Definitely the Van der Valk novels. Freeling also wrote a couple of the world’s best books about cooking and food creeps into the detective stories. Van der Valk has a scrappy French wife Arlette who is echt French and critical of the Dutch. Great fun and good plots. Should be read in order. The best one is about running down a Nazi criminal,.

  7. How about one of the books by Cees Nooteboom? I think he currently lives in Amsterdam, although he wasn’t born there. I suggest “All Souls Day” which is partly set in Amsterdam.

    I’ll be in Amsterdam at CHEP 2013 ( this October. If you have found a good hotel I’d really like to know (and if you had a bad experience please tell me what to avoid too). The Rijksmuseum has just reopened after a decade closure too – do go!

  8. Joris M

    Tricky, especially for novels. I am going now by reputation, not personal recommendation.

    Geert Mak seems to have written about Amsterdam, and some of his books have been translated, but it doesn’t look like his novel was amongst them.
    Arnon Grunberg – Tirza

  9. The only book I can think of that takes place in Amsterdam (at least partly) is A Widow for One Year by John Irving, which is one of my favorites. Sorry I can’t be of much help, but have a brilliant time!

  10. yay amsterdam!! i love that city and am planning to return next year (to see the revamped art museum amongst other things). so i have a personal interest in this particular question. here’s what the guardian says:

    i haven’t read any of the books on this list, although i have to admit i’m intrigued by some of the fab titles. my favourite is “yoga for people who can’t be bothered to do it”. i loved mcewan’s “amsterdam” – it is possibly my favourite mcewan. looking forward to seeing what other folks recommend on this thread. have a great trip and do make sure you keep us up to date with lots of photos.


  11. Simon, I think you have Amsterdam author Gerbrand Bakker’s The Detour on your TBR already? It is mostly set in northern Wales, but since the reason for the central character’s escape is back in Amsterdam, it might feel right. (Especially if you are in the mood for something quiet.) Also, Geoff Dyer’s short story about Amsterdam in his collection Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It is fantastic. (And the opposite of quiet.)

  12. I was going to suggest Gerbrand Bakker as well. I really enjoyed his book The Twin, thought it takes place in another part of the Netherlands. I recommend visiting the Rijksmuseum and, if you like quirky, the Brillmuseum which is a museum of eyeglasses. But the best thing about Amsterdam is just walking around and looking at the canals and the buildings. Really fantastic city!

  13. Richard [Nuneaton]

    If you are planning on visiting Ann Frank’s House be certain to book on-line in advance. If you turn up on the day, expect to queue for very many long hours! Booking in advance gets you a timed entrance … that way you can make the most of your time in Amsterdam.
    Enjoy the trip …. Seeing the night-time ‘entertainment’ in the red light district is an ‘education’ even if it’s not ‘up your street’!

  14. chazzard

    The Fault in our Stars by John Green. Happy travels!

  15. Ana

    Another vote for David Park. And for Bakker especially The Detour!! So haunting and engrossing.
    Enjoy this wonderful city.

  16. P.s. There is also a good sized multi story English Book shop not too far from the flower market on a main street – sorry don’t know name but Tram goes right past it so easy to get to and am sure locals will know of it. Could be called American Book Store or English Book Store- just can’t remember- lots of second hand books.

    • The book shop Pam is referring to is The Book Exchange on the Kloveniersburgwal and it is certainly worth visiting. The other place with a lot of cheap vintage Penguins and other secondhand books is Long Harry’s book stall at the Waterlooplein flea market.

      One book I read recently was a ’60s crime novel called Because of the Cats by Nicolas Freeling and it was set mostly in Bloemendaal and a little in Amsterdam, and he spends a lot of time focusing on the buildings and the street names, and in trying to create a portrait of Holland for a UK and US audience. It is a novel featuring Piet Van der Valk mentioned by Harriet above.

  17. gaskella

    Puppet on a chain – classic 1969 thriller from Alistair MacLean. I devoured all his books as a teenager!

  18. The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier is set in Delf which is close to Amsterdam and a wonderful place for a visit. Otherwise I wd recommend Rembrandts Eyes by Simom Sharma. It’s a biography of the painter who lived and worked in Amsterdam and whose home you can visit.
    One tip for the Anne Frank House would be to go early evening or as late in the day as possible. Even with an advance ticket which voids the queue, there is a crush in the house. Going later will give you more space.

  19. Dee

    “History of a Pleasure Seeker” by Richard Mason is a fascinating, lush read! It is set in Amsterdam’s belle epoque era. It is full of fascinating characters and tensions.

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