Sometimes my best ideas come in the weirdest of places. There is was, in the middle of packing for a trip, deciding if I really did need a 5th maxi dress when BAM, it hit me. I like books. I like travelling. So why not combine the two on my blog? And so Books To Read While Traveling In … series was born.
I don’t know about you, but I love reading books that are set in the country I’m visiting. I feel like you get a deeper understanding of the place, it’s culture and the people who live there. Even if I’m not visiting, it’s a perfect way to be transported somewhere new from the comfort of your own home.
Whether you are heading off on your own trip or just want to read your way around the continent, I’ve shared a book per country so you can discover the best books to read while travelling in Europe!
There are a lot of countries and books to talk about, so let’s get stuck in!
Fiction Books Set In Europe
I’ve tried to make your life a little easier and split the European countries via regions. Click on one of the links below and be magically transported to the region of your choice (not literally. I wish).
Books To Read While Travelling In Europe: Scandinavia
Shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction and The Guardian First Book Award, Burial Rites follows the story of a woman condemned to death in Northern Iceland in 1829. A historical crime novel, expect lots of twists and turns as a priest tries to prove her innocence.
I’m cheating with this one as this isn’t a fiction, but trust me, it’s worth it. I remember watching the events of 22nd July 2011 on the news and being horrified by Anders Behring Breivik murdering 77 young people. This book tells the sorry of this terrorist attack, focusing on Breivik and some of the victims and how their paths crossed.
Now a major film and a global phenomenon, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the first book in the Millennium series. Centring around the disappearance of a woman from a family gathering on a private island 40 years ago, the story follows Lisbeth Salander, a computer hacker, and her quest to discover what actually happened.
Written by the author of the Moomin books, The Summer Book is the story of an elderly artist and her 6-year-old granddaughter as they spend a summer on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland. Highlighting generational differences, the pair realise that they are more similar than they think.
A hilarious easy-read, Gone Viking is the perfect novel to embrace the Danish way of life. Focusing on a stressed mum, Alice Ray and her sister finally go on a much-needed break. However, instead of a luxury spa weekend, the pair find themselves in Denmark on a ‘How To Be A Viking’ getaway. Oops.
The first in a series of detective books, The Blood Strand sees the return of a British police detective to the Faeroe Island. Finding his father unconscious next to a gun with someone else’s blood, this is a great one for anyone who loves a good detective novel.
Books To Read While Travelling In Europe: The British Isles
Originally serialised in The London Magazine during 1905, The Railway Children is the classic story of a family who moves near a railway after the father is falsely accused of spying at the Foreign Office. Befriending an Old Gentleman who regularly takes a train, the children set out to prove their father’s innocence in this timeless tale.
Click here for my England travel guides.
Another modern classic, Carrie’s war is a literary and film favourite. Evacuated from London to the Welsh Hills, Carries War tells the story of Carrie and her little brother Nick as they make new friends and settle into their surroundings.
Click here for my Wales travel guides.
The first in a best-selling series and adapted for Amazon Prime, Outlander follows a nurse go back in time to 1743 where she experiences Scottish history first-hand. This is a great choice for any Back To The Future fans!
Click here for my Scotland travel guides.
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Books Prize for Best Thriller, The Twelve follows the story of a former paramilitary contract killer after the troubles. Haunted by the ghost of the 12 people he killed, Gerry Fegan wants to make those who are responsible pay in this compulsive read.
Isle of Man
Set in 1831 on a tiny island off the Isle of Man, Light follows the story of a family who lives in a lighthouse. However, when two surveyors come to the asses the light, the family’s way of life could soon change forever.
Now a major film starring Lily James, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set in 1946, just after the war. Following Juliet, a writer with writer’s block, the book tells the story of the island and how they begin to recover after the German occupation.
Inspired by true events, The Girl Who Came Home explore the impact of the Titanic tragedy on a group of Irish immigrants from a small village. A must for anyone interested in this historical event, this book humanises the tragedy and puts everything into perspective.
Books To Read While Travelling In Europe: Western Europe
A glimpse into French society during German Occupation, Suite Francaise brings to life everything from the very moment the Nazi’s invaded to everyday life. Incredibly well-written, it’s the romantic story of a french villager and German solider and the conflict of interests people face.
An easy-read, Expo 58 follows a civil servant from London in 1958 who is sent on a 6 month trip to Brussels. Tasked with keeping an eye on a pub which forms the heart of the British presence at Expo 58 (the biggest World’s Fair of the century), it’s a great read for those interested in international relations.
The story of an artist and his muse, The Girl With A Pearl Earring humanises one of the best-known paintings in the world. A fictionised story, over 5 million copies have been sold around the world.
Moving from Washington D.C. to Luxembourg, Kate Moore is an expat mum that fills her days with coffee mornings and playdates. She might be living the dream, but she is also keeping a secret that could destroy her life.
A must-read for any foodies, White Truffles In Winter is the fictionised story of the famous French chef Auguste Escoffier and the love triangle between his wife and an actress. Moving to Monaco to be with his mistress, the story is about how he honoured her with a dish especially for her.
Fiction Books Set In Central Europe
Set in Nazi Germany in 1939, The Book Thief is the incredible story of Liesel, a 9-year-old girl, who now lives with a foster family after her parents were taken to a concentration camp. Escaping the war through books, Lisel steals them from a big mansion, risking her life in the process.
A Booker Prize-winning novel, Hotel Du Lac is the romantic story of Edith and Mr Neville. Exiled from her home after embarrassing herself, this is a story about independence reinventing yourself.
I’m going to be honest with you, I struggled to find a decent novel about Liechtenstein. In fact, the only one I really found was Escape to Liechtenstein. This book is the story of two children who find a young Jewish boy hiding from the Nazis and help him escape from Austria.
A blend of fact and fiction, When Nietzche Wept follows the story of a famous Viennese physician, Josef Breuer, who is asked to treat Friedrich Nietzsche for his depression. In a twist of the tables, Breuer discovers he himself needs help in this tale of an unlikely friendship.
Now a major film, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is a heartbreaking story highlight Poland’s devastating history. Told from 9-year-old Bruno’s perspective, readers see the horrors of the Holocaust from the eyes of an innocent child.
The Czech Republic
A psychological thriller, The Trial is the story of Joseph K, an ordinary man who wakes up one day and finds himself accused of a crime he did not commit. Forced to report to the court on a regular basis, Joesph’s life begins to spiral downwards in the ever-changing events.
Following the death of one of Slovakia’s most prominent businessmen, Commander Jana Matinova must work out how this death is connected to an anonymous man run down in Paris, a dead Tirk with an ice pick in his eye, an international network of bank accounts and a vagabond girl.
Partially set in Paris, partially set in Budapest, The Invisible Bridge follows an architecture student who is drawn into the secret life of a young widow called Ciara. With the war in Europe beginning, the story is about love tested by disaster.
Books To Read While Travelling In Europe: Southern Europe
A bizarre but captivating tale, The High Mountains of Portugal is based in Lisbon in 1904. Following a young man named Tomas, the story follows him as he tries to find an extraordinary artefact that will shake history.
Click here for my Portugal travel guides.
A number one bestseller, Winter In Madrid begins in 1940 when the Spanish Civil War is over and a Dunkirk-veteran-turned-spy is sent to gain the confidence of an old friend in Madrid. A haunting depiction of wartime Spain, it strikes the perfect balance between a historical novel and thriller.
Click here for my Spain travel guides.
An action-packed novel set on the British overseas territory, A Delicate Truth depicts a Gibraltar as you’ve never seen before. Following a counter-terror operation three years earlier, a Foreign Office Minister’s Private Secretary will have to battle with his conscience in a dramatic climax.
Another country I struggled finding a novel for, Andorra follows Alexander Fox, a former owner of a bookstore who travels to Andorra following an accident which killed his wife and daughter. A personal refuge for Fox, strange events soon occurs casting a shadow on his idyllic sanctuary.
The perfect holiday read from a Sunday Times bestselling author, Summer At The Lake follows the story of two women and what the magical Lake Como means to them.
Click here for my Italy travel guides.
Set in Summer 1942 when Malta suffered daily bombing raids, The Information Officer is the story of Max Chadwick, the information officer, to ensure the news the islanders maintains morale. However, when he is given proof that a British Officer is murdering local women, he finds himself torn between patriotic duty and finding the killer.
Yet another country I struggled with, the best novel I could find about San Marino is The Gladiator which is partly set in the tiny nation. Part of the Crosstime Traffic series, The Gladiator is a historical novel with a twist; the Soviet Union won the Cold War.
One of my all-time favourite books series, Angels and Demons is the first Robert Langon novel by the incredible Dan Brown. Just as the College of Cardinals in Vatican City assembles to elect a new Pope, a bomb begins to countdown. In a race against time, professor Robert Langdon must decipher ancient symbols to save the Vatican.
Click here for my Vatican City travel guides.
Books To Read While Travelling In Europe: South-Eastern Europe
Set in May 1944, In The Light is the story of three British parachutists who work with Partisans in occupied Slovenia. Full of harrowing tales of the country’s dark past, the novel is the story of friendship tested to its limit.
Longlisted for The Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019, Girl At War highlights Croatia’s troubled history. Based in Zagreb, the book is set in 1991 and 2001, giving a unique perspective to the war.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Cellist of Sarajevo is an international bestseller which shows the impact that war has on everyday people.
Written by the youngest ever winner of the Orange Prize, The Tiger’s Wife is the story of Natalia as she tries to discover the truth about her grandfather’s death. Spellbinding and vibrant, the plot is told through a series of myths and folklore.
When Sophie’s life falls apart she finds herself dragged to Montenegro by her best friend. Buying an old house in the Bay of Kotor, she starts to accept lodgers and begins to rebuild her life. However, just as things are going right, her past comes back to haunt her.
From the moment Gjorg’s brother is killed by a neighbour, he knows only one thing; he must kill his brother’s murder. After following Kannun code, he is given 30 days’ grace but soon crosses paths with a visiting honeymoon couple. Will these strangers get caught up in the life of the fugitive?
As unknown ships and British ‘travel writers’ come through the port of Salonika, Costa Zannis is an in-demand chief detective. Returning to a city recovering from war, he becomes involved in an audacious plot to smuggle Jews to Istanbul whilst partaking in a reckless love affair. Will he jeopardise this plot for love?
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, The Land of Green Plums is a must-read for visitors to Romania. Set at the height of Ceausescu’s reign of terror, The Land of Green Plums is the story of a group of students who travel to the city for better prospects. Highlighting the effects of a totalitarian state, the students must either work with the oppressors or resist them.
Arriving in Bulgaria, a young American helps an elderly couple into a taxi, only realising later that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Finding an ornately carved wooden box which holds human ashes she sets out to locate the family, with twists and turns along the way.
I read The Island whilst on a family holiday to Crete and it remains one of my favourite books. A number one bestseller, discover the history of Spinalonga, Greece’s former leper colony, in this beautiful easy-read.
Click here for my Greece travel guides.
The Sultan secretly commissions a book celebrating his life and the Ottoman Empire, to be illustrated by the best artists in a European manner. However, in a time of violent fundamentalism, this act is a dangerous proposition. When one of the painters is murdered, the Sultan demands a reason why within 3 days. Perhaps the answer lies in the half-finished pictures…
Weaving together the history, culture and stories of one of the newest countries in the world, How To Be A Kosovan Bride perfectly illustrations Kosovo’s history and future.
Books To Read While Travelling In Europe: Eastern Europe
Deep in an Estonian forest, two women are hiding for different reasons. Both survivors of abuse, their survival now depends on revealing one thing they have learnt to keep hidden; the truth.
It’s 1991 and Inspector Kurt Wallander and his team receive an anonymous tip-off. A few days later, a lift raft washes up on shore with two men, dressed in an expensive suit, shot dead. A gripping crime thriller, The Dogs of Riga is full of police surveillance and suspense.
The inspiration for the major film Ashes In The Snow, Between Shades of Gray, is a haunting Second World War novel. Following a 15-year-old girl as she and her family are deported to Siberia, this is a harrowing tale based on survivor accounts.
A humorous and emotive debut novel, The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko strikes the perfect balance between hard-hitting and easy-reading. Following an orphaned boy in a hospital in Belarus, the story is of survival and romance in the most unlikely of places.
An internationally bestselling novel, Everything is Illuminated is all about the search for truth. The story follows a young man who arrives in Ukraine clutching an old photograph, searching for a woman, but what he discovers will turn his world upside down.
Named one of the most impoverished nations in Europe, The Good Life Elsewhere tells the story of a group of villagers and desire to emigrate to Italy at any cost.
Set during the siege of Leningrad, The Siege is the story of two pairs of lovers and their battle for survival. An amazing insight into war and the impact it has on ordinary people, this is a moving account of this period in history.
I’ve included Georgia because it is located in the Caucasus region and part of its territory crosses into Europe.
Written by a famous Georgian writer, poet and playwright, The Brueghel Moon is the story of a wife who has left her husband. A self-assured psychotherapist, she comes to realise that she was treated more like a patient than a wife.
Like Georgia, I’ve included Armenia because it is located in the Caucasus region and part of its territory crosses into Europe.
Based in the Armenian Highlands, Like Water On Stone is an incredible survival story set during the Armenian genocide of 1915. Following a boy who dreams of going to New York, and his sister who never wants to leave home, this is the perfect book to getter an insight into Armenia’s tragic past.
As with Georgia and Armenia, I’ve included Azerbaijan because it is located in the Caucasus region and part of its territory crosses into Europe.
Set in 1979, The Orphan Sky is the story of a young piano prodigy who receives an order from her Communist mentor to spy on a suspicious music shop. However, when she meets the owner of the shop, she begins to doubt everything she once believed in and is forced to make an impossible choice.
I’ve included Kazakhstan because it is located in the Caucasus region and part of its territory crosses into Europe.
I really struggled to find a fiction book set in Kazakhstan but thought I’d include this non-fiction one anyway. The only thing most people know about Kazakhstan is that it’s the home of Borat, who himself is fictional. Travelling around this fascinating country Christopher Robbins (the man, not the character), attempts to demystify this virtually-unknown nation.
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post and found a new read or two. As I said in the introduction, this is the first in a series of posts about books to read while travelling so keep your eyes peeled for the next one!
Have you read any of these books? Do you recommend any books to read while travelling in Europe? Let me know in the comments below!
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