10 Books to Read for Your Next Trip to Europe [UPDATED 2020]

10 Books That Will Inspire Your Next Vacation to Europe

What are books, if not the perfect travel companions? Let these page-turners accompany you on your future trips to Europe!

Here’s the wonderful thing about books. They have the power to transport you anywhere on the planet without you having to pack your things and leave home. Just one paperback can carry an entire universe, waiting right at your fingertips!

Even if you’re not sure where to go next — say, on your future getaway to Europe — you can find out which country is calling you through this mix of classic and contemporary books we’ve gathered below. Just sit back, relax, and let these literary recommendations show you where to land.

1. England: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

books to read

Image credit: Scholastic Official Facebook Page (right)

Who doesn’t want to study potions all year? Honestly, the temptation to purchase your own wand and owl can be overpowering in England, where filming locations for the Great Hall, Platform 9 ¾, Diagon Alley, and the Leaky Cauldron are scattered like cookie crumbs across the country. But whether you are well-acquainted with Hogwarts or you are coming into this franchise for the very first time, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is always worth a visit. If you want to fall in love with reading again, start with the book that raised a whole new generation of readers.

Also read: 14 Things to Do in London on Your Very First Visit

2. France: Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Equal parts devastating and irresistibly romantic, Les Misérables is a historical work of fiction with the ambition of an epic. Certainly, it’s one of the most essential books to read if you are travelling anywhere near Paris, France. It’s quite the literary heavyweight; and by that, we mean that it has a lot of pages for readers to cover. But the compelling journey of Jean Valjean and his adopted daughter Cosette, trailed by a band of revolutionaries and the looming threat of Inspector Javert, will stay with you long after you have turned the final page. 

3. Switzerland: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Snow-capped mountains. Lakeside villages. Medieval castles resting on pretty hills. These are the scenes of pristine beauty and wintertime bliss that come to mind at the mention of Switzerland. 

But in the summer of 1816, the country experienced thunderstorms that forced everyone to retreat indoors. Holed up inside the Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva with nothing else to do, Lord Byron and his troop of writers wanted to see who could write the best ghost story. From this misty gloom emerged Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a cautionary tale about a mad scientist and his monster: “It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld my man completed.” Frankenstein grapples with the consequences of creating something that you dread — what happens when mankind’s ambition goes too far. And the rest, as they say, is science fiction.

4. Hungary: The Idiot by Elif Batuman

books to read

Image credit: obviousstate (right)

Taking place during the invention of email in 1995, Elif Batuman’s The Idiot exposes the strange rituals of university life through the eyes of Selin, a Harvard freshman studentLater, she travels from Boston to spend a summer teaching English to students in Budapest, Hungary. 

“It seemed very remarkable that you could travel halfway around the world and still end up looking at some ducks,” Selin muses upon her arrival in the city. Needless to say, each page of The Idiot is filled with dry humour, endearing confusion, and witty observations from the protagonist. This coming-of-age story offers an honest portrayal of what it means to be young again — that time of life when you feel lost and bewildered, yet all too eager to take on the world.

Also read: Incredible Bookstores in Eastern Europe for Both Book & Design Lovers

5. Ireland: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Hearing your private thoughts repeated back to you is one of reading’s many pleasures. Normal People does exactly this, drawing you into the mind of debater-turned novelist Sally Rooney, who weaves in commentary about modern relationships with astonishing precision. Here, Rooney says what you are thinking deep down, but with an eloquence that makes you feel like you are encountering it for the first time. 

Arguably the most talked-about book to read in 2019, this contemporary bestseller follows two bright individuals, Marianne and Connell, who cannot seem to leave each other’s orbit. But where the novel really gets interesting is their exchange of dialogue: brisk and nimble. Meanwhile, their texts and online messages are effortlessly sustained across various platforms, as if it were one seamless conversation.  

6. Spain: The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Tumble down the maze of dramatic twists and narrow streets in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Labyrinth of the Spirits, perfect for a city that opens like a book. This final instalment of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books conjures a Barcelona picking itself up after the ravages of war. What follows is one of the most entertaining books you can read about Spain, a heart-thumping tale of adventure that combines the suspense of a police procedural and the elegance of a noir film.

Secret libraries, crumbling ruins, notorious prisons, and unforgettable characters are guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Zafón’s book is a doorway into pure escapism, as some of the best adventures are. 

7. Southern Italy: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

books to read

Image credit: whatsallyreadnext (right) 

If you’re hoping for captivating books to read about the sun-soaked country of Italy, then you’re in good hands with Elena Ferrante. Beginning with My Brilliant Friend, the Neapolitan series has enthralled readers from all over the world with its complex portrayal of the relationship between longtime friends, Lila and Lenu. Now, you can also watch the HBO television series, inspired by Ferrante’s books, which continue to draw a steady crowd of bibliophiles and tourists flocking towards must-see spots in the coastal city of Naples. After wandering past lively streets and colourful markets, you can also look into exploring the lesser-known areas of Southern Italy.

8. Russia: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

Books to Read: Disappearing Earth

Image credit: kuhnmi (left); Alfred A. Knopf Official Instagram Page (right) 

If cracking open a dusty tome from Tolstoy or Dostoevsky feels like too much work right now, this contemporary novel from Julia Phillips offers a glimpse of Russia that is just as intriguing. Set in the volcano-studded backdrop of Kamchatka, Disappearing Earth begins with a mysterious crime: two sisters, Alyona and Sophia Golosovskaya, who get kidnapped on an August afternoon. 

But as the search for the two girls goes cold, Phillips turns her gaze to the effects of this disappearance on a remote community. In doing so, she explores a land of contrasts in the northeastern part of Russia, whose vast topography brims with forests, tundra, and glaciers on the world’s edge. 

9. West of France: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Any reader who likes historical fiction told with empathy will find a jewel in All the Light We Cannot See. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Anthony Doerr follows the lives of two children caught in the devastation of World War II. There is Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who escapes to the walled city of Saint-Malo in Brittany after the Nazis invade Paris. She’s joined by a German orphan boy named Werner, who has been assigned to track down a gem in Marie-Laure’s possession. They crash into each other in occupied France, where they try to survive the turmoil around them.  

10. Northern Italy: Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

Books to Read: Call Me By Your Name

Image credit: cosa.facciamo.oggi (left); bookedibabbediboo (right) 

Somewhere in Northern Italy, there are wide-eyed youths and devoted fans making pilgrimages to the golden streets of Crema. While André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name opens in a town that goes by the name of “B,” Luca Guadagnino’s choice to set the 2017 film adaptation in Lombardy perfectly mirrors the spirit of the book. Turning these pages, you are transported to the lush countryside, the secret reading nooks, and the narrow alleyways of an Italian town, where the locals breeze past on their bikes. 

Earnest and breathlessly told, Call Me By Your Name explores a dazzling romance between Elio Perlman and a graduate student named Oliver. Taking readers from the sun-dappled plazas in Elio’s town to Rome and then back to Crema again, it’s a tender exploration of first love that lingers. If the travellers who continue to add Crema to their bucket lists are any indication, this is a book that will wrap around you with its quiet yet devastating revelations, and like the memory of an unforgettable summer, it will never let you go. 

Also read: 8 Dreamiest Towns in Italy That Will Steal Your Heart

We hope that this list of books to read has stirred your longing for more travel. How about you? What books have carried you across vast distances and far-flung locations? Let us know on @tripzillamag!

About Author

Tiffany Conde
Tiffany Conde

Tiffany is a writer based in Manila. When she was younger, she knew she wanted to write stories or go on adventures—now, she's learning to do both. She enjoys being swept up in books that spark her curiosity for new places, both real and imaginary.

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