The best books on love, loss, and logic in 1930s Vienna

Why am I passionate about this?

I first learned about life in 1930s Vienna from my grandfather’s memoir: Reminiscences of the Vienna Circle and the Mathematical Colloquium. I was fascinated by the time and place and began to read more about the era, which ultimately served as a setting for my forthcoming novel, The Expert of Subtle Revisions.


I wrote...

Doctor Olaf Van Schuler's Brain

By Kirsten Menger-Anderson,

Book cover of Doctor Olaf Van Schuler's Brain

What is my book about?

In 1664 Dr. Olaf van Schuler flees the Old World and arrives in New Amsterdam with his lunatic mother, two bags of medical implements, and a carefully guarded book of his own medicines. He is the first in what will become a long line of peculiar physicians. Plagued by madness and guided by an intense desire to cure human affliction, each generation of this unusual family is driven by the science of its day: spontaneous combustion, phrenology, animal magnetism, electrical shock treatment, psychosurgery, genetic research. As they make their way in the world, New York City, too, evolves—from the dark and rough days of the seventeenth century to the towering, frenetic metropolis of today.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Tortoises

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Why did I love this book?

Roaming turtles are branded with swastikas and Nazi soldiers burn synagogues to the ground in Veza Canetti’s The Tortoises, which follows Eva and her husband Andreas, who are trapped in the country without departure visas.

Informed by her experience of the time and place (Canetti wrote the novel shortly after she herself left Vienna in 1938), Canetti paints a vivid and terrible picture of life under Nazi occupation. Published posthumously many years after her death, the novel’s road to publication is a story in and of itself. 

By Veza Canetti, Ian Mitchell (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tortoises as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A renowned writer and his wife live quietly in a beautiful villa outside Vienna, until the triumphant Nazis start subjecting their Jewish "hosts" to ever greater humiliations. Veza Canetti focuses on seemingly ordinary people to epitomize the horror: one flag-happy German kills a sparrow before a group of little children; another, more entrepreneurial Nazi brands tortoises with swastikas to sell as souvenirs commemorating the Anschluss.


Book cover of Am I a Redundant Human Being?

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Why did I love this book?

Though written in the 1930s, Am I a Redundant Human Being? was not published until 2001, several decades after Hartwig’s death in 1967 (the English translation appeared in 2010).

The novel’s narrator, Aloisia Schmidt, reflects on her desire for external validation and a more exciting life, as well as the constant feeling of invisibility. Though she is only about thirty in 1930 Vienna, her ambition is constrained by disappointment, and the coming decade promises more of the same. 

By Mela Hartwig, Kerri A Pierce (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Am I a Redundant Human Being? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For the first time in English, a contemporary and friend of Virginia Woolf and Stefan Zweig gives us the definitive portrait of a woman lost on the margins of modern life.


Book cover of The Murder of Professor Schlick: The Rise and Fall of the Vienna Circle

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Why did I love this book?

When David Edmunds writes, “We live during a time where phrases like post-truth and fake news are bandied around” and “empiricism is more relevant than ever,” he is introducing a fascinating and beautifully written book about… Vienna in the 1930s! 

Although the book’s focus is the Vienna Circle and logical empiricism, Edmunds also does a wonderful job painting the times in which the Circle both flourished and fell, capturing the rising political extremism.

By David Edmonds,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Murder of Professor Schlick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of Wittgenstein's Poker and Would You Kill the Fat Man?, the story of an extraordinary group of philosophers during a dark chapter in Europe's history

On June 22, 1936, the philosopher Moritz Schlick was on his way to deliver a lecture at the University of Vienna when Johann Nelboeck, a deranged former student of Schlick's, shot him dead on the university steps. Some Austrian newspapers defended the madman, while Nelboeck himself argued in court that his onetime teacher had promoted a treacherous Jewish philosophy. David Edmonds traces the rise and fall of the Vienna Circle-an influential group…


Book cover of Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Why did I love this book?

In the mood for a graphic novel starring Bertrand Russell and a supporting cast of famous thinkers like Whitehead, Frege, Gödel, and Wittgenstein? Logicomix is for you!

Flip to Chapter Six, “Incompleteness,” for a peek of Vienna in the 1930s. The logic and philosophy illustrated throughout provide a great context for the work of Vienna’s famous philosophical circle led by Moritz Schlick, whose 1936 murder provides a chilling contrast to the intellectual pursuits of that time.

By Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos Papadimitriou,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Logicomix as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This brilliantly illustrated tale of reason, insanity, love and truth recounts the story of Bertrand Russell's life. Raised by his paternal grandparents, young Russell was never told the whereabouts of his parents. Driven by a desire for knowledge of his own history, he attempted to force the world to yield to his yearnings: for truth, clarity and resolve. As he grew older, and increasingly sophisticated as a philosopher and mathematician, Russell strove to create an objective language with which to describe the world - one free of the biases and slippages of the written word. At the same time, he…


Book cover of Night Falls On The City

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Why did I love this book?

Spanning seven years in six hundred pages, Gainham’s Night Falls On The City is a richly detailed depiction of the stress and madness of life in Vienna after the German annexation.

Onstage or off, the novel’s protagonist, Julia Homburg, must always act, and the strain of this performance, under escalating violence and increasingly difficult circumstances, takes a harsh toll. A compelling and memorable story.

By Sarah Gainham,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Night Falls On The City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Vienna, 1938. Beautiful actress Julia Homburg and her politician husband Franz Wedeker embody all the enlightened brilliance of their native city. But Wedeker is Jewish, and just across the border the tanks of the Nazi Reich are primed for the Anschluss.

When the SS invades and disappearances become routine, Franz must be concealed. With daring ingenuity, Julia conjures a hiding place. In the shadow of oppression, a clear conscience is a luxury few can afford, and Julia finds she must strike a series of hateful bargains with the new order if she and her husband are to survive.

A highly…


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Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

What is my book about?

Stopping Russian Aggression with milk, coal, and candy bars….

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians will starve unless they receive food, medicine, and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour, and children’s shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in the West. Until General Winter deploys on the side of Russia...

Based on historical events, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader delivers an insightful, exciting and moving tale about how former enemies became friends in the face of Russian aggression — and how close the Berlin Airlift came to failing under the assault of “General Winter.”

Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

What is this book about?

Fighting a war with milk, coal and candy bars....

In the second book of the Bridge to Tomorrow Series, the story continues where "Cold Peace" left off.

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians in Hitler's former capital will starve unless they receive food, medicine and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour and children's shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Vienna, mathematicians, and presidential biography.

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