The best books to get to know Romania and her people

The Books I Picked & Why

Along the Enchanted Way: A Story of Love and Life in Romania

By William Blacker

Along the Enchanted Way: A Story of Love and Life in Romania

Why this book?

I fell in love with this book as much as I fell in love with Romania. I adored the honest and poetic way the author captured the country’s landscapes and ethnically diverse peoples at a time of great change in its history. 

Blacker travelled from England to Romania just after the fall of communism. He settled and lived among peasants in a rural world, frozen in time, and clashes with social norms when he falls for a gypsy girl. 

If you want to understand Romania, this memoir will take you a long way along the road. If you want to discover a utopia which is changing but still exists, just, this is the Haynes manual. Or if you just want a beautiful story told in lyrical prose, I highly recommend this book.


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The Kilt Behind the Curtain: A Scotsman in Ceausescu's Romania

By Ronald Mackay

The Kilt Behind the Curtain: A Scotsman in Ceausescu's Romania

Why this book?

This funny and fascinating memoir is a great read and provides a window into what life was like behind the Iron Curtain in the 1960s, under a brutal and oppressive regime. 

Mackay spends two years in Romania’s capital, Bucharest, as visiting professor at the University. Spied on, treated warily by locals, and forbidden to travel, he nevertheless finds ways to see the country and gain insight into its culture and people.

Whether you want to find out more about Romania or you just want a captivating read which will open your mind to how different life can be without the freedoms and privileges we currently enjoy in the West, you will love this book.


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Never Mind the Balkans, Here's Romania

By Mike Ormsby

Never Mind the Balkans, Here's Romania

Why this book?

Former BBC reporter Ormsby presents a compilation of anecdotes from his time living in Romania. 

The stories vary between shocking, upsetting, and laugh-out-loud funny. They are authentic and absorbing sketches of the characters and hardships that make up everyday life in Romania before the country had shaken every vestige of its communist past. 

Since each chapter is a complete story, this is a great book to dip into for a little light entertainment. If you’re thinking of visiting Romania, it will help to give perspective on what makes the locals tick.


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The Little Book of Romanian Wisdom

By Matthew Cross, Diana Doroftei

The Little Book of Romanian Wisdom

Why this book?

Romania is not all Dracula and Olympic gymnasts. For example, did you know the original Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, was an ethnic Saxon from Transylvania? 

During my time in Romania, I found her people bright and engaging. Simmer that in the melting pot of a turbulent multi-cultural history formed at a crossroads between powerful empires and it’s no surprise that the result is great insight, resilience, and wisdom. However, Romania’s minority language and time as a secretive Soviet state conspire to ensure their worldview has not been shared widely. 

Besides introducing some famous names whom you might not associate with Romania, this book is genuinely inspirational and captures the country’s spirit, humour, and culture.


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Drácula

By Bram Stoker

Drácula

Why this book?

Why am I recommending a work of fiction, published in 1897 by an Irishman who had never set foot in Romania? Dracula is a classic of the gothic horror genre, but it’s also so much more. 

Although he never visited Transylvania, Stoker poured seven years of research into his literary masterpiece. He studied Eastern European vampire folklore, Romanian culture, and the bloodthirsty history of the very real Vlad Dracula (‘Son of Dracul’), otherwise known as Vlad Țepeș or Vlad the Impaler. Great storytelling never goes out of fashion. The story of Dracula unfolds from the points of view of various characters, interweaving letters, diaries, and ship’s log entries to heighten suspense and mystery.

If you tour Romania, Dracula is as ubiquitous as sangria in Spain, but if you want to tackle a gripping classic with a timeless theme of good versus evil, do yourself a favour and pop this on your shelf!


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