10 books like Between the Woods and the Water

By Patrick Leigh Fermor,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Between the Woods and the Water. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

By David Mitchell,

Book cover of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

David Mitchell's fantasia of life in the closed world of Edo Japan is a visceral, eerie, and profound novel that's also great fun, and it has everything: love, honor, treachery, bureaucracy, magic, a terrifying cult, a debauched ape, and the delightfully arch proto-scientist Dr. Marinus. As with many of his novels, it has the feel and richness of great cinema, and his depiction of life on an island in Nagasaki harbor where representatives of the Dutch East India Company are permitted to trade with a secretive nation they barely understand is so well-researched that you'll almost believe it happened.  

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

By David Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller, from the author of CLOUD ATLAS and THE BONE CLOCKS.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010

'Brilliant' - The Times
'A masterpiece' - Scotsman

Be transported to a place like no other: a tiny, man-made island in the bay of Nagasaki, for two hundred years the sole gateway between Japan and the West. Here, in the dying days of the 18th-century, a young Dutch clerk arrives to make his fortune. Instead he loses his heart.

Step onto the streets of Dejima and mingle with scheming traders, spies, interpreters, servants and concubines as two…


The Peregrine

By J.A. Baker,

Book cover of The Peregrine

Werner Herzog demands that his film students read this book, and it's easy to see why: it's an act of pure seeing that makes a humdrum English landscape blaze with vivid life. Baker, who seems diffident about humanity at best ("we reek of death," he grumbles) embarks on a quest to know the peregrine falcons who live in—and pass through—the place where he lives, and in describing their lives he finds a luminous and heroic world hidden in the muddy fields and clouded skies of Essex. Ours "is a dying world, like Mars," he writes, "but glowing still."  

The Peregrine

By J.A. Baker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

David Attenborough reads J. A. Baker's extraordinary classic of British nature writing.

The nation's greatest voice, David Attenborough, reads J. A. Baker's extraordinary classic of British nature writing, The Peregrine.

J. A. Baker's classic of British nature writing was first published in 1967. Greeted with acclaim, it went on to win the Duff Cooper Prize, the pre-eminent literary prize of the time. Luminaries such as Ted Hughes, Barry Lopez and Andrew Motion have cited it as one of the most important books in twentieth-century nature writing.

Despite the association of peregrines with the wild, outer reaches of the British Isles,…


Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

By Rebecca West,

Book cover of Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia

Don't be put off by the sobering dedication to this thick tome ("To my friends in Yugoslavia, who are now all dead or enslaved"): Rebecca West's record of travels through the Balkans between the world wars is an exuberant magnum opus that will immerse you in the (literally) Byzantine history and minute details of a fascinating place and time. If you like your humor bone-dry, she’d often really funny, and you’ll relish the company of her fearsomely powerful mind: her deftness and insight in describing people and places seem almost superhuman.

Though she admits that the book is so long that few people will ever read it, I was so caught up in the force of her writing that I didn't want it to end. I've read one passage about a Bosnian dentist's struggle to outwit her domineering father many times— a strangely heartwarming tale—and I'm always stunned by its…

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

By Rebecca West,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Black Lamb and Grey Falcon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Impossible to put down' Observer
'One of the great books of the century' Times Literary Supplement

Rebecca West's epic masterpiece not only provides deep insight into the former country of Yugoslavia; it is a portrait of Europe on the brink of war. A heady cocktail of personal travelogue and historical insight, this product of an implacably inquisitive intelligence remains essential for anyone attempting to understand the history of the Balkan states, and the wider ongoing implications for a fractured Europe.


Under the Mountain Wall

By Peter Matthiessen,

Book cover of Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in Stone Age New Guinea

Matthiessen is best known for The Snow Leopard, but to me this book, written fifteen years earlier, rivals and in some ways exceeds it. It's a unique imaginative project: as part of an anthropological expedition to the remote highlands of New Guinea, Matthiessen was among the first people from the western world to describe the lives of the Papuan farmers who lived there. It’s an extraordinary book, full of beauty and drama, and though it isn’t a journey to the distant past—all life, as someone said, is modern life—it often feels like it: this was a place where the men of neighboring villages fought ritualized wars against one another every week or so. And Matthiessen wasn't an anthropologist; he was a writer, and he presents this insular world from the inside, in the third person, with his trademark understated lyricism. The last line alone is worth the price of…

Under the Mountain Wall

By Peter Matthiessen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Under the Mountain Wall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A remarkable firsthand view of a lost culture in all its simplicity and violence by renowned writer Peter Matthiessen (1927 to 2014), author of the National Book Award–winning The Snow Leopard and the novel In Paradise.
 
In the Baliem Valley in central New Guinea live the Kurelu, a Stone Age tribe that survived into the twentieth century. Peter Matthiessen visited the Kurelu with the Harvard-Peabody Expedition in 1961 and wrote Under the Mountain Wall as an account not of the expedition, but of the great warrior Weaklekek, the swineherd Tukum, U-mue and his family, and the boy Weake, killed in…


We Are Here

By Ellen Cassedy,

Book cover of We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust

The author and I have somewhat similar backgrounds, with ancestry back in Lithuania. We both made the commitment to travel to Lithuania, but for different reasons. Her quest to improve her knowledge and fluency of the Yiddish language, (my native language) brought her to Vilnius, Lithuania to study with a master teacher.  While she was there, she was determined to learn as much as she could about the long history of the Jews of Lithuania, the fate of her ancestors, and why (and how) almost 96% of the Lithuanian Jewish population was murdered- the highest percentage of any European country. Through research, interviews, songs, and Yiddish expressions, the author weaves together a nostalgic, literary, and academic odyssey into the past- and discovers the answer to the percentage question – the Nazis had willing collaborators.

I am passionate about the book because both my parents were survivors of the Lithuanian version…

We Are Here

By Ellen Cassedy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Are Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ellen Cassedy's longing to recover the Yiddish she'd lost with her mother's death eventually led her to Lithuania, once the "Jerusalem of the North." As she prepared for her journey, her uncle, sixty years after he'd left Lithuania in a boxcar, made a shocking disclosure about his wartime experience, and an elderly man from her ancestral town made an unsettling request. Gradually, what had begun as a personal journey broadened into a larger exploration of how the people of this country, Jews and non-Jews alike, are confronting their past in order to move forward into the future. How does a…


Blue River, Black Sea

By Andrew Eames,

Book cover of Blue River, Black Sea

The Danube vies with the Rhine for the title of Europe's Amazon: a behemoth that spans a huge swathe of the continent, flowing from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea in Romania. In this book, Andrew Eames travels along the river by bicycle, horse, boat, and on foot, meeting everyone from royals to boatmen and gypsies, and providing a sparkling history of south-eastern Europe on the way. Before Covid, I was planning to travel along the Danube myself and hopefully write something about it. If that ever happens, this will be in my backpack.

Blue River, Black Sea

By Andrew Eames,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blue River, Black Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Danube is Europe's Amazon. It flows through more countries than any other river on Earth - from the Black Forest in Germany to Europe's farthest fringes, where it joins the Black Sea in Romania. Andrew Eames' journey along its length brings us face to face with the Continent's bloodiest history and its most pressing issues of race and identity.

As he travels - by bicycle, horse, boat and on foot - Eames finds himself seeking a bed for the night with minor royalty, hitching a ride on a Serbian barge captained by a man called Attila and getting up…


War of Annihilation

By Geoffrey P. Megargee,

Book cover of War of Annihilation: Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front, 1941

If my first two listings are somewhat inaccessible to the average reader, fear not, Megargee’s concise study of Operation Barbarossa is a masterful summary of the campaign as well as the parallel German war of annihilation in the East. Richly illustrated with maps and photos, Megargee transforms a huge and complex war into a short (150 page), straightforward read. There is also a helpful bibliographic essay at the end and numerous sub-headings to guide the reading. It is the perfect introduction to the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

War of Annihilation

By Geoffrey P. Megargee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On June 22, 1941, Hitler began what would be the most important campaign of the European theater. The war against the Soviet Union would leave tens of millions of Soviet citizens dead and large parts of the country in ruins. The death and destruction would result not just from military operations but also from the systematic killing and abuse that the German army, police, and SS directed against Jews, Communists, and ordinary citizens.

In War of Annihilation, noted military historian Geoffrey P. Megargee provides a clear, concise history of the Germans' opening campaign of conquest and genocide in 1941. By…


Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

By Simms Taback,

Book cover of Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

A big reason I love this book is that it’s so much fun to read over and over again—and then some more, finding joy in the cleverness of the text and more joy in the visual humor. (Taback won the Caldecott Medal for this book in 2000.) I also love stories with morals as long as they aren’t moralizing and this one, based on a Yiddish song, teaches “you can always make something of nothing” in the most delightful, warm-hearted manner.

Joseph has a striped overcoat and when it gets old he makes it into a jacket, and then a vest, and so on until it becomes a little button. Each page bursts with creativity. It is, quite simply, a perfect picture book!

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

By Simms Taback,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Joseph Had a Little Overcoat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joseph had a little overcoat, but it was full of holes—just like this book! When Joseph's coat got too old and shabby, he made it into a jacket. But what did he make it into after that? And after that?

As children turn the pages of this book, they can use the die-cut holes to guess what Joseph will be making next from his amazing overcoat, while they laugh at the bold, cheerful artwork and learn that you can always make something, even out of nothing.


The Historian

By Elizabeth Kostova,

Book cover of The Historian

The Historian is brilliantly brooding. Kostova builds a wonderfully gothic atmosphere of menace using a combination of history and legend to make her fiction utterly believable. The novel is fascinating, delving behind the iron curtain as it does. Her characters are strong and step right out of the page for the reader, so you are completely gripped by their story throughout.

The Historian

By Elizabeth Kostova,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Historian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to 'My dear and unfortunate successor'. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of - a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.
In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright - a hunt for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of…


How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed

By Slavenka Drakulić,

Book cover of How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed

In How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, Slavenka Drakulić details the everyday indignities of living under communist Yugoslavia, including thin toilet paper and no access to luxuries such as strawberries or fruit juice. Her essays show the impact of high politics on everyday living but also how communism failed – to produce washing machines, manufacture tampons, or meet the needs of its citizens.

How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed

By Slavenka Drakulić,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How We Survived Communism & Even Laughed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is an account of what life is like for women in communist Europe - from the lack of toys for their children to their own lack of privacy. This book charts the tentative strings of feminist movements from the Velvet Revolution of 1989. Slavenka Drakulic is the co-founder of the first feminist group in Yugoslavia and she holds teaching Fellowships in several European and American universities.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Eastern Europe, travel, and Constantinople?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Eastern Europe, travel, and Constantinople.

Eastern Europe Explore 33 books about Eastern Europe
Travel Explore 186 books about travel
Constantinople Explore 17 books about Constantinople