The best books about Europe

23 authors have picked their favorite books about Europe and why they recommend each book. Soon, you will be able to filter this list by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books.

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Book cover of Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds: Living the Dream in Rural Ireland

Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds: Living the Dream in Rural Ireland

By Nick Albert,

Why this book?

As a doggy person, this sounded a fun book, an added attraction being that it is a memoir about moving overseas. The author, and his wife, Lesley, buy a property in a rural part of Ireland. Sounds simple enough, but having done the same ourselves, I guessed there might be challenges ahead. Nick skillfully draws the reader into his world. I felt as though I was alongside them as he describes the properties they visit and misadventures along the way. The anecdotes about their dogs are delightful. His descriptions conjure up pictures of a stunningly beautiful country filled with enchantingly…

From the list:

The best books on moving abroad to Europe

Book cover of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

By Tony Judt,

Why this book?

My own background, process, and style have me reaching for ever-tinier stories that I think I can go deep on, in order to hopefully excavate something larger. Judt’s Postwar is the opposite: a colossal swing at a multi-decade period across European history. In this, he synthesizes political, economic, social, and cultural histories to guide the reader through Europe’s development after World War II. It’s a book where you find yourself going over each line a few times in order to make sure you’ve wrung all meaning from it and every sentence returns you to your notes.

From the list:

The best stories on how people and societies grapple with the end of wars

Book cover of The Anatomy of Fascism

The Anatomy of Fascism

By Robert O. Paxton,

Why this book?

Fascism and Communism purported to explain all social and political phenomena and, on that basis, justified their authoritarian or totalitarian rule. The term ‘fascist’ tends to be loosely applied to intolerant and autocratic political behaviour, but the outstandingly lucid, and highly readable, book by Robert Paxton not only surveys fascism in practice – in Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany and in fascist movements and parties in many different countries – it also shows what its distinctive components are. What he calls the ‘mobilizing passions’ of fascism include the glorification of war and violence, expansionism, racism, a fixation on national solidarity, rejection…

From the list:

The best books on authoritarianism and totalitarianism

Book cover of The Black Death

The Black Death

By Rosemary Horrox,

Why this book?

This is a wonderfully curated selection of sources drawn from many western European countries. They offer us a real sense of how individuals, groups, governments and the Church reacted to this, perhaps the most appalling natural disaster in European history. We learn not only of political but personal and psychological reactions to a plague which most contemporaries viewed as a manifestation of divine anger with a sinful world.
From the list:

The best books on the late medieval crisis: war and plague in Britain and France

Book cover of Black Europe and the African Diaspora

Black Europe and the African Diaspora

By Darlene Clark Hine (editor), Trica Danielle Keaton (editor), Stephen Small (editor)

Why this book?

As one of the first scholarly attempts to investigate the Black experience on a continental scale (as opposed to in individual European nations), this edited volume presents a good introduction to the multifaceted questions and approaches that emerge when studying this topic. Offering insights from various scholarly disciplines and 20th and 21st-century case studies from individual countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Britain, and the Netherlands, it provides thoughtful essays that explore the meanings of ‘Blackness’ and belonging in Europe, and the roles the local, national, global, and metaphysical play within (imaginary) diasporic discourse and identity. As such, it…

From the list:

The best books on Black Europe

Book cover of Neither Here Nor There:: Travels in Europe

Neither Here Nor There:: Travels in Europe

By Bill Bryson,

Why this book?

I’m middle-aged and then some, and I’ve traveled to many places more than once. I was curious to compare my double experiences with Bryson’s. Would the Leaning Tower of Pisa be leaning even more? Would Paris disappoint on a second visit? I won’t tell, but bear in mind I hold a special place in my dark heart for snarky humor, which I find perversely amusing.
From the list:

The best travel memoirs that will both inform and amuse you

Book cover of Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide

Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide

By Doug Mack,

Why this book?

The author gets ahold of his mother’s copy of Frommer's 1967 Europe on Five Dollars a Day and uses it as his basis for a contemporary visit. Like his mother, I, too, did the tour in 1967. I was curious to see what had happened to Europe and to my view of it. Of course, most of the restaurants no longer exist, and $5 dollars a day was more like $50 dollars a day, but this travel memoir is full of funny, disastrous, and touching adventures. I admit to a fondness for funny disasters.
From the list:

The best travel memoirs that will both inform and amuse you

Book cover of The Transformation of European Politics 1763-1848

The Transformation of European Politics 1763-1848

By Paul W. Schroeder,

Why this book?

This masterful analysis of European foreign policy encompasses a period slightly larger than the life of Napoleon, but the core of the book is the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. On first reading this I was struck not only by the depth and breadth of Schroeder’s knowledge, but also by his uncanny ability to question standard interpretations and to present an original and oftentimes provocative evaluation. This book made me think about how best to write history. Elegantly written, this is an accomplished tome that will be read by students of foreign policy for many years to come. 

From the list:

The best books about the Napoleonic Wars and their impact on Europe

Book cover of The Illuminated Manuscript

The Illuminated Manuscript

By Janet Backhouse,

Why this book?

Any time you pick up a book with Illuminated Manuscript anywhere in the title, you know you’re in for a visual feast. If you’re just starting out with this unique medieval art form, this book is an excellent introduction. It’s not too long, so it won’t overwhelm you. This book provided the foundation for my first steps into researching medieval illumination for my historical romantic novel. What is illumination? Why were books illuminated and what types of books were considered worthy of illumination? Who were some of the most famous medieval illuminators? (Perhaps my heroine’s father had studied with one.)…

From the list:

The best books on medieval illumination

Book cover of The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

By Mackenzi Lee,

Why this book?

Speaking of disaster bisexuals, Monty is one of my favorites in all of literature! He goes on a delightful romp through Europe in this first book of a fantastic trilogy, all while harboring a crush for his best friend. Will these two get together? Will they get into a lot of trouble as they go on their Grand Tour? The answers to these questions are so worth the incredible journey of this book.

From the list:

The best books for heart-pounding will-they-won’t-they

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