The most recommended books on Hungary

Who picked these books? Meet our 38 experts.

38 authors created a book list connected to Hungary, and here are their favorite Hungary books.
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The Ottoman World

By Hakan T. Karateke (editor), Helga Anetshofer (editor),

Book cover of The Ottoman World: A Cultural History Reader, 1450-1700

Caroline Finkel Author Of Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire

From the list on the Ottoman Empire.

Who am I?

I am a Scottish Ottoman historian who has lived half my life in Istanbul. Realising that the archive-based research of my PhD and after was read by too few, I wrote Osman's Dream, which has been translated into several languages and is read generally, as well as by students. I am fascinated by the 'where' of history, and follow historical routes the slow way, by foot or on horseback, to reach the sites where events occurred. That's the thing about living where the history you study happened: its traces and artefacts are all around, every day. I hope I have brought a sense of Ottoman place to Osman's Dream.

Caroline's book list on the Ottoman Empire

Why did Caroline love this book?

The workings of the state and the actions of state functionaries have long supplied the essential narrative informing our understanding of Ottoman history. This new volume by University of Chicago partner scholars is the first to give a platform to a wide spectrum of voices hailing from across the sultan's multilingual realm. Women and men, Muslims, Jews and Christians, prisoners and prostitutes, mystics and scholars, and a host of others, reach across the centuries to beguile us with their dreams and legends, anecdotes and jokes, biographies, and hagiographies. Although billed also as a textbook, as is customary these days in order to reach the widest readership, this book is for anyone who seeks affinity with the people of the early modern Ottoman world.

By Hakan T. Karateke (editor), Helga Anetshofer (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Ottoman lands, which extended from modern Hungary to the Arabian peninsula, were home to a vast population with a rich variety of cultures. The Ottoman World is the first primary source reader to bring a wide and diverse set of voices across Ottoman society into the classroom. Written in many languages-not only Ottoman Turkish but also Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, and Persian-these texts, here translated, span the extent of the early modern Ottoman empire, from the 1450s to 1700.

Instructors are supplied with narratives conveying the lived experiences of individuals through texts that highlight human variety and accelerate…

The Cuisine of Hungary

By George Lang,

Book cover of The Cuisine of Hungary

Darra Goldstein Author Of Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore

From the list on cookbooks for armchair travelers.

Who am I?

I've been thinking and writing about food ever since I spent a year in the Soviet Union many decades ago and discovered that food is a wonderfully immediate way to enter into another culture. My first cookbook led to a stint as a spokesperson for Stolichnaya vodka when it was first introduced to the US—a fascinating exercise in cross-cultural communication during the Cold War. In 2001 I founded Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, which deepened my interest in culinary cultures around the world. Cookbooks aren't just about recipes. For me, the best ones include personal stories and history that transport you to other realms.

Darra's book list on cookbooks for armchair travelers

Why did Darra love this book?

The legendary restaurateur George Lang escaped from a labor camp under the Nazis and in 1946 managed to emigrate to New York City. This book is his love letter to his native land. I can't think of another writer who conveys the fascinating history of Hungarian cuisine with such detail and depth of feeling. The book features "Gastronomic Profiles" of the country's distinctive regions and contains excellent information on Hungarian wines. Lang's book is rich in literary quotations, including an ode "To a Fattened Goose" by József Berda. The recipes are excellent, many with enticing names like "Witches' Froth," which Lang describes as a "featherweight dessert" to offset the richness of an otherwise heavy meal.

By George Lang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Presents a detailed guide to Hungarian dishes and wines, sketching the history of Hungarian cuisine and providing an array of simple recipes highlighting regional specialties

Masks and Shadows

By Stephanie Burgis,

Book cover of Masks and Shadows

Llinos Cathryn Thomas Author Of A Duet for Invisible Strings

From the list on mixing music and romance.

Who am I?

It’s often been said of musical theatre that the point when the characters begin to sing is the point their emotions become too much to express in words alone. I think that’s one reason I’m so obsessed with books about people connecting over music, art, and performance—it allows for so much passion and intensity. Having sung and played instruments over the years, I know how powerful it can feel to make music with other people, even when you’re not in love! These days, though, I spend more time reading and writing about music than I do playing it.

Llinos' book list on mixing music and romance

Why did Llinos love this book?

This is a comfort read I come back to again and again. It’s a historical fantasy filled with political intrigue and with multiple overlapping storylines, and I revel in the rich historical detail of 18th-century Austria. But the heart of the novel is the romance between timid young widow Charlotte von Steinbeck and charismatic castrato Carlo Morelli. Both outsiders in their own ways, they’re brought together by a shared appreciation of music, and their relationship gives both of them the courage to push back against the narrow expectations imposed on them by society.

By Stephanie Burgis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The year is 1779, and Carlo Morelli, the most renowned castrato singer in Europe, has been invited as an honored guest to Eszterháza Palace. With Carlo in Prince Nikolaus Esterházy's carriage, ride a Prussian spy and one of the most notorious alchemists in the Habsburg Empire. Already at Eszterháza is Charlotte von Steinbeck, the very proper sister of Prince Nikolaus's mistress. Charlotte has retreated to the countryside to mourn her husband's death. Now, she must overcome the ingrained rules of her society in order to uncover the dangerous secrets lurking within the palace's golden walls. Music, magic, and blackmail mingle…

The Vanishing of Class 3B

By Jackie Kabler,

Book cover of The Vanishing of Class 3B

Angela Hodgkins Author Of Strength-based Practice with Children and Families

From the list on why working with young children is awesome.

Who am I?

My professional background is in working with children, my career began as an NNEB nursery nurse and I did many jobs (nanny, childminder, preschool, reception class, after school club, primary school, special school, and in learning support). I then trained as a teacher of adults and went on to be a college lecturer. I am now a senior university lecturer, but my heart has always been in the early years. I am passionate about highlighting the incredible work that is going on in the early years and in schools and have a strength-based, empowering, and optimistic view, which I try to instill in my students. Working with young children is a privilege and a joy.

Angela's book list on why working with young children is awesome

Why did Angela love this book?

This is not a book about working with children! This is a thriller that I really enjoyed, and which I recommend to anyone who likes a good ‘whodunnit’.

A group of school children set out on a class trip and them and their minibus vanish. I read the book in a couple of days, which is always a sign that I am engrossed. There are all sorts of twists and red herrings. An easy to read, exciting story. 

By Jackie Kabler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Vanishing of Class 3B as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'An ingenious plot, a captivating cast of character, and twists and turns that kept me guessing to the last page, loved it!' Amanda Reynolds

From the bestselling author of The Perfect Couple, Am I Guilty?, The Happy Family and The Murder List, comes the most engrossing thriller of 2023.

One spring morning, a bus full of children and their teachers from a Cotswolds primary school head off on a much-anticipated day trip.

But as night falls and the well-heeled parents - one or two of them famous, as well as wealthy - wait at the school to collect their weary…

The Red Lion

By Maria Szepes,

Book cover of The Red Lion: The Elixir of Eternal Life

Gabriel Dee Author Of The Power of Death: A Radical Path to Personal Transformation and Spiritual Enlightenment

From the list on spiritual books only a few people read.

Who am I?

Gabriel Dee is a mystic, author, spiritual teacher, and the founder of Immortology. At the age of 26, he became a seeker and became enlightened on the 11th of March, 2011. He experienced most of the spiritual methods of the world and traveled to India to learn more about healing, hypnosis, and meditation. His main teaching is making people face their own mortality, and then going beyond it to realize their immortality.

Gabriel's book list on spiritual books only a few people read

Why did Gabriel love this book?

Let me begin the list with a Hungarian classic, The Red Lion from Maria Szepes. She was a prolific hermetic author, perhaps the most famous in my country. Her flagship book helped introduce hermeticism, alchemy, and spirituality in general after the Second World War. I found this to be a very readable, enjoyable and illuminating novel wrapped into a beautiful story.

By Maria Szepes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Conceived amidst the horrors and hellfire of the Second World War, Mria Szepes' novel about a man's search for the Elixir of Life offered a glimpse of hope at a time of con-flagration. By giving a broad cosmic perspective to the events touching the lives of everyone in Europe in those years, she put human existence in a broader scale extending beyond daily life and put forth a reason for existence within the entirety of the Universe. After the war this remarkable book was published in Budapest but was soon banned by the government. Following decades of hibernation, like the…

Ring of Steel

By Alexander Watson,

Book cover of Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War, 1914-1918

Peter H. Wilson Author Of Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500

From the list on German military history saying something different.

Who am I?

I have been drawn to the history of the German lands ever since I opened a historical atlas as a child and wondered why the middle of Europe was a colorful patchwork compared to the solid blocks depicting other countries. I then wondered how the people living under this multitude of authorities could manage their affairs, resolve differences, and defend themselves against each other and outsiders. Digging deeper into these questions has unearthed fascinating stories, not all of them pleasant, but which also shed light on the complexities of our shared existence. 

Peter's book list on German military history saying something different

Why did Peter love this book?

After 1918, many German and Austrian Habsburg officers blamed their defeat on being ‘stabbed in the back’ by civilian ‘shirkers’, leftists, and (in the Habsburg case) fractious nationalists.

Both states indeed failed to manage their home fronts but, as Alexander Watson shows in his compelling account of this titanic conflict, there were far more complex reasons for the war’s outcome, not least the willingness of the high command in both states to embark on a conflict they had no realistic chance of winning.

By Alexander Watson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sunday Times History Book of the Year 2014

Winner of the 2014 Wolfson History Prize, the 2014 Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History, the Society for Military History's 2015 Distinguished Book Award and the 2015 British Army Military Book of the Year

For the empires of Germany and Austria-Hungary the Great War - which had begun with such high hopes for a fast, dramatic outcome - rapidly degenerated as invasions of both France and Serbia ended in catastrophe. For four years the fighting now turned into a siege on a quite monstrous scale. Europe became the focus of fighting of a…

The Twins of Auschwitz

By Eva Mozes Kor, Lisa Rojany,

Book cover of The Twins of Auschwitz: The inspiring true story of a young girl surviving Mengele's hell

Allan Zullo Author Of Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust

From the list on about children in the Holocaust.

Who am I?

I have penned more than 120 nonfiction books on a broad range of subjects for general audiences and middle-school readers, including five books about the true-life experiences of young people during the Holocaust.  The most heartbreaking, yet inspiring, moments in my decades-long writing career have been my interviews with Holocaust survivors, who, as children, relied on their courage, their faith, their smarts—and sometimes their luck—to endure years of unbelievable terror.

Allan's book list on about children in the Holocaust

Why did Allan love this book?

In this engrossing first-person account, Eva Mozes Kor tells the horrifying story of how she and her twin Miriam were ten years old when they lost their family to the gas chambers and were subjected to the sadistic medical experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele, the personification of evil. Written for young adults, Eva presents a unique and chilling child’s-eye view of how she and her sister persevered despite suffering under the madness of the Angel of Death.

By Eva Mozes Kor, Lisa Rojany,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


The Nazis spared their lives because they were twins.

In the summer of 1944, Eva Mozes Kor and her family arrived at Auschwitz.

Within thirty minutes, they were separated. Her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, while Eva and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man who became known as the Angel of Death: Dr. Josef Mengele. They were 10 years old.

While twins at Auschwitz were granted the 'privileges' of keeping their own clothes and hair, they were also subjected to Mengele's sadistic medical experiments. They…

Strangers in Budapest

By Jessica Keener,

Book cover of Strangers in Budapest

Caroline Leavitt Author Of With or Without You

From the list on hidden gems that won’t stay hidden for long.

Who am I?

I’m a voracious reader, an author, and also a book critic, so hundreds of books cross my desk. What I love the most is the feeling of discovery—reading a book whose likes I haven’t seen on any bestseller list or on a front display in a bookstore. There are so many, many hidden gems—books that have stayed with me long after the publication day, and I always want others to have the same devotion to them that I do!

Caroline's book list on hidden gems that won’t stay hidden for long

Why did Caroline love this book?

Strangers in Budapest is exotic, gorgeous, and like a beautiful orchestra on paper. It also keeps you turning the pages.

A young American couple move here with their baby son after the fall of the Communists, but they bring their ghosts with them, and assimilating is difficult. especially when they encounter an elderly Jewish-American veteran, who has come to Hungary to exact revenge on someone he is convinced married and then murdered his daughter. Just dazzlingly original.

By Jessica Keener,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Strangers in Budapest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Jessica Keener has written a gorgeous, lyrical, and sweeping novel about the tangled web of past and present. Suspenseful, perceptive, fast-paced, and ultimately restorative." -Susan Henderson, author of Up from the Blue Budapest: gorgeous city of secrets, with ties to a shadowy, bloody past. It is to this enigmatic European capital that a young American couple, Annie and Will, move from Boston with their infant son shortly after the fall of the Communist regime. For Annie, it is an effort to escape the ghosts that haunt her past, and Will wants simply to seize the chance to build a new…

Book cover of Hungary between Two Empires 1526-1711

László Borhi Author Of Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: Between the United States and the Soviet Union

From the list on the search for truth in history.

Who am I?

I come from a small country, Hungary, the past of which was consciously falsified in the political system under which I grew up. Some chapters of it, like the cold war period, Soviet rule, the revolution of 1956 couldn't even be discussed. I was lucky because communism collapsed and archives were gradually opened just as I started my career as a historian. Books on international history are usually written from the perspective of the powerful states, I was interested in looking at this story from the perspective of the small guy. Writing this book was both a professional challenge and a personal matter for me. I'm currently a professor at Indiana University-Bloomington.

László's book list on the search for truth in history

Why did László love this book?

For those who are interested in Central European history – Hungary then engulfed what is today Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, a part of Romania, and a chunk of Serbia – in the formative period of the modern world.

The collection of essays discusses US foreign policy, nuclear politics, and the Cold War. My favorite is Trachtenberg’s critical reassessment of the origins of the First World War, a destructive conflict no one wanted to happen but still walked into. 

It is about the clash of empires, Christian and Islamic, of civilizations, and of course, war machines. Author has single-handedly rewritten the history of this battleground between the Habsburgs, Hungarians, and Turks on the basis of primary sources from many archives in the region.

His book is a fascinating synthesis of international, economic, and cultural history for the reader who time to immerse in history.

By Geza Palffy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hungary between Two Empires 1526-1711 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Hungarian defeat to the Ottoman army at the pivotal Battle of Mohacs in 1526 led to the division of the Kingdom of Hungary into three parts, altering both the shape and the ethnic composition of Central Europe for centuries to come. Hungary thus became a battleground between the Ottoman and Habsburg empires.

In this sweeping historical survey, Geza Palffy takes readers through a crucial period of upheaval and revolution in Hungary, which had been the site of a flowering of economic, cultural, and intellectual progress-but battles with the Ottomans lead to over a century of war and devastation. Palffy…


By Magda Szabo, Len Rix (translator),

Book cover of Abigail

Ennie Smith Author Of School of Ladies: The Debutantes

From the list on set in boarding schools for girls.

Who am I?

I'm an archaeologist and addicted to reading and writing historical fictions. My first big love is history and I prefer Victorian Era. I’m interested in women’s lives and their habits and relationships in the old times. I was born and raised in Hungary, I’m often stay in London. I was working for years in museums in different cities while I was writing historical short stories and my first novel. School of Ladies – The Debutantes is a historical romance which has won an Audience Award in my country.

Ennie's book list on set in boarding schools for girls

Why did Ennie love this book?

I can’t forget my very talented compatriot, Magda Szabó’s great writing. I am very proud of her and her success. It was hard work and lasted a lifetime for her to reach as Hungarian her books became popular worldwide. I hope one day I can follow her… This book is set in a religious school in the middle of World War II. The protagonist is young Gina, the daughter of a Hungarian General. The novel analyzes important social problems, teenager problems. At first, Gina is an outcast then we can see how she tries to fit in the class, and she makes friends. Friendship and togetherness are in the spotlight in this novel.

By Magda Szabo, Len Rix (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A teenage girl's difficult journey towards adulthood in a time of war.

"A school story for grownups that is also about our inability or refusal to protect children from history" SARAH MOSS

"Of all Szabo's novels, Abigail deserves the widest readership. It's an adventure story, brilliantly written" TIBOR FISCHER

Of all her novels, Magda Szabo's Abigail is indeed the most widely read in her native Hungary. Now, fifty years after it was written, it appears for the first time in English, joining Katalin Street and The Door in a loose trilogy about the impact of war on those who have…

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

By Julian Rubinstein,

Book cover of Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts

Joel Warner Author Of The Curse of the Marquis de Sade: A Notorious Scoundrel, a Mythical Manuscript, and the Biggest Scandal in Literary History

From the list on nonfiction on international capers.

Who am I?

Thanks to formative experiences playing Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?, I’ve long been obsessed with international true crime capers. There’s just something about the genre, and how it ties together colorful characters, audacious escapades, and fantastic locales, that sucks me in. As a longtime journalist, I’ve sought out and chronicled many narratives in this vein – from snowboarding bank robbers, to an expedition in search of the origins of the world’s most expensive coffee bean, to the wild story that led to my book The Curse of the Marquis de Sade. Here are my favorite nonfiction books on international capers, guaranteed to take readers on globetrotting adventures.

Joel's book list on nonfiction on international capers

Why did Joel love this book?

This book jumped out at me at a bookstore one day, and I loved it so deeply that I sought out the author when I learned he lived nearly and we became good friends.

Rubinstein stumbled upon a true crime story most reporters only dream of – that of hard-drinking third-string Hungarian hockey goalie Attila Ambrus, who took up bank robbing and triggered the largest manhunt in post-communist Eastern European history – and then was smart enough to let the story tell itself, bit by incredible bit.

The result is a wild ride through the chaos of post-Cold War Hungary with a rambunctious antihero for whom you can’t help but root.

By Julian Rubinstein,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ballad of the Whiskey Robber as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Attila Ambrus was a gentleman thief from Transylvania, a terrible professional hockey goalkeeper - and preferred women in leopard-skin hot pants. During the 1990s, while playing for the biggest hockey team in Budapest, Ambrus took up bank robbery to make ends meet. Arrayed against him was perhaps the most incompetent team of crime investigators the Eastern Bloc had ever seen: a robbery chief who had learned how to be a detective by watching dubbed Columbo episodes, a forensics officer who wore top hat and tails on the job, and a driver so inept he was known only by a Hungarian…

This Rebel Heart

By Katherine Locke,

Book cover of This Rebel Heart

Lyn Miller-Lachmann Author Of Torch

From the list on for tweens and teens on Russian/Soviet aggression.

Who am I?

I’m the author of multiple middle grade and YA historical novels, including Torch, which won the 2023 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature. Torch takes place in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and it is especially timely in the face of the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Bear (a popular symbol of the Russian Empire) has mauled many of its neighbors in the past century, not only Czechoslovakia and Ukraine but also the Baltic countries that, like Ukraine, were incorporated into the Soviet Union and the other Eastern European countries that were part of the Soviet bloc until the fall of Communism in 1989. 

Lyn's book list on for tweens and teens on Russian/Soviet aggression

Why did Lyn love this book?

For those who like their history infused with magic, this historical fantasy set in Hungary in 1956 introduces Jewish folklore and history along with the lives of Hungarians fighting for their freedom.

Csilla and her aunt have tickets out of the country, but news about her parents—executed by the previous Soviet-backed regime—along with the student uprising and two beautiful and mysterious strangers compel her to stay despite the specter of a bloody Soviet invasion.

By Katherine Locke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Rebel Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A tumultuous tale of the student-led 1956 Hungarian revolution—and an all too timely look at the impact of Communism and the USSR in Eastern Europe—set in a fabulist, colorless post-WWII Budapest from Sydney Taylor Honor winner Katherine Locke.

“A haunting, beautiful read that centers queer Jewish characters.” —BuzzFeed

In the middle of Budapest, there is a river. Csilla knows the river is magic. During WWII, the river kept her family safe when they needed it most--safe from the Holocaust. But that was before the Communists seized power. Before her parents were murdered by the Soviet police. Before Csilla knew things…

Blind Alley

By Iris Johansen,

Book cover of Blind Alley

Michelle Godard-Richer Author Of Fatal Hunt

From the list on fiction with realistic portrayal of crime.

Who am I?

I’ve always had a fascination with crime and human behavior which led me to complete an Honours Degree in Criminology at the University of Ottawa. I studied the minds of criminals and what drives their behavior. It’s truly disturbing that under the right circumstances, people are capable of horrific things. I also studied victims of crime and the impact their suffering has on their lives and the way it can influence their behavior in the future. Naturally with this background, I gravitate towards writing and reading books that explore these topics in depth.

Michelle's book list on fiction with realistic portrayal of crime

Why did Michelle love this book?

Iris Johansen has been one of my favorite authors since I stumbled upon her books as a teenager twenty years ago. Blind Alley was one the first book of hers I read, and I fell in love with Eve Duncan and Jane McGuire. Iris has a gift for writing realistic and damaged characters with a rich backstory that you want to root for. Combined with the high-stakes action you’ll find in all her novels; you can’t help but be glued to the page. 

By Iris Johansen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling author of Firestorm, Iris Johansen, returns with a psychological thriller so terrifying, so relentlessly paced, it won’t leave you time to catch your breath before the next shock comes. A forensic sculptor is locked in a deadly duel with a serial killer determined to destroy her—one life at a time.

Eve Duncan’s job is to put a face on the faceless victims of violent crimes. Her work not only comforts their survivors—but helps catch their killers. But there is another, more personal reason that Eve Duncan is driven to do the kind of work she…

Canone Inverso

By Paolo Maurensig,

Book cover of Canone Inverso

Gerald Elias Author Of Cloudy with a Chance of Murder: A Daniel Jacobus Mystery

From the list on mysteries in the world of classical music.

Who am I?

I’ve spent a lifetime as a professional classical musician and a mystery reader. Starting with Hardy Boys adventures at the same time I started playing the violin, my intertwined love affairs with music and the mystery genre continue to this day. As a long-time member of major American symphony orchestras, I’ve heard and experienced so many stories about the dark corners of the classical music world that they could fill a library. It gives me endless pleasure to read other mystery authors’ take on this fascinating, semi-cloistered world and to share some of my own tales with the lay public in my Daniel Jacobus mystery series.

Gerald's book list on mysteries in the world of classical music

Why did Gerald love this book?

Intense and intricate with complex human interactions subjected to the forces of history and destiny, Canone Inverso is both literary fiction and mystery. This gripping tale of evolving relationships centers around the field of classical music and a particular violin. With the setting in Germany, Austria, and Hungary during the turbulent 1930s and ’40s, a brilliant, working-class young violinist is secluded in a prison-like music conservatory with an aristocratic boy who befriends him. Gradually, their bond is severely tested. What is genius? What is friendship? What is the price paid for beauty and greatness? These are some of the issues we’re confronted with in this riveting novel.

By Paolo Maurensig,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When a strangely carved violin appears at auction in London, one bidder is prepared to pay any price to have it in his possession again. Many years before, two boys were united in their lust for music; how they were ultimately divided is revealed as the story journeys to pre-Nazi Vienna.

In Strangers' Houses

By Elizabeth Mundy,

Book cover of In Strangers' Houses

Fliss Chester Author Of Death Among the Diamonds

From the list on amateur sleuths with a difference.

Who am I?

I’m a writer of cosy crimes and unapologetic in my love for the genre! There’s nothing better, in my opinion than a well-thumbed Agatha Christie or a foxed, old copy of Dorothy L Sayers. And it’s the role of the amateur sleuth that I love the best; that happy accident that brings a person with a sharp mind and perhaps a particular skill set together with a murderous villain, and we, the lucky reader, get to ride alongside them and work out the mystery for ourselves. Pour that tea, snuggle up and settle in with these five brilliant examples of amateur sleuths with just something a little different to offer…

Fliss' book list on amateur sleuths with a difference

Why did Fliss love this book?

Amateur sleuths tend to be drawn from the professional or upper classes—Miss Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey, even my own Hon Cressida Fawcettso it’s refreshing to solve cases with Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner who has a clear moral compass and a way of finding out exactly what’s lurking in the dirty laundryboth literal and metaphorical. Headstrong, big of heart, and desperate to solve the death of her friend, Lena can spot a smudgy fingerprint at fifty paces. This book is the first in a limited series and well worth settling down withjust put a coaster under your mug and pick up your own biscuit crumbs, else Lena might have a word…

By Elizabeth Mundy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Strangers' Houses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There are some crimes you can't sweep under the carpet...

Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner working in London, knows all too well about cleaning up other people's messes. When her friend Timea disappears, she suspects one of her clients is to blame. However, the police don't share her suspicions and it is left to Lena to turn sleuth and find her friend.

Searching through their houses as she scrubs their floors, Lena desperately tries to find out what has happened. Only Cartwright, a police constable new to the job, believes that this will lead to the truth - and together…

The Picnic

By Matthew Longo,

Book cover of The Picnic: A Dream of Freedom and the Collapse of the Iron Curtain

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom Author Of Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink

From Jeffrey's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Essayist Historian Teacher Songwriter

Jeffrey's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Jeffrey love this book?

I’m a sucker for books about historical events that leave you keenly aware of how easily a big transformation could have turned out differently—or not happened. In this case, the end of Communist Party rule across the former Soviet Bloc is the transformation.

In providing a fresh perspective on this oft-covered subject, the author zeroes in on a small and largely forgotten incident: a picnic. It took place on the border between Hungary and Austria in 1989. It might never have happened if an Iron Curtain border guard had not decided to look the other way at a particular moment, or if Gorbachev and a Hungarian leader not met years before each took power.

The book is by a political scientist I’ve never met who demonstrates great skills as an oral historian and a flair for bringing to life the complex motivations of people who risked a lot in uncertain…

By Matthew Longo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In August 1989, a group of Hungarian activists organised a picnic on the border of Hungary and Austria. But this was not an ordinary picnic-it was located on the dangerous militarised frontier known as the Iron Curtain. Tacit permission from the highest state authorities could be revoked at any moment. On wisps of rumour, thousands of East German "vacationers" packed Hungarian campgrounds, awaiting an opportunity, fearing prison, surveilled by lurking Stasi agents.

The Pan-European Picnic set the stage for the greatest border breach in Cold War history: hundreds crossed from the Communist East to the longed-for freedom of the West.…

The Radetzky March

By Joseph Roth, Joachim Neugroschel (translator),

Book cover of The Radetzky March

Anton Gill Author Of The Journey Back from Hell

From the list on the best I have read so far.

Who am I?

I think Zoroastrianism got it right: there's a constant knife-edge balance between good and evil, with neither quite winning; but we shouldn't be overconfident that one day that balance will tip to the bad side because that is always more dominant. Art in all forms has served dictators and tyrants as well as criticised them; few works have ever actually changed anything. If they have, it's been through literature most of all. Zola's 'j'accuse' and Sinclair's 'the jungle' are two obvious examples, but all the books I have chosen are powerful tools for self–examination, and as someone who is particularly interested in man's inhumanity to man I have found them useful. 

Anton's book list on the best I have read so far

Why did Anton love this book?

Joseph Roth, an alcoholic, itinerant journalist who never had a proper home, was a friend of Stefan Zweig but enjoyed nothing like his success; yet I think this is one of the greatest neglected novels ever written. The last, collapsing days of the Austro–Hungarian empire are depicted through a family saga whose characters burn themselves onto one's mind. Claustrophobic, unremitting, reminiscent in some ways of Kafka at his best, for my money this knocks Zweig's Beware of Pity into a cocked hat! A depiction of a degenerate society at its last gasp surely also has strong parallels with the modern world.

By Joseph Roth, Joachim Neugroschel (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE RADETSKY MARCH is subtle and touching study of family life at the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Writing in the traditional form of the family saga, Roth nevertheless manages to bring to his story a completely individual manner which gives at the same time the detailed and intimate portrait of a life and the wider panorama of a failing dynasty. Not yet well known in English-speaking countries, Joseph Roth is one of the most distinguished Austrian writers of our century, worthy to be bracketed with Musil and Kraus.


By Sándor Márai, Carol Brown Janeway (translator),

Book cover of Embers

Patti Miller Author Of True Friends

From the list on the wonders and challenges of friendship.

Who am I?

As a full-time writer of creative non-fiction, I am passionately interested in what makes us human. Like most people. I have always been fascinated by friendship and have had many friends throughout my life. I decided to write about friendship when a good friend 'pruned' me, that is, ended our friendship. I was bewildered and hurt and wanted to understand what had happened, which led me to write True Friends. When I discussed the topic with others, it turned out that most people had also experienced a friend break-up, but it was not much written about—until now!

Patti's book list on the wonders and challenges of friendship

Why did Patti love this book?

This extraordinary novel by the Hungarian writer, Marai, was written in 1942. It reveals a friendship between two men who met when they were schoolboys. One, Henri, is from a privileged noble family, the other, Conrad, from a disadvantaged background, but they attend the same military academy together. One day Conrad disappears and Henri is left to wonder what happened to him. The book starts as Henri learns Conrad is about to return after 40 years of absence. The narrative is utterly compelling and the characters and their relationship are fascinating. It is one of those books that you can’t stop keep reading because you are so absorbed in the world the writer has created, but at the same time, you don’t want to finish so you put the book down to savour each moment

By Sándor Márai, Carol Brown Janeway (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Wonderful. Immensely moving' Daily Telegraph

As darkness settles on a forgotten castle at the foot of the Carpathian mountains, two men sit down to a final meal together. They have not seen one another in forty-one years. At their last meeting, in the company of a beautiful woman, an unspoken act of betrayal left all three lives shattered - and each of them alone. Tonight, as wine stirs the blood, it is time to talk of old passions and that last, fateful meeting.

'Extraordinary. Elegiac, sombre, musical and gripping. An immensely wise book' Observer

'A masterpiece. Works beautifully as a…

Work Well. Play More!

By Marcey Rader,

Book cover of Work Well. Play More!: Productive, Clutter-Free, Healthy Living - One Step at a Time

Melina Palmer Author Of The Truth About Pricing: How to Apply Behavioral Economics So Customers Buy

From Melina's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Applied behavioral economist Podcaster Learner Traveler Business owner

Melina's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Plus, Melina's 2-year-old's favorite books.

Why did Melina love this book?

Everyone has goals to achieve and habits they need to embrace (or change) to get there. You can’t do them all at once, and it becomes easy to waste time planning without accomplishing much.

In addition to the science-backed insights and great stories, the sheer volume of advice and how it is expertly organized in Work Well. Play More! is inspiring. The book is divided into 3 areas of focus: productivity, health, and clutter, with 3 levels of expertise: novice, pro, and master. Each of these has 12 months of tips.

This allows everyone to work on something and make consistent progress (instead of productively procrastinating). The way Marcey has balanced so much information and tips in a readable format that isn’t overwhelming is an achievement.

By Marcey Rader,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Work Well. Play More! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

PRINT AND KINDLE VERSIONS UPDATED FOR 2023! If you are ready to become more productive, declutter your spaces, and embrace healthy living, you must read this now!

Did you know engaging in just one unhealthy behavior can decrease productivity in all areas of life? This easy to use and adaptable guide will show you how you can kick your productivity into high gear -- while Working Well and Playing More!

This book is a MUST for anyone looking for clear steps, goals, and habits, but for whom strict rules feel...well too restrictive.

"The timing of this book could not be…

The Truth of Memoir

By Kerry Cohen,

Book cover of The Truth of Memoir: How to Write about Yourself and Others with Honesty, Emotion, and Integrity

Vicki Atkinson Author Of Surviving Sue

From the list on the power of memoir writing to promote healing.

Who am I?

I believe in the power of personal narratives and the memoir genre as tools to foster healing and forgiveness. As a licensed professional counselor with a doctorate in adult education, I devoted years toward better understanding the fractured relationship I had with my mother, eventually uncovering the source of her pain and trauma. My mother’s mental health and addiction issues were muddied by the shame she carried for years, as a terrified secret keeper, full of self-loathing. Although I was often the target of her anger, I found a pathway to compassion that mended my heart and provided an example of intergenerational healing for my own daughter.

Vicki's book list on the power of memoir writing to promote healing

Why did Vicki love this book?

One of the conundrums that writers in the memoir genre encounter is the balancing act related to sharing family stories while addressing concerns and nuances about privacy.

Kerry Cohen’s The Truth of Memoir provides pointed advice about truthful storytellers, while also being considerate of multiple, familial viewpoints. Cohen reminds authors of the importance of thoughtfully assessing the motivation to write, cautioning those who may feel compelled to write in order to seek revenge, particularly when writing about family members.

By Kerry Cohen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Baring the Truth in Your Memoir

When you write a memoir or personal essay, you dare to reveal the truths of your experience: about yourself, and about others in your life. How do you expose long-guarded secrets and discuss bad behavior? How do you gracefully portray your family members, friends, spouses, exes, and children without damaging your relationships? How do you balance your respect for others with your desire to tell the truth?

In The Truth of Memoir, best-selling memoirist Kerry Cohen provides insight and guidelines for depicting the characters who appear in your work with honesty and compassion. You'll…