The most recommended books about the Netherlands

Who picked these books? Meet our 95 experts.

95 authors created a book list connected to the Netherlands, and here are their favorite Netherlands books.
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Book cover of Spinoza: A Life

Joshua A. Fogel Author Of Maiden Voyage: The Senzaimaru and the Creation of Modern Sino-Japanese Relations

From my list on Jewish history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of China and Japan whose work has hewed close to the cultural interactions between Chinese and Japanese over recent centuries. I’m now working on the history of the Esperanto movement in China and Japan from the first years of the twentieth century through the early 1930s. The topic brings together my interests in Sino-Japanese historical relations, linguistic scholarship, and Jewish history (the creator of Esperanto was a Polish-Jewish eye doctor). Over the last couple of decades, I have become increasingly interested in Jewish history. I think by now I know what counts as good history, but I’m still an amateur in Jewish history. Nonetheless, these books all struck me as extraordinary.

Joshua's book list on Jewish history

Joshua A. Fogel Why did Joshua love this book?

Over the past decade or so, I’ve probably read six or seven biographies of Spinoza, some considerably more helpful than others. Nadler’s study is a striking success of scholarship and biography. Spinoza’s story of being this deft thinker but also being excommunicated in Holland (and we still don’t exactly know why) can make for a great story, but that was not the case before Nadler’s book appeared. I was fortunate to be able to tell the author how I felt about his book in person.

By Steven Nadler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was one of the most important philosophers of all time; he was also one of the most radical and controversial. The story of Spinoza's life takes the reader into the heart of Jewish Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and, with Spinoza's exile from Judaism, into the midst of the tumultuous political, social, intellectual, and religious world of the young Dutch Republic. This new edition of Steven Nadler's biography, winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award for biography and translated into a dozen languages, is enhanced by exciting new archival discoveries about his family background, his youth, and…

Book cover of Johannes Vermeer: On Reflection

Richard Stemp Author Of The Secret Language of the Renaissance: Decoding the Hidden Symbolism of Italian Art

From my list on recent exhibition catalogues.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always enjoyed looking at art, and love it when I can help others to enjoy it too. Curators and academics are incredibly knowledgeable, but sometimes theory gets in the way, and academic precision can lead to turgid texts. I’d rather write in a way that is as simple as possible – without being condescending – and so help people to understand art more fully. That’s why I love it when exhibitions bring art together in new ways, encouraging us to look afresh at familiar images, or startling us with something we haven’t seen before.

Richard's book list on recent exhibition catalogues

Richard Stemp Why did Richard love this book?

The exhibition dedicated to Johannes Vermeer at the Old Master Picture Gallery in Dresden last year was one of the best I have ever seen. Inspired by a recent discovery – a crucial detail in one of the Gallery’s own works had been painted over – the exhibition set out to explore the artist’s work in-depth focusing on this one image. The restoration of the painting and the revelation of the hidden detail led to a re-evaluation of Vermeer’s art. Each room of the exhibition, and chapter of the book, introduces a different aspect of the painting so that, when you finally get to see it and read about it, you have a thorough understanding of its meaning and development, and even of the society in which it was produced.

By Stephan Koja,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window by Johannes Vermeer is one of the most famous works of seventeenth-century Dutch art. Preserved at the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, the painting has been restored, in an elaborate process lasting from 2017 to 2021. The removal of a large section of overpainting dating from a later period has profoundly altered the work's appearance and revealed the original composition. To showcase the discovery, the Dresden Gemaldegalerie is now presenting the Girl Reading a Letter along with other masterpieces by Vermeer and a selection of exceptional Dutch genre paintings that reveal…

Book cover of The Coffee Trader

Annabel Townsend Author Of It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Ten Years of Misadventures in Coffee

From my list on wannabe coffee shop owners.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been going by the handle ‘Dr. Coffee’ online for over a decade now. I really do have a PhD. in coffee! In 2007 I embarked on a doctorate and wrote my thesis on ideas of quality in the coffee industry. The inevitable question is then, ‘what do you do with a PhD in coffee?’ and my answer was to open coffee shops, first in the UK and then in Canada. In recent years, I've switched from owning a coffee shop with books in it to a bookshop with coffee in it, but it still manages to satisfy both passions. I firmly believe there is no better combination than hot coffee and good books.  

Annabel's book list on wannabe coffee shop owners

Annabel Townsend Why did Annabel love this book?

I am a fan of historical fiction anyway, but historical fiction and coffee? Brilliant! Liss’s book is set in 17th Century Amsterdam, which at the time was the centre of commerce in Europe, and in particular, one of the first ports to trade in the newly discovered coffee commodity. The main character, Miguel Lienzo is loosely based on Pasqua Rosé—the historical figure credited with opening the first coffee house in Oxford, England. There are diabolical schemes, adventure, plenty of double-crossing, flawed but likeable characters, and a very satisfying ending. To my knowledge, this is extremely historically accurate as well.

By David Liss,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Amsterdam in the 1690s - a boom town with Europe's biggest stock exchange and traders who will stop at nothing to get even richer.

Lienzo, a Portugese Jew, stumbles across a new commodity - coffee - which, if he plays his cards right, will make him the richest man in Holland. But others stand in his way - rival traders who do all in their power to confuse the exchange and scupper his plans, his brother who is jealous of his financial wizardry and even his brother's beautiful wife who both tempts and spurns him in equal measure.

Book cover of Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination

Daniel Silliman Author Of Reading Evangelicals: How Christian Fiction Shaped a Culture and a Faith

From my list on reading about reading.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a journalist and a historian who writes about how American evangelicals are complicated. I was trying to explain Left Behind in graduate school and I talked and talked about the theology in the book—all about the doctrines of the rapture, the antichrist, and the millennium. Then my professor said, “But it’s fiction, right? Why is it fiction? What are people doing when they read a novel instead, of say, a theological treatise?” I had no idea. But it seemed like a good question. That was the spark of Reading Evangelicals. But first, I had to read everything I could find about how readers read and what happens when they do.

Daniel's book list on reading about reading

Daniel Silliman Why did Daniel love this book?

I’m cheating a little here, but I made the rules and there’s a little clause in the rules I made that says I can break them as long as I announce that I am breaking them. Herewith, I announce. 

This isn’t a book about readers. It’s a book about watchers—specifically the Dutch audience for the soap opera Dallas. But this book is so good and so wild, it changed forever the way I think about “reception,” including reading. I recommend this book all the time and if you want to understand the freedom and creativity of readers, you have to read it.

By Ien Ang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Dallas, one of the great internationally-screened soap operas, offers us first and foremost entertainment. But what is it about Dallas that makes that entertainment so successful, and how exactly is its entertainment constructed?

Book cover of Horse Gone Silent

M.J. Evans Author Of The Stallion and His Peculiar Boy

From my list on horses that teens will love.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a life-long equestrian. I believe I was born with manure in my blood! I have always loved horses. I bought my own horse with my own money when I was thirteen and had to work to support him myself. I continue to own and ride horses more than fifty years later! I love competing in Dressage and riding the trails in the beautiful Colorado mountains. My interest in researching and writing historical horse stories grew out of my love of both horses and history.

M.J.'s book list on horses that teens will love

M.J. Evans Why did M.J. love this book?

Shane Ledyard is a well-respected horse trainer, riding instructor, and competitor in the hunter/jumper world on the east coast of the U.S.A.

But, after reading this book you can see his love of and empathy for the horse and all horses in general. It is a heartwarming story that teens and adults will love.

By Shane Ledyard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Inspired by a true story, Horse Gone Silent delivers adventure, drama, and life lessons in a tale that will speak to your heart like no horse story ever has before.

2020 EQUUS Film Festival Literary Award Winner

In the first book of the Horse Gone Silent trilogy, you will follow the life of champion show jumping horse "Calebo" from his sweet youth in the Netherlands to the United States where he quickly makes it to the top of his sport. Multiple times throughout his life, unbelievable events occur where this kind, courageous horse faces unfathomable depths of despair as he…

Book cover of Etty Hillesum: A Life Transformed

Susan Fries Author Of The Pope and the Prostitute

From my list on what to read when the world goes wrong.

Why am I passionate about this?

I believe there is a supernatural spirit that guides the universe, and I am passionate about the God who created it. From the many experiences in my life, I have learned that there is a bigger picture. That picture is God. You can believe in his power to change lives or not. You can believe in him and his son or not, but that does not mean they don't exist. I may not believe in life in other galaxies, but that does not mean they are not out there somewhere.

Susan's book list on what to read when the world goes wrong

Susan Fries Why did Susan love this book?

This is undoubtedly the most captivating biography I’ve had the pleasure to read.

This woman, in the prime of her very ‘alive’, but somewhat distorted sexually active life is confused by her childhood, accosted by the Germans during the war, yet brings inspiration and love to those in the Nazi camp she finds herself living as wars escalate. She is hope.

By Patrick Woodhouse,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On 8 March 1941, a 27-year-old Jewish Dutch student living in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam made the first entry in a diary that was to become one of the most remarkable documents to emerge from the Nazi Holocaust. Over the course of the next two and a half years, an insecure, chaotic and troubled young woman was transformed into someone who inspired those with whom she shared the suffering of the transit camp at Westerbork and with whom she eventually perished at Auschwitz. Through her diary and letters, she continues to inspire those whose lives she has touched since. She was an…

Book cover of Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture

John Wills Author Of Gamer Nation: Video Games and American Culture

From my list on video games and popular culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a university academic who writes and teaches on American popular culture. I’ve played video games all my life—I remember first playing Breakout and Boot Hill at the local arcade back in the late 1970s as a young child, and yes, I had an Atari VCS. Today, I write, teach, and exhibit work on the history of video games, especially how games depict and connect with the USA. I still play video games, probably too much, and my favorite console is the Sega Dreamcast.

John's book list on video games and popular culture

John Wills Why did John love this book?

Originally written in 1938 in Dutch (Huizinga was a Dutch cultural theorist), Homo Ludens contemplates the meaning and function of play in society. It’s a seminal text, widely cited by anyone who researches games (including video games), and really gets you thinking about what we mean by ‘play’. It also predates the commercial video game industry by some 30-40 years but still speaks to the mechanics and appeal of gaming.

By Johan Huizinga,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

First published in 1998. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.

Book cover of Vincent Can't Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky

Candice Ransom Author Of Bones in the White House: Thomas Jefferson's Mammoth

From my list on nonfiction children’s break boundaries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of 180 books for children, including the classic (30 plus years in print) picture book The Big Green Pocketbook. As a kid, I checked out more nonfiction books than novels. I read about stars, dinosaurs, ice age mammals, rocks, animals, and birds. I wanted to combine all those interests into one job: astronomer-paleontologist-geologist-zoologist-ornithologist, but I couldn’t even afford community college. I became a writer of children’s books, where I could be involved in all of those occupations and more. I’ve written 50 nonfiction books for children and believe the very best books being published for kids today are in the area of children’s narrative nonfiction.

Candice's book list on nonfiction children’s break boundaries

Candice Ransom Why did Candice love this book?

Picture book biographies need to narrow their focus on a subject, and I love the way the author achieves this. She could have written about Van Gogh’s life in general, but she used the refrain “Vincent can’t sleep” to describe his childhood, schooling, boring jobs, and finally becoming an artist. Insomnia led to his most well-known painting, “The Starry Night.”

I also admire how gently she portrayed his mental illness by emphasizing his quest to find the colors of the night. Lean prose contrasts neatly with Van Gogh’s free-wheeling brushstrokes, richly illuminated by Grandpré’s sweeping illustrations.

By Barb Rosenstock, Mary GrandPre (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Vincent Can't Sleep as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A gorgeous, lyrical picture-book biography of Vincent van Gogh by the Caldecott Honor team behind The Noisy Paint Box.
Vincent can’t sleep . . .
out, out, out he runs!              
flying through the garden—marigold, geranium, blackberry, raspberry—
past the church with its tall steeple, down rolling hills and sandy paths meant for sheep,
He dives at last into the velvety, violet heath, snuggles under a blanket of sapphire sky, 
and looks up, up, up . . . to visit with the stars. 
Vincent van Gogh often found himself unable to sleep and wandered under starlit skies. Those nighttime experiences provided…

Book cover of Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China's First Great Victory Over the West

John Grant Ross Author Of Formosan Odyssey: Taiwan, Past and Present

From my list on Taiwan’s history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Kiwi who has spent most of the past three decades in Asia. My books include Formosan Odyssey, You Don't Know China, and Taiwan in 100 Books. I live in a small town in southern Taiwan with my Taiwanese wife. When not writing, reading, or lusting over maps, I can be found on the abandoned family farm slashing jungle undergrowth (and having a sly drink).

John's book list on Taiwan’s history

John Grant Ross Why did John love this book?

Few stood against many as the fate of Taiwan hung in the balance. This is a gripping account of the 1660s clash between Ming loyalist Koxinga and besieged Dutch colonists at Fort Zeelandia. Written by a historian with a flair for narrative, Taiwan’s most exciting historical episode is recounted in fascinating detail, with twists and turns, and wide zooms out for comparisons of European and Chinese technological prowess. It’s an accessible book yet so richly informative and dramatic that it rewards multiple readings. 

By Tonio Andrade,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

During the seventeenth century, Holland created the world's most dynamic colonial empire, outcompeting the British and capturing Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Yet, in the Sino-Dutch War - Europe's first war with China - the Dutch met their match in a colorful Chinese warlord named Koxinga. Part samurai, part pirate, he led his generals to victory over the Dutch and captured one of their largest and richest colonies - Taiwan. How did he do it? Examining the strengths and weaknesses of European and Chinese military techniques during the period, Lost Colony provides a balanced new perspective on long-held assumptions about Western…

Book cover of Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners: Leiden and the foundations of Plymouth Plantation

John G. Turner Author Of They Knew They Were Pilgrims: Plymouth Colony and the Contest for American Liberty

From my list on the Mayflower Pilgrims and their beliefs, practices, and habits.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about the often contentious role of religion in U.S. history, from modern evangelicals to nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints to the Pilgrims of the Mayflower. In many history books these religious men and women function either as saints or sinners. Instead of resorting to caricatures, it’s worth taking the time to get to know people of the past in all the marvelous strangeness of their beliefs, practices, and habits. I am a professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

John's book list on the Mayflower Pilgrims and their beliefs, practices, and habits

John G. Turner Why did John love this book?

Bangs is the dean of Pilgrim history. Strangers and Pilgrims is a hard-to-find book these days, but if you want to go far deeper than most portraits of the Pilgrims do, it’s worth the search. Bangs focuses on the experience of the separatist Pilgrims in the Dutch city of Leiden (many of the Pilgrims went there around 1608, before traveling on the Mayflower in 1620) and shows how those years in the Dutch Republic shaped what followed. This is a richly illustrated, carefully researched, and cogent analysis of English separatists who made new lives for themselves in a strange land not just once, but twice.

By Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"In this incredible work Jeremy Bangs rips away nearly four centuries of encrusted knowledge about the Pilgrims. Not content to rely on received knowledge about this separatist community, Bangs has spent a lifetime searching them out in archives--Dutch, English and American. The result is an extraordinary reassessment of these people. Never mincing works (Bangs is refreshingly direct), his scholarship is the starting line for any historian interested in the Pilgrim story or early American history writ large..." William M. Fowler, Professor of History, Northeastern University.