The best books about Prague

3 authors have picked their favorite books about Prague and why they recommend each book.

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The Deceptions

By Suzanne Leal,

Book cover of The Deceptions

With its roots in truth, this powerful novel brings us face to face with the insanity of war and how humans deal with the heartbreak of being torn from their homes, horrific deprivation, and betrayal. 

Cleverly structured and beautifully written with tenderly articulated characters, it presents a fresh eye on the Holocaust and its consequences, and had me continually asking myself how I would have endured, and what choices I would have found myself making, in that situation.


Who am I?

I began writing Ali’s incredible international odyssey as a film, but once I discovered the epic breadth of his journey, I decided on a book first. For 3 years I worked intensely with Ali. Not only was it a passionate and personal epic tale about love and loss, overcoming insurmountable odds, endurance and survival, but it hit a chord with readers from all walks of life, bringing understand to why people fled their countries, and help to change attitudes on refugees from fear to compassion. After three years on the road with the book I have now completed the screenplay.


I wrote...

The People Smuggler: The true story of Ali Al Jenabi the Oskar Schindler of Asia

By Robin de Crespigny,

Book cover of The People Smuggler: The true story of Ali Al Jenabi the Oskar Schindler of Asia

What is my book about?

This multi-award-winning best-seller tells a story of daily heroism, bringing to life the forces that drive people to put their lives in unscrupulous hands. Told with enormous power and insight, it is an utterly gripping portrait of a man cut loose from the protection of civilisation, attempting to retain his humanity while taking whatever path he can out of an impossible situation.

The People Smuggler was Sebastian Faulks’s Favourite Book of the Year in the New York Times Book Review and the Best Book of 2013 in the UK Guardian & Observer. Missy Higgins called it "A most extraordinary book. It has opened my eyes in a life-changing way.” 

Bohemian Gospel

By Dana Chamblee Carpenter,

Book cover of Bohemian Gospel: A Novel

Bohemian Gospel is an unusual book. I wasn’t sure I’d like it at first because it has more supernatural and fantasy elements than the novels I typically read, but it is truly stunning. Set in thirteenth-century Bohemia, it features Mouse, another badass heroine, trying to survive in a world filled with dark powers that threaten to destroy her. While this novel isn’t strictly a gothic novel, it has the requisite spooky atmosphere and a compelling heroine in deadly peril. The highest compliment I can pay this book is that when I was reading it I was nearly late for my own book launch because I was so caught up in the story!


Who am I?

I’ve loved the gothic genre ever since I first read Jane Eyre as a student of Victorian Literature. My PhD thesis focused on Dracula, another Victorian gothic novel, and The Curse of Morton Abbey pays homage to classics like these. What I love most about the genre is its symbolism: like vivid dreams, gothic novels express our deepest fears and longings. It’s no accident that Jungian archetypes show up in gothic novels as often as they do in dreams, and I’ve enjoyed analyzing these texts in my work as an English professor. Also, I just really like stories that send chills up my spine and give my lifelong insomnia a purpose!


I wrote...

The Curse of Morton Abbey

By Clarissa Harwood,

Book cover of The Curse of Morton Abbey

What is my book about?

The Secret Garden meets Jane Eyre in a gothic tale of romantic suspense set in 1890s Yorkshire.

A young woman solicitor accepts a suspiciously lucrative offer of employment to prepare the sale of a crumbling estate, but when she arrives, the mysterious occupants of the house try to drive her away. As she is drawn deeper into the dark secrets of the family, she can’t be certain she’ll escape Morton Abbey with her sanity—or even her life—intact.

Prague Panoramas

By Cynthia Paces,

Book cover of Prague Panoramas: National Memory and Sacred Space in the Twentieth Century

For years, I used to walk past the statues of St. Wenceslaus, František Palacký, and other Czech national heroes without giving them much thought. After reading this book, I came to appreciate how much Prague’s monuments can tell us about the city’s history. Their creators offered a variety of interpretations over the meaning of “Czechness”, and these monuments have inspired passionate debates about nationhood and religion ever since. The book also made me think about ways that monuments can exclude others and inspire hatred, and not just in Prague. Consider, for example, statues celebrating the Confederacy erected by white supremacists decades after the end of the Civil War. Many still dot my part of the country.


Who am I?

Prague has fascinated me my whole life. I first explored the city while an English teacher in the Czech Republic in 1993, shortly after the end of Communist rule there. I’ve been wandering Prague’s streets ever since, always seeing something new and intriguing, always stumbling upon stories about the city and its people. Below are some of my favorite books about a city that continues to surprise me. The author or co-editor of four books, I teach European history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 


I wrote...

Prague: Belonging in the Modern City

By Chad Bryant,

Book cover of Prague: Belonging in the Modern City

What is my book about?

My book is a history of Prague, one of Europe’s great cities, as told from the point of view of five “outsiders”: an aspiring guidebook writer, a German-speaking newspaperman, a Bolshevik carpenter, an actress of mixed heritage who came of age during the Communist terror, and a Czech-speaking Vietnamese blogger. None of them is famous, but their lives are revealing. In addition to providing unique perspectives on the city’s past, they challenge us to ask some deceptively simple questions. How have people created for themselves a sense of belonging in the face of discrimination and political persecution? What does it mean to belong somewhere, and what might the search for belonging tell us about city life and our modern world? 

Women of Prague

By Wilma Abeles Iggers,

Book cover of Women of Prague: Ethnic Diversity and Social Change from the Eighteenth Century to the Present

Women rarely feature as central figures in most works about Prague. In this book, Iggers introduces us to an array of fascinating female writers, activists, powerful ladies of society, and survivors who have lived in Prague and its environs over the past two hundred years. Each chapter includes a brief introduction and excerpts from these women’s writings, such as diaries, letters, and newspaper articles. The reader can thus hear these women’s voices and feel transported to a different moment in history. Some entries are hard to read, such as Milada Horáková’s farewell letter to her teenage daughter, written on June 23, 1950. The lead defendant in Communist Czechoslovakia’s first public show trial, Horáková was executed three days later. Wilma Iggers is a Czechoslovak native who escaped to Canada after the Nazis invaded her country in 1938, which only enhances the perspectives that she brings to these women’s lives. 


Who am I?

Prague has fascinated me my whole life. I first explored the city while an English teacher in the Czech Republic in 1993, shortly after the end of Communist rule there. I’ve been wandering Prague’s streets ever since, always seeing something new and intriguing, always stumbling upon stories about the city and its people. Below are some of my favorite books about a city that continues to surprise me. The author or co-editor of four books, I teach European history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 


I wrote...

Prague: Belonging in the Modern City

By Chad Bryant,

Book cover of Prague: Belonging in the Modern City

What is my book about?

My book is a history of Prague, one of Europe’s great cities, as told from the point of view of five “outsiders”: an aspiring guidebook writer, a German-speaking newspaperman, a Bolshevik carpenter, an actress of mixed heritage who came of age during the Communist terror, and a Czech-speaking Vietnamese blogger. None of them is famous, but their lives are revealing. In addition to providing unique perspectives on the city’s past, they challenge us to ask some deceptively simple questions. How have people created for themselves a sense of belonging in the face of discrimination and political persecution? What does it mean to belong somewhere, and what might the search for belonging tell us about city life and our modern world? 

A Boy's Journey

By Peter J. Stein,

Book cover of A Boy's Journey: From Nazi-Occupied Prague to Freedom in America

I first met Peter here in Chapel Hill, and we became fast friends. A Holocaust survivor from Prague, Peter often spoke to my classes about his experiences. What made his talks so powerful was his ability to remember what it was like to be an eight-year-old boy living in a city under Nazi occupation, and to tell a story that is humbling, moving, and real. Never have I seen a speaker connect better with young people. Peter first became inspired to begin telling his story to students and others after confronting a Holocaust denier, and his many presentations laid the foundation for this book. Part history, part memoir, A Boy’s Journey is also a story about family and the need for tolerance and empathy in our world today. 


Who am I?

Prague has fascinated me my whole life. I first explored the city while an English teacher in the Czech Republic in 1993, shortly after the end of Communist rule there. I’ve been wandering Prague’s streets ever since, always seeing something new and intriguing, always stumbling upon stories about the city and its people. Below are some of my favorite books about a city that continues to surprise me. The author or co-editor of four books, I teach European history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 


I wrote...

Prague: Belonging in the Modern City

By Chad Bryant,

Book cover of Prague: Belonging in the Modern City

What is my book about?

My book is a history of Prague, one of Europe’s great cities, as told from the point of view of five “outsiders”: an aspiring guidebook writer, a German-speaking newspaperman, a Bolshevik carpenter, an actress of mixed heritage who came of age during the Communist terror, and a Czech-speaking Vietnamese blogger. None of them is famous, but their lives are revealing. In addition to providing unique perspectives on the city’s past, they challenge us to ask some deceptively simple questions. How have people created for themselves a sense of belonging in the face of discrimination and political persecution? What does it mean to belong somewhere, and what might the search for belonging tell us about city life and our modern world? 

Spartakiads

By Petr Roubal, Daniel Morgan (translator),

Book cover of Spartakiads: The Politics of Physical Culture in Communist Czechoslovakia

Under Communism, two hundred thousand spectators gathered every five years to fill the largest concrete stadium in the world, Strahov Stadium, on a hill not far from Prague Castle. Why? To watch tens of thousands of their fellow countrymen perform synchronized gymnastics movements. Why? They were all taking part in a ritual, called the Spartakiad, which tells us much about Communist ideology as it evolved over time. For many participants and spectators, the Spartakiad was also an opportunity to visit their capital city and return with memories that were not part of the Communists’ ideological script. In Roubal’s telling, the Spartakiad also shows that Czechoslovak citizens were not simply cogs in a totalitarian machine. In 1960, for example, performers staying in Prague dormitories forced organizers to remove high-calorie butter cakes with cheese curd. They got beef goulash instead.


Who am I?

Prague has fascinated me my whole life. I first explored the city while an English teacher in the Czech Republic in 1993, shortly after the end of Communist rule there. I’ve been wandering Prague’s streets ever since, always seeing something new and intriguing, always stumbling upon stories about the city and its people. Below are some of my favorite books about a city that continues to surprise me. The author or co-editor of four books, I teach European history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 


I wrote...

Prague: Belonging in the Modern City

By Chad Bryant,

Book cover of Prague: Belonging in the Modern City

What is my book about?

My book is a history of Prague, one of Europe’s great cities, as told from the point of view of five “outsiders”: an aspiring guidebook writer, a German-speaking newspaperman, a Bolshevik carpenter, an actress of mixed heritage who came of age during the Communist terror, and a Czech-speaking Vietnamese blogger. None of them is famous, but their lives are revealing. In addition to providing unique perspectives on the city’s past, they challenge us to ask some deceptively simple questions. How have people created for themselves a sense of belonging in the face of discrimination and political persecution? What does it mean to belong somewhere, and what might the search for belonging tell us about city life and our modern world? 

Of Kids & Parents

By Emil Hakl, Marek Tomin (translator),

Book cover of Of Kids & Parents

I believe that I’ve read this short novel three times now. The story follows a son and his father as they walk through the outskirts of gritty, post-Communist Prague, chatting along the way. They, of course, stop at a few pubs as well. Narrated with wry humor and sympathy, their stroll reveals much about generational differences and efforts to remember troubling episodes from the past. Each man describes experiences that could only happen in this city. This novel inspired me to think long and hard about how walking can create a sense of place and belonging, and how walking is so often central to urban life. Most importantly, this book is a true joy to read. 


Who am I?

Prague has fascinated me my whole life. I first explored the city while an English teacher in the Czech Republic in 1993, shortly after the end of Communist rule there. I’ve been wandering Prague’s streets ever since, always seeing something new and intriguing, always stumbling upon stories about the city and its people. Below are some of my favorite books about a city that continues to surprise me. The author or co-editor of four books, I teach European history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 


I wrote...

Prague: Belonging in the Modern City

By Chad Bryant,

Book cover of Prague: Belonging in the Modern City

What is my book about?

My book is a history of Prague, one of Europe’s great cities, as told from the point of view of five “outsiders”: an aspiring guidebook writer, a German-speaking newspaperman, a Bolshevik carpenter, an actress of mixed heritage who came of age during the Communist terror, and a Czech-speaking Vietnamese blogger. None of them is famous, but their lives are revealing. In addition to providing unique perspectives on the city’s past, they challenge us to ask some deceptively simple questions. How have people created for themselves a sense of belonging in the face of discrimination and political persecution? What does it mean to belong somewhere, and what might the search for belonging tell us about city life and our modern world? 

Prague Fatale

By Philip Kerr,

Book cover of Prague Fatale

I loved all the Bernie Gunther books (and really need to read them all again in chronological rather than publication order), but this one, set in Berlin and Czechoslovakia in 1941, has stayed with me. There’s something disturbing about saying that I ‘enjoyed’ what is at times almost a country house murder when the host is Heydrich and the guests some of the most evil men in the Reich, but I was gripped. Bernie himself is one of the strongest voices in fiction.


Who am I?

I grew up exploring the semi-decayed air-raid shelters near my grandmother’s home in London—to her horror: she said they were full of rats and drunks. The Second World War and its effect on people, especially women, off the frontline has long fascinated me. To pursue my obsession with writing stories on this subject, I have made trips to genocide memorials in former Yugoslavia, bunkers in Brittany, and remote towns in Poland. My novels concern themselves with how the violence, and sometimes heroism, of the past trickles down a family’s bloodline, affecting later generations of women.


I wrote...

The Lines We Leave Behind

By Eliza Graham,

Book cover of The Lines We Leave Behind

What is my book about?

A young woman arrives in wartime Cairo to train as an intelligence officer in wartime Yugoslavia, falling in love with the man who trains her in the brutal survival techniques she will need. After the war, having returned from operations in Croatia that nearly killed her, she finds herself imprisoned in an asylum back in England, accused of attempted murder. Has her time with the Yugoslav Partisans left her too dangerous for peacetime life?

The Lost Wife

By Alyson Richman,

Book cover of The Lost Wife

Until I wrote my book I was exclusively a screenwriter. And throughout my career, I’ve been hired to adapt a variety of different novels, mostly love stories and romantic comedies. But nothing I’ve ever worked on has haunted me quite like Alyson Richman’s tale of first love – a love ripped apart by the brutality of the Nazis and their “Final Solution.” And yet, even as the horrors unfold, Richman always manages to find pinpoints of light in the darkness. Her prose is both elegant and poetic – and the tale she weaves will undoubtedly call forth the waterworks.


Who am I?

I’ve devoted my career to writing love stories. I’ve analyzed and dissected most of the great ones, always with the intention of writing something to join their ranks. Along the way, I noticed something interesting: the books that make people cry often stick with them, long after they’ve finished reading them. Perhaps this is because we all need to release feelings that are not socially acceptable? Whatever the reason, if you’re like me and love a good cry, then you’ll most certainly enjoy the books on my list.


I wrote...

The In Between

By Marc Klein,

Book cover of The In Between

What is my book about?

After bouncing around in foster homes for most of her childhood, seventeen-year-old Tessa Jacobs doesn't believe she deserves love – not from her adoptive parents, and certainly not from anyone at school. But everything changes when she has a chance encounter with Skylar, a senior from a neighboring town who's a true romantic.

When tragedy strikes, Tessa wakes up alone in the hospital with no memory of how she got there. And Skylar has passed away. As Tessa begins her relentless search for answers, Skylar's spirit reaches out to her from the other side. Desperate to see him one last time, Tessa must unravel the pieces of their relationship – and the truth might even lead her into the afterlife itself.

Helga's Diary

By Helga Weiss, Neil Bermel (translator),

Book cover of Helga's Diary: A Young Girl's Account of Life in a Concentration Camp

There are several books I could recommend written by adults who were imprisoned as children in Terezin during the war, but this one stands out because of its artwork interspersed with factual accounts of daily life. Indeed, it’s the factual perspective she takes in her descriptions that makes them so heart-wrenching. Her map was my primary tool in writing descriptions of the camp, and her artwork, imitating her writing style, comes across as stark and factual. Written as a diary, not a novel, I cried at the cruelty with which her life unfurled before her. At the same time, however, she manages to capture the beauty of being a child, full of hope and promise. That balance makes the book a jewel.


Who am I?

As a retired opera singer, I have sung many of the songs that are featured in the book. I first became interested in Terezin when I sang with an opera company that was performing Brundibar, a children’s opera (composed by Hans Krasa, who was imprisoned in the camp) performed more than 50 times in Terezin. As a psych major (having written several medical/psych thriller books as well) I am constantly questioning the idea of choices and the consequences that fall from them. War challenges our notion of humanity, hope, and choice, and perhaps writing helps me work through some of those questions I have…what would I do in that situation? 


I wrote...

Swan Song

By Elizabeth B. Splaine,

Book cover of Swan Song

What is my book about?

Adolf Hitler becomes obsessed with his nephew’s fiancee, a beautiful Jewish opera singer who is the doppelganger for his beloved, deceased niece with whom he had an affair. Because he can’t possess her, Hitler uses her life as a pawn in a vindictive, global chess game he plays with his nephew. Based on real-life people and places, Swan Song will have you hooked from the first tantalizing chapter.

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