The best books about Vienna 📚

Browse the best books on Vienna as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Language, Truth and Logic

Language, Truth and Logic

By Alfred Jules Ayer

Why this book?

This is a widely-scorned book whose ideas are no longer in philosophical fashion. But it was the work that first hooked me into philosophy, and I recommend it for its sheer verve and confidence. Freddie Ayer visited Vienna in the 1930s and when he returned to the UK he introduced the ideas of the Vienna Circle into the Anglo-American world. The book argued that propositions that were not testable – for example some assertions about God, or about ethics or aesthetics – were meaningless because they were not verifiable. Amazing claims!

From the list:

The best philosophy books to read before you turn 25 (or after!)

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Book cover of The Piano Teacher

The Piano Teacher

By Elfriede Jelinek, Joachim Neugroschel

Why this book?

Elfriede Jelinek has many anti-heroines in novels and plays, but I pick Erika Kohut, a repressed Austrian piano teacher who in her late thirties is still living under the power of her stifling elderly mother. Vienna, the city of music and great composers like Franz Schubert, is seen not only through the Vienna Conservatory but inside peep-shops that Erika frequently visits to escape from her mother. Although she is a masochist and self-mutilates, she begins a relationship with Walter, a new student, and gives him the instructions through an atypical letter. Jelinek's work makes me feel many things, not only…

From the list:

The best books by European authors with female anti-heroes characters through time

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Book cover of Kafka in Love

Kafka in Love

By Jacqueline Raoul-Duval

Why this book?

I consider the author my French Writing Partner; I have been her translator. Our mutual love for Franz Kafka brought us together. Her book draws on Kafka’s letters to the women he could never bring himself to marry. Jacqueline and I feel that, in our shared devotion to Kafka, we perhaps understand him better than the women he left behind. He may have had a hard time finding his own soulmate, but in our case, he turned out to be quite the matchmaker.

From the list:

The best offbeat memoirs

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Book cover of Mortal Mischief

Mortal Mischief

By Frank Tallis

Why this book?

Two reasons for this selection: the setting cosmopolitan pre- WW1 Vienna with its glittering art world, cutting edge science, and murky politics, and the unusual sleuth, Dr. Max Liebermann, a young disciple of Sigmund Freud, who is called upon by his friend, Oskar Rheinhardt for particularly sticky cases. There are plenty of them, thanks to author Tallis’s background as a clinical psychologist. He embeds gruesome crimes in complex plots and constructs solutions of real ingenuity, in parallel with young Dr. Liebermann’s developing expertise and his negotiation of the tricky balance between modernity, science, and progressive developments and his more traditional,…

From the list:

The best books for unexpected detectives

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Book cover of Exile Music: A Novel

Exile Music: A Novel

By Jennifer Steil

Why this book?

A well-written novel about a Jewish family from Vienna who escapes the Nazi regime and finds refuge in Bolivia. In a world so different from their own, the parents long for the music and culture they left behind, while their young daughter finds joy in the differences and in the people she meets. A lesson for all of us who face life-changing changes.

From the list:

The best books about hard times and resilience in the World War II era

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Book cover of Last Waltz in Vienna

Last Waltz in Vienna

By George Clare

Why this book?

A sensitive yet relentless story of his family’s failed assimilation that ends in its annihilation. Clare ends up in the UK, seeking meaning, in vain. His story so closely mirrors the real-life story of my own family, also Jewish refugees from Vienna who found refuge in the UK, that it sent a chill down my spine. Beautifully written and evocative. Clare concludes with Voltaire’s verdict: “History never repeats itself, man always does.”

From the list:

The best novels on the refugee experience

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