20 books directly related to Vienna 📚

All 20 Vienna books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

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

Book cover of The Morning Gift

The Morning Gift

By Eva Ibbotson,

Why this book?

Recalling Ibbotson’s personal experience of leaving Austria for England before Hitler’s Anschluss, The Morning Gift is a witty and warm marriage of convenience story between a witty and intrepid archaeologist, Quinton Somerville, and a brilliant professor’s daughter Ruth Berger. When Ruth is accidentally left behind in Vienna after her family has emigrated to England, Quin marries Jewish Ruth and protects her from oncoming Nazi occupation: under the condition that they will part ways when both are safely back in London. But Quin and Ruth continue to run into each other again and again and again. A deliciously Austrian-flavoured book. Ibbotson’s…

From the list:

The best novels that are set in Vienna and will create a lifelong love for the city

Book cover of The Accidental Empress

The Accidental Empress

By Allison Pataki,

Why this book?

The first in the Sisi duology by Pataki,  paints the backdrop of the love story between soon-Empress Elisabeth “Sisi” and her monumental courtship and marriage to Franz Josef. A snapshot of the imperial court in all of its expectations but also Sisi’s magnanimous contributions to the fashion and style of the day. Continue the story Sisi: Empress on Her Own which finds Sisi at the apex of destructive love and power where the fateful tragedy of Mayerling and its eventual toppling of the first domino that will lead to the end of the Habsburg Empire is painted in an intimate…

From the list:

The best novels that are set in Vienna and will create a lifelong love for the city

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!)

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

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

Book cover of Night Falls On The City - Little Brown

Night Falls On The City - Little Brown

By Sarah Gainham,

Why this book?

Julia is a famous actress in Vienna at the time of the Anschluss. She’s married to a Jewish man, whom she ends up having to hide from the Nazis in their apartment, assisted by their loyal housekeeper. Little by little life becomes impossible. Julia’s charming, tolerant, very ‘Viennese’, acquaintances and fellow actors find it’s no longer possible to turn a blind eye to what the Nazis intend. Jewish friends including the elderly and very young, are murdered, deported, and persecuted. And then at the end, the Red Army moves into Vienna and one of the saddest things of all happens……

From the list:

The best books to immerse you in a wartime setting

Book cover of The Piano Teacher

The Piano Teacher

By Elfriede Jelinek, Joachim Neugroschel (translator),

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

Book cover of Report to Greco

Report to Greco

By Nikos Kazantzakis,

Why this book?

This Cretan writer, who is most often identified as a Greek, asks us to probe our deepest identity, to be honest with ourselves. I think that that should be the first premise of an honest writer…an honest person. When you are born you are told early what to believe. Why you should believe. Who you and what you should believe or not believe in. At some point in your own life, you must resolve what you yourself accept for your own belief system. You should determine what is or is not important to you. Only then can you live YOUR…
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The best books to read for a clearer understanding of many facets of the human condition

Book cover of Mother's Century: A Survivor, Her People and Her Times

Mother's Century: A Survivor, Her People and Her Times

By Richard L. Hermann,

Why this book?

This biography of the author’s mother and role model is as much a portrait of an intelligent, cultured, resilient woman as it is a well-researched history of the hundred-and-one years she lived through. Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Vienna she lived through World War I, post-war depression, antisemitism, and the violent rise of Nazism. With courage and determination she found a way to escape the worst horrors of the Holocaust (although many in her family did not) and faced the challenges of building a new life in a new culture.

From the list:

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

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

Book cover of Badenheim 1939

Badenheim 1939

By Aharon Appelfeld, Dalya Bilu (translator),

Why this book?

A longtime friend introduced me to this novel after he found out that I had some interest in the subject. I’m so glad he did because, after the first reading, I’ve never forgotten it. This slim volume is a masterpiece of deft description and character development. A resort town, somewhere near Vienna, is peopled with colorful residents, tourists, and later the forced resettlement of Jews. “The light stood still. There was a frozen kind of attentiveness in the air. An alien orange shadow gnawed stealthily at the geranium leaves.” Such is Appelfeld’s sparse, beautiful prose. Disaster looms, tension builds, and…

From the list:

The best books to understand the Holocaust and its ramifications

Book cover of The Artist’s Muse

The Artist’s Muse

By Kerry Postle,

Why this book?

How much of yourself are you willing to sacrifice, the book asks its heroine. It's time the victims had their say and it's a question Kerry Postle tackles head-on. Wally Neuzel was a model to both Gustave Klimt and Egon Schiele, giants of the Neue Sachlichkeit in Vienna in the early 1900s, artists who in today's terms, got away with murder. The novel highlights the delicate position a girl was in if she chose to model for an artist albeit a famous one. It might secure her a place in history, but models were regarded as little better than prostitutes,…

From the list:

The best historical fiction books about artists and their muses

Book cover of The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

By Edmund de Waal,

Why this book?

Carved from wood or ivory, Japanese Netsukes were created by both great craftsmen and gifted amateurs. A Netsuke served a single purpose: as the toggle on a cord for a cloth container holding medicine or tobacco. I’m drawn to this book because its author, Edmund de Waal, enlists his ancestor’s collection of Netsuke to combine several genres brilliantly well. It is, at once, a family memoir, travel literature, and essays of migration and exile. I agree with his belief that "objects have always been... stolen, retrieved and lost. It is how you tell their stories that matters."
From the list:

The best books with a work of art as the narrator

Book cover of The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

By Anne-Marie O'Connor,

Why this book?

Here is a story of persistence and justice that inspired the movie Woman in Gold. By taking on the Austrian government, the portrait painted by Gustav Klint is eventually returned to its rightful owner. Once more we witness the reluctance of authorities to acknowledge what was perpetrated during Nazi times.

Taking place in Vienna, the events coincide with the experiences of the protagonist in my own book. The mother fled Germany in late 1937 and lived in Vienna until early 1941. She met her husband there, married him while he was in prison, heard that the Jewish children…

From the list:

The best books describing restitution experiences after World War 2

Book cover of Berlin Noir: March Violets; The Pale Criminal; A German Requiem

Berlin Noir: March Violets; The Pale Criminal; A German Requiem

By Philip Kerr,

Why this book?

This book – well, technically, the first three books in the series – is for anyone who enjoys mysteries or detective stories, especially the hardboiled variety. The core of the book is Bernie Gunther, who is – depending on the situation – a protagonist, a hero, and/or an anti-hero. A former Berlin detective turned private investigator, he’s cynical and sardonic, not to mention a hopeless romantic who repeatedly falls for the femme fatale or damsel in distress while on a case, which pretty much always leads him into trouble. The first book is set in Berlin in 1936, the second…

From the list:

The best fiction books set during the Third Reich

Book cover of The Third Man

The Third Man

By Graham Greene,

Why this book?

Greene wrote much of his screenplay-turned- iconic Cold War thriller at the Café Mozart overlooking the gorgeous Albertinaplatz in Vienna. Immortalized by the 1949 British film,  the story is a dark look at the craters and restoration of the Post-war years in the Allied-occupied city. When author Rollo Martins is invited to visit his old friend Harry Lime in the war-torn city, he finds himself embroiled in racketeering, the seedy schwartzmarkt, and even murder.  This atmospheric look at a city in tatters where cigarettes were a more secure currency than the defunct reichsmarks littering the bombed street, it is a…

From the list:

The best novels that are set in Vienna and will create a lifelong love for the city

Book cover of Thrilling Cities

Thrilling Cities

By Ian Fleming,

Why this book?

My husband and I have spent three decades travelling the world in search of great drinks and great drink stories. You could say this one volume ignited a wanderlust in us both when we first kicked off our drinks writing career. Written between 1959 and 1960, some of the places mentioned don’t exist any longer but brought back fond memories for me. The Musket & Henrickson pharmacy in Chicago which had a late-night café frequented by Playboy Club entertainers and mafiosi is just one example. What Fleming offered in his portrayals of Hong Kong, Macau, Tokyo, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Las…

From the list:

The best folklore, fact, and fallacy-busting books about spirits & cocktail history

Book cover of An Equal Music

An Equal Music

By Vikram Seth,

Why this book?

An Equal Music is the lyrical, unforgettable story of a violinist’s determination to reclaim not only his music, but the pianist he loved and lost years ago. Suspenseful, atmospheric, and deeply romantic, it sweeps the reader on a journey through Venice and Vienna, offering a unique view of how a musical quartet works together. There is a secret disease that threatens the very heart of the music—and a poignant, courageous depiction of how that is faced. Written in 2000, An Equal Music is a one-of-a-kind book that will be read for decades to come.

From the list:

The best novels framed around music and seen through the eyes of a musician

Book cover of Letters to Milena

Letters to Milena

By Franz Kafka, Philip Boehm (translator),

Why this book?

These letters of Franz Kafka to his Czech translator Milena are not formally a novel but in its essence the love novel, none of his novels were.  He wrote them 1920-1923, being ill with tuberculosis as he was visiting different sanatoriums in Germany and Czechoslovakia and she was living in Vienna in an unhappy marriage. As they only saw each other shortly three times it forms a love by letters story of burning love transforming itself into misunderstandings and conflict. Their value lies in the genial Kafka’s trying and succeeding in communicating something incommunicable about how it is to be…

From the list:

The best novels about conflict and love