Locals Recommend the Best Books to Read in 12 Cities Around the World
A good book can transport you to another world, and if that book is set in the real world—say in Barcelona or Stockholm or San Francisco—it can enhance your travel there.
Travel deal comparison website TravelSupermarket.com spoke to book clubs, book shops, travel experts, and literary societies around the world to get their top picks on the books visitors should read to enhance their experience of each city.
From books that go back in time, to those that capture a destination’s unique modern spirit, these literary works will help you get to know the city you're visiting.
New York City, New York
Venture through New York's streets with Julius, a young doctor who reflects on everything from his relationships to his present and his past as he walks through the city's corridors, encountering charming characters along the way.
This is the story of Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker living with a family in Park Avenue after surviving an accident. As he grows older, Decker finds himself drawn into the city's art world and all of the gripping emotions it brings.
—Recommended by Colleen Callery of The Strand Bookstore.
Get to know Hong Kong and its hidden corners, famed delicacies, and festive celebrations through the inspiring memoir about growing up in colonial Hong Kong during the 1950's.
This historic account looks at the story of the densely populated community of Kowloon Walled City, delving into its dark past and showcasing truths behind many of the myths that shrouded the location for years.
—Recommended by Prudence Ho from Kelly & Walsh.
Part travel guide and part historical account, this book tells the story of what life was like in early Amsterdam and how the city has turned into a bustling tourism space as it weaves readers through the city'sarchitecture, uprisings, and quirky finds.
This thriller tells the story of two families trying to make what becomes their toughest decision over the course of one dinner on a summer evening in Amsterdam. As two couples find themselves needing to discuss a tragedy, society's dark side starts to unfold.
—Recommended by Nora van Arkel from the Amsterdam Literary Society.
Written by one of Sweden’s most renowned criminal defense lawyers, this riveting read takes you through Stockholm’s underworld as you follow the stories of a drug deal, a student working to keep up rich appearances, and a mob boss. A quick-paced and intricate crime novel, this book is one you won’t want to put down.
Fogelström’s five-volume series broke the record for bestsellers in Sweden, thanks to the way it beautifully weaves the story of a family with the changes and expansions coming into the city.
—Recommended by Julia Gillberg from The English Bookshop in Stockholm.
Renowned travel columnist, Diana Farr Louis, takes readers through off-the-beaten path destinations in Athens, drawing on decades of adventures as she discovers the city’s history, food, culture, and mythology.
Learn of Athens’ hidden temples, villas, and discover its character through the curious charms it has to offer beyond what tourists often know.
—Recommended by Matt Barrett, a travel consultant for Greece Travel.
This illustrated version of the city takes you through famous sights, characters, and traditions in Scotland that range from kilts and tartan to pipers and whisky.
Using everything from photographs, maps, drawings, and paintings—some of which were never before published—McCall Smith creates his own story of Edinburgh that combines his wit with Scotland’s rich architectural and archeological gems.
—Recommended by Keira Brown from The Edinburgh Bookshop.
The first of Dunnet’s eight-part series introduces us to a cunning dyer’s apprentice who makes his way to the top of a trading empire. Set in the 15th century Bruges, the tale takes readers through everything from adventurous moments in the Alps to thrilling carnivals in Flanders.
De Roover delves into European financial institutions in the late Middle Ages, showcasing that many of the financial tools we use today were creating during this time.
—Recommended by Jos Deroo from Books & Brunch.
San Francisco, California
Kamiya combines more than 40 years of living in San Francisco with everything from historic accounts to reporting and academic papers to create a vibrant portrait of the city. Each of the book's 49 chapters is dedicated to one of San Francisco’s sites and intersections, with hand-drawn maps to illuminate each one.
—Recommended by Andy Bellows of the City Light bookstore.
Originally published in 1934, this book takes the reader back to 1931 Berlin, with its winding avenues, charming cafes, growing nightlife, and the crimes of mobs and millionaires. The semi-autobiographical story takes the reader into pre-Nazi Germany and the vast array of fascinating characters filling the city at the time.
—Recommended by Shane Anderson of Saint George's Bookshop.
This personal tale takes readers through a year in the life of Melbourne, winding through its sights and experiences and weaving in its past history to paint a gripping portrait.
—Recommended by Warren Bonett from Embiggen Books.
Originally written in Old Norse, this classic takes readers through Norway’s history with a collection of sagas regarding the country’s kings. It’s definitely a must-read for those interested in Scandinavian medieval literature.
—Recommended by Lars Tingelstad from The National Library of Norway.
This thriller takes readers through the corners of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter as a book dealer's son discovers a mysterious book at the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, leading him to discover its author and a thrilling world of adventure.
This moving book tells the tale of the Spanish Civil War through the eyes of a naïve shop-tender and the plight of confronting a crucial historic period.
—Recommended by Clara Callis from the Barcelona Guide Bureau.