At Powell's, our book buyers select all the new books in our vast inventory. If we need a book recommendation, we turn to our team of resident experts. Need a gift idea for a fan of vampire novels? Looking for a guide that will best demonstrate how to knit argyle socks? Need a book for a vegetarian who loves Radiohead and Flight of the Conchords? Email your question to [email protected]. We'll be posting personalized recommendations regularly.
÷ ÷ ÷
Q: I'm staying in Germany and looking for some fairly lighthearted books with a strong sense of place set in Europe. I read a mystery years ago set in Prague that was playful and not highly charged (no gore), but the clues were throughout the city and some referred to its history as well. I really enjoyed visiting there after reading the book. Does your team have any suggestions for a similar read? –Sandra
A: A few of my favorite lighthearted novels set in Europe are Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian (a hunt for Dracula across modern Europe), Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind (a book-centric mystery set in post-war Barcelona), and Dan Simmons's Drood (in which he imagines the rivalry between 19th century authors Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens, with some truly creepy descriptions of Victorian London). And while Philip Kerr's Berlin mysteries aren't exactly lighthearted, they're an amazing introduction to the seedier sides of the city, pre- and post-WWII. Try Berlin Noir. –Rhianna
Q: In a few months, I'll be headed to Europe for a Rhine river cruise with a few days spent in Amsterdam. I'm looking for suggestions of historical fiction to read that are set in the Netherlands (besides Girl with a Pearl Earring). Also, any nonfiction books that aren't just Fodor's Guides would be wonderful. –Tiffany
A: I recommend bringing a copy of Jessie Burton's novel The Miniaturist with you. Set in 17th-century Amsterdam, The Miniaturist is the story of 18-year-old Nella, a country girl who marries into a wealthy merchant family only to discover dark mysteries afoot. The novel is full of fascinating historical details and descriptions of the city, and Burton has a gift for intrigue.
Another wonderful Amsterdam book is Russell Shorto's narrative history of the city, Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City. Shorto's style is highly entertaining and he covers the city from its origins to the present day, which is a boon for modern travelers. –Rhianna