It has been a while since I moved to Amsterdam, but now I can call this beautiful city my home. To learn more about the history of this floating city, I’ve been reading a lot of books set in Amsterdam.
This list includes The Diary of a Young Girl, which is a must-read if you want to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. The Dinner, The Fault in Our Stars, and The Goldfinch are three more recent books set in Amsterdam that are set in the city.
Where To Read In Amsterdam
While I’m still learning about the city, I already like the Dutch’s love of the outdoors. Vondelpark is where my favorite place to read is when it’s hot outside. You can grab a coffee and lean over the edge of any of the canals to read. Many coffee shops can be found in the area during the winter, like Bocca Coffee and Lot Sixty One. I also like to look at the books at Boekhandel Van Rossum, which is a book store.
Books Set In Amsterdam
The Diary of A Young Girl By Anne Frank, 1947
This remarkable diary was found in the attic where Anne Frank spent the last years of her life. It is a powerful reminder of the horrors of war, and it is also a powerful testament to the human spirit.
It was in 1942, when the Nazis were taking over Holland, and a 13th-year-old Jewish girl and her family had to flee their home in Amsterdam and hide. As long as the Gestapo didn’t find out where they were, they and another family lived in the “Secret Annexe” of an old office building. People who were cut off from the rest of the world had to deal with hunger and boredom, as well as the cruelties that come with living in small spaces. They also had to be afraid of being found out and dying.
The Light of Amsterdam By David Park, 2012
There are three groups of people who are about to go to Amsterdam in December. Christmas is coming, and it’s December in Belfast now.
The lives of these people change when they meet each other in the squares and museums and parks of Amsterdam. They meet people who have different views on love in a city that challenges everything that has come before. The Light of Amsterdam is a novel that is both tender and humane, and it makes the everyday important and timeless.
The Dinner By Herman Koch, 2009
It’s a summer evening in Amsterdam, and two couples are having dinner at a fancy restaurant together. People talk about work and the holidays in a soft, polite way between bites of food and over the scrapes of cutlery, but they don’t talk about anything important. With every forced smile and every new class, the knives get sharper. Behind the words, terrible things need to be said.
In each family, there is a 15-year-old son. This act has caused a police investigation and shattered the worlds of both families. The two boys are united by their responsibility for this one terrible thing. As the meal nears its culinary climax, the conversation finally turns to their kids. They show how far they will go to protect the people they love as civility and friendship fall apart.
The Miniaturist By Jessie Burton, 2014
It was a cold day in 1686 when Nella Oortman, who was 18 at the time, came to Amsterdam to start a new life as the wife of Johannes Brandt, a well-known merchant. But even though her new house is beautiful, it doesn’t feel like home. It’s hard for Nella to get to know Johannes because he always stays in his study or at his warehouse office. He leaves her alone with his sister, Marin, who is sharp-tongued and unfriendly.
The Fault In Our Stars By John Green, 2014
Hazel’s tumor-shrinking medical miracle has given her a few more years, but she has always been terminal and her last chapter was written when she was diagnosed. Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten when Augustus Waters, a beautiful story twist, shows up at Cancer Kid Support Group at the last minute.
The Fault in Our Stars is John Green’s most insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw book yet. It brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
Amsterdam: A Brief Life of the City By Geert Mak, 1994
As a place where people from all over the world come to do business, Amsterdam is a city of dreams and nightmares. It is a city of grand civic architecture and legendary beauty, but also of civil wars, bloody religious purges, and the tragedy of Anne Frank.
Geert Mak’s book, which is part history, part travel guide, is a fascinating look at the city’s soul. He imagines how the early Amsterdammers lived, and how the city went from a waterlogged settlement to a major financial center and thriving modern metropolis.
The Coffee Trader By David Liss, 2003
When money changes hands on the world’s first commodity exchange, fortunes can change hands in a split second. There are many people in the city who are Portuguese Jews. Miguel Lienzo, one of them, is a smart businessman. During a sudden change in the sugar market, Miguel lost everything. He was once one of the city’s most envied merchants, but now he’s broke. Miguel is now broke and humiliated, and he has to find a way to get his money and reputation back. He has to live off the kindness of his younger brother.
Tulip Fever By Deborah Moggach, 1999
One of the best-known stories of all time. It’s about the power of art and how it can be used for good and evil. It’s set in a classy society that’s full of tulips.
In 1630s Amsterdam, tulipomania has taken over the city. Everywhere, men are swayed by the exotic flower. But for Cornelis Sandvoort, the wealthy merchant, it is his young and beautiful wife, Sophia, who stirs his heart. She is young and beautiful. She is the thing he wants, the woman he hopes will bring him the happiness that even a lot of money can’t buy. She is the prize he wants.
The Goldfinch By Donna Tartt, 2013
It all starts with a boy. Twelve-year-old Theo Decker lives through an accident that kills his mother. It turns out Theo was left behind by his father. He is taken in by the wealthy friend’s family. His new home on Park Avenue makes him feel uncomfortable. His classmates don’t know how to talk to him, and he longs for his mother so much that he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that draws Theo into the underworld of art.
The Fall By Albert Camus, 1956
It’s hard for Jean-Baptiste Clamence to be calm. Over a few drunken nights, he tells a stranger about his life. A self-loathing list of guilt, hypocrisy, and alienation comes from this successful former lawyer and seemingly good person. The Fall is a great movie about a man who sees how empty his life is. Even though Camus’s novel shows the disillusionment of one man, it also shows the universal human condition and its absurdities, as well as our innocence that can never be recaptured.
The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam By Chris Ewan, 2007
Charlie Howard is a thriller author who travels the world to write about an intrepid burglar named Faulks.
Charlie also has a small side business: stealing for a very private group of clients on commission. This way, he can make extra money and keep his hand in the game. An American who doesn’t know who Charlie is wants him to steal two small monkey figurines so he can match the one he already owns. Charlie is suspicious because he doesn’t know how the American found him, and the job seems too good to be true.
Cheese (Kaas) By Willem Elsschot, 1933
Cheese is a gentle, sarcastic fable about capitalism and wealth. Antwerp Clerk Becomes Chief Edam Cheese Agent in Belgium and Luxembourg. He has 10,000 wheels of the red-rinded cheese and has to deliver them all across Belgium and Luxembourg! Besides, he doesn’t know how to run a business or how to sell his goods, and he doesn’t like cheese. Cheesegrace is set in the 1930s, which was a time when people were both smart and bad at business. It shows the rigid class divisions of the time and how much a man cares about his status. When it was written, this comic masterpiece about how to get to the top was a big hit. It’s still a big hit today, with Internet investors and dot-com failures.
Note: This book is set in Belgium, but it’s here because cheese is so important in the area.
Outsider In Amsterdam (Amsterdam Cops #1) By Janwillem van de Wetering, 1975
On a quiet street in the center of Amsterdam, the founder of a new religious group called “Hindist” is hanging from a ceiling beam. The group mixes elements from different “Eastern” traditions. When the Amsterdam police send Detective-Adjutant Grijpstra and Sergeant de Gier to investigate what looks like a simple suicide, they become suspicious of the situation right away because there are so many suspicious things going on.
Hotel Oblivion in Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It By Geoff Dyer, 2003
During his travels from Amsterdam to Cambodia, Rome to Indonesia and Libya to Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert, Dyer gets lost in a sea of grievances. The only thing that keeps him going is a fleeting moment of transcendental calm. But even as he tells you about his hilarious misadventures in each of these places, Dyer is always able to surprise you with information about much more important things. Brilliantly, Dyer turns our ideas about both external and internal journeys on their head. He welcomes the reader as a friend, a fellow traveler looking for both something and nothing at the same time.