Vienna, the enchanting capital of Austria, beckons travellers with its rich history, grand architecture, and cultural treasures that have left an indelible mark on the world. As you prepare for your journey to this imperial city, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in its essence than through the pages of a good book. In this blog post, we’ve curated a list of five captivating books that will not only enrich your understanding of Vienna’s past and present but will also add depth to your travel experience. So, grab a cozy reading nook, and let these literary companions be your passport to the heart of the city.
The Ultimate Books you have to read before travelling to Vienna:
“Malina” by Ingeborg Bachmann
Part detective novel, part love story, part psychoanalytic case study, Ingeborg Bachmann’s “Malina” is a staggering portrait of a writer trying to tell her own story in a world dominated by men. A woman in postwar Vienna walks a tightrope between the two men in her life. There is her lover Ivan, beautiful and unavailable, who obsesses her and there is Malina, the civil servant with whom she shares an apartment: reserved, fastidious, exacting, chillingly calm. As the balance of power between them starts to shift, she feels her fragile identity unravelling, gradually revealing the dark, bruised heart of her past.
“The Metamorphosis and other stories” by Franz Kafka
Mixing existential philosophy with satirical humor, Kafka never fails to entertain and enlighten. He was born in Prague, where he studied and afterwords lived and worked. However, Milena Jesenska, his Czech girlfriend lived in Vienna, which forced him to visit the capital of Austria on a regular basis. Whenever Kafka visited Austria, he lived in Grabenhotel (1, Dorotheergasse 3; Gedenktafel) and spend hours hanging out at Café Central. Reason enough to re-read Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” and his other short stories again!
“Chess Story” by Stefan Zweig
Stefan Zweig’s “The Royal Game” (also known as “Chess Story” or “Schachnovelle” in German) is a literary masterpiece that delves into the intricate world of chess, unraveling the mental and emotional battles that transpire on and off the board. This novella, set against the backdrop of a transatlantic ocean liner, explores the profound impact of an intense chess match on its two players, leading to a gripping tale of psychological suspense and intellectual prowess.
“The Unconscious” by Sigmund Freud
Freud studied at the age of 17 at the University of Vienna. Afterwards he lived and set up his clinical practice in Berggasse 19 in Vienna, where today you will find the Freud Museum, “The Unconscious” contains a key statement about evidence for the unconscious, and how it works, as well as major essays on all the fundamentals of mental functioning. Freud explores how we are torn between the pleasure principle and the reality principle and how we often find ways both to express and to deny what we most fear. His study of our most basic drives, and how they are transformed, brilliantly illuminates the nature of sadism, masochism, exhibitionism and voyeurism.
“The Hotel New Hampshire” by John Irving
John Irving’s “The Hotel New Hampshire” is a captivating and unconventional family saga that takes readers on a rollercoaster ride through the lives of the Berry family. Set against a backdrop of quirky characters and bizarre events, this novel weaves a tale of love, tragedy, resilience, and the pursuit of happiness. Join us as we delve into the eccentric world of the Berrys and their unforgettable journey, where the boundaries of reality blur, and the extraordinary becomes the norm. If you don’t have time for the book, you could also watch the movie version from 1984 starring Jodie Foster and Rob Lowe.
If you’re a movie lover, then don’t forget to check out our list of the 5 movies you have to watch before travelling to Vienna, Austria in 2023.
If you are also looking for the perfect travel itinerary for your holiday in Vienna, then please check out our guide for the perfect 3-day winter trip to the capital of Austria.