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The UnTours Bookstore

The well read traveler is well prepared and will likely encounter less stress and have more fun while traveling. Cultural insight can run deeper if you understand context and know what to look for! Here are some excellent reading suggestions from UnTours staff and travelers. Happy reading!

General Reading

UnTours Blog

Browse past posts and search for great travel stories, tips, and local insights by destination or theme. Visit the UnTours blog.

Neither Here Nor There; Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson Twenty years later, Bryson decides to retrace the European backpacking trip of his youth. From Scandinavia to Istanbul, with all the vivid descriptions, cultural and historical insights, and wry humor you would expect.

Budapest Books

Budapest: A Critical Guide by Andras Torok
The author, president of Hungary's National Cultural Fund and a former dissident, has spent his life observing the Budapest scene. This book has been praised by the New York Times, and also comes recommended by our Hungarian on-site staff.

France Books

Au Contraire! Figuring out the French by Gilles Asselin and Ruth Mastron
Excellent for the armchair devotee of cultures, addressing education, play, friendship, romance, politics, religion, and differences in the business arena. Just scholarly enough to be convincing without being dull.

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong; Why We Love France but Not the French by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow
The authors examine language, notions of privacy, ideas about land and education, and other cultural markers to examine and decode French culture. Though not light reading, it is one of the most insightful books we know of for the non-scholar, who still seeks to understand a culture at a deeper level.

Wine & War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure by Don & Petie Kladstrup
The untold story of how French winemakers joined the French Resistance, mobilizing to oppose the Nazis and to protect their vineyards and cellars from their occupiers. A unique view of World War II in France.

Paris Books

Metro Stop Paris: An Underground History of the City of Light by Gregor Dallas
A great guide to the city of Paris through its history. 12 different stories that are linked by themes of births and deaths.

Writers In Paris: Literary Lives in the City of Light by David Burke
David Burke follows the many writers who have called Paris their home.

The Flaneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris by Edmund White
First book in the Writer in the City Series, Edmund White observes Paris through the eyes of a flaneur, an aimless wanderer or stroller.

Paris: The Biography of a City by Colin Jones
Moving from prehistoric tribal times through World Wars, Colin Jones sheds news light on the history of Paris.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway's vibrant portrait of Paris in the 1920s chronicles the sights, sounds, and tastes of Paris in a bygone era, not to mention offering readers a view of his life and the people that populated his expatriate world: Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and other literary luminaries.

Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City's 109 Best Restaurants by Alexander Lobrano
Lobrano, the European correspondent for Gourmet Magazine, reviews the restaurants in Paris running the gamut in price.

Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris by Clotilde Dusoulier
The author of one of our favorite Paris food blogs, Chocolate & Zucchini, reviews restaurants and cafes in Paris. Sure to include many off the beaten track recommendations.

Provence Books

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Who hasn't dreamed of packing off to the south of France? Peter Mayle embraces the dream and the local culture with wit, warmth, and wicked candor, chronicling his own foray into Provençal domesticity. See also Toujours Provence and A Good Year.

Markets of Provence: Food, Antiques, Crafts, and More by Marjorie R. Williams
Markets of Provence tours several open-air food markets and offers lots of tips and wisdom. This is a great user's guide to the markets of rural southern France.

Tour de Provence by Julian More
A spectacular journey through one of the most beautiful regions of France, featuring 100 color photos.

Alsace Books

Touring In Wine Country: Alsace by Hubrecht Duijker
An in-depth look at the wines of the region with information on specific villages, giving perspectives on the wines but also the culture and traditions behind the making of the region's wines.

The Patissier: Recipes and Conversations from Alsace, France by Susan Lundquist
A book about cooking Alsatian cuisine that is both informative and entertaining.

The Wines of Alsace by Tom Stevenson and Julian Jeffs (Editor)
For Alsatian wine enthusiasts this is a wonderful read, providing all the pertinent facts about the region's copious wine offerings.

A Taste of Alsace by Sue Style
A culinary tour of Alsace, introducing you to winemakers, charcutiers, bakers, and cheesemakers, and sharing excellent recipes.

My Alsace and My Village by Hansi
These two books are much more than children's books. They give insight into the German occupation experienced by Hansi. Slyly satirical! Great to read before visiting the Hansi museum in Riquewihr.

Germany Books

The Bells in Their Silence by Michael Gorra
Part travel essay, part intellectual treatise, this is one of the very few travelogues about Germany.

The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape and the Making of Modern Germany by David Blackbourn
Following Germany's rise through the development of water and landscape, this well written historical narrative offers unique insight into the German character.

Germany and the Germans: The United Germany in the Mid-1990s by John Ardagh
A fascinating book on German culture. Ideal for those who want to deepen their understanding of the Germans prior to their UnTour.

Greece Books

Greece on My Wheels by Edward Enfield

This account of bike explorations of the Peloponnese combines wit, scholarship, and humanity. The author delves into the beauty and history of the region and the charm of its people.

Things Can Only Get Feta: Two journalists and their crazy dog living through the Greek crisis by Marjory McGinn

The name says it all. This account is set in the southern Peloponnese and captures an interesting chapter of Greek history with humor and heart.

Ireland Books

Ireland: A Concise History by Máire and Conor Cruise O'Brien
A compelling and far-reaching telling of Ireland's complex history.

The Back of Beyond: A Search for the Soul of Ireland by James Charles Roy
With black comedy and a deep understanding of Ireland's complicated and ancient history, Roy leads the reader on a journey through time, visiting ancient sites and ruins, and pondering the twists and turns of Ireland into the modern day.

Lonely Planet Ireland's Best Trips (34 Amazing Road Trips) by Fionn Davenport
Get out and explore! Lonely Planet gives you the details on some of Ireland's best spots to explore.

Italy Books

Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis by Robert Etzel
In his follow-up to The Monuments Men, Etzel continues his story of the heroic acts, smart planning and personal dedication that safeguarded Europe's art treasures from destruction in World War II. This book focuses on the war in Italy and the actions that saved the country's cultural landmarks. See also The Monuments Men.

An Italian Affair by Laura Frazier
When the author's husband leaves her, she goes to Ischia to nurse her wounds & discovers a number of wonderful things including, of course, love. A fun read.

Florence & Tuscany Books

The City of Florence: Historical Vistas and Personal Sightings by R.W.B. Lewis
Lewis lived in Florence off and on for twenty years. He relates the stories behind the famous sites of Florence but also the hidden history that make it such a charming city.

Florence: A Portrait by Michael Levey
Starting with the early Renaissance and continuing into the 19th century, the former director of London's National Gallery, focuses on art and architectural history, but with political context for each era he explores.

April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici by Lauro Martines
Florentine life dominated by politics and business rather than by the arts. An historical mystery in which one can follow the Renaissance plot to murder Lorenzo de Medici.

The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo by Irving Stone
Irving Stone's classic biographical novel in which both the artist and the man are brought to life. Also a movie.

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King
The story of Filippo Brunelleschi's revolutionary design for Florence's famous Duomo and all of the personal intrigue and political drama that went on behind the scenes as this Renaissance masterpiece was built.

Too Much Tuscan Sun: Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide by Dario Castagno
Finally an Italian entry into the popular Tuscan memoir genre! A very funny collection of real stories from the front lines of Tuscan tourism.

The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran
A Hollywood TV producer falls in love with Tuscany after his wife surprises him by buying a 300 year old farmhouse for them to restore in the region. His funny, informative narrative tells his story of being seduced by the beauty and culture of Tuscany while dealing with bureaucratic headaches and local nuances.

The Rough Guide to Tuscany & Umbria by Jonathan Buckley, Tim Jepson and Mark Ellingham
We highly recommend this book which concentrates on the area in which UnTours apartments are located.

The Hill Towns of Italy by Richard Kauffman (Photographer) and Carol Field
This classic volume is a glorious tribute to one of the most beautiful regions in the world, capturing in luminous photographs the special feeling of this region. It will serve as an evocative memoir for those who have had the good fortune to visit the hill towns and as an irresistible lure for those who have not yet made the pilgrimage. 60+ full-color photos.

The Stones of Florence by Mary McCarthy
Classic travel narrative.

War in Val D'Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944 by Iris Origo
This is an almost daily record of how WWII affected a small farm in Tuscany, as the owner and tenant farmers watched and waited for the war to arrive at their doors. In the meantime, they coped and dealt with everyone else who arrived at their door--15 orphaned children, Fascist mayors, German troops, British prisoners of war, Italian partisans. All needed help, and the Origo family gave what they could.

Within Tuscany: Reflections on a Time and Place by Matthew Spender
A British sculptor reflects on Tuscan culture.

Songbirds, Truffles, and Wolves: An American Naturalist in Italy by Gary Paul Nabhan
An esoteric account of an American naturalist's walk from Florence to Assisi.

Vanilla Beans & Brodo: Real Life in the Hills of Tuscany by Isabella Dusi
Traditionally, foreign writers describing a country adopt the outsider's point of view and focus on the more quaint and amusing aspects of the locals' lives. This is particularly true of Italy, where the more exotic side of the country is maximised and the lives of people treated as being less important. Not so in Isabella Dusi's fascinating Vanilla Beans and Brodo which deals with the day-to-day lives of those who live in the beautiful Tuscan Hills. The author, who sold all she owned to travel halfway around the world and settle in the exquisite mountain eyrie of Montalcino, makes the descriptions of the seasons and countryside as evocative as one could wish, but her real subject is the people. Finding it initially difficult to be accepted into this close-knit wine community, she gradually wins their respect and friendship. See also Bel Vino, A Year of Sundrenched Pleasure among the Vines of Tuscany.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
In this memoir of her buying, renovating, and living in an abandoned villa in Tuscany, Frances Mayes reveals the sensual pleasure she found living in rural Italy, and the generous spirit she brought with her. She revels in the sunlight and the color, the long view of her valley, the warm homey architecture, the languor of the slow paced days, the vigor of working her garden, and the intimacy of her dealings with the locals.

Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy by Frances Mayes
Work's still not completely finished on Bramasole, the Tuscan house that California-based poet and bestselling author Frances Mayes bought a decade ago and has been fixing up every summer since. Nevertheless, in Bella Tuscany, she goes out--in search of Italy and Italian life. The sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun is awash with sensual discovery, from Sicilian markets with "rainbows of shining fish on ice" to the aqueous dream of Venice "shimmering in the diluted sunlight."

In Tuscany by Frances Mayes
In the third installment, the restoration of Bramasole is complete, but Tuscany keeps unfolding and focus moves outward, into the culture.

Walking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria by James Ladsun, Pia Davis (Contributor)
Tuscany and Umbria are famous for both their glorious scenery and their superlative cuisines--could there be a more perfect vacation than walking through the countryside, stopping to dine along the way? In this book, the authors offer readers 40 itineraries ranging from half-day walks to routes stretching over several days.

Rome Books

Rick Steves' Rome
Steves does a great job of collecting up-to-date prices and details for museums and certain major sites, along with good advice on time budgeting, easy excursions and museums tours. His book is best for shorter stays.

The Rough Guide to Rome
Our favorite guide for its depth of information. If you want to be able to stumble into any church and flip to information about it, this is your book. Thorough, opinionated and full of history and context. Great for longer stays.

The Seasons of Rome by Paul Hoffmann
Former chief of the New York Times Rome Bureau, Paul Hofmann has lived in Rome for over 30 years. This insider's journal is full of history, gossip and humor.

As the Romans Do: An American Family's Italian Odyssey by Alan Epstein
An American reflects on life in modern Rome and the Romans' habits and passion for life.

When in Rome by Robert J. Hutchinson
An American writer goes in search of the the oddball stories of life in and around the Vatican. An irreverent and witty look at the capital of the Roman Catholic faith and all of its lore.

Umbria Books

The Rough Guide to Tuscany & Umbria by Jonathan Buckley, Tim Jepson and Mark Ellingham
We highly recommend this book which concentrates on the area in which UnTours apartments are located.

Walking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria by James Ladsun, Pia Davis (Contributor)
Tuscany and Umbria are famous for both their glorious scenery and their superlative cuisines--could there be a more perfect vacation than walking through the countryside, stopping to dine along the way? In this book, the authors offer readers 40 itineraries ranging from half-day walks to routes stretching over several days.

Authentic Umbria
Published by the Touring Club Italiano, this is a thorough and practical, straightforward guide to many of the region's best day trips and drives. A wonderful reference for any length of stay!

A Valley in Italy: The Many Seasons of a Villa in Umbria A novelist and her husband buy and restore an old castle in the Umbrian countryside and settle into the pleasing rhythms of their small Umbrian village.

The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis by Paul Sabatier
A historical retelling of the life of one of Italy's most popular and beloved saints.

My House in Umbria by William Trevor
The story of a mysterious former madam who runs a pensione in the Umbrian countryside, where she nurses the victims of a terrorist attack back to health while confronting her own past.

Umbria: Italy's Timeless Heart by Paul Hoffman
A former chief of the New York Times Rome bureau takes his readers through the smallest villages and most beautiful towns in Umbria, sharing historical anecdotes, scenic description and practical travel information.

Ciao Italia in Umbria: Recipes and Reflections from the Heart of Italy by Mary Ann Esposito
Part cookbook, part culinary tour of a region, this book celebrates the food culture of Umbria, exploring its produce markets, hidden truffle fields and vineyards. Full of stories, characters and plenty of recipes.

Venice Books

Rick Steves' Venice
Steves does a great job of collecting up-to-date prices and details for museums and certain major sites, along with good advice on time budgeting, easy excursions and museums tours. His book is best for shorter stays.

Venice, the Rough Guide
Our favorite guide for its depth of information. If you want to be able to stumble into any church and flip to information about it, this is your book. Thorough, opinionated and full of history and context. Great for longer stays.

City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas by Roger Crowley
Crowley chronicles the rise and fall of Venice's maritime republic with vivid detail, spinning 500 years of war, trade, and politics into a compelling narrative.

Miss Garnet's Angels by Salley Vickers
A novel about a retired professor's conversion of spirit and soul on a 6-month sojourn in Venice.

Watermark by Joseph Brodsky
The Nobel Prize-winning poet and essayist spent numerous winters in Venice, and his meditative series of poems and essays plumb the beauty, magic, and richness of the city while revealing much about the author himself.

Venetian Stories by Jane Turner Rylands
Twelve interconnected short stories about Venetians and visitors from all walks of life.

A Venetian Affair by Andrea di Robilant
A true 18th century love story, reconstructed from letters uncovered in the author's family palazzo.

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
A gossipy investigation of the most recent fire at La Fenice & the eccentric Venetians' response to it. Full of memorable characters.

My Venice and Other Essays by Donna Leon
Donna Leon has captivated readers with her murder mystery novels featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, set in Venice. This book of essays offers her candid and insightful reflections on different aspects of life in Venice, Italian culture and stereotypes, and personal reflections on her own life.

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
Donna Leon has written over a dozen compelling mystery novels set in the back calles of Venice. This is a good place to start, but if this is your genre, keep reading!

No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice by Judith Martin and Eric Denker
Miss Manners writes the definitive manual for the hopeless Venetophile, sharing her love for the Venetians.

Venetian Legends and Ghost Stories: A Guide to Places of Mystery in Venice by Alberto Toso Fei
This guide maps out itineraries and legends that take readers through the city's back alleys in search of the ghosts of Venice's complex history. Recommended by our UnTours on-site staff.

London Books

London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd
An ambitious book on the history of London, its people, its evolution, and its role in history, with good attention paid to Londoners from all districts and backgrounds.

Walking London: Thirty Original Walks in and Around London by Andrew Duncan
This is the ultimate guide for walking London, with routes that weave through the best of London's gardens, parks, markets, neighborhoods, and streetscapes.

Brick Lane by Monica Ali
A beautiful novel about a young Bangladeshi woman who moves to London as part of an arranged marriage. There she learned to assimilate and struggles with questions of identity, culture, and politics.

Londoners by Craig Taylor
The book's subtitle says it all: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It. Taylor is a journalist who has interviewed Londoners from all walks of life to create a vibrant living portrait of contemporary London.

Prague Books

The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories by Franz Kafka, Joachim Neugroschel (Translator)
Kafka is the most renowned of Czech writers. If you haven't read his short stories (or if you haven't read them in a while), we highly recommend brushing up prior to your visit to Prague. With Kafka's perspective fresh in your mind, you'll find drama lurking in every corner in Prague.

The Good Soldier Svejk and His Fortunes in the World War by Jaroslav Hasek
If you want to understand the Czech mindset (and especially the mindset of fictional national hero Svejk), read this novel! If you liked Joseph Heller's sarcasm in Catch-22, read this novel. Set in Prague during the time of WWI, Svejk sets out to shirk his duties, infuriating everyone he encounters in the process. A funny read.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel by Milan Kundera
Renowned novel set in Prague during the Velvet Revolution (and ensuing Soviet crackdown). For many a traveler, this book has been the start of a love affair with Prague.

Portugal Books

Three Summer in Portugal by Richelle da Costa
In this personal travel narrative, the author returns to Portugal on three successive trips, exploring the cities and coast, finding love and adventure to the soundtrack of fado.

Spain Books

Iberia by James A. Michener
Experience James Michener's Spain. He explores the Spain of bullfights and kings, artists and religious processions, cathedrals and olive orchards. And he delves into the culture and its people, offering a glimpse of Spain that is both personal and epic in scope.

Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving
The American author and essayist (best known for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) served as the US minister to Spain from 1842-1846. During his time in Andalusia, he collected local history, stories and legends. This collection of essays, character studies and short fiction evokes a strong sense of southern Spain's rich multicultural past.

Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Spain by Chris Stuart
A witty account of the author's new life in southern Spain after he decides to buy a farmhouse there.

The Shadow of the Wind by Ruiz Zafon
European bestseller set in post-war Barcelona. The book even includes a walk to take following the plot of the story.

Homage to Barcelona by Colm Toibin
Follows the founding of Barcelona, its history and Catalonian nationalism.

The City of Marvels by Eduardo Mendoza
A bestseller in Spain, which follows the unscrupulous rise of fictional Onofre Bouvila from Catalan farm boy to movie mogul.

The Time of the Doves by Merce Rodoreda
Written by one of the most famous Catalan women writers, this novel explores the life and marriage of a young woman in civil war Barcelona.

Switzerland Books

Swiss Watching: Inside the Land of Milk and Money by Diccon Bewes
A contemporary, honest, and accurate glimpse into the inner workings of Swiss culture, beyond the charm and stereotypes. A bestseller in Switzerland, recommended to us by our Swiss on-site staff.

Swiss Bernese Oberland: A Summer Guide With Specific Trips to the Mountains, Lakes and Villages by Philip Alspach, Loretta Alspach
A great resource full of suggested trips for the Swiss tourist.

We Borrowed Grandchildren for Swiss Vacation by Zoya B. Schmuter
A wonderful account of the Schmuter family's travels through Switzerland on an UnTour.

A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain
In April 1878, Mark Twain and his family entourage sailed to Europe so Twain could write one of six books in his head. The trip turned into a walking tour of Europe, and this wonderful travelog is the result, filled with Twain's usual wit and insight. Recommended by many UnTourists in particular due to Twain's comments on Switzerland.

The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer
This prequel to the bestselling Seven Years in Tibet covers the years immediately leading up to Harrer's Tibetan adventure, recounting the young climber's legendary ascent of the North Face of the Swiss Eiger. Recommended by several UnTourists.

Why Switzerland? by Jonathan Steinberg
Why Switzerland?, first published in 1976, offers a unique analysis of the structures that make Switzerland work and provides a short, concise "working model" for the visitor or student.

Culture Smart! Switzerland: A Quick Guide to Customs & Etiquette by Kendall Maycock
Recommended even by the Swiss themselves! An insightful and humorous look at Swiss culture.

The Xenophobe's Guide to the Swiss by Paul Bilton
The Switzerland installment in this British series is a guide to understanding the Swiss that reveals a nation of people who are anything but the cuckoo clock-making, yodelling stereotypes generally portrayed. Billed as funny, insightful and true by Swiss readers and visitors to Switzerland alike.

Living and Working in Switzerland: A Survival Handbook by David Hampshire
Written in an entertaining style with a touch of humor, Living and Working in Switzerland is designed to provide newcomers with the practical information necessary for a relatively trouble-free life.

Laughing Along with the Swiss by Paul Bilton
Hilarious look at the Swiss and Switzerland.

The Surprising Wines of Switzerland by John C. Sloan
Written for the neophyte and expert alike, John Sloan's comprehensive guide takes you to all corners of the country to discover producers, both large and small, of high quality Swiss wines, bringing a unique perspective to Swiss history, social structure and economic development. Packed with practical information about how and where to find recommended wines and winemakers, the book is a perfect companion for anyone interested in Switzerland, wine or travel.

Walking Easy in the Swiss and Austrian Alps; A Hiking Guide for Active Adults by Chet Lipton, Carolee Lipton (Contributor)
This is a summer hiking guidebook for recreational walkers and their families. The alpine setting is breathtaking and the book includes the use of cableways in order to reach some of the most fascinating mountain trails. Special base villages are chosen along with recommendations for chalet-hotels. If you love to walk and enjoy the outdoors, Walking Easy in the Swiss and Austrian Alps will provide a great hiking vacation.

Scotland Books

At the Loch of Green Corrie by Andrew Greig
On the special request of a friend, Greig sets out on a journey into the remote lochs and outback on wild northwestern Scotland. This is a contemplative personal journey set in the rustic beauty of the highlands.

Findings by Kathleen Jamie
There is nothing quite like the travel narrative of a poet. Jamie's Scotland is beautiful, wild, and rich in detail and meaning.

The Rough Guide to Scottish Highlands & Islands by Rob Humphreys
We love the Rough Guide's in-depth coverage of the local town and villages, big and small. Thorough information, along with cultural context and history to help the curious traveler.

Whiskey Map of Scotland (Collins Maps)
Don't drink and drive.

The Most Beautiful Villages of Scotland by Hugh Palm
Sample the best of rural and small town Scotland with this book of warm descriptions and lovely, evocative photos.

Lonely Planet Pocket Edinburgh
This is a great resource if you plan to pass through Edinburgh or explore its sites over a few days. The small volume includes an excellent map.