Last Updated on June 25, 2023 by Louisa
Whether you’re a tourist looking to explore the city’s history or a resident looking to learn more about Dutch culture and lifestyle, there are plenty of books about Amsterdam to choose from.
Amsterdam is a city with a long and rich history, so there are plenty of non-fiction books about the city’s past to explore. If you’re interested in Amsterdam’s current culture and lifestyle, there are books about that, too.
Amsterdam is also home to notable Dutch authors, including some award winners and international bestsellers.
Whether you’re a fan of crime novels, thrillers, or romantic stories set in Amsterdam, you’ll find the perfect book to read here.
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Fiction Books About Amsterdam
Let’s begin with fiction books about Amsterdam. If you’re looking for a book that will transport you to the city where you can metaphorically walk its cobbled streets and past narrow canals, then these are the books for you.
1. The Undutchables – Colin White & Laurie Boucke
Get a taste of the Netherlands with all the idiosyncratic habits of its people and learn what makes it so peculiar and compelling in Colin White and Laurie Boucke’s The Undutchables.
This funny travel novel is a humorous and brutally honest look at all the little things that make up the collective experience of the Netherlands.
From the habits of its people to helpful information about separating fact from legend, though at times overly exaggerated, The Undutchables serves as a perfect lens through which to get acquainted with this small and charming nation.
It’s for anyone that has a deep connection to the country and its people or is looking to forge one.
2. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is the Audie Award Winning and harrowing story about youth, love, and the fragility of our lives—lives that we can never predict.
We can only try to experience to the fullest with each passing moment before that impermanent moment slips away.
Hazel and Augustus are both ill, trying to make the most out of a teenagehood that, while fraught with tragedy, is still painfully normal—they struggle with fitting in, being accepted and understood.
By chance, they take a trip to Amsterdam, where Hazel goes to meet the author of her favorite book.
The Fault in Our Stars is one of the most heart-wrenching novels set in Amsterdam, as Hazel and Augustus walk its streets, learning how to be true to themselves and love earnestly in the process.
3. The House of Windjammer – V.A. Richardson
V.A. Richardson’s The House of Windjammer is unlike other books about Amsterdam.
It paints a historical picture of the city in the seventeenth century, through the eyes of a young man with the responsibility of saving his family on his shoulders.
After the death of his father, Adam Windjammer finds himself in a social battlefield, surrounded by ill-wishers who only want to see his downfall.
But he hears whispers of a promising secret—a rare and precious tulip that will be the House of Windjammer’s saving grace, worth everything in the midst of Amsterdam’s tulip fever.
With rich language and an enthralling, self-reflective tone, this novel will definitely leave you wanting more.
4. The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton
Jessie Burton weaves a tale of intrigue in The Miniaturist, telling the story of small-town girl Nella’s life-altering move to Amsterdam.
Set in the seventeenth century, in its Golden age, this is one of those novels set in Amsterdam that helps you imagine a setting unlike any before.
After receiving a gift from her amicable but withdrawn husband in the form of a beautifully put-together miniature replica of their home.
She decides to return the favor by hiring an elusive miniaturist—but as she gets closer to her new family, and follows the trail of dominoes the miniaturist sets in motion, she cannot remain indifferent to the truth.
This book holds nothing back when it comes to topics of darkness and taboo, managing to penetrate the reader’s consciousness. It will stay with you for long after you’ve finished reading it.
The Miniaturist was the Waterstones “Book of the Year” in 2014.
5. Tulip Fever – Deborah Moggach
A kaleidoscope of different points of view makes up the tantalizing, breathtaking social web lying at the crux of Deborah Moggach’s Tulip Fever.
Though a historical romance novel, it’s much more than that—this is one of those books set in Amsterdam that transport you to a place so vivid, that you find yourself never wanting to leave.
Young Sophia has never tasted passion and her own zest for life until she meets the painter her much-older husband commissions to paint their portrait.
Despite her best efforts to the contrary, she gets swept up in a dizzying affair, a secret whose stakes get raised ever higher with each turn of the page.
An instantaneous spark lit up between two souls, Tulip Fever is a romance so exciting it might as well be a thriller.
6. Rembrandt’s Mirror – Kim Devereux
As the title suggests, Kim Devereux’s Rembrandt’s Mirror is a story of Rembrandt’s life and the three big loves that marked it.
Though technically historical fiction, the author’s dedication to the reality of Rembrandt’s work is plain to see, with chapter titles that serve as both a homage and a guideline to the story within.
This is a passionate and charged book, a storytelling of the first-hand experience of Rembrandt’s new housekeeper who finds herself enthralled with Rembrandt’s vehement dedication to living.
It explores the depths of desire, inspiration, and art, the intensity of life and death that serve as a catalyst for artistic expression.
7. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt may be considered a behemoth of a book by some, but that doesn’t take away from what it gives to its readers, with its beautiful prose and poignant, personal insights into life, and grief.
And what it means to be changed by your circumstances.
Theo’s loss at a young age thrusts him into a world of wealth, uncharted waters that he has to swiftly learn to adapt to, and we stand as witnesses to his growth through this experience.
Among the various locations in the story, this is one of those books set in Amsterdam that plays on everything that we know and love about the city.
It is a testament to pure, unadulterated feelings, our desires, and what we do with them, even to the point of our own detriment.
The Goldfinch is a book about self discovery and will steal your heart – you will love every second of it.
8. The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam – Chris Ewan
Books about Amsterdam are rarely as thrilling and high-energy as The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam.
It is the first installment in Chris Ewan’s highly rated mystery series, in which we meet the traveling author-cum-burglar Charlie Howard, whose side hustle is as illegal as it sounds.
A job that sounds too good to be true ends in a mystery that rivals the novels he is writing, as Charlie’s successful heist unfolds into a violent and perplexing situation.
This fun and fast-paced novel will transport you to the streets of Amsterdam, and leave you wondering—will Charlie’s skills as a crime writer be enough to get him out of an actual predicament?
9. The Dinner – Herman Koch
Told during the course of a single evening, calling the meal that takes place in The Dinner tense is a major understatement.
Written by Herman Koch, one of the most esteemed Dutch authors of the 21st century, it poses the question of how far people are willing to go to protect the ones they love.
Even when faced with the unmistakable facts of the terrible decisions that have been made.
Layers upon layers of social commentary make up this much-loved book, as it slowly unravels its gripping twists to keep us guessing.
It’s easy to forget the short timespan the action of this story encompasses as it probes deep into the motivations of each character, letting us see ourselves in them and reflect upon how we would act in such a situation.
Non-Fiction Books About Amsterdam
Whether you’re a history enthusiast or just want to read about one of the Netherlands’ favorite cities, these are the perfect non-fiction books about Amsterdam to start your reading list.
10. The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank
The reality of World War II through the eyes of a young girl is illustrated in The Diary of Anne Frank, penned by Anne Frank herself during the last couple of years of her life which were spent in hiding and in fear.
Nevertheless, her personality shines through her words, and this book serves as a testament to how our human nature lives on even in the most tragic of situations.
Even when we fear, we know how to love and forge unbreakable bonds, bicker about mundane and seemingly unimportant things.
We can see through the eyes of Anne, and sympathize with her noble quest to become a better person in a world so filled with hate that it has forced her into hiding.
11. Here’s Holland – Sheila Gazaleh Weevers
If you’re looking to visit Holland and are in need of a book that will cover all bases, Here’s Holland is the book for you.
A comprehensive guide to the nation and all it has to offer—the travel destinations, peculiar customs of its people, world-class museums, shopping opportunities…
And if you’re planning to go there, other books about Amsterdam won’t be as handy and quick to reference as this one, making it the perfect choice for staying informed on the go.
Sheila Gazaleh Weevers offers her experience as an expatriate to Holland in a book that is sure to become a continuously helpful tool in your journey.
12. My ‘Dam Life: Three Years in Holland – Sean Condon
My ‘Dam Life: Three Years in Holland is not a travel book. It’s Sean Condon’s personal account of his time spent in Amsterdam with his wife, a humorous memoir of his experiences, and a fascinating look into the mind of this writer.
He gets acquainted with the oddities of that strange and beautiful city, offering a perspective on it that other books about Amsterdam may not be able to.
Witty and sharp, its tongue-in-cheek humor is sure to provide an amusing and unique foray into the minutiae of daily life made fresh and exciting through Sean Condon’s presence in Amsterdam.
13. Amsterdam: A Brief Life of the City – Geert Mak
Amsterdam comes to life in Geert Mak’s book, one of the best novels about Amsterdam if you’re interested in finding out more about this alluring and liberated city.
It offers a very authentic Dutch perspective on its development, from the slow beginnings to a bustling metropolis.
Amsterdam’s history unfolds in this informative book, its slow pace layering flowery impressions and hard truths against each other to make up the puzzling reality of Amsterdam.
If, upon reading this book, you find yourself wanting to visit Amsterdam, you will not be disappointed—for the picture it paints is true to life, just as wonderfully complex as the real thing.
14. The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh – Vincent Van Gogh
Delve into the captivating emotions of an artist whose pain had been long misunderstood as a proclivity for being antisocial.
Vincent Van Gogh illustrates, as well as he paints on the canvas, the joys and sorrows of his troubled life in The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh.
It is a book that superimposes his own words against the historical reality of his life, completing the puzzle and answering all questions we, as readers, might have.
Van Gogh’s writing is beautifully expressive, pointing towards the beauty of his work with its vivid descriptions and heartfelt moments.
Learn more about the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh through this touching compilation of his letters.
15. Look What Came from the Netherlands – Kevin Davis
Short and sweet, Look What Came from the Netherlands may not be novel-length, but it rivals entire novels about Amsterdam with its wittiness and the information it provides.
Made to be fun and exciting to read, it will amuse both children and adults alike with the bite-sized bits of trivia that are included on its pages.
It’s showcasing the contributions the Dutch have made all over the world, and the imprint they have left on our global culture.
Kevin Davis writes of various crafts, sports, inventions, music, and much more, leaving us with a small but relevant impression of Dutch culture that will only pique further interest.
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Final Word on Best Books About Amsterdam
So there you have it, those are my favorite books about Amsterdam.
Whether you’re a tourist or a resident, I hope that they give you some inspiration for a trip to Amsterdam and helped show you more about the culture and history of this amazing city.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.