Booklist: Prague and the Czech Republic

I am such a fan of books that I make it a point to book shop everywhere I go. I have put together a list of books that I think are excellent reading when it comes to Prague and the Czech Republic. I've included non-fiction books about the city, books written by Czech authors (both historical and contemporary), and novels set in Prague. There is such a rich literary history in the country that this is just a tiny fraction of the wonderful books available to enjoy. Happy reading!

*Note: Some of the publication dates are the original dates, while others are the publication dates for the English translation editions.

Five Iconic Czech Authors

Milan Kundera

  • The Incredible Lightness of Being (1984): A story about a woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his womanizing ways. Considered a masterpiece.

  • The Joke (1992): A tale of love and revenge, but also a political commentary on the former Communist regime and the political situation of the time.

Franz Kafka

  • The Metamorphosis (1915): The story of a man who awakens as an insect deals with themes of shame, depression, inadequacy, and despair. One of the most influential books of the past 100 years.

  • The Trial (1925): The story of a man arrested and prosecuted for a crime that is never revealed to him or the reader. One of the author's best-known works. Was later adapted for film by Orson Welles.

Jaroslav Hašek

  • The Good Soldier Švejk (1921): A satire on the futility of war, the story follows a man who becomes Austria's most loyal Czech soldier when he is called to serve in WWI, although he never quite makes it to the front despite his earnest attempts. This is part of a collection of books that went unfinished.

Josef Škvorecký

  • The Engineer of Human Souls (1977): A comedic novel about a Czech novelist who immigrates to Canada and struggles to connect with his students. As the Czech secret police chase him, he adopts a variety of identities to adapt. A comedic adventure.
  • The Cowards (1958): A story about a Czech town at the end of German occupation in the late 1940s and the liberation by the Soviet army. The German forces retreat, hoping to surrender under the Americans rather than the Soviets. The protagonist, Danny, plays in a jazz swing band and joins his friends in trying to ensure a peaceful transition from war to the post-war period.

Karel Čapek

  • R.U.R. (1920): A science fiction novel famous for the popularization of the word "robot." When mass produced robots whose role is to serve decide to revolt and kill all but one of their human masters they must try and learn the secret to reproducing themselves. A tale about science, nature, and emotion.
  •  

Contemporary Novels Written by Czech Authors

From the Last 20 years

 

  • Zelary, by Kveta Legatova (2001): A short story collection set in a small Czech village during WWII.

  • Money From Hitler, Radka Denemarková (English version 2009): A story about a Jewish orphan who is released from a concentration camp and realizes there is nothing to return to. Won the Czech Republic's highest literary award.

  • The Žítková Goddesses, Kateřina Tučková (2012): A novel about a group of Czech women endowed with supernatural powers. The novel follows their lives from the Inquisitions of the 17th Century, to their utlimate fate in Communist-era Czechoslovakia.

  • The Devil's Workshop, Jáchym Topol (2013): When a concentration camp is marked for destruction, one of the survivors embarks on a campaign to save it, prompting a brutal crackdown from the country's regime.

  • The Sound of the Sundial, Hana Andronikova (2015): An internationally acclaimed novel set over the course of a single day and night, but spanning several continents and much of the 20th Century.

  • All This Belongs To Me, Petra Hulova (2009): Follows the story of a family of three generations of Mongolian women as they navigate life both on the steppe and in the capital city.

 

Books About Prague or Set in Prague

  • Innocence, or Murder on Steep Street, Heda Margolius Kovály (2015): The original was almost lost to censorship, but has been translated and published for the world to enjoy. A story of Prague in the 1950s, when an investigation into the murder of a boy reveals the secrets of the female ushers of a movie theatre.
  • Prague, I see a City..., Daniela Hodrová (2015): Set in the year following the fall of the Communist Regime, the novel follows the heroine on a quest of self-discovery.
  • Of Kids and Parents, Emil Hakl (2008): A father and son take a walk around Prague, and their history is revealed with every stop, intertwined with the history of the city itself.
  • The Prague Cemetery, Umberto Eco (2011): Set among the plots and conspiracies of 19th Century Europe, the novel reveals the evil mastermind behind them all. Considered Eco's masterpiece.

Books for Children

  • This is Prague, Michaela Kukovičová, Olga Černá (2015): A book about the best the city has to offer, written for children. Excellent illustrations. A great book for kids visiting the city.
  • The House Beyond the Mist, Ester Stará, Milan Starý (2015): An interactive book about Agnes and Thomas, who investigate the mysterious house beyond the mist. Comes with pencil crayons and instructions for completing the unfinished illustrations.