Books are both perfect souvenirs and traveling companions because they’re never too big to fit in your suitcase!
If your fridge is already covered with magnets and there’s no space for new nicknacks on your shelves, you should consider buying a book or two on your next trip with JayWay Travel!
The items we usually buy when traveling might represent the culture of a country we visit, but they don’t always carry a story. We easily forget the reason why we bought them and only get back to them when we dust the furniture.
Books, however, take time to read and we tend to remember more from the story and its background. There are so many books that can teach you about a certain nation’s way of life, important moments and famous figures of various historical periods.
Maybe you’re looking for a book to read before you come to Europe, or maybe you’re thinking about what to buy on your next trip. Either way, check out our list of some famous books from the destinations you might be traveling to. We’ll be publishing these in a series of blog posts. Here are our suggestions for great books from Prague!
Your Reading List for Prague
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Milan Kundera is one of the most famous and most controversial Czech writers. That’s partially because he has lived in Paris and written in French since the 1970s. This is the novel that made his reputation, both at home and abroad. The novel tells the story of irreconcilable love and political persecution during a period of Czechoslovak history known as the “Prague Spring,” a liberal moment in the 1960s. The story and the style evokes the uncertainty of the time, and the novel explores the conflicting identities thrust upon Prague and its inhabitants. This book has also been made into an excellent movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis.
Time’s Magpie: A Walk in Prague by Myla Goldberg
Goldberg is an American writer who spent a year in Prague teaching English. This lovely book of essays includes many detailed descriptions of the author’s favorite places in Prague. Full of lyrical prose and glimpses into Prague’s mystical past, this is a book that will show you what the real Prague is like. It’s inspiring to read about destinations both before and after you visit them, and this book might also give you some usable tips about different neighborhoods to visit in Prague, some of which are off the beaten path.
The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek
Many Czechs consider The Good Soldier Švejk the ultimate work of Czech literature. It is a book that captures the national character in a way that is illuminating for both Czechs and foreigners. It’s also hilarious, showcasing the Czech dark sense of humor and irony. This is the most-translated novel in all of Czech literature! Why not investigate the hype? You won’t be disappointed. Really more a series of tales, the book follows the adventures of the indelible character Švejk, a bumbling but cheerful buffoon who finds himself unwillingly drawn into the First World War. It is said that if you understand his humor, you understand the Czech soul.
“Description of a Struggle” by Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka is one of Prague’s most famous authors. But for a writer so closely identified with his home city, Kafka set few of his books and stories in Prague. In fact Kafka’s work generally doesn’t rely on a specific setting. Instead, most of his work is timeless and there are few specific landmarks that tell the reader exactly where the story takes place. However, Kafka’s story “Description of a Struggle,” published in The Complete Stories, is an exception. Taking place during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the story describes what happens when two strangers leave a party to walk home together through Prague. Uncharacteristically, Kafka refers to numerous Prague landmarks in this story as the two characters walk down Národní Street toward the Vltava River and ultimately Petřin Hill. The story names many of the churches and famous buildings along the way.
From a Terrace in Prague: A Prague Poetry Anthology by Stephan Delbos
Even if poetry isn’t usually on your reading list, this poetic guidebook to Prague is indispensable for all literary-minded visitors to the Golden City. Prague has been the central, if unlikely, subject of some of the most important poetry of the last century. This diverse anthology gathers and translates into English 120 poems from 16 languages written between 1888 and 2010. All of the poems describe Prague or an event that took place there. The book places those poems in a literary and historical context with a detailed critical introduction, a Prague poetry map and photos of the locations depicted. The book highlights the effects that literary movements, political beliefs and historic events have had on poets’ descriptions of the city.
English language bookstores in Prague
Looking for books in Prague? Here are our suggestions for great Prague bookstores selling books in English.
This book shop and cafe has long been a second home for Prague’s English-speaking expat community and for traveling book lovers. The bookstore takes up the front half of the building. The back is a nice cafe where you can get everything from an omelette and freshly squeezed orange juice to a hearty hamburger and beer.
Address: Pstrossova 6
Shakespeare and Sons
This lovely new and used English-language bookshop is the perfect place to pick up a literary souvenir of your trip to Prague. You’ll find it in the heart of beautiful Malá Strana and practically in the shadow of the Charles Bridge. The new books are upstairs. The basement is equally spacious, and has a great selection of used books, many of which have been sold by backpackers trying to lighten their load.
Address: U Lužického semináře 91
If you’re looking for English-language books, go down into the basement of this huge book emporium on one of the city’s main squares. This is Prague’s largest bookstore, and the selection will not disappoint. Luxor doesn’t have the atmosphere of some of the smaller shops. But it’s hard to beat the selection here. There’s also a wide variety of magazines and newspapers for traveling bibliophiles.
Address: Wenceslas Square 820
Are you planning a visit to Prague? We’re Czech Republic travel experts. Just get in touch to start planning the perfect tailored holiday.
The cover image for this article is the book tunnel in main branch of Prague City Library
Martina is our Prague city host. Her background in tourism management and wedding planning, and experience of living in Prague, all come in handy in making her the ideal person to look after our guests when they’re in the magical Czech capital.