Top 10 Books to Read About Hungary, Part I

Now that the nice weather’s here, I should be writing about playgrounds and picnic spots, but for some reason I feel like delving into some literature about Hungary. There’s not much you could read about Hungary or by Hungarian authors that would qualify as a good beach read (they’ve got such a genre but it’s not translated). But hey, maybe you’ll enjoy a book that helps unravel some of the mystery this country holds.

1. Budapest: A Critical Guide, by András Török. Witty, personal, and tongue-in-cheek, this guidebook reads like a novel. If you’re on one of the walking tours in it, you can feel like a real Budapest native right off the bat. The new edition, published in 2011, provides welcome updates, although I’m disappointed that the title and the cover are so boring. I guess that will make it even more of an exciting discovery when you read it and get to know that city from a native who’s really seen it all. I’ve heard András speak, and this mustachioed intellectual is just as witty and self-deprecating in person – a real wellspring of stories and insights. He’s got lots more to say than what’s in the book… just check out his site,, and see…

2. The Door, by Magda Szabó. Time to pick up a copy of this now, before you see the movie – filmed in Budapest, directed by Oscar-winning Hungarian István Szabó and starring Helen Mirren… A housekeeper and the unnamed narrator who hires her embark on a battle of wills that turns into mutual dependency. This isn’t necessarily a book that will teach you about Hungary, though it is set here in the 1960s – you can read it just for its pure literary brilliance in capturing such vibrant characters and their complex relationship. Here is a review of the film, but do read the book!

See y’all tomorrow for more good Budapestian reads…

About adriknows

One day, people looking for tips on life in Budapest started coming to me. Friends, then friends of friends, and so on. People were telling newcomers and longtime Budapesters alike, “Adri knows!” Now it’s time to share what I’ve picked up over more than a decade of fun-and-frequently-frazzled family life in the big BP.
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8 Responses to Top 10 Books to Read About Hungary, Part I

  1. Petra says:

    I agree, The Door is a brilliant book, even in English 🙂 Although I finished it only the fourth time I started to read. I’m curious what will be the next among the TOP10. Country full of aliens is worth reading too 🙂

  2. Benn says:

    “slated for release this year”… it’s already in the cinemas.

  3. eva says:

    Hi Adri, I would definitely add Antal Szerb: Traveller and moonlight and also a book by Zsigmond Moricz: probably th Relatives or Be Good Until Death

    • adriknows says:

      Hi, thanks for the suggestions! Since I’m trying to include fiction and non-fiction, these might not make it. So send me an email to saying why you would include these, and I’ll compile a “readers’ favorites” post!

  4. Benn says: (really worth buying in real form… great gift for any hungarian or non-hungarian who knows a bit about the place)

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