The World of Yesterday – Stefan Zweig. This is one of the most poignant and beautifully written books I have ever read. It describes in vivid detail the Vienna and Austria of the late 19th century, its descent into World War I, and the devastation wrought by Hitler. Travel Inspiration: After reading this book, I visited the great cafes of Vienna and walked on Stefan Zweig Weg, which overlooked the house where Zweig lived in Salzburg.
George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I – Miranda Carter. Carter examines the dynamics of the relationships between three cousins in the years leading to World War I: King George of England, Czar Nicholas of Russia, and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany.
A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889 – Frederic Morton. This historical narrative covers a two-year period in Vienna, during which, most notably, the Habsburg Crown Prince Rudolph commits suicide. Morton chronicles the story of Viennese art, society, and royalty during these important years. Travel Inspiration: The Vienna Secession Building, which was built in 1897 to showcase the art of the Vienna Secessionist movement.
Thunder at Twilight: Vienna 1913/1914 – Frederic Morton. An evocative history of Vienna on the brink of World War I.
Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Bloch-Bauer – Anne-Marie O’Connor. The Lady in Gold encompasses two fascinating stories — a biography of artist Gustav Klimt and the fate of a painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Travel Inspiration: The Belvedere Museum in Vienna, which houses a number of Gustav Klimt paintings.
The Little Book – A fun, time travel novel by Selden Edwards featuring Vienna in the late 19th century. Travel Inspiration: The Hotel Imperial in Vienna, which is described in the book.
The Assassination of the Archduke – Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance that Changed the World – Greg King. This book tells the story of the star-crossed romance of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. Their assassination is a precipitating factor in the outbreak of World War I. Travel Inspiration: Konapiste Castle in the Czech Republic and Artstetten Castle in Austria.
The Reluctant Empress – Brigitte Hamann. In Vienna, there is much talk about “Sisi,” otherwise known as Empress Elizabeth. She was the Empress of the Habsburg Empire for 44 years until her assassination in 1898. Elizabeth did not particularly enjoy being an empress, and escaped royal duties whenever possible. This book dives deeply into Elizabeth’s profound unhappiness, but also discusses the impact she had on her children, her husband Franz Joseph, and the people of the Habsburg Empire. Travel Inspiration: The Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Elizabeth’s golden cage.
Vienna 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon Made War, Peace, and Love at the Congress of Vienna – David King. Published in 2008, this book tells the behind-the-scenes story of the Congress of Vienna, which reshaped Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. Travel Inspiration: One of my favorite sites in Vienna is the Carriage Museum at Schönbrunn Palace. When I last visited, the Museum dedicated an exhibit to the beautiful carriages used to transport the nobility at the Congress of Vienna.