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Are you looking for books to read before heading off to Switzerland? Discover 13 books about Switzerland to spark your Swiss wanderlust.
Heading to Switzerland, I could not wait to see those white snow-capped mountains next to vibrant blue lakes. Rumors of the expensive country did not detract us as we craved fresh mountain air, gorgeous vistas, and wine.
Sadly, cheese and chocolate are not for us, and as you know from my Instagramming, I don’t wear watches. But lactose-intolerance be damned, we still had a foodie good time with the MEATS. I didn’t see many Swiss cows, but I sure as heck ate them.
Why Read Books About Switzerland?
Before we headed over to Europe, I asked others what books we should read before visiting Switzerland.
Einstein’s Dreams helped better educate me about science theories before touring Einstein’s Bern residence. The beautiful novel reminded me of his mind-blowing revelations exemplified by Lightman in everyday life depictions.
And like Mark Twain, I had to see the Lion Monument in Lucerne. I truly hate hurt or dying animal stories so this statue made me miss my kitties.
Twain’s tales from A Tramp Abroad gave me greater respect for those gorgeous Alps. And, like Twain, I people-watched and wondered what brought these gaggles of tourists to Switzerland in February. One word: Carnival.
Below, discover even more books about Switzerland that inspired our Swiss vacation. We also asked some of our favorite bookworms and bloggers to share books set in Switzerland that they recommend for our readers.
Let’s get started!
Contemporary Books About Switzerland
Her Husband’s Secrets by Louise Mangos
Published in June 2019
CW: Domestic Abuse
Known previously as The Art of Deception, Her Husband’s Secrets by Louise Mangos is one of the best contemporary books about Switzerland, especially if you are interested in reading about international prison systems.
If you loved Orange Is The New Black, you’ll eat up this Switzerland novel, which is both a thriller and a slight mystery.
Lucie is on her way to the Greek islands when she meets Matt, a sexy ski instructor. Young and blinded by love, Lucie goes all in for Matt–even though the community warns her that he has a troubled past.
You know that something has gone very wrong for Lucie since the novel starts out with her sitting in a Swiss jail and Matt dead. How did this happen? Is Lucie innocent?
Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Psychological Fiction | Women’s Fiction
Swiss book recommendation from regular TUL contributor, Hayley of Backpacking Bookworm
In Essbaum’s Hausfrau, American ex-pat Anna Benz lives with her husband and three children in an affluent suburb in Zurich. Her life might look perfect from the outside, but Anna is struggling to adapt to the Swiss way of life.
Anna seeks solace in the arms of other men, initiating brief sexual affairs as a coping mechanism. But, her system fails when an unimaginable tragedy occurs leaving Anna more alone than ever.
The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman
Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Submission from regular TUL contributor and bookstagrammer, Jennia.
Twenty years ago, Kersti’s best friend and roommate, Cressida, fell from a fourth-story balcony at their prestigious Swiss boarding school.
The event has been confined to the back of Kersti’s mind, lurking like a sleeping bear waiting to be disturbed, until she receives a startling letter from another of her former school friends.
The letter serves as a catalyst, igniting Kersti’s obsession with unraveling the most minute of details in a desperate attempt to unearth what really happened to Cressida.
Kersti’s amateur sleuthing exhumes layers of secrets that have been hidden for decades by students and teachers alike, each revelation chipping away at the polished veneer of the exclusive school.
Those hoping to be regaled with bucolic Swiss imagery in The Finishing School will be disappointed since the setting merely serves as a barely sketched in background.
Older Literary Fiction Set In Switzerland
Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
Published in 1992
You cannot head to Switzerland without thinking about Einstein. Einstein’s Dreams is a book about Switzerland that walks you through Einstein’s greatest theories in the backdrop of the Swiss Alps.
With scenes from Lucerne and Berne (or Bern), Lightman imbues time, relativity, and physics with human qualities. Through everyday actions, we watch Einstein’s theories come to life. Einstein and Besso even make appearances in the interludes.
Imagine a world with no future, or instead, a world that moves in an endless circular nature. What if we only had the present or no past? How would we live?
And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle
Published in 1949
Submission from Mel, who loves backpacking in Europe, from the travel blog, TravelingMel
And Both Were Young is a sweet and fun read about an American girl, Flip, who attends a boarding school in Switzerland in 1949. Initially, Flip doesn’t fit in and desperately misses her father.
I read this Switzerland-based novel while gazing out at the snowy Jung Frau and Eiger peaks, which made it even easier to picture the Swiss landscape.
Through cross-country skiing and falling for a French boy–who lost his memory due to wartime trauma–Flip comes into her own. She heals both physically and spiritually.
The Best Classic Books About Switzerland
A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain
Autobiographical Fiction & Travelogue Classic
Published in 1880
Another classic book set in Switzerland, Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad is a famous and hilarious travelogue. Twain ‘tramps’ across eastern and southern Europe to countries like Switzerland, Germany, and France.
A Tramp Abroad is both fictional and autobiographical. Overall, you’ll find Twain’s tone quite comical and observant. In Switzerland, Twain hikes the Swiss Alps and shares his time in Lucerne and Interlaken.
Twain is a brilliant and judgmental people-watcher. He puts a spin on what he sees and human nature. There might be some tall tales…
Tourists and their funny actions are his favorite subjects. You also gain an appreciation and respect for the treacherous mountains since Twain loves sharing stories of travelers’ untimely demises. Amazon | Goodreads
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Published in 1880
Submission from frequent TUL book list contributor, Rachael of Booklist Queen
When you think about books set in Switzerland, the children’s classic Heidi is the first book to come to mind.
Set in the picturesque Alps, Johanna Spyri’s idolized version of pastoral life tells of a little orphan girl sent to live with her grandfather high up in the mountains. Heidi quickly wins her grandfather’s heart and becomes a favorite among the villagers.
Later, Heidi convinces her invalid friend Clara to move to the mountains, and the fresh mountain air eventually restores her health.
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
Classic Fiction | Adventure Fiction
Published in 1812
If you are looking for classic books with Swiss characters, you of course already know about The Swiss Family Robinson, which isn’t just a ride at Disney World.
Although technically not a book set in Switzerland with the climate being a bit more tropical, you’ll love this adventurous and optimistic Swiss family.
A Swiss pastor, his wife, and their four children land shipwrecked on a deserted island. Surviving off of the land, they build a treehouse and fight for survival in both a beautiful and deadly exotic new world.
Frankenstein By Mary Shelley
Published in 1818
Did you know that most of Shelley’s Frankenstein takes place in Geneva, Switzerland? We flew in and out of Geneva, home to Frankenstein himself.
One of the best classic horror books of all time, watch as an effort to cheat death goes completely awry. Imagine a grotesque and tragic science experiment that becomes out of control.
When Victor creates a Creature that he can no longer handle or contain, he decides to abandon him. The lonely Creature learns to take on true human capabilities but is consistently shunned from society. Ultimately, the Creature decides to take revenge on his maker and tormentors.
Nonfiction Books About Switzerland
The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer
Biography | Climbing & Mountaineering
Submission from Dagney of the dark tourism travel blog, Cultura Obscura
The North Face of Eiger Mountain in Switzerland is considered one of the most dangerous ascents in mountaineering.
In 1938, Heinrich Harrer was part of the team that made the first successful ascent of the North Face route. It took them three days. Before their ascent, two teams had attempted and tragedy had befallen them.
The White Spider is an account of both Harrer’s team’s own achievement, as well as those who came both before and after – some who made it, and others who did not.
Swiss Watching by Diccon Bewes
Nonfiction Switzerland Travel Guides
One of the books about Switzerland that everyone recommended we read is Swiss Watching by Diccon Bewes. On my TBR list, Bewes talks about what makes Switzerland so unique and misunderstood.
As my husband and I road-tripped around the country, we quickly learned about the multiple languages and cultures that shape different parts of the country. It’s pretty amazing.
You clearly feel the shift from French-speaking Switzerland into German-speaking territory. We did not make it down to the more Italian side.
Bewes smashes Swiss stereotypes and points out that there is so much more to this landlocked but tiny and special country.
After reading some pretty terrible travel blog posts about ‘what to do in Switzerland’ that were all: eat fondue, try the cheese and chocolate, and buy a watch, I need Swiss Watching in my life for the culture alone. Amazon | Goodreads
A Few More Books Set In Switzerland On Our TBR List
Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner
Literary Satire Fiction
Published in 1984
Edith Hope is a romance novelist whose life starts to look like her own plots. She flees to Switzerland for some TLC where instead of finding relaxation is met with a little more humorous romance situation. Amazon | Goodreads
Bloomability by Sharon Creech
Published in 1998
Dinnie is used to moving around from state to state. However, this time, her aunt and uncle take her away to a private international school in Lugano, Switzerland. As if school isn’t hard enough, Dinnie must adjust to the different environment, culture, and languages. Amazon | Goodreads
Which Books Will You Read Before Traveling To Switzerland?
Are you headed to Switzerland? Which of these books set in or about Switzerland are most appealing to you? Which Swiss books should we add to our TBR list in the future?
Do you like reading classics or more contemporary novels set in a destination? Let us know in the comments.