Libraries, Archives, and Diaries... Oh, My. Fall is the Ideal Time For 'The Historian'

Libraries, Archives, and Diaries... Oh, My. Fall is the Ideal Time For 'The Historian'

Thursday, 30 September, 2021

The right book can instantly transport you to anywhere — and anytime — in the world. Every Thursday, we recommend one of our favorite books with a strong sense of place so you can see the sights, meet remarkable people, go on exciting adventures, and feel big feelings. Bonus: You don't even have to put on pants.

This post is part of our 'Weekend Getaway' series.


Every autumn, it’s the same. The light begins to fade a little bit earlier each day. A breeze with a slight nip sends crunchy yellow and red leaves dancing down the sidewalk. And I reach for my battered copy of The Historian for a whirlwind adventure to Eastern Europe. The narrators’ memories remind me of my own experiences relaxing in a cozy teahouse on a dreary afternoon, or gazing at the spines of books on floor-to-ceiling shelves in a historical library. This novel is the very definition of armchair travel — and it doesn’t hurt that dark European legends and a touch of romance are involved. — Melissa

‘Vampire librarian.’ If those two words have sold you on this book, feel free to stop reading this and immediately get your hands on a copy of the book.

If you want more, try this: It’s a spine-tingling page-turner and a celebration of the unbreakable bonds we form with people in the unlikeliest of circumstances.

Or this: Most of the action takes place in historical libraries, dusty archives, and mountaintop monasteries — or around tables loaded with endless cups of tea, pastries, and Balkan food.

The story begins in 1970s Amsterdam: Late one night, while exploring her father’s library, a teenage girl finds a collection of old letters and a mysterious book that’s blank except for an illustration of a fearsome dragon. She reads the letters and is suddenly more frightened than she’s ever been. When her father disappears, she sets out on a quest to find him and to resolve the secrets of the letters. That decision puts her on a collision course with Vlad Țepeș, the 15th-century prince of Wallachia, a.k.a., Vlad the Impaler.

As the unnamed heroine searches for her father, he’s on his own mysterious mission: He’s teamed up with a motley, but endearing, crew of helpers. Our intrepid heroes are professors armed with good intentions, intelligence, and translation skills, rather than weapons. They traipse across Europe, from the Netherlands to Croatia, Slovenia, England, France, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Istanbul to investigate secrets among secrets among secrets.

Equal parts Gothic thriller, detective story, travelogue, and historical fiction, this epic effortlessly keeps track of a large cast of unforgettable (and fanged) characters as they fight for light in the face of an unspeakable evil.

Autumn comes early to the foot of the Slovenian Alps. Even before September, the abundant harvests are followed by a sudden, poignant rain that lasts for days and brings down leaves in the lanes of the villages… This is old country. Every autumn mellows it a little more, in aeternum, each beginning with the same three colors: a green landscape, two or three yellow leaves falling through a gray afternoon. I suppose the Romans — who left their walls here and their gargantuan arenas to the west, on the coast — saw the same autumn and gave the same shiver. When my father’s car swung through the gates of the oldest of Julian cities, I hugged myself. For the first time, I had been struck by the excitement of the traveler who looks history in her subtle face. — Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian

by Elizabeth Kostova

This thrilling literary adventure (642 pages) was published in June of 2005 by Little, Brown and Company. The book takes you to Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary & more. Melissa read The Historian and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it. is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

The Historian


Top image courtesy of momente/Shutterstock.

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This weekend, we recommend a getaway to Bulgaria... where you'll visit the capital city, explore mystical hilltop monasteries, get caught up in the secret histories of two world wars, and fall in love.
Forget the hard sell. A few key phrases will probably prove this delightful adventure is right for you: 24-hour bookstore. Mysterious library. Secret society. Loyal friendship. Flirty romance. Extreme bookishness.
On the upside, if you were to find yourself at Vida Winter's isolated mansion, you'd get to spend a lot of time in the well-appointed library. On the downside, (deliciously) devastating secrets lurk within its walls.

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