The Netherlands: Recommended Books and Movies

By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw

To learn more about the Netherlands past and present, check out some of these books and films. (And see our similar lists for elsewhere in Europe.)

Books: Nonfiction

  • Amsterdam (Geert Mak, 1998). Academic but engaging and thorough look at centuries of the city's history.
  • A Bridge Too Far (Cornelius Ryan, 1974). A gripping account of Operation Market Garden, a failed attempt by the Allies to sweep across the Netherlands in the fall of 1944.
  • Daily Life in Rembrandt's Holland (Paul Zumthor, 1994). Focuses on the everyday concerns of Dutch society in the 17th century, covering art, history, culture, sports, holidays, and more.
  • Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent van Gogh (edited by Irving Stone, 1995). A look into the psyche of Vincent van Gogh through letters to his brother.
  • The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank, 1952). Remarkable diary of a young Jewish girl hiding out from the Nazis in Amsterdam.
  • The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (Simon Schama, 1997). A comprehensive overview of Dutch culture and the attitudes of Dutch citizens, from their early beginnings to their most famous struggles.
  • The Hiding Place (Corrie ten Boom, 1971). The story of a Christian family caught hiding Jews and resistance fighters in Haarlem.
  • Mission Amsterdam: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure (Catherine Aragon, 2015). Young explorers will have hands-on fun undertaking spy-themed challenges while discovering the city.
  • My 'Dam Life: Three Years in Holland (Sean Condon, 2003). An Australian writer's humorous account of his time in the Low Countries.
  • Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History (Giles Milton, 1999). The Netherlands and England struggle to harness the world supply of nutmeg in the 1600s.
  • Spice: The History of a Temptation (Jack Turner, 2005). Holland at the center of the spice trade, back when a pinch of cinnamon was worth its weight in gold.
  • Tulipmania (Mike Dash, 2001). The Golden Age tulip craze of the 1600s.
  • The Undutchables: An Observation of the Netherlands, Its Culture and Its Inhabitants (Colin White and Laurie Boucke, 2001). Irreverent guide to modern Dutch culture.
  • Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World (Timothy Brook, 2007). Vermeer's paintings serve as points of departure to explore the global context of the Dutch Golden Age.
  • The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women's Movement (Laura Swan, 2016). A history of beguinages, communities of like-minded women who aided their towns' poor and vulnerable.

Books: Fiction

  • Amsterdam Tales (translated by Paul Vincent, 2017). This collection of 18 stories explores Amsterdam from the 17th to 21st century via fiction, memoirs, and anecdotes.
  • The Black Tulip (Alexandre Dumas, 1850). A classic swashbuckling tale of fortunes won and lost.
  • Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (Gregory Maguire, 1999). A twist on the classic tale of Cinderella, set in Haarlem.
  • Girl in Hyacinth Blue (Susan Vreeland, 1999). A professor traces the history of a secret, long-lost Vermeer painting.
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring (Tracy Chevalier, 2005). Historical portrait of artist Johannes Vermeer and his maiden servant in 17th-century Delft (also a fine film).
  • Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company (Multatuli, 1860). Satirical novel denouncing the injustices of the Dutch colonial system in the East Indies.
  • Tulip Fever (Deborah Moggach, 1999). A love-triangle drama set in 17th century Amsterdam.


  • Antonia's Line (1995). A portrait of five generations of Dutch women.
  • Black Book (2006). A sexy blonde bombshell fights for the Dutch resistance.
  • The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). A moving version of Anne's story.
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003). A fictionalized Vermeer paints — and falls in love with — his servant in Delft.
  • Ocean's Twelve (2004). Heist sequel to Ocean's Eleven, with scenes set in Amsterdam's Jordaan neighborhood.
  • Soldier of Orange (1977). Epic tale about the Nazi occupation and Dutch resistance during World War II (and a good book).
  • Vincent and Theo (1990). Captures the relationship between the great artist and his brother.

Gene Openshaw is the co-author of the Rick Steves Amsterdam & the Netherlands guidebook.