Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian (2005)
This book is one of the few I’ve voluntarily reread, but it is also one that I readily admit has some major flaws. The premise is that of an unnamed female protagonist in the 1970s jet-setting around Europe as she follows her parents’ letters and diaries and gradually learns of their own quest, which involved jet-setting around Europe in the 1950s to find and stop a Romanian count you may have heard of, Count Dracula. On the plus side, the 1950s side of the story (as well as flashbacks to the 1930s) is engaging, Kostova does a pretty good job of crafting an epistolary novel, and, perhaps most importantly for this library challenge, the author does a wonderful job of depicting the novel’s many European settings (ranging from Romania to France to Holland and beyond.) The depiction of Dracula is more eerie than scary, but he’s still an interesting variation on a character I’ve read about many times in many other works. My biggest problem with the book was the story set in the 1970s seemed tedious, mainly because the unnamed character at the center of it bored me to tears. If you can get past that, it’s an unusual story worth visiting at least once.
Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes (1996)
If you’re more in the mood for nonfiction, travel to Ireland with Frank McCourt in his Pulitzer-prize winning memoir of growing up poor with an alcoholic father in Depression-era Limerick, Ireland. If you’ve already read this one or if misery memoirs aren’t your thing–and Angela’s Ashes is probably the king of that genre–then you might try McCourt’s subsequent memoirs that focus more on his adult life as a teacher in America. (Granted, those wouldn’t count for this challenge, but that’s a separate point.)
Ursula Archer’s Five: A Novel (2016)
Mysteries with a European setting have long been popular. As an avid mystery reader, I know I am not alone in reading dozens of mysteries with British settings, and I have also enjoyed the recent slate of Scandinavian murder mysteries from the past decade. If you like European murder mysteries but want something a little different, try Ursula Archer’s first Beatrice Kaspary novel, set in Austria. Published just this year to enthusiastic reviews, Five is a suspense-laden serial killer mystery involving cryptic clues tattooed on a murder victim’s body, which lead Detective Kaspary on a geocaching hunt for more evidence.