It's become a habit of mine to read a couple books at a time. I don't recommend it, but I can recommend some great books especially on the topic of Central Europe. There are great authors from Central Europe and luckily many of their books have been translated into English. I've already mentioned the one of the most obvious authors from Prague- Franz Kafka in an earlier post about the Franz Kafka Museum.
Another excellent author is Milan Kundera, He is of Czech origin but he calls France home after leaving Czechoslovakia in exile. His original work is translated from French. His books, like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, and The Joke (my favorite) give excruciating detail into the minds of Czechs during communism. Although he is considered less than a saint by many Czechs, he nevertheless is a brilliant and internationally renowned author. Why do Czechs disapprove? That's a great question for our next author.
Do you want to get into the mind of a Czech? Get all the answers in one place with Terje B. Englund's book called The Czechs in a Nutshell. He reviews everything alphebetically from the history of Jan Hus, to little Czech quirks like "Socks and Sandals". I've read books like this before but nothing as all-encompassing and fun to read as this one.
For a non-traditional architectural and historical view of Prague I recommend a book by Hilary A. James and Jiří P. Musil. This book, called Prague, My Love: An unusual guide book to the hidden corners of Prague, is great for it's cute illustrations and little facts about buildings that locals pass everyday without acknowledging. Included is a map to help readers find each building or site that is mentioned in the book. A side note about this book: I recommend this book only for its historical content. The story line pretty terrible and the (lack of) editing might do your head in.
For a powerful and heavy read, try Night by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. In this novel, the Nobel Peace Prize winning author describes his life leading up to and during his imprisonment and the dehumanizing effect of Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.
My most recent paperback companion is Flights of Love by Bernard Schlink (also the author of The Reader). It was recommended by one of Schlink's students (a friend of mine who's a law student at Humboldt University in Berlin). It's so captivating that I read at least 50 pages each time I crack it open. Beautiful stories of love, desire, betrayal, and guilt. All with a touch of Central European history and culture. Guaranteed page turner.
Don't worry there's more to come...