Further

If you want to explore Dutch culture further, these are some of my favorites, mostly fiction, but a few other recommendations as well:

The Rider, by Tim Krabbé. My favorite novel of all time. It’s a first-person stream-of-consciousness narrative of a single bike race. Full of hubris and humility, and all those little moments in between. I’ll give you the opening lines:

Meyrueis, Lozère, June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafés. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.

Amsterdam Stories, by Nescio. Collects all his published short stories (too few!). Nuff said.

The Assault, by Harry Mulisch. A compelling short novel exploring a child’s traumatic experience of the violence among Dutch resistance and collaborators during the German occupation of Haarlem in World War II.

The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi, by Arthur Japin. I have to admit I haven’t read this yet! But it’s on my desk right now. Here’s the blurb:

The first ten years of my life I was not black.

Thus begins this startlingly eloquent and beautiful tale based on the true story of Kwasi Boachi, a 19th- century African prince who was sent with his cousin, Kwame, to be raised in Holland as a guest of the royal family. Narrated by Kwasi himself, the story movingly portrays the perplexing dichotomy of the cousins’ situation: black men of royal ancestry, they are subject to insidious bigotry even as they enjoy status among Europe’s highest echelons. As their lives wind down different paths–Kwame back to Africa where he enlists in the Dutch army, Kwasi to an Indonesian coffee plantation where success remains mysteriously elusive–they become aware of a terrible truth that lies at the heart of their experiences.

What is Landscape? by John Stilgoe. This is a fascinating history of words and concepts associated with landscape–in old Frisian, landshop, literally “shoveled land.” While not Netherlands-specific, it’s a remarkable account of the deep Dutch influences on Anglo notions of landscape–in physical space and in art. And fun to read.

How Prints Look, by William M. Ivins Jr. and Marjorie B. Cohn. There are tons of books on etching and engraving, but this is one of the best introductions, with lots of great close-up illustrations. Not exclusively about Dutch engravers, but it does attend to Dutch developments and examples.

Dutch Phrasebook & Dictionary, by Lonely Planet. This is the best little guide I’ve found for Dutch pronunciation and basic vocabulary. It’s also got great cultural and travel tidbits re: lodging, food, nightlife, safety, sports, LGBTQ travel, etc.

The Rough Guide to Amsterdam. There are tons of guidebooks out there, but I like this one. It’s organized by neighborhood and gives a pretty detailed account of museums, galleries, and other things beyond the obvious (despite it’s very stereotypically tulip-themed cover!).

Iamsterdam is an incredible resource for travel, work, study, and living in Amsterdam (lodging: you can stay in a houseboat!). Go past the most touristy parts to check out their in-depth listings of galleries, museums, shops, restaurants, clubs, historic sites, and towns and beaches to visit. They keep an updated events calendar and offer a travel card that gets you entry to many museums and sites, plus local transportation.