Best Books on Poland

recommended by Jakub Widzyk

There’s really a lot of books I could recommend – certainly well over 10. I’ve listed 5 books below (no particular order) and also added some more in the comments.

  • 1

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    God's Playground: A History of Poland, Vol. 1
    by Norman Davies

    This book comes in two volumes and it's a good book on Poland's history and its role in Europe. Davies wrote other excellent books on Poland, WWII and war in Europe in general (e.g. “Rising '44: The Battle for Warsaw”) Another good book on the history of Poland is “Poland: A history” by Adam Zamoyski

  • 2

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    Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero
    by Henryk Sienkiewicz

    “Quo Vadis” by Henryk Sienkiewicz is one of the more important books in Polish literature. It’s a historical novel with a narrative in the time of Nero (ancient Rome). The book is widely believed to have earned Sienkiewicz a Nobel prize for literature but that’s not quite accurate as he received it for ‘extraordinary achievements in epic Polish literature”. “Quo Vadis” did however certainly help him win the prize. Other notable books by Sienkiewicz: “The Trilogy” including – “With Fire and Sword”, “The Deluge” (my personal favourite) and “Fire in the Steppe” (or closer to the original title “Sir Wolodyowski”). These historic novels are military conflicts in Poland in the 17th century. The books were written at the time of the Partitions of Poland and their purpose was to strengthen the sense of unity and the spirits of the nation at these difficult times.

  • 3

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    Witcher Series
    by Andrzej Sapkowski

    This is actually several books (7) and includes 2 short story books – “Sword of Destiny” (1992) and “The Last Wish” (1993) and a 5 volume saga: “Blood of the Elves”, “Time of Contempt”, “Baptism of Fire”, “The Tower of the Swallow” and “Lady of the Lake”. If only one book is to be chosen I’d go with either of the short story books as these are not really connected and do not require any previous knowledge of the series. The story follows a man named Geralt who is a witcher – or a monster slayer. It’s a fantasy tale with strong political and social elements (similar to Game of Thrones but the Witcher actually precedes it)

  • 4

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    The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age (Penguin Modern Classics)
    by Stanislaw Lem

    “The Cyberiad” by Stanisław Lem is a series of science fiction stories in the world of robots and machines but also featuring fantastic creatures and characters. The stories are about two genius inventors who are friends but also rivals and compete for the title of the best constructor. (As a side note, Lem also wrote “Solaris” which has 3 movie adaptations, most recently (2002) by S. Soderbergh starring G. Clooney)

  • 5

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    Kamienie na szaniec (In English: Stones for the Rampart)
    by Aleksander Kaminski

    “Stones for the Rampart” by Aleksander Kamisński is a very important book in Poland and one of many but definitely more important mandatory readings in schools. The book is based on real events during the German occupation of Poland. The author describes the acts of sabotage carried out by a group of friends who were part of a scout movement. The notes for the book were handwritten by one of the main characters (Zośka) about a month after the main events of the book have taken place. The notes have been passed on to A. Kamiński to be written and distributed to a wider audience.

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