As a writer, I consider reading part of my job. And naturally, I like to read books about Switzerland since I write about the country. Below are several recent books to consider reading whether you’re a tourist, an expatriate, or even if you’re Swiss. They range from fiction to non-fiction and are by Swiss, American, and Canadian authors.
The Alps: A Human History from Hannibal to Heidi and Beyond (Stephen O’Shea)
Ever wondered why the St. Bernard dog is often shown with a cask hanging below its neck? Why the Alps have influenced so many stories - from Heidi to the Sound of Music? Or why the people of Sion are obsessed with Audrey Hepburn?
Stephen O’Shea, a Canadian author of several books about European history, has the answers to these questions (and many more) in his latest book The Alps. In this book, he travels 500 miles across the Alps, covering France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria and Slovenia.
Along the way, he is surprised by a Swiss businessman’s recommendation that he eat horse meat at an Alpine restaurant but not so surprised by the tourists taking pictures of the Alps from his train’s windows. After all, 2000 years of Alpine history is something worth capturing.
Hausfrau: A Novel (Jill Alexander Essbaum)
An American living with her Swiss husband near Zürich, Anna’s life looks picture perfect on the outside. But on the inside, Anna struggles. She struggles with German. She struggles with identity. And she struggles with infidelity. As many expats can probably relate, sometimes when you go abroad and live within another culture, you lose yourself.
And it is how you find yourself that makes the difference between happiness and tragedy. An award-winning poet, Essbaum's language sings in the debut novel Hausfrau.
Coming Out Swiss: In Search of Heidi, Chocolate, and My Other Life (Anne Herrmann)
What happens when you are born in New York to Swiss parents? Anne Herrmann's book, Coming Out Swiss, has some of the answers. In a narrative which is one part memoir and one part history book, Herrmann explores what Swissness means both to her and to the world.
She explores Swiss clichés. She explores Switzerland's role in World War II. And she spends time in New Glarus, Wisconsin, a Swiss-American town that must be seen to be believed: It boasts a collection of chalets, a train station, an alphorn group, a hiking path, and its very own triathlon, the Alphornman.
Reclaim American Democracy: Economic Solutions to Dysfunctional Politics (Werner Neff)
One of the best ways to understand Switzerland is to read a Swiss point of view of the United States. Wener Neff's two books, Vision for America and his latest, Reclaim American Democracy, discuss Swiss policies on healthcare, taxes, politics, and more with their American counterparts.
A Swiss citizen who now lives in Colorado, USA, Neff praises the friendliness and openness of the American people who immediately made him feel at home. He is also urging the starkly less unfriendly American government to have more compassion for its people - a timely and necessary topic in the United States (and throughout the world) these days.