The Greatest New Zealander, Dutch Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 268 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

    This book is a real-life account of a young Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis during World War II, written in diary format. The girl and her family are forced to live in a secret annex in Amsterdam for two years, during which she writes about her experiences, fears, dreams, and the onset of adolescence. The diary provides a poignant and deeply personal insight into the horrors of the Holocaust, making it a powerful testament to the human spirit.

  2. 2. The Bone People by Keri Hulme

    "The Bone People" is a complex, emotional novel that explores the lives of three characters - a reclusive artist, a young mute boy, and his adoptive father - in New Zealand. The narrative delves into themes such as Maori culture, love, violence, and isolation while showcasing the struggle of these individuals as they try to form a family unit despite their personal traumas and societal pressures. The book's unique blend of prose and poetry, along with its blend of English and Maori language, adds to its depth and richness.

  3. 3. The Praise of Folly by Erasmus

    This satirical work is a critique of the practices of the Church and the wider social behavior of the time. Narrated by Folly, the female personification of foolishness, the book humorously criticizes various aspects of society such as superstitious religious practices, scholarly pedantry, and the excesses of the upper classes. The book is a bold critique of its time, using humor and irony to expose the follies of its society.

  4. 4. Ethics by Baruch de Spinoza

    "Ethics" is a philosophical work that explores complex ideas about God, the universe, human emotions, and the path to enlightenment. The book outlines a metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical system in which God and the universe are one and the same, rejecting traditional notions of a personal deity and asserting that understanding the natural world leads to peace of mind and happiness. The work delves into the nature of the human mind and its emotions, advocating for the pursuit of reason and knowledge to achieve a calm, enlightened state.

  5. 5. The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch

    "The Discovery of Heaven" is a philosophical novel that explores the relationship between mankind and the divine. The story revolves around two friends, an astronomer and a philologist, who are manipulated by heavenly forces to father a child who is destined to return the Ten Commandments to God. As the narrative unfolds, it delves into complex themes such as friendship, love, art, science, and the existence of God, presenting a thought-provoking analysis of the human condition.

  6. 6. The Waning of the Middle Ages by Johan Huizinga

    "The Waning of the Middle Ages" is a historical analysis of the cultural life of the late Middle Ages, particularly in France and the Low Countries, during the 14th and 15th centuries. It delves into the period's modes of thought, forms of expression, religious beliefs, and social norms. The book argues that the era was characterized by a highly stylized and overwrought civilization, marked by an excessive emphasis on chivalry and courtly love, a religious mindset dominated by the fear of death and the afterlife, and a cultural milieu that was both highly imaginative and deeply pessimistic.

  7. 7. All Souls' Day by Cees Nooteboom

    "All Souls' Day" is a novel about a Dutch documentary filmmaker, who, after losing his wife and daughter in a car accident, moves to Berlin to escape his grief. The protagonist becomes entangled in a series of romantic relationships while struggling to come to terms with his loss. The book blends narrative with philosophical musings on memory, loss, and the nature of time, using the city of Berlin as a backdrop to illustrate the protagonist's internal journey.

  8. 8. Return to Oegstgeest by Jan Wolkers

    "Return to Oegstgeest" is a semi-autobiographical narrative that explores the author's childhood and adolescence in the small Dutch town of Oegstgeest during the pre and post-World War II era. The book delves into the author's troubled relationship with his stern, religious parents, his struggles with faith, and his burgeoning artistic and sexual awakening. The narrative is a poignant exploration of memory, family, and the experiences that shape one's identity.

  9. 9. Max Havelaar by Multatuli

    "Max Havelaar" is a novel centered around a Dutch civil servant who is stationed in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) during the mid-19th century. The protagonist, trying to battle the corruption and exploitation of the local people by Dutch colonial rulers, becomes disillusioned with the system. The novel provides a scathing critique of the colonial regime's treatment of the indigenous people, highlighting their suffering and exploitation. The author uses various narrative techniques and perspectives, making it a significant work in Dutch literature.

  10. 10. Camera Obscura by Nicolaas Beets

    "Camera Obscura" is a collection of humorous and satirical sketches that provide a vivid picture of 19th-century Dutch society. It explores the social and domestic life of the middle classes, their habits, their social pretensions, their pleasures and their follies. The book also includes a series of character studies, often based on the author's acquaintances, which are presented in a light-hearted and often ironic tone.

  11. 11. The Garden Where the Brass Band Played by Simon Vestdijk

    This novel explores the life of a young boy named Nol Rieske, who falls in love with the daughter of a bandmaster in a small Dutch town. As he grows older, he becomes a successful musician, but his obsession with the bandmaster's daughter, who is mentally ill, continues to dominate his life. The story is a detailed exploration of a man's lifelong infatuation and its profound impact on his personal and professional life.

  12. 12. Faces In The Water by Janet Frame

    "Faces in the Water" is a chilling exploration of mental illness, based on the author's own experiences in psychiatric hospitals. The protagonist is a woman who is institutionalized after a suicide attempt and suffers through the dehumanizing treatment of the era, including electroshock therapy. The narrative is a surreal and fragmented reflection of her mental state, as she grapples with her sanity and the inhumane conditions of her confinement. The novel serves as a powerful critique of the mental health system and the societal attitudes towards mental illness in the mid-20th century.

  13. 13. The Quest by Frederik van Eeden

    "The Quest" is a philosophical novel that delves into the journey of a man in search of truth and purpose in life. The protagonist, disillusioned with the materialistic society around him, embarks on a spiritual quest for enlightenment. His journey takes him through various experiences and encounters with different belief systems and philosophies, challenging his existing notions and beliefs. The book explores themes of existentialism, spirituality, and the human struggle for meaning.

  14. 14. Eline Vere by Louis Couperus

    "Eline Vere" is a classic novel that explores the life of a young, neurotic woman from the Hague, who is trapped in the restrictive high society of late 19th-century Holland. The protagonist, Eline Vere, is an enchanting but unstable young woman who self-destructs through her irrational fears and fantasies. The novel vividly depicts the social and cultural milieu of the time and is also a psychological study of a woman whose life spirals out of control.

  15. 15. The Forbidden Kingdom by Jan Jacob Slauerhoff

    "The Forbidden Kingdom" is a historical fiction novel that intertwines the stories of two men, a 20th century sailor and 16th century Portuguese poet, Luis Camões. The narrative alternates between the two, exploring the sailor's obsession with the poet's life and the poet's experiences in the East, including his journey to Macao. The book delves into themes of identity, obsession, and the clash of Eastern and Western cultures.

  16. 16. Old People And The Things That Pass by Louis Couperus

    This novel delves into the hidden secrets and unspoken truths of an elderly couple, revealing the profound impact of their concealed affair on their family across generations. As the narrative unfolds, it exposes the complexities of human relationships and the consequences of past actions, illustrating how secrets can ripple through time, affecting not just those who keep them but also their descendants. The story masterfully explores themes of guilt, redemption, and the inescapable nature of the past, all while painting a poignant picture of aging and the inevitable passage of time.

  17. 17. The Deeps Of Deliverance by Frederik van Eeden

    This novel unfolds in a fantastical realm, exploring the journey of its protagonist who embarks on a quest for self-discovery and redemption. Through vivid landscapes and encounters with a myriad of characters, the narrative delves into themes of love, sacrifice, and the eternal battle between good and evil. The protagonist's journey is not just a physical one, but also a deep exploration of the human psyche and the quest for a deeper understanding of life's purpose. Rich in symbolism and with a keen focus on the human condition, the story weaves a tapestry of adventure, philosophical inquiry, and the pursuit of deliverance from one's own inner demons.

  18. 18. Rituals by Cees Nooteboom

    "Rituals" is a philosophical novel that explores the lives of three men, each dealing with existential crises in post-World War II Netherlands. The narrative delves into their individual searches for meaning and purpose, their struggles with societal norms, and their attempts to establish personal rituals as a way to create order in a seemingly chaotic world. The book is a profound meditation on the human condition, examining themes of time, death, and the nature of reality.

  19. 19. Smell of Sadness by Alfred Kossmann

    "Smell of Sadness" is a poignant narrative that revolves around a man who, after being separated from his wife during the Second World War, embarks on a journey to find her. The story takes us through the protagonist's experiences, his encounters with various people, and his personal struggles. The book is a deep exploration of human emotions, particularly the profound sadness that permeates through the protagonist's life, making it a moving and thought-provoking read.

  20. 20. Van Loon's Lives by Hendrik Willem van Loon

    The book in question is a unique blend of biography, autobiography, and fantasy, where the author imagines inviting historical figures from different eras to dinner at his home. Through a series of lively conversations and interactions, the author and his guests explore the lives and thoughts of these famous individuals, ranging from philosophers and scientists to artists and rulers. The narrative provides a creative and insightful look at history, as well as the author's own musings on life, culture, and human progress, all while blurring the lines between past and present in an engaging and whimsical manner.

  21. 21. Gimmick! by Joost Zwagerman

    "Gimmick!" is a novel that explores the life of a young artist in the Amsterdam art scene during the 1980s. The protagonist is caught in a world of excess, parties, drugs, sex, and betrayal while trying to find his place and make a name for himself. The story delves into the struggles of artistic life, the lure of fame and the pitfalls of success, providing a raw and gritty depiction of the times.

  22. 22. The Laws by Connie Palmen

    "The Laws" is a philosophical novel that follows the life of a young woman studying philosophy who becomes intrigued by the concept of laws, both societal and personal. Over the course of seven years, she engages in relationships with seven different men, each representing a different aspect of her studies including a priest, a physicist, an artist, a psychiatrist, a lawyer, a biologist, and a writer. Each relationship provides a new perspective on her quest to understand the laws of the universe and human nature.

  23. 23. A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh

    "A Man Lay Dead" is a captivating murder mystery set in a country house, where a group of guests gather for a weekend of games and entertainment. When a harmless game of murder turns into a real-life crime, Inspector Alleyn is called in to solve the case. As he delves into the lives and secrets of the eccentric characters, he uncovers a web of deceit, jealousy, and hidden motives. With a clever plot, intriguing characters, and a touch of humor, this book keeps readers guessing until the final twist.

  24. 24. The Twins by Tessa De Loo

    "The Twins" is a poignant narrative about twin sisters, separated at a young age due to the Second World War. One sister grows up in the Netherlands under Nazi occupation, while the other is raised in Germany as part of the Hitler Youth. After six decades of separation, they meet again and begin to share their experiences, discovering the impact of the war on their lives and the stark differences in their upbringing. The book explores themes of identity, loyalty, and the long-lasting effects of war on individuals and families.

  25. 25. Plumb by Maurice Gee

    In "Plumb" by Maurice Gee, readers are introduced to a small New Zealand town called Waimaru, where a tragic accident occurs, leaving a young boy dead. The aftermath of this event reveals the dark secrets and hidden tensions within the community, as the lives of various characters intertwine and unravel. With beautifully crafted prose and a keen exploration of human nature, Gee delves into themes of guilt, loss, and the complexities of human relationships, creating a gripping and thought-provoking narrative.

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.