Posted by: biblioglobal | February 15, 2014

Netherlands: At the Amsterdam airport library (Book-from-every-country #48)

On the way back from my holiday travels this winter, I ended up with a six hour layover in the Amsterdam airport. Which turned out to be just enough time for a visit to the city (and get a  stamp from a new country in my passport!), thanks to the convenient train from the airport into the city. In fact, it was almost too convenient- only 45 minutes from stepping out of the plane to entering downtown Amsterdam meant that it wasn’t even close to light out yet. I had failed to account for how much further north Europe is than we Americans expect it to be.

Amsterdam Centraal

The Amsterdam Centraal train station all dressed up for Christmas

When it did eventually become light out,while it was clear that Amsterdam was a great place to walk around and explore,  it was also cold and rainy. So before too long I returned to the airport. Which was quite okay, because the Amsterdam airport has its own library!

Sadly (though understandably) the books cannot be checked out, but they had a nice little collection of books from and about the Netherlands, in a variety of languages.

Amsterdam Airport Library

What a great idea! Why don’t all airports have libraries?!

I settled down for a very enjoyable hour with The Dinner by Herman Koch which BiblioBoyfriend had recently read and recommended. It’s the stoThe Dinner by Herman Kochry of two couples who meet for dinner at a fancy restaurant. The part I read in the airport was all satire of fine dining. It had a narrative style that reminded me a bit of Nick Hornby or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. It’s probably a good thing I stopped when I did though, because the book then takes a more serious turn and I might have gotten distracted and missed my flight. (Or perhaps just heard myself in one of the announcements that went out regularly in the Amsterdam airport- “Biblioglobal, report to gate A32 immediately. You are delaying the flight.”)

Even during my brief visit to the Netherlands, it seemed like The Dinner was everywhere-stacks of it in bookstores, references in magazine articles, the movie version being shown on the airplane. The airport library had copies in many languages.

Airport Library Sign

I think this copy of The Dinner was in Finnish.

Since returning home, I’ve finished reading The Dinner. (And was in fact late to a meeting because of getting caught up in reading it.) I often think it would be nice to be part of a book club- to have a group of intelligent people with many perspectives to sit down and discuss a book with. My parents have a great book club and I’m completely jealous. After reading The Dinner though, I really wanted a book club to discuss it with.

I don’t want to write a blog post about it, stating my own thoughts and conclusions. Instead, I want to ask people questions and hear what they think. I want to talk to people who are parents and find out what their reading experience was like. I want to ask people what they think that disease is and find out if they too are baffled by the author’s identification of what disease he had in mind.

In short, I found it a very thought-provoking book, well-written, funny and troubling, but also with some aspects that bugged me. Do read it. I want to hear what you think!



  1. An airport library, how quaint!

  2. I’m strongly in favour of libraries in every airport. May I also suggest on-flight reading-aloud time instead of movies on those tiny screens?

  3. I am also quite envious of the parental units book club. I may be idealizing, but the value of a good book club is two-fold:
    1) It would encourage me to the think more critically about what I am reading. Too often, if something doesn’t make sense, I will blow past it without really trying to make it cohere.
    2) It would be much nicer to talk to people for whom the book is a recent experience. If I recommend a book to someone, by the time they have read it, it is faded in my mind. The conversation feels more limited.

    What I don’t know is how to form or find a good book group. My brief attempts were bad book clubs.

    Sign me up for libraries in every airport.

    • I find that anticipating writing a blog post helps with number 1. Not so much number 2 though.

      I suppose its a lot easier to form a bad book club than a good one! I’ve never tried, under the assumption that grad students are likely to be unreliable books club members.

  4. A library in an airport? That’s pure genius! I have The Dinner but have not read it yet. It’s on my TBR list this year and I hope I’ll like it 🙂

  5. I like the idea of a library in the airport! Good thing you didn’t miss your flight after all that though. I’ve not heard of The Dinner before but you have me intrigued!

    • I wonder if airports with libraries would have a higher rate of people missing their flights!? Although, the Amsterdam airport also had a casino, which is probably even more distracting.

  6. I love this concept! Particularly because, I once finished my book just as my flight was boarding, causing a near panic as I realised I now had to endure a flight with nothing to read. Since then, I’ve been mildly paranoid about reading at the airport, so this would be perfect for me!

    • That is worthy of panic indeed. I tend to avoid that by carrying too many books. Though that gets rather heavy.

      • Yep – the fortune I’ve paid in overweight baggage charges thanks to a suitcase full of books makes me weep! My family are on a mission to convert me to kindle, but there’s something about a physical book that I just can’t give up!

  7. I wonder if people have missed their flight.

    • Seems like a definite possibility. Though the loudspeaker voice that calls people’s name and tells them “You are delaying the flight” in an annoyed tone is probably pretty hard to miss.

  8. I used to travel via Amsterdam airport often and loved visiting the art gallery where you could see some priceless works of art by real masters. I thought that was an amazing idea for n airport (much nicer way to spend an hour than in the shops you get at Heathrow). But a library, wow that would have got my attention. As for Koch, I have the book to read though not got around to it yet.

    • I visited the art museum too! It’s right next to the library. A great combination. The museum had nice text giving background for the paintings, which I appreciated.

  9. […] I’ve read books from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Portugal, Romania, Algeria, Malawi, North Korea, Netherlands, Nauru, and Papua New Guinea.  As always, there have been some great ones. My picks for most […]

  10. […] I had read either one, I kept confusing The Mussel Feast with The Dinner by Herman Koch. Both were published in English in 2013 (though The Mussel Feast was originally published in German […]

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