Amsterdam, written by Geert Mak, a journalist and popular history writer, is a history of the city from its beginnings. It is great reading for anyone visiting or moving to Amsterdam, but because the city was so central to Dutch history, it also provides a good overview of the Netherlands' past. The book is well balanced, giving equal weight to the various periods since the city's foundation in the twelfth century. Holland's golden seventeenth century, of course, the century of Rembrandt, features well, but so do the modern era and its struggles. The book draws very largely from contemporary anecdotes and concentrates on the life and growth of the city, though it necessarily also touches on the political context. Finally, because its many small stories are so often related to existing buildings, streets, or canals, or to archaeological finds, the modern city comes alive as much as the historical. Recommended to me by a Dutch friend, complete with maps and illustrations, this is for anyone vaguely curious about that incredible European city that has been Amsterdam.