Books About Barcelona and Spain – Read These First

By Nancy Todd

Here is the Spain Scoop on some of our faves, both fiction and non-fiction books, about Spain in English. Write us about your favorite books on Spain so we can add them to our personal reading lists.

HOMAGE TO CATALONIA – By George Orwell, this is THE book to read on the civil war in Spain. Excellent.

PAGAN SPAIN - By Richard Wright, this book gives interesting insight into what Spain was like not that long ago, and shows just how much the country has changed in the last 30 years. A stimulating read in true Wright style.

BARCELONA, THE GREAT ENCHANTRESS - By Robert Hughes. The author has been coming to Barcelona since 1966 and creates a fascinating painting of this Catalan capital.  His commentaries on architecture, people he knows, and people he wants to know like, Wilfred the Hairy, makes it a passionate read.  Today, you could meet Wilfred the Hairy at a singles bar.  No index.

HOMAGE TO BARCELONA - By Colm Toibin. As witness to the Franco Era and the heartbreaking Civil War, Tolbin writes with authority and passion. Miró, Picasso, Dalí, Gaudí and the boys are covered and their impact on art. The section on the expansion of the city limits of Barcelona in the late 1800s is especially intriguing.

SPAIN IN MIND – By Alice Leccese Powers. This anthology is a great read for the metro, a cafe, or snuggling in front of your fireplace for armchair travel. Alice Leccese Powers weaves Wharton, Hemingway, Orwell, etc. in a diverse collection.

NOVELS: CATHEDRAL OF THE SEA - By Ildefonso Falcones. This book is the big scoop on life during the middle ages. As historical fiction, it takes place on streets you can stroll today. Centered around Santa Maria del Mar, a grand church well worth the visit in Barcelona, is a story of a family’s transcendence from serfdom to wealth. One of our top favs! Our friend Dana stayed up three nights in a row to read this book.

SHADOW OF THE WIND – By Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Translated from Spanish, Shadow Of The Wind is a buzz book among our friends in Barcelona. A thriller without blood and gore, the story takes place, in part, in a bookstore in Barcelona.  Today, you can meander the late 1800 streets that the author describes.

OUR LADY OF THE SEWERS AND OTHER ADVENTURES IN DEEP SPAIN – By Paul Richardson. Witty, eccentric, with sharp view of people and places. Will adds idiosyncratic info to the sights and sounds of surprising Spain!

Have some more suggestions for our list? Leave your comments below.

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15 Comments

  1. Posted September 17, 2009 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I love your website! I am studying in Spain for the year and will be an avid reader. Thank you so much for this great info, just got my Lonely Planet: Spain in the mail too.

  2. admin
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Hi Connie,

    Thanks for your support! Where will you be studying?

    Best,

    Regina

  3. Posted October 17, 2009 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

    I loved this book. Oh to be able to wander in those streets. A thriller without loads of violence and swearing – brilliant. A little history a bit of romance and a thumping great tale.

  4. admin
    Posted October 21, 2009 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Hi Rachel,
    Thanks for your comments. Yes, Zafron tells a good story. I haven’t read his newest book yet though.

    Best,

    Regina

  5. Posted January 29, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Some great Spanish books there. I just finished reading Winter in Madrid by CJ Sansom. Am about to go on a binge of reading novels related to the Spanish Civil War.

    If you needs some inspiration for
    more books set in Spain, feel free to pop over to http://www.packabook.com where I have categorised novels by the country in which they are set….

    Suzi

  6. Posted October 12, 2011 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    Winter in Madrid by CJ Sansom was very good, way up there with Shadow of the Wind.

    Have you read Dave Boling’s Guernica?

    An absolute eye-opener. Fanatastic everyone should know what happened there.

    Rachel

  7. admin
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    sounds interesting, I haven’t read it. Thanks for the tip.

  8. MarkG
    Posted April 17, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I can recommend Homage to Barcelona by Colm Toibin. An excellent biographical guide book to the city. I read it during my first visit there and found it very interesting and useful.

    From a review: ‘This book celebrates one of Europe’s greatest cities a cosmopolitan hub of vibrant architecture, art, culture and nightlife. It moves from the story of the city’s founding and its huge expansion in the nineteenth century to the lives of Gaudi, Miro, Picasso, Casals and Dali. It also explores the history of Catalan nationalism, the tragedy of the Civil War, the Franco years and the transition from dictatorship to democracy which Colm Toibin witnessed in the 1970s. Written with deep knowledge and affection, Homage to Barcelona is a sensuous and beguiling portrait of a unique Mediterranean port and an adopted home.’

  9. admin
    Posted April 17, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Thanks Mark, I’ve been wanting to read that one – think Nancy may have it!

    Regina

  10. admin
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Mark, that is an excellent quicko review. Thanks!

  11. Posted December 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Last year I read Giles Tremlett’s “Ghosts of Spain,” which was fascinating. I learned a lot from it, despite living here for so long. The chapters about the Civil War (which so many Spanish people are still reluctant to discuss in any depth) and its after-effects were especially good, and also a chapter entitled “How the Bikini Saved Spain” – which, of course, is the story of how the Spain so many of us now know came to be. Tremlett is a journalist with a warm and personal style (I’m aware I made it sound like a history book, which may not have wide appeal!) and it’s a very easy read.

    For anyone interested in a personal story from the Civil War, there is a book called “The Glass and the Asphalt,” an autobiography by Rosalinda Powell Fox, who was mistress of Franco’s Minister of the Exterior. It’s said she was a spy, though the isn’t any confirmation of that in the book. Churchill is said to have said that she changed the course of the war. She was married in India at the tender age of 16 – so you can tell she had a very interesting life! I found this book by accident a few years back, and wanting to buy a copy for a friend found it impossible, but checking Google just now I see there are several references to it these days.

  12. admin
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks linda! Great reading tips, especially if someone needs beach reading while visiting the Canaries. A lot of people are planning their winter vacations now, and may be island bound down your way.

  13. Posted July 28, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Living in the Canary Islands, we’re big fans of Spain’s regions. So we heartily recommend Mark Kurlansky’s The Basque History of the World. And if you’re travelling to the Canaries, check out The Real Tenerife by Andrea and Jack Montgomery, along with Sheila M. Crosby’s A Breathtaking Window on the Universe: A Guide to the Observatory at the Roque de los Muchachos.

  14. Lynn
    Posted July 28, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Thanks everyone for such a great variety of recommendations! “Ghosts of Spain “was fantastic & one of the few non-fiction books on post-Franco Spain I could find easily in the US prior to my visit this past winter to Salamanca and Granada. I read he has published a biography of Catherine of Aragon but,alas, my Spanish is not at that level yet to enjoy it! I picked up “Ornament of The World ” by Maria Rosa Menocal at the Alhambra bookstore & have learned so much about medieval Spain from this historian. Now I am off to my favorite bookstore in hopes of locating a copies of the Falcone and Fox books. Muchas Gracias!

  15. admin
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    Thanks for adding some good reads to the list.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Huges satillite | ZylaBoo on February 17, 2011 at 6:52 am

    [...] Books About Spain – Our Faves and RavesHISTORY:  BARCELONA – Robert Huges, writer extraordinaire, writes again with intelligence and wit.  History books usually put me to sleep.  This one is a well researched page turner.  If you don’t want to read cover to cover,  the excellent index will allow you to read in random snatches and have it make… [...]

  2. [...] Spain Scoop: The Scoopettes have a list of must read books about Spain, most of which can be found on JJ’s and Rod’s site.  We love the old bookstalls in [...]

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