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1 posts from August 2011


Books about Barcelona and Catalonia

Whether you're missing Barcelona and want a cheap trip back, or want to understand the city even better while you're here (there is nothing like sitting on the steps of Santa Catarina del Mar while reading Cathedral by the Sea) here are some great books set in this beautiful city. Bonus points for reading the Spanish versions!

  • “The Shadow of the wind” (La Sombra del Viento) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, 2001. 
    A New York Times best seller, this popular mystery story takes place in Franco-era Barcelona. Includes a walking tour to all the places mentioned in the book.

  • “The Angel’s Game” (El Juego del Angel) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, 2008.
    A prequel to “The Shadow of the Wind,” this one takes place in Barcelona in the 20s.

  • “Cathedral of the Sea” (La Cathedral del Mar) by Ildefonso Falcones, 2006.
    My personal favorite, this tells the story of a man who moves to Barcelona in the 14th century. His life story is set alongside the building of the Cathedral del Mar (in the Born). A really beautiful glimpse into a very different Barcelona than that of today.

  • “The City of Marvels” (La Cuidad de los Prodigios) by Eduardo Mendoza, 1988.
    Set between the World Fairs of 1888 and 1929 this is the story of a young man who moves to Barcelona to make his fortune.

  • “Time of the Doves” (La Plaça del Diamant) by Mercè Rodoreda, 1962.
    Many believe that this is the best book written about the Spanish Civil War. It is a love story that follows a young woman in the neighborhood of Gracia. A statue stands in the placa now as a tribute to the novel and film. 

  • “Nada” (Nada) by Carmen Laforet, 1945.
    Some consider this to be Spain’s “Catcher in the Rye.” A cult classic about a young girl in Barcelona just after the Civil War. 

  • “The Spanish Bow” Andromeda Romano-Lax, 2007.
    The story of the civil war and Franco-era Spain from the point of view of a poor catalan boy whose musical ability brings him into contact with many leaders of the day.

  • Marks of Identity (Señas de identidad) by Juan Goytisolo, 1966.
    This novel (the first in a trilogy) follows an exile who returns to Barcelona after the civil war. The book was banned in Spain until after Franco's death.

  • “Southern Seas” (Los Mares del Sur) by Manuel Vasquez Montalbán, 1979.
    Montalban wrote a series of books following dective Pepe Carvalho as he solves murder mysteries in Barcleona. This is one of the most popular and a good introduction to BCN in the post-Franco era. 

  • “Off side” (El delantero centro fue asesinado al atardecer) by Manuel Vasquez Montalbán, 1989.
    Another Pepe Carvalho story following a murder mystery within the FCB football team.

  • “An Olympic Death” (El laberinto griego) Manuel Vasquez Montalbán, 1992.
    Pepe Carvalho again, this time surrounding Barcelona’s buildup to the 92 Olympics. Images-2

  • “Diary of a Humiliated Man” (Diario de un hombre humillado) by Félix de Azúa, 1987.
    Reads as the diary of a man drifting through Barcelona’s underworld in a quest for meaning in life. Some say this follows a style set by Sarte and Dostoyevsky. 

  • “From Barcelona” by Jeremy Holland, 2010. 
    10 short stories about Barcelona during the time that Holland was keeping up his fantastic blog by the same name.

  • "The South" by Colm Tóibín, 1990.
    The story of a young Irish woman who moves to Barcelona to become a painter set in the 1950s.

  • “Barcelona” by Robert Hughes, 1992.
    A complete, and a bit hefty, history of Barcelona. 

  • “Barcelona the Great Enchantress” by Robert Hughes, 2004.
    A shorter re-write of his previous book, a great introduction to Barcelona’s history. 

  • C8603_Homage-to-Barcelona-crop-001 “Homage to Barcelona” Colm Tóibin, 2001.
    A short but great overview of the history of the city, this is a highly recommended read for before you arrive in Barcelona or during your first month. 
  • “Catalonia: A Cultural History” Michael Eaude, 2007. 

  • “Homage to Catalonia” (Homenaje a Cataluña) by George Orwell, 1938.
    George Orwell came to cover the Spanish Civil War on a press pass, which he traded in to fight against Franco’s troops.

  • "Barça: A People's Passion" by Jimmy Burns, 2009. 
    The story of the football club and also of its ties to Catalonia and Catalan identity.
  • "Barça: The Year of Living Gloriously" by David Ross, 2010.


Come in! English bookstore, c/ Balmes 129.

Casa del Libro Passeig de Gracia, 62. Large English selection.

CIEE has a leave one, take one, book shelf in the Sala de Lectura at La Casa.

Let me know if you come across a good read that isn't on this list, and don't forget to bring a guidebook (Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Fodors, Rick Steves', Time Out... you can't go wrong) and your Spanish dictionary. Happy Reading!

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