When I arrived in Barcelona I wanted to learn as much as I could about the city, the region of Catalonia, and its history.
I had read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. The title of that book had inspired this blog. But I soon found there were many other fantastic books out there about Catalonia and the city of Barcelona.
Why not add one of these fascinating books to your reading list. They are some of the best books about Barcelona and Catalonia.
- Homage To Catalonia by George Orwell
- Homage To Barcelona by Colm Tóibín
- Barcelona, Catalonia: A View From The Inside by Matthew Tree
- …From Barcelona – Stories Behind The City: Volume 1 by Jeremy Holland
- Going Native In Catalonia by Simon Harris
- Catalonia: A Cultural History by Michael Eaude
- What Catalans Want by Toni Strubell
- Catalan Cuisine: Europe’s Last Great Culinary Secret by Colman Andrews
- The Barcelona Journal Murders: The Trials and Tribulations of a Photographer in 1906 by Jonathan Coan Daifuku
- A Woman Unknown by Lucia Graves
- Cathedral Of The Sea by Ildefonso Falcones
- The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Other books worthy of note although not specific to the region of Catalonia:
- Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through A Country’s Hidden Past by Giles Tremlett
- Reinventing Food – Ferran Adrià: The Man Who Changed The Way We Eat by Colman Andrews
The title links for each book go to the Amazon UK website. Amazon UK now ships to Spain for free providing you spend over £25. I have also provided links to the Amazon Spain website after each book description.
Homage To Catalonia by George Orwell
Buy Now! ‘Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism as I understand it’. Thus wrote Orwell following his experiences as a militiaman in the Spanish Civil War, chronicled in Homage to Catalonia. Here he brings to bear all the force of his humanity, passion and clarity, describing with bitter intensity the bright hopes and cynical betrayals of that chaotic episode.
Homage To Barcelona by Colm Tóibín
Buy Now! 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 Gaudí, Miró, Picasso, Casals and Dalí. 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 Tóibín 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.
Barcelona, Catalonia: A View From The Inside by Matthew Tree
Buy Now! A collection of Matthew Tree’s incisive essays about life, language, and politics in Catalonia, as told through the eyes of a Catalan-speaking Englishman, or an English-speaking Catalan, depending on your vantage point, and his. Matthew’s honesty and keen observations combined with his sharp wit and mastery of language (two languages!) give the reader a unique and compelling vision of Catalonia, rarely uncovered by the casual visitor, as he discusses what he promises is the next new state in Europe and its relationship with the state it currently belongs to. But Matthew does not limit himself to the purely political; he also gives us an insider’s view of real life in Barcelona, from doctor’s visits to shopping trips, through to finding one’s own voice in another culture and language.
…From Barcelona – Stories Behind The City: Volume 1 by Jeremy Holland
Buy Now! One Unique City, Ten Revealing Stories… A contemporary collection of short stories inspired by Barcelona, its history, its legends and its people including: First Impressions: Exploring the metro, Las Ramblas and the labyrinthine alleys of the Barrio Gotico you go in search of an elusive Spanish beauty in a white dress and meet a gruff book seller who introduces you to the legend behind the city. Senyor Jordi i el Drac: In this quirky retelling of the classic story of Saint George, an old knight and his squire battle a bat-winged beast, saving a village and a princess, on their way from to the kingdom of Barcelona where their friend, Don Quixote, awaits. A Book for A Rose: Meet Johnny – a long-term American expat who wonders if it will be the first Sant Jordi the sun doesn’t shine – and Elena – the Spanish beauty who breaks his heart, giving him something more valuable than romance in the process. CSI Barcelona: The death of an English man has Dr. Josep Caldet searching for the killer. His investigation uncovers a hidden underworld that lurks beneath the beautiful city as he discovers the price some are willing to pay to live in Barcelona. Running the Gauntlet: A motley crew of locals and expats decide to take back Barcelona’s streets from the pickpockets and thieves. They grab a drink or two along the way, in some of the city’s most famous bars, before the night ends with a bang. The Crypt of Colonia Güell: Barcelona’s most famous architect, Antoni Gaudí, is being crushed by his designs for La Sagrada Familia until his benefactor, Eusebio Güell, offers him a commission that challenges their friendship. Barcelona Gothic: Based on true events, Urquinaona 4 is a mysterious building located in the famed L’Eixample district of the city where its newest tenant, Alex, soon discovers that the cheap rent and great room comes at a terrifying price. …From Barcelona offers a fresh and unique literary perspective on this popular Catalan city, while fulfilling the interested visitor’s desire for information about places to go and things to see. Described as “City-Lit” by the author, the goal of this book is to entertain, inform and inspire you to live and breathe your own Barcelona adventure.
Going Native In Catalonia by Simon Harris
Buy Now! If you’re planning to stay in Catalonia and want the most authentic experience you can get then it pays to be prepared. Much more than a tourist guide, listing the usual attractions for the casual tourist, Going Native in Catalonia digs deep beneath this nation’s psyche to give you a warts-and-all induction into the Catalan way of life. Inside you will discover:
- why Catalonia is not just another part of Spain
- the quirks of the Catalan people and language
- a brief history of Catalonia and its politics
- intimate guided tours of key towns and cities
- advice for short, long and medium term stays
- personal photographs from the author’s travels
- Catalan culture, art, style and partying
- witty anecdotes and interesting facts to share
- the inside scoop on Catalonia’s culinary delights
- tips on ‘going native’ yourself and living there
- and much more…
‘Going Native’ guides are written with a rare type of traveller in mind… longer term visitors who want to become a true part of their new home. So, whether your stay is a month or a lifetime this guide will give you everything the tourist travel guides won’t.
Catalonia: A Cultural History by Michael Eaude
Buy Now! Squeezed between more powerful France and Spain, Catalonia has endured a violent history. Its medieval empire that conquered Naples, Sicily and Athens was crushed by Spain. Its geography, with the Pyrenees falling sharply to the rugged Costa Brava, is tormented, too. Michael Eaude traces this history and its monuments: Roman Tarragona, celebrated by the poet Martial; Greek Empuries, lost for centuries beneath the sands; medieval Romanesque architecture in the Vall de Boi churches (a World Heritage Site) and Poblet and Santes Creus monasteries. He tells the stories of several of Catalonia’s great figures: Abbot Oliva, who brought Moorish learning to Europe, the ruthless mercenary, Roger de Flor, and Verdaguer, handsome poet-priest. Catalonia is famous today for its twentieth-century art. This book focuses on the revolutionary Art Nouveau buildings (including the Sagrada Familia) of Antoni Gaudi. It also explores the region’s artistic legacy: the young Picasso painting Barcelona’s vibrant slums; Salvador Dali, inspired by the twisted rocks of Cap de Creus to paint his landscapes of the human mind; and Joan Miro, discovering the colours of the red earth at Montroig.
This book talks about: mountains and mediterranean: Pyrenean peaks with calm lakes, birds of prey and deep valleys; Montserrat, where Himmler searched for the Holy Grail; the Costa Brava, its virgin beauty still visible alongside the resorts of the package-holiday boom; the rice fields and bird life of the wild Ebro Delta. It also talks about revolution and war, looking at anarchism, revolution and Civil War (covered by both Orwell and Hemingway), then forty years of Franco’s dictatorship. It illuminates the self-confidence of modern Catalonia: linguistic revival, Barcelona Football Club, popular music, the cuisine of Ferran Adria; and, cava sparkling wine.
What Catalans Want by Toni Strubell
Buy Now! “What Catalans Want” takes a concerned look at Catalonia at a time when the country’s political future as a Spanish autonomous region is being questioned for the first time since it came into being in 1980. It does so by talking to 30 representative Catalan and non-Catalan personalities in various key areas of public life. Interest for an English and American readership has been the main guideline for their selection. The book’s aim is to discover why so many Catalans feel as uncomfortable about forming part of Spain as they feel comfortable about being members of the EU. Could the Catalan question, fanned by ongoing Spanish oppression and incomprehension, be welling up into a political issue of the same order as Scotland’s or Flanders’? The book delves into a question that cannot be overlooked by concentrating on what matters most: the opinion of those affected-from the presidents of Catalonia and FC Barcelona to experts in every area. This book appears at a time when events have bowled over the country’s traditional image as an “oasis” of satisfaction enjoying what was seen as an “ample” margin of autonomy and economic welfare. Independent polls now reveal that close to 40% of Catalans would like to have a State of their own. The book also delves into the 2009-2011 unofficial independentist polls that were held in over 500 municipalities in which over 90% of participants voted for independence. Why have things come to a head? And parallel to this, why do most foreign tourists visiting the country have so little idea about what is going on? The book opens with an enlightening and poignant prologue by Irish novelist Colm Tóibín. The book is beautifully illustrated with photographer Lluís Brunet’s remarkable portraits of the interviewees.
Catalan Cuisine: Europe’s Last Great Culinary Secret by Colman Andrews
Buy Now! Catalonia, located in Spain’s far north-east corner and centred around the port of Barcelona, has its own cuisine and culture which has spread to encompass Valencia, the Balearic Islands (Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza), Andorra, the ancient region of France formerly known as Roussilon, and a single city on the Italian island of Sardinia. Colman Andrews explores this whole territory of Catalan cooking, from its French, Roman and Moorish roots to today’s modern interpretation. Along the way he creates a portrait of the food, wine, history and culture of the region.
The Barcelona Journal Murders: The Trials and Tribulations of a Photographer in 1906 by Jonathan Coan Daifuku
Buy Now! Professor C… teaches a photography course at an upper-class, all-women’s school in Barcelona in the 1900s. A serial killer has the city terrified; elaborately tied prostitutes are turning up in the Barri Gotic, the city’s historical medieval neighborhood, strangled on days ending in 4. Hired to photograph the victims, the Professor unwilling finds himself drawn into a treacherous, riddle-filled plot. Will the camera prove mightier than the sword? Are the two witty, strong-willed women in his life part of the problem or part of the solution? As C… begins to make sense of the serial killings things suddenly turn terribly personal: he and Celia, his wealthy love and student, are blackmailed for what happened between them in the school’s darkroom. If they put their heads together can they find a way out of their predicament?
A Woman Unknown by Lucia Graves
Buy Now! Lucia Graves, daughter of the poet Robert Graves and his wife Beryl, grew up in the beautiful village of Deia on the island of Majorca. Neither Spanish nor Catholic by birth, she nevertheless absorbed the different traditions of Spain and felt the full impact of Franco’s dictatorship through the experience of her education. Lucia found herself continually bridging the gaps between Catalan, Spanish and English, as she picked up the patterns and nuances that contain the essence of each culture. Portraying her life as a child watching the hills lit up by bonfires on Good Friday, or, years later, walking through the haunting backstreets of the Jewish quarter of Girona, this is a personal memoir which provides a first-hand account of Catalonia, where Lucia lived and raised a family. It is also a perceptive appraisal of a country burdened by tradition yet coming to terms with political change as the decades moved on.
Cathedral Of The Sea by Ildefonso Falcones
Buy Now! A masterful epic of love, war, treason, plague, famine, witchcraft, anti-Semitism and the Inquisition.
14th-century Spain, the medieval city of Barcelona is enjoying a golden age of prosperity. Its humblest inhabitants are building, stone by stone, a magnificent church to overlook their harbour. This is the Cathedral of the Sea: a church to be built for the people by the people.
In its shadow, Arnau, a young serf on the run from his feudal lord, struggles to earn his freedom. After famine, plague and thwarted love, Arnau’s fortunes begin to turn when King Pedro makes him a baron as a reward for his courage in battle. But he is also forced to marry Eleonor, a ward of the King whom he does not love. His newfound status excites jealousy from his friends who plot his downfall with devastating consequences. Arnau’s journey from slave to nobleman is the story of a struggle between good and evil that will turn Church against State and brother against brother …
The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Buy Now! Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘cemetery of lost books’, a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out ‘La Sombra del Viento’ by Julian Carax. But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. Then, one night, as he is wandering the old streets once more, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from La Sombra del Viento, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax’s work in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind. A page-turning exploration of obsession in literature and love, and the places that obsession can lead.
Other books worthy of note although not specific to the region of Catalonia:
Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through A Country’s Hidden Past by Giles Tremlett
Buy Now! The Spanish are reputed to be amongst Europe’s most voluble people. So why have they kept silent about the terrors of the Spanish Civil War and the rule of dictator Generalísimo Francisco Franco? The appearance – sixty years after that war ended – of mass graves containing victims of Franco’s death squads has finally broken what Spaniards call ‘the pact of forgetting’. At this charged moment, Giles Tremlett embarked on a journey around Spain – and through Spanish history. Tremlett’s journey was also an attempt to make sense of his personal experience of the Spanish. Why do they dislike authority figures, but are cowed by a doctor’s white coat? How had women embraced feminism without men noticing? What binds gypsies, jails and flamenco? Why do the Spanish go to plastic surgeons, donate their organs, visit brothels or take cocaine more than other Europeans?
Reinventing Food – Ferran Adrià: The Man Who Changed The Way We Eat by Colman Andrews
Buy Now! Ferran Adrià has been admired, talked about, criticized and revered more than any other chef in history. Expertly researched, Colman Andrews’ entertaining account traces Ferran’s rise from dishwasher to creative genius behind elBulli, the world’s most influential restaurant. This, the first authorized biography is full of fresh insights and will engage not just food lovers, but anyone who enjoys a remarkable story – of how one young chef changed the gastronomic world forever, reinventing food.
What should I be reading next? Are there any others books about Barcelona or Catalonia that I have missed?