Spain has inspired generations of writers with its rich cultural history and unparalleled beauty. Writers like Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell were deeply influenced by their time in Spain, and their work has inspired many travelers to visit.
So before you pack your bags, we suggest going to your local bookshop and picking up a few books to get a deeper understanding of this magical country! We turned to Terry Craven, owner of Desperate Literature, a bookshop in Madrid that sells used books in English, Spanish and French, for recommendations on books to read before visiting Madrid. Terry took a moment from running the coolest bookshop in the city to suggest a few books to read before visiting Madrid.
1. Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett:
“An absolute must for any extranjero (foreigner) in Spain. A journalistic history of the country from the Civil War onward, this book is never tedious, always moving between personal testimony and historical fact. It covers everything from the curious transformation of the Costa del Sol to the transition between the dictatorship to democracy. You will understand the country just that much better for reading it.”
2. The Winterlings by Cristina Sánchez-Andrade
“With a poetic prose that brings to mind the voice of Virginia Woolf, the book sweeps you into the life of a Galician town that seems to exist out of time. The Winterlings gives a visceral portrayal of the Civil War’s devastation.”
3. Madrid: The History by Jules Stewart
“A book that portrays the city similarly to Ghosts of Spain, moving between historical fact and personal intrigue. It is one of a kind. More importantly for the Madrid traveler, it comes with with a wonderful 48-page day and night guide to the city. Madrid is, after all, the city that never sleeps.”
4. Madrid ne dort pas by Grégoire Polet
“We did tell ya! As an international bookshop, we stock titles in English, Spanish and French. This is a contemporary French take on the Spanish Nobel-winner Camilo José Cela’s novel La Colmena (also an excellent contender for this list, sorry for cheating and sneaking a sixth book in!). Over 24 hours we meet diverse characters traversing the city that, as Polet says, ne dort pas.”
5. Spanish Literature: A Very Short Introduction by Jo Labanyi
“When we arrived in Spain to start Desperate Literature we immediately picked up Labanyi’s book. In a mere 124 pages, you will find an understanding of the classics as they reached anglophone readers. Labanyi vividly portrays Islamic writing’s deep influence on Spanish literary culture and closely analyzes women writers and gender roles. It’s just wonderful.”
Want to try your hand at Spanish cooking? Check out our new digital cookbook, Recipes from the Devour Tours Kitchen!
After watching an episode of “Parts Unknown” in which her hero Anthony Bourdain wandered through the magical streets of Granada, Elysse signed up for a semester abroad there and then quickly realized one semester wasn’t enough. She returned to Spain and lived in Madrid for two years to technically teach English but mostly spent her free time traveling throughout the peninsula learning about Spain’s diverse culture (and tapas!). But what she loves most about Spain is the love and appreciation of tradition, history and long lunches with friends and family.