Is there a better way of preparing for your life in a new city than reading a great book in the place in which it is set? We definitely think that books are the best way to get to know a place, so if you’re planning on coming to Barcelona soon, here is our selection of ‘must-reads’ set in the Catalan capital.
The Cemetery of Forgotten Books Series
A favourite of many, ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ (La sombra del viento) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It’s the first novel in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, which is followed by The Angel’s Game (El juego del ángel), The Prisoner of Heaven (El prisionero del cielo) and The Labyrinth of the Spirits (El laberinto de los espíritus). The great thing about these books is that they act as a way of discovering the nooks and crannies of the city. They enable you to see the city through the eyes of Daniel, a young boy who is brought to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in The Shadow of the Wind.
The Time of the Doves
The Time of the Doves by Mercè Rodoreda, (also known as ‘La plaça del Diamant’ in Catalan), is set in Barcelona before, during and after the Spanish Civil War and pictures a young woman’s struggles in life as well as her conflictive relationships. Classed as “one of the most beautiful novels written about the Spanish civil war”, the personal history of Natalia mirrors that of many Barcelonians.
Written by Albert Sánchez Piñol, Victus is a sweeping tale of heroism, treason, war, love, and regret that culminates in the tragic fall of the legendary Barcelona. Set in early eighteenth-century Spain, the story surrounds a military mastermind whose betrayal ultimately leads to the conquest of the city.
The City of Marvels
The City of Marvels (La Ciudad de los Prodigios) written by Eduardo Mendoza Garriga, tells of Barcelona’s growth from a small provincial capital to a thriving metropolis. The story is about the city of Barcelona and its cultural evolution during the turn of the 20th century. Its central character, Onofre Bouvila, represents a lower class character and their collective ideology.
Cathedral of the Sea
Written by Ildefonso Falcones, this historical novel takes place in 14th century Barcelona at the height of the Inquisition, with the construction of the Santa Maria del Mar serving as the background to the story. Netflix also recently developed the story into a drama series of the same name. This historical novel covers the topics of friendship, revenge, love and war.
Don Quixote of La Mancha
The oldest and most well-known recommendation on this list is one of the most influential works of literature from the Spanish Golden Age. Written by Miguel de Cervantes, this novel tells the story of a middle-aged gentleman who, after gaining an infatuation with books of chivalry, decides to take up his sword and defend the helpless. At some point during his travels of Spain he arrives in Barcelona and that’s where it becomes an even more enjoyable read for Barcelona lovers.