Essential Barcelona Books

In this list we’ll cover some of the most important books related to the city of Barcelona. Gabriel Garcia Marquez learned Catalan just read to Mercè Rodoreda’s The Time of the Doves. He called it “the most beautiful novel published in Spain since the Civil War.” Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s 2001 mystery novel The Shadow of the Wind achieved cult status and became one of the best-selling books of all time. Stephen King called it “one gorgeous read.” Homage to Catalonia is George Orwell’s personal account of his experiences and observations fighting for the Republican army during the Spanish Civil War. The New Yorker described it as ‘One of Orwell’s very best books and perhaps the best book that exists on the Spanish Civil War.” (If you make a purchase from this page with our affiliate partner Amazon, we will earn a small commission.)

Colm Tóibín, The South

Colm Tóibín’s first novel is about an Irishwoman who creates a new life in post-war Spain. In 1950, Katherine Proctor leaves Ireland for Barcelona, determined to escape her family and become a painter. There she meets Miguel, an anarchist veteran of the Spanish Civil War, and begins to build a life with him. But Katherine cannot escape her past, as Michael Graves, a fellow Irish émigré in Spain, forces her to reexamine all her relationships: to her lover, her art, and the homeland she only thought she knew.

The South is a novel of classic themes—of art and exile, and of the seemingly irreconcilable yearnings for love and freedom to which Colm Tóibín brings a new, passionate sensitivity. The South: A Novel

Mercè Rodoreda, The Time of the Doves

The Time of the Doves – by Mercè Rodoreda – is the powerfully written story of a naïve shop-tender during the Spanish Civil War and beyond, is a rare and moving portrait of a simple soul confronting and surviving a convulsive period in history. The book has been widely translated, and was made into a film.

“Mercè Rodoreda is the writer I cannot stop talking about.” —Alberto Ríos

“[I] read [The Time of the Doves] cover to cover all in one afternoon. When I was finished, I felt as foolish as Balboa discovering the powerful Pacific.” ―Sandra Cisneros, from her Foreword to Camilla Street The Time of the Doves (La plaça del Diamant)

Colm Tóibín, Homage to Barcelona

Written with deep knowledge and affection, Homage to Barcelona is a sensuous and beguiling portrait of a great Mediterranean city. It celebrates Barcelona as a cosmopolitan city of vibrant architecture and art, great churches and museums, intriguing port life, extravagant nightclubs, restaurants, and bars. It moves from the story of the city’s founding, and huge expansion in the nineteenth century, to the lives of Gaudí, Míro, Casals, and Dalí. It also examines 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. Homage to Barcelona

George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

George Orwell–novelist, journalist, sometime socialist–actually traded his press pass for a uniform and fought against Franco’s Fascists in the Spanish Civil War during 1936 and 1937. He put his politics and his formidable conscience to the toughest tests during those days in the trenches in the Catalan section of Spain. Then, after nearly getting killed, he went back to England and wrote a gripping account of his experiences, as well as a complex analysis of the political machinations that led to the defeat of the socialist Republicans and the victory of the Fascists.  Homage to Catalonia

Robert Hughes, Barcelona

A monumentally informed and irresistibly opinionated guide to the most un-Spanish city in Spain, from the bestselling author of The Fatal Shore. In these pages, Robert Hughes scrolls through Barcelona’s often violent history; tells the stories of its kings, poets, magnates, and revolutionaries; and ushers readers through municipal landmarks that range from Antoni Gaudi’s sublimely surreal cathedral to a postmodern restaurant with a glass-walled urinal. The result is a work filled with the attributes of Barcelona itself: proportion, humor, and seny—the Catalan word for triumphant common sense. Barcelona

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

“Gabriel García Márquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges for a sprawling magic show.”—The New York Times Book Review.

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love. The Shadow of the Wind

Cathedral of the Sea (2006) Ildefonso Falcones

An unforgettable fresco of a golden age in fourteenth-century Barcelona, Cathedral of the Sea is a thrilling historical novel of friendship and revenge, plague and hope, love and war. Arnau Estanyol arrives in Barcelona to find a city dominated by the construction of the city’s great pride—the cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar—and by its shame, the deadly Inquisition. As a young man, Arnau joins the powerful guild of stoneworkers and helps to build the church with his own hands, while his best friend and adopted brother Joanet studies to become a priest. With time, Arnau prospers and falls secretly in love with a forbidden woman. But when he is betrayed and hauled before the Inquisitor, he finds himself face-to-face with Joanet. Will he lose his life just as his beloved Cathedral of the Sea is finally completed, or will his brother save him? Cathedral of the Sea: A Novel

Gaudi: A Biography by Gijs van Hensbergen

At the time of his death in 1926, Antoni Gaudí was arguably the most famous architect in the world. He had created some of the greatest and most controversial masterpieces of modern architecture, which were as exotic as they were outrageous. But little is known about the shadowy figure behind the swirling, vivid buildings that inspired the Surrealists.

This masterful biography brings both man and architect powerfully to life against the changing backdrop of Barcelona and Catalonia. Gijs van Hensbergen leads us through the design and construction of Gaudí’s most significant buildings — revealing their innovation and complexity, and demonstrating the growing relevance of Gaudí’s architecture today. Gaudi: A Biography

Ghosts of Spain Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past by Giles Tremlett

“An invaluable book . . . A country finally facing its past could scarcely hope for a better, or more enamored, chronicler of its present.”-Sarah Wildman, New York Times Book Review

The appearance, more than sixty years after the Spanish Civil War ended, of mass graves containing victims of Francisco Franco’s death squads finally broke what Spaniards call “the pact of forgetting”-the unwritten understanding that their recent, painful past was best left unexplored. At this charged moment, Giles Tremlett embarked on a journey around the country and through its history to discover why some of Europe’s most voluble people have kept silent so long.

In elegant and passionate prose, Tremlett unveils the tinderbox of disagreements that mark the country today. Ghosts of Spain is a revelatory book about one of Europe’s most exciting countries. Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past

Nada – Carmen Laforet

Renowned as Spain’s The Catcher in the Rye, this passionate coming-of-age novel follows a rebellious college-age girl as she uncovers her family’s secrets in chaotic, polarized, post-Civil War Barcelona.

Andrea, an eighteen-year-old orphan, moves in with her volatile Barcelona relatives to attend the local University. Living in genteel squalor in a mysterious house on Calle de Aribau, Andrea relies on her wealthy, beautiful, bohemian friend Ena to prove that normal life exists beyond the gothic dwelling she calls home. In one year, as her innocence melts away, Andrea learns the truth about her overbearing and religious Aunt Angustias, her cruelly sensual, musically gifted uncle Román and his violent brother Juan, and her lovely Aunt Gloria, who provides the family’s bread with furtive gambling expeditions. She also learns the truth about Ena—and why her friendship goes hand in hand with her interest in Andrea’s family. Peppered with dark humor, energy, and hope, Carmen Laforet’s stunning classic is the story of a young woman who endures the harsh realities of post-Civil War Barcelona, emerging wiser and stronger, and with a bright future ahead of her. Nada: A Novel (Modern Library Classics)