Reading Up on Barcelona

Reading Up on Barcelona - Barcelona, Spain

We can't get enough of Barcelona, and we know you'll feel the same. Here are our favorite five books that will help build your background knowledge on Catalonia's bewitching capital. In between Robert Hughes, Rainer Zerbst and George Orwell, you'll become too smart for your own good. Warn your friends.

Reading Up on Barcelona

Barcelona Bookworm Top 5

1. Barcelona the Great Enchantress (Directions) by Robert Hughes

In this pared-down version of the critically acclaimed Barcelona, art critic Hughes surveys Barcelona's journey from port city to bustling Catalan capital. The book artfully covers the city's mysterious history. Insightful observations are drawn from personal anecdotes. Manuscript excerpts and anti-Castilian documents are placed in the context of a city timeline.

2. Gaudí: 1852-1926 Antoni Gaudí i Cornet - A Life Devoted to Architecture by Rainer Zerbst

This short but sweet goody offers a quick intro into the artist's life and tragicomic death before diving head first into the pool of Gaudí's major works. Follow the artist from his first commission (for the tile palace Casa Vicens) to the famous (and still unfinished) Sagrada Familia. Stunning photographs of interiors and exteriors are supported by descriptive prose. Furniture pieces, stained glass windows, lamps and tiles get just as much attention as vast architectural triumphs.

3. The Revolt of the Catalans by J. H. Elliott

The press raved when Professor Elliott's play-by-play of events leading up to the 1640 Catalan revolution was first published back in 1984. Elliott traces the 17th-century deterioration of the relationship between the principality of Catalonia to the government in Madrid and relates it to Spain's overall decline. Along the journey, Catalan bandits are suppressed by Castilian overlords and Madrid's Olivares attempts to use Catalan resources to fund foreign wars with Philip IV's support. The dramatic tale can be read as a case history in the universal struggles between central big wigs and their regional underlings.

4. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Referred to in some circles as a "triumph of literature," most readers agree that Orwell's war-torn story is simply a good read. From 1936 to 1937, instead of living it up as a starving artist, Orwell decides to risk death in the Spanish Civil War. While most war journalists cover a story from the sidelines, this literati soldier lived in the trenches of Catalan Spain. The writer-cum-soldier questions his own politics and incorrigible conscience while knock knock knockin' on heaven's door.

5. Catalan-English/English-Catalan Dictionary by M.S. Sabater and J.A. Freixinet

Barcelona is the seat of Catalan culture. Impress and surprise the locals with some phrases in Catalan and you might make some local friends. At the very least, a short tutorial will help you read signs and menus during your travels.

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