Spain has a rich and tumultuous history, and with that comes a vast collection of art and literature written about and by its people. Before heading to its capital, brush up on Spanish arts and literature, starting with our top five choices. (Plus, because we love Madrid so, a bonus number six.)
Reading Up on Madrid
Madrid Bookworm Top Five
1. Don Quixote by Miquel de Cervantes
C'mon, what would a book guide to the Castilian capital be without a mention of Cervantes' masterpiece? Some critics claim Don Quixote to be the first novel; most agree that the picaresque novel was invented in Spain. This one depicts the adventures of a "picaro" as he wanders from place to place with his master. On their journey together they expose the foibles of society. Simply put, the Don's story is an adventure tale of an elderly gentleman who leads the fantasy life of a knight-errant. Reality and illusion are both questioned. Just read it. Don Quixote is one awesome book.
2. On-Site: New Architecture in Spain by Terence Riley
Covering all of Spain, this publication features 53 current architectural projects. In recent years, Spain has become known as an international center for design innovation. The designs and illustrations in On-Site validate the buzz. Published in conjunction with a New York Museum of Modern Art's exhibit, the book is visually stunning and full of great information. The book includes 514 illustrations.
3. The New Spaniards by John Hooper
This review of Spanish society might include a little too much info for most visitors to ingest. Those with a detail-minded interest in the world, however, will be thrilled. Chapters on the press and television are brimming with detail. Not-quite-so-detailed chapters on arts, film and Spain's regions are equally enjoyable.
4. Madrid: A Cultural and Literary Companion by Elizabeth Nash
Author Elizabeth Nash brings Madrid alive. Her collection of stories and anecdotes pull readers into the breathing, pulsing city of Madrid in a way that standard guidebooks do not. Learn why "tertuillias" literati hung out where they did. Find out which squares served which purpose during the Spanish Inquisition. Read about the college residence hall where Dalí, Buñuel, and García Lorca discovered art and inspired each other. Nash's book is a good, fast-paced informative read.
5. Five Plays: Comedies and Tragicomedies by Federico García Lorca
Born near Granada, Federico García Lorca sort of attended the University of Madrid, skipping lectures to devote himself to modernism. He devoured the works of modernist writers and became friends with Dalí and Buñuel. Over the course of his career as a writer, he revitalized the Spanish romance. His master works include The Gypsy Ballads and Mariana Pineda, the latter counting as his first commercial success. This collection of works includes the hard-to-find The Butterfly's Evil Spell.
6. Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett (We threw in a bonus.)
Giles Tremlett opens the Pandora's Box of Spain's tumultuous past in this poignant, passionate look at Spanish history and its effect on life today. Ghosts of Spain delves into some of the most difficult and perplexing trials of Spain's past, from the casualties of the civil war to conflicts with the Basques and Catalans. Tremlett draws on his twenty-year experience as living in Madrid to relate one after another of fascinating stories and anecdotes.