If you want to get a different view of Barcelona from the tourist information offered in guidebooks, then there are several classics worth cramming into your backpack before a visit. From art historian Robert Hughes to political thinker George Orwell and local novelists such as Carlos Ruiz Zafon, here are some excellent reads which are about or based in Barcelona...
Fiction Books Set in Barcelona
In terms of historical novels, Illdefonso Falcones' The Cathedral of The Sea is a superb start. A bestselling epic about the trials and triumphs of the men who built the beautiful Santa Marìa del Mar church in the El Born district, it's full of the sights, scents and sadism of life in religiously and socially turbulent medieval Barcelona, and a loving tribute to perhaps the finest Gothic basilica in Spain.
Another stirring story set in Barcelona is Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
Set in the Franco era, Zafon takes us on a nostalgic guided tour of Barcelona's most atmospheric corners, from the chlaustrophobic streets of El Raval to the grandiose boulevards of Tibidabo. The book was such a success there are now guided Shadow of the Wind tours around Barcelona, following in the footsteps of the hero, Daniel Sempere, who is followed by a ghostly figure with a dark past.
Books About Barcelona's Architecture
If you want to get stuck into Barcelona's unique architecture then try Robert Hughes' Barcelona. An Australian art historian, Hughes offers both a personal and objective view of Barcelona's treasure chest of buildings. Not only does Hughes focus on Barcelona's architecture, but also on its history, and the eccentricities and traits of its industrious, creative, independent-spirited citizens. The detailed descriptions of the buildings along Las Ramblas are a particular treat.
Barcelona Sport BooksIf football offers a unique insight into the Catalan national character, then Jimmy Burns' biography - simple called Barça - of the club that professes to be 'more than just a club' is a must-read. Being into football helps.
Books About Barcelona's Political History
For a more political view of Barcelona read George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. Political visionary Orwell couldn't have predicted the scale of confusion in the Civil-War torn 1930s Barcelona before signing up as an officer in the left-wing international brigades. One of the highlights - or lowlights, really - is an engaging description of fighting in the city's streets.