There is something magical about actually being in the place you are reading about...

I don’t know about you, but when I travel there is nothing I like better than losing myself in a book set in the place I am currently getting lost in! Right?  ☺ There is something magical about actually being in the place you are reading about. It takes the experience and immersion to a whole other level. So, while you are studying English with Hablamos, why don’t you pick up one of these great books set in or around Madrid to immerse yourself in the city and its history?

Here are some of suggestions for books to read. They are written in English (because a long book all in Spanish may be a little daunting in the early stages of your Spanish studies!), but they are full of Spanish expressions which help you  both learn the language and also get to know the culture of Madrid.

Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom

If you are a fan of historical fiction like me, you could do a lot worse than pick up this gem. Sansom is perhaps more famous for his depictions of Tudor England but in this novel he crafts a truly gripping and emotional experience set in Madrid. Unlike most of his other books, Winter in Madrid is set in a post-civil war Spain suffering from the aftermath of years of brutal conflict. Sansom has an amazing ability to create characters and stories that are fictional but expertly woven into real-world events of the time. The story is about an English spy during the Spanish civil war and his exploits in Madrid after the war ends. Sansom masterfully describes worlds that are so vivid and real that you can almost smell what he is describing. It is a must-read for history lovers and for people who want to learn more about Spain’s tragic past.

Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett

Though not strictly confined to Madrid, Ghosts of Spain is an excellent book for those hoping to gain an insight into what makes Spain tick and what makes Spaniards so…..Spanish, ha ha!  Giles Tremlett is the Spanish  correspondent for the British newspaper The Guardian and has spent more than 30 years living in Spain, including being married to a Spaniard and raising a family here. This means that he is perfectly placed to shine a light on Spain as someone who knows it intimately but also is able to remain neutral and objective about its history and indeed present. Ghosts of Spain is well worth a look for those of you who want to know why Spain is the way it is – warts and all! It is funny in moments and profound in others and is a great introduction into understanding the geopolitical drama for which Spain is famous.

Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner

Whether you are staying in Madrid temporarily or for the long haul, Leaving the Atocha station will speak to anyone who has lived abroad and away from the home comforts and things they are used to. 

The novel follows a young poet who has recently been awarded a fellowship in Madrid and explores his experience of the city and its people. With some genuinely funny moments and equally dramatic and literally explosive passages this book is ideal for those who want to read about, and identify with, the very experience they are living themselves.

Errant in Iberia by Ben Curtis

Our next book continues along the familiar theme of the expat living abroad in Spain and the trials and tribulations that accompany it. It is a biographical tale of a young man who moves to Madrid (in particular Lavapies one of Madrid’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, where he must navigate love, family, vecinos and whatever else Spain throws at him. It is a great pick up for anyone wanting to read about expat life in this wonderful city. 

House of the Deaf by Lamar Herrin

While we all like a smile and laugh when thumbing through our current best seller, sometimes we want to have something deeper and altogether more poignant. If that is your case House of the Deaf is for anyone who wants a darker look at Spanish culture. Set in the aftermath of an ETA (Spanish separatist movement) bombing in which a father must come to terms with the death of his child and his search for answers lead him to some very dark places and asks some big questions of the underlying tensions in Spanish society both then and now. 

So, Happy Reading! ☺

I am sure that there are many other great options that have not been included here, so why not ask your classmates or teacher in Hablamos for their recommendations and find out what some of their favourite books are to learn a little more about this great city you’ve decide to call home for a while.  

Useful Vocabulary:

La lectura (reading)
Comprensión de lectura (reading comprehension)
Un libro que no se puede dejar (a book you can’t put down)
El autor / autora / escritor (author / writer)
Publicado por (published by)
Un libro de tapa dura / blanda (a hardback / softback book)
Se lleva a cabo / Tiene lugar en .. (it takes place in…)
Tiene un estilo informal (an informal style)
El libro tiene muy buena crítica (the book has very good reviews)
¿Me puedes recomendar algún libro sobre..? (could you recommend me a book about ..)
Te lo recomiendo (I can recommend it)
Tengo que acabarlo, no puedo parar ahora (I have to finish it, I can’t stop now)
Se trata de / habla de .. (it’s about ..)
Un ratón de biblioteca (a bookworm)

Hablamos - full-on Spanish!