The charms of Madrid have been, for the most part, ignored up until the last decade, when people have finally woken up to the historical and anecdotal goldmine that is Madrid.
Winter in Madrid, by CJ Sansom is a novel set against the backdrop of post-civi war 1940’s Spain, suffering from repression, food shortages and poverty under Franco’s dictatorship. The protagonist Harry Brett, a veteran of Dunkirk, is reluctantly pushed into the fray to spy on an ex-school friend who has become a shady businessman in Madrid.
Mad Dogs and an English Girl: A Stranger in Franco’s Spain, by Caroline Waterman, is a portrait of Spain under Franco as painted by an English outsider who has come to teach English. The protagonist is confronted with a time warp, where servants are still beaten by their owners, women are suppressed and barefoot beggar children and chauvinistic man contrast with the beautiful scenery, unbelievable hospitality and passionate love.
Stories from Spain: Historias de España (Side by Side Bilingual Books) offers 18 well known Spanish legends, allowing insight into Spanish culture as well as offering English and Spanish versions side by side, giving you the option of improving your Spanish. The legends span over 1000 years of Spanish myth and folklore, starting with the oldest and gradually working up to the modern classics.
Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country’s Secret Past, by Giles Tremlett, offers a rare insight into the Spanish mentality in regards to the Civil War and its repercussions on the modern Spanish society. Tremlett uncovers many of Spain’s paradoxes, such as how outspoken citizens keep silent over the horrors of the civil war, how women embraced feminism without the men noticing and the formidable invisible lines separating Catalans, Basques and Madrileños. However, this book is more than dry facts, with Tremlett adding a personal element, as he tries to discover what makes Spaniards tick.
A Cultural History of Madrid: Modernism and the Urban Spectacle, by Deborah Parsons, concentrates on the Madrid phenomenon from 1900-1930. Far from being the glowing beacon of Castilian life, it shows a truly multicultural population with less than half of its population made up of citizens indigenous to the city. Books in English printed about Madrid are rare. Rarer still is a book that does not focus on the Civil War but the interconnectedness of popular culture and the creation of the cosmopolitan personality that developed during this time in Madrid. Parsons also delves into the blurring between classes and the blending of traditional cultures with new media, as well as the beginning of mass consumerism.
Madrid: A Cultural and Literary History (Cities of the Imagination), by Elizabeth Nash, explores how the geographical placement of Madrid has impacted the city’s sense of self and what it offers the rest of the world. Madrid’s isolation from outside influences has created a curious mix of traditions, as well as an exuberant nightlife and the mentality that business stands in the way of a good lunch. Instead of being forced to change, Madrid is flourishing in the modern world.
Madrid: City Guide by Antony Ham. Lonely Planet guides are famous for helping readers navigate an unfamiliar place. Madrid’s winding streets and many plazas are beautiful, but confusing, and this guide provides a description of all the city sights, paying special importance to the bar, clubs and cafés. The guide also offers choices for a variety of budgets.
Madrid (Time Out Madrid) by Sally Davis. This book guides you through Madrid’s cultural attractions, whether it’s spectacular opera productions or flamenco, cutting-edge or traditional cuisine, designer-shoe shopping or flea markets. This guide was written by journalist residents in the city, thereby giving real insight into how to best use your time.
A Late Dinner: Discovering the Food of Spain, by Paul Richardson, shares not only recipes, but explains the Spanish mentality about food and how it is meant to be savored and never rushed. Richardson goes beyond the familiar paella and uses food to discuss the intricacy of Spanish culture and the regional difference between the autonomous communities.
Menu del Día: More Than 100 Classic Authentic Recipes from Spain, by Rohan Daft, is written by a chef who escaped London after founding a failed restaurant and went to Barcelona, falling in love with food all over again. By wandering through food markets and watching how food was prepared, Daft decided to hitchhike through Spain in order to compile his favorite authentic Spanish recipes. However, this book is more than just dry recipes, it’s anecdotes about where he found the recipes and historical facts about how the dish was originally created and why.