8 inspiring books to read before you visit Portugal

From a Portuguese colouring book to Fernando Pessoa’s existential classic, Jude Brosnan from Stanfords Books reviews 8 fantastic reads if you love Portugal or are thinking of visiting

3 mins

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

Buy it here: http://www.stanfords.co.uk/The-High-Mountains-of-Portugal

Shortlisted for a 2016 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award, this book is considered Yann Martel’s best work since Life of Pi. Weaving together three different stories set throughout Portugal, decades apart in 1904, 1938, and in the 1980s.

Each story tackles the theme of grief and it is interesting to look at grief and how it comes hand-in-hand with loneliness and how both subjects work so well when presented against stories with a strong sense of place.

In true Yann Martell style, he has created wonderfully layered characters. The narrative is at times humorous and the story is often characteristically surreal and mysterious.



Walk & Eat Madeira by John and Pat Underwood

Buy it here: http://www.stanfords.co.uk/Madeira-Walk-and-Eat

This guide from Sunflower Books is designed for short-break walking holidays on Madeira. It suggests 13 walks and two excursions all around the island with restaurant recommendations on route and 26 recipes for local dishes so you can recreate Madeiran dishes at home.

The walks range from easy, flat routes along levadas (irrigation channels) to moderate hillside hikes. All of which can be easily reached by public transport. The first excursion is a cable car ride to the hills about Funchal that can be a starting point for a couple of the walks.

The second is a highly recommended bus trip that covers the north and west of the island and again can incorporate walks. Mini-menus of the featured restaurants are included listing some of their specialities. With helpful tips and facts throughout this

Culture Smart! Portugal


Buy it here: http://www.stanfords.co.uk/Portugal-Culture-Smart

This is the essential guide to customs and culture. It takes you beneath the surface of this fascinating country and shows you how to blend in and make the most of your visit.

Contents includes; local customs and traditions, the impact of history, religion and politics, the Portuguese at home, work and play, eating and drinking, dos and don’ts and taboos, business practices, communication (spoken and unspoken) and many more practical tips.

Split into nine distinct chapters so it is easy to find the reference needed and it is interspersed with images and fact boxes. This guide is particularly helpful if you have business plans as the chapters on Business Briefing and Communicating are very interesting.



Bradt Alentejo by Alex Robinson

Buy it here: http://www.stanfords.co.uk/Alentejo

Published in January last year, this is the first guide dedicated solely to this glorious, little-visited area above the Algarve. If you are a fan of Baroque churches, Renaissance art, Moorish forts, wildflower meadows and amazing wine, you’ll love Alentejo.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a chain hotel or a shopping mall as this region is still full of locally owned small shops selling handmade produce. Alex Robinson provides intrepid hikers, history enthusiasts and avid gastronomes alike with a wealth of background information and practical advice on this remarkable little region in Portugal’s South. True to form for a Bradt guide, this one contains great maps and colour photography.




The History of the Siege of Lisbon by Jose Saramago

Buy it here: http://www.stanfords.co.uk/The-History-of-the-Siege-of-Lisbon

It would be a crime not to include Jose Saramago on this list. When he died in 2010, Portugal declared two days of mourning. The Nobel Prize winning author wrote many novels featuring historic and political events as allegories.

In this book, a proof-reader at a publishing house in Lisbon changes a sentence in a historical text and alters the whole course of the 1147 Siege of Lisbon.

It becomes his job to correct things by literally rewriting history. In doing so he obviously omits his bachelor present and writes himself some romance. Don’t stop here, read as much Saramago as possible.




The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

Buy it here: http://www.stanfords.co.uk/The-Book-of-Disquiet

Fernando Pessoa was a prolific Portuguese poet and writer famous for his heteronyms which are more than just pseudonyms, they are alter ego characters, each with distinct biographies, philosophies, writing styles and appearances.

He is said to have up to 72 heteronyms. After his death in Lisbon in 1935, a trunk was found containing over 25,000 items, including collections of poems, letters and journals, from which The Book of Disquiet is a selection.

Described as existential literature, there are hints of absurdist in this mosaic from the minds of one of Portugal’s greatest minds. It is designed to be picked up and read at any point.




Colorir Portugal

Buy it here: http://www.stanfords.co.uk/Colorir-Portugal

Turns out colouring in wasn’t just a phase. As more and more people are trying it out as a mindful form of relaxation, sales remain strong. Portuguese architecture is brimming with geometric patterns that can be seen on flooring, stucco-work on ceilings, stained glass and is famous azulejo glazed coloured tiles.

This 96-page colouring book is printed on high quality paper so is ideal for pencils, felt tip pens and watercolours. It also includes six coloured pages to make origami models.  The index lists what style each pattern is from Moorish to Majolica so you if you are going to look at architecture, you can familiarise yourself with what is in store.


Wild Guide Portugal by Edwina Pitcher

Buy it here: http://www.stanfords.co.uk/The-Wild-Guide-Portugal-Hidden-Places-Great-Adventures-and-the-Good-Life

From the Wild Guide series, this guide shows you Portugal’s wild side. If you like wild swimming, camping, exploring and outdoor adventures, this guide tells you about the hidden treasures of the better known tourist areas and the lesser-known coastal and mountain regions.

It contains detailed listings and wonderful colour photography so you can plan a wild escape that includes waterfalls, blue lagoons, secret beaches, sea caves, rock stacks and islands to canoe to.It also recommends vineyards, restaurants, fresh seafood and local produce markets as well as campsites, farm stays and luxurious retreats. Each wild place can be located using the overview map provided at the end of each chapter.

Main image: Lisbon skyline (Dreamstime)

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