For a flavour of the country and it’s people check out our list of books about Portugal to read before you visit.
Fiction Books Set in Portugal
Night Train to Lisbon
A philosophically intense mystery set in Lisbon. The protagonist is a Swiss classics teacher, Raimund Gregrious. After a chance meeting with a Portuguese woman he abandons his old life to start a new one. He takes the night train to Lisbon and carries with him a book by a Portuguese doctor and esssayist, Amadeu de Prado. Gregrious becomes obsessed by what he reads and restlessly struggles to comprehend the life of the author. His investigations lead him all over Lisbon in search of clues. As he gets swept up in his quest, he finds the journey is one of self-discovery.
One of Portugal’s most beloved writers, Eça de Queiros, is famed for his depictions of 19th century life One of his most famous books set in Lisbon, The Maias, traces the declining fortune of a wealthy family of landowners over three generations. The story is played out against a backdrop of 19th century Portuguese politics and social history.
António Tabucchi was an expert on Portuguese literature. His celebrated novel Perreira Maintains set in 1930s Portugal is a passionate warning against political complacency. Dr Perreira an overweight widower journalist resident in prewar Lisbon is coming to terms with the rise of fascism around him and its insidious impact on his work. One day he meets Monteiro Rossi, an aspiring young writer, who changes everything. Perreira reluctantly rises to heroism and the novel ends with his commitment to a truly selfless political action. What makes this short novel unique is the language and its experimental style.
The Year of The Death of Ricardo Reis
This is a novel by Portuguese author José Saramago, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for literature. Set in prewar fascist Lisbon, it juxtaposes the romantic involvements of its narrator, a poet-physician who returns from a sixteen year sojourn in Brazil, with long dialogues that examine human nature as revealed in Portuguese history and culture.
The Piano Cemetery
Set in the working-class district of Benefica in Lisbon. The Piano Cemetery is a Portuguese family saga about two generations of carpenters who would rather repair pianos. Peixoto weaves the tragic true story of the marathon-runner, Francisco Lázaro, into a rich narrative of love, betrayal, domestic happiness and dashed hopes.
The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon
A compelling murder mystery and historical novel. The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon is set amid the anti-Jewish riots that swept Lisbon in the 16th century. The main character, Berekiah Zarco, has learned manuscript illustration and Kabbalah (Judaism’s mystical tradition) from his beloved uncle Abraham. In the midst of the riots, Berekiah discovers his uncle murdered in a hidden cellar of their home. Unravelling the mystery of his uncle’s murder leads Berekiah to discover the answer to an even greater and more important mystery.
Morgan Nyberg, the Canadian author of this novel lived in Portugal for over a decade and the story is set in a fictional Portuguese city. Mr. Millenium follows the misadventures of Gabor Esterhazy, a bright, young but troubled manual labourer who is taken under the very shady wing of a secret society. Their claim: that he is descended from Jesus Christ by way of Hungarian aristocracy. But Gabor goes determinedly off the rails and his journey towards happiness becomes a dark and comic shambles of lust, deceit and mortal danger.
Non-Fiction Books about Portugal
Portugal: A Companion History
If you are looking for Portuguese history books, Portugal: A Companion History, is one of the best books on Portugal written for non-specialist foreign readers. An illustrated brief history of Portugal it includes a detailed chronology, glossary, reference list, page index and black and white photographs of mostly oil paintings
My Lisbon: A Cookbook from Portugal’s City of Light
If you like travel and food cultures then this is the book for you. The author, Nuno Mendes, is an internationally renowned Portuguese chef who shares recipes inspired by the dishes he loves. With luminous photography shot on location and interesting food stories it brings to life Portugal’s magnificent capital city and its fabulous cuisine.
Wild Guide Portugal: Hidden Places, Great Adventures and the Good Life
This is one of those travel books about Portugal for those dreaming up the ultimate wild escape and families seeking new adventures off the beaten track. Discover the hidden treasures of Portugal away from the much frequented coastal resorts. Find magical places to stay and enjoy the very best local and artisan food. Experience the festas, village traditions and dramatic landscapes of Portugal.