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If you are planning a trip to Bogotá and want to discover more about the city before your visit, there are plenty of great books and guides you can get hold of and read. From practical guidebooks to novels, here are the best seven books about Bogotà to read before your trip to Colombia.
While Bogotá is only part of the setting of Tom Feiling’s excellent book (the ‘short walks’ aspect indicates the travels Feiling took all around the country), the city is examined with a wonderful eye for detail and fascinating historical context. Short Walks from Bogotá is really required reading for any trip to Colombia, but it’s a great book to pick up in order to understand the makings of modern Bogotá, and how the city has grown and developed, especially in the latter half of the 20th century.
With 160 pages of information on every aspect of Bogotá, from history to the best attractions and restaurants, this edition of the excellent Moon series of travel guides is perhaps the best traditional guidebook about the capital of Colombia. With great full-colour maps, travel itineraries and a section on Bogotá’s history and culture, this is the perfect book to buy to help you plan out your time in Bogotá and really make the most of your time in the city.
Set in Bogotá during the turbulent mid-1980s, Laura Restrepo’s award-winning and critically acclaimed novel explores themes of cultural instability, among others. Telling the tale of a man whose wife undergoes a dramatic and sudden descent into madness and delirium, the novel shines a light on a difficult period in Bogotá’s history while also being a compelling and excellent read.
Billed as ‘the non-guide to Bogotá’, this alternative (and bilingual) walking guide to the city is a joint venture from Richard McColl, a British journalist behind the popular Colombia Calling podcast, and Diana Guerra Amaya, the founder of the tour company 5Bogotá. The book shines a light on the forgotten and lesser-known stories of the city, and is the ideal travel companion for any traveller wishing to go beyond the usual tourist attractions and learn something new about the Colombian capital. With beautifully illustrated maps and even a space for personal notes, this book, although newly published, is already essential.
Perhaps the best modern novel written about Bogotá, The Sound of Things Falling captures the city during periods of violence and hardship in both the 1990s and the 1970s when the drug war and the violence behind it was only just beginning. With an absorbing eye for detail and a clear love for Bogotá, Juan Gabriel Vasquez shines a light on the psychology of living in the city during the worst years of violence and offers an engrossing portrait of what Bogotá is, and what it once was.
A collection of short stories by 16 different Bogotá-based writers, including both locals and foreigners living in the city, Voices of Bogotá offers a variety of unique perspectives and narrative voices and takes any reader on a journey through the city. The sheer variety of stories and the imagination on show makes for a compulsively readable little collection (it’s just over 200 pages in length), and you will certainly learn more about the city by reading it.
While not strictly a Bogotá book, this handy guide to Colombian Spanish is still essential reading regardless of whereabouts you are planning to visit in Colombia. Certainly the most complete guide to Colombian Spanish available today, Colombian Spanish goes deeper than most language guidebooks, by really examining Colombian slang, meaning that you will learn to talk how Colombians actually talk, rather than simply learning classical Spanish, much of which doesn’t apply in Bogotá or other regions of Colombia. If you’re planning to move to Bogotá, this is essential.