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I say it a lot, but if you’re planning a move to Portugal, it’s simply not possible to do too much research.
Before we moved, a small collection of books about Portugal helped to answer questions, inspire us and increase our excitement levels.
After three years here, we’re still finding more to read and our Portugal book collection continues to expand. For some time, I have been intending to produce a list of all of these books for those interested in starting a similar collection of their own. I’ve finally got round to it and have included links to all of the books on Amazon UK (in red). Enjoy, and please read right to the end for an exciting announcement!
Moving abroad / Moving to Portugal
Buying Property in Portugal by Gabrielle Collison is the first book I recommend to people planning a move, and not just because it includes a case study on my wife and I! The book was updated in 2011 and contains a ton of useful and (importantly) current information.
Live and Work in Portugal is another tome we referred to before we moved. Sadly, it hasn’t been updated in several years and, let’s face it, the world was a very different place economically in 2005. Still, it’s cheap and worth a read!
Au Revoir Angleterre: Making a Go of Moving Abroad is essential reading for every potential expat. It addresses all of the typical rose-tinted dreams of wannabe-migrants and dishes up a valuable dose of reality. It’s not a book designed to put anybody off – more as a reality check.
Should I Stay or Should I Go delivers more of the same and, to be frank, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In tight economic times moving abroad is a huge decision and one that may not be as easy to reverse as it was five years ago. Money spent on a reality check is money well spent.
Tales from a Travelling Mum by Alice Griffin isn’t, strictly speaking, a moving abroad book, but I include it here as it is invaluable reading for anyone travelling or moving with young children. Alongside her engaging narrative, Alice provides many useful tips for travelling with kids in a stress-free way and the book was much appreciated by friends of ours who brought their 8-month old son here to Portugal for his first holiday.
There are no end of Portuguese language-learning books, so I have concentrated here on those that have worked for us.
Teach Yourself Complete Portuguese was the first course we used, and having the CD in the car over a period of time was what taught us to deal competently with greetings, shops and restaurants. It’s been modernized and revamped since we used it too.
Earworms Portuguese is a bit different, as it uses music to drum in basic words and phrases – well worth importing to an iPod for walks and runs.
BBC Active Portuguese is our Portuguese tutor’s book of choice and follows a good, logical way of teaching the language, similar to how you may have learned languages at school.
501 Portuguese verbs is an essential once you get a little further down the line. It’s hard work and heavy going and more of a reference book than a course, but with a language with so many irregular verbs, it is a necessary purchase.
Essential Portuguese Grammar is another must and probably the book we now refer to the most.
Rosetta Stone is the big-daddy of language courses, and those with the money to afford it could do a lot worse – it does work and some family members have used it with good results. Note, however, that it teaches you Brazilian Portuguese – which is like learning American before moving to London.
Travel and Inspiration
We are residents and not tourists, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need guidebooks, both to learn about our own area and for when we go exploring.
AA Keyguide Portugal is probably my favourite of all. We constantly refer back to it, primarily because it includes some fantastic car tours and walks which are great for getting a quick sense of a new area.
The DK Top 10 Algarve book is another of my favourites, as much for the design and layout as for the information. We tend to get one of these whenever we visit somewhere new.
DK’s Eyewitness Travel Guide to Portugal is also a great choice, and has just been updated (as of June 2012) – I will be ordering the new version myself soon.
The Rough Guide to Portugal is also frequently thumbed in our house, but it seems to me to be a little overdue for an update right now.
Walking in the Algarve is a must for the active and was heavily used when my niece visited to train for the 3-Peaks challenge in the UK.
Living in Portugal by Anne de Stoop is in a category all of its own and is my one Portugal-related “coffee table book.” It contains loads of history and some gorgeous photography. Before we moved here it may us feel extremely wistful!
Food and Drink
I could write about foodie books all day long, so this section has been intentionally kept short to only include my favourites!
The Wine and Food Lovers Guide to Portugal is a beautiful book and contains information on vineyards, restaurants and speciality dishes in each area. This book was my constant companion when the days running up to our move date seemed to drag on forever.
Piri Piri Starfish was a gift from my niece and is my favourite Portuguese cook book. As well as beautiful black and white photography it includes lots of inspiring writing about Portuguese food along with the recipes.
Lonely Planet’s World Food Portugal is fabulous and includes historical information, a Portuguese food glossary, details on regional specialties and a scattering of recipes. As far as I can work out, the book is now out of print, so I would suggest grabbing one of the handful of second hand copies stil available via Amazon.
More Portugal Reading
The First Global Village is a really easy to read and engaging tome on Portuguese history – and that is coming from someone who usually sticks to the five page historical round-ups in the back of the guidebooks! Amazon has the book, but it is pricey – for those visiting Faro airport, they have it cheaper in the newsagents in departures!
Night Train to Lisbon gets a mention here as it is one of few English language books set in Portugal. It is a soulful, poetic book that my wife enjoyed, as did several members of our book club – it didn’t really float my boat though, to be honest.
A Small Death in Lisbon is a more engaging choice, in my opinion, and based on its “Gold Dagger” award for best crime novel I’m not alone. Perfect for providing a sense of atmosphere whilst on a sunlounger!
Nobody’s Son by Maria Serpa is less well known, but comes on recommendation from my wife. We were approached to review the book and she enjoyed the romantic tale centered around a child abandoned at birth on the Portuguese island of Pico, in the Azores. The book has a somewhat quirky translation but is well worth a read, even for those not usually attracted to romantic novels.
Now you’ve got to the end of that, it’s time for my announcement:
Very soon, I will be able to add another book to this list. For the past 18 months, my wife and I have been working on a book telling the story of our move to Portugal.
The book is in two parts – the first is a narrative of our first two years in Portugal, told from my wife’s perspective. This is almost all new material that has not previously been featured here – so while long-term blog readers may recognise some events and situations, they should find plenty new to enjoy. The second section provides practical information on moving to Portugal – some has been adapted from the blog, but the majority is brand new.
Stay tuned for information on the book, which will be available through Amazon, directly from me, and via the Kindle store. If you haven’t already, subscribe to updates to be the first to know when it becomes available.