Tuuu Libreria: My Favorite Madrid Bookstore, by Valerie Kramer

January 27th, 2015 by

Tuuu Librería Foto !Conveniently located on Calle Covarrubias 38, right near the Alonso Martínez metro stop, this very original bookstore was founded in September 2012 as “Librería Libre.” The idea was that all the books would be totally “libre” or free! Yup, you could take away as many as you could carry, no strings attached, and I did! I read an article about it that very month and, as I am an old-fashioned book lover (no e-books for me), I ran right on over there to check it out! They explained that the books were indeed free but that they needed around 350 members (the membership cost 12 Euros for the whole year or no more than the price of a book or two) to cover expenses, so I joined right then and there. They have a small but rapidly rotating section in English (reading in Spanish is still “work” for me). I never leave empty handed, although my new rule (really it was imposed by my husband due to space limits) is that I must donate at least as many books as I take. Well, what happened?

They, unfortunately, did not get enough members that first trial year. Was it the crisis? Is this indicative of Spanish culture? I am no sociologist, so I can only speculate on the reasons… Indeed, the bookstore was modelled after a free bookstore in Baltimore, USA (check it out at which seems to get by with the original “totally free” formula. At any rate, luckily for me, and maybe for you too, they did not shut down but rather they decided to change the name and tweak the strategy: now it is called “Tu Librería” and you may still join for 12 euros per annum or leave whatever donation you’d like each time you visit (this is required but you decide how much to donate each time to take a book, or as many books as you can carry). When you check out, the volunteer will stamp each book in order to identify it as a book from Tu Librería that cannot be bought or sold.

As for other practical stuff, the bookstore is open every day, including Sundays and holidays,from 12 to 8pm and takes donations of all types of books (except textbooks) in all languages until 6pm daily. You can also donate your time as a volunteer. Only one worker is on staff (you can see on the web that she earns €1,575 per month including her Social Security payments and, I assure you, she is worth every Euro Penny!). All of the other workers helping out there are volunteers. I am happy to say, and I was a financial analyst for 20 years, that the accounts of every month are now posted on the web for example, in September 2014, total revenues were €3,512 and total expenses were €2,457, so it’s working!

Tuuu Librería Foto 2

Other than the book store on Calle Covarrubias 38, the has a lot of other interesting projects (all related to reading and/or education) which you can find out about (in Spanish) on their website(s) including: setting up libraries and stocking them with books (overflow from Tu Librería) in Spain and Latam, running tutoring programs, awarding 25 scholarships to deserving students from low-income backgrounds in Bolivia every year, and more! Donating my old books never felt so wonderful and my tidy hubby is really happy about that (actually he “forced me” to donate four boxes of books this summer; It was difficult, but I didn’t really mind giving them to Tu Librería since I know others will enjoy them and now I have loads of room to pick up new ones! I hope to see you at Tu Librería! There really is something for every book lover: besides the art book section and English section, there are sections on all different topics in Spanish, loads of children’s books (some in English and other languages), and also DVDs (at a cost of €1 each).

Every time I am in the area I stop in. I have gone there with several INC pals and, I assure you, they left with a pile of books each time. I even took my Artist mom from Chicago there during her recent visit and she ended up having to rearrange her packing to fit in a huge heavy hardback book on Spanish ceramics that she was thrilled with! Anyway, so much for my first contribution to the INC blog! I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to hearing what you think of Tu Libreria! Valerie Kramer: Telephone for Tuuu Libreria:+34 91 282 1001

TAKE FIVE – by Anne Pinder

February 4th, 2014 by

Anne Pinder recommends the following books to help one learn about Spain

Traveler, new arrival or long-time resident, you can always discover more about Spain – and books can help!

The books below are all readable, informative and some very entertaining.  All are available at least on Amazon , though maybe not as e-books. Some of the English language bookstores in Madrid might have them – and if they don’t might be able to order them for you.  For a longer reading list at  then click on  Cultural Tips to find the reading list.


The Story of Spain, by Mark Williams.

If you only have time or energy for one history book this is a good choice:  an overview from prehistoric times up through the present. Instead of concentrating on every single date, this book gives the major events and their context, as well as the ongoing themes in Spanish history.


Ghosts of Spain, by Giles Tremlett   

Social history or light anthropology:  this book covers important ongoing topics in Spanish history or everyday life.

The New Spaniards, by John Hooper has a similar focus but is a bit denser and has a more scholarly tone.


A Woman Unknown, by Lucia Graves

This book is about growing up bi-cultural and tri-lingual on the island of Mallorca during Franco’s time. A good read for everyone to see how much Spain has changed;  good also to compare / contrast with your own culture (especially if you remember the 1960’s!). The author is the daughter of English writer Robert Graves.



Winter in Madrid, by C.J. Sansom

Love story, thriller and more, set in Madrid right after the Spanish Civil War. A few inaccuracies about Madrid geography (I only noticed because it’s set partly in my neighborhood) but the feeling is on target. A must read to understand why the Civil War is still hard to discuss in today’s Spain.


A Dying Light in Cordoba, by Lindsay Davis

Murder mystery set in Cordoba in Roman times, with olive oil as a major part of the story. Davis’ character Marcus Didius Falco (a Roman private eye featured in most of her books) and his wife Helena try to unravel the plot.

For a longer reading list at  then click on  Cultural Tips to find the reading list.



The Outsider – by Marjorie Kanter

December 3rd, 2013 by

The Outsider
by Marjorie Kanter

the baby was born in spain.

it was
in the early 21st

the spanish nurse
who delivered the baby
being the first to observe its little body
announced to the mother (in english)
that the baby was the bearer of
twenty fingers.

the american mother
all alone at this frightening moment
in this foreign land
burst into uncontrollable tears.

the doctor who
was still present
asked the nurse
(in spanish),
what’s the matter
with this woman.

the nurse
said to the doctor
(in spanish),
i don’t know.
i just told her
she has a perfect
and beautiful baby.
you know,
veinte deditos
y todo.

the doctor said,
just another hysterical woman.
sedate that woman.
and don’t let her near
the baby,
we can’t have
this hysteria here.

the mother
seeing the needle approaching her,
screamed louder,
but could do nothing
to stop the shot.

before she conked out
she could still be heard gritando,
let me see my baby.

the spanish husband
and saw his
in the nursery.

he asked (the nurses),
why isn’t the baby with its mother

they looked at the chart and said,
was hysterical
for no reason at all
so we had to knock her out,
sedate her.
she’ll calm down
she sees you.

after sometime
(the mother finally woke up)
and found her husband there
sitting by her side
and she said,
our baby has too many fingers.

the father said,
i saw our darling and he is perfect.
all the right appendages.
veinte bellos deditos.

the mother said,
the nurse said, he has twenty fingers.

the father said,
claro, naturally, como díos manda.

the baby was brought in
and the mother quickly and carefully
examined her child.

she counted five tiny fingers
on each tiny hand
five teeny toes
on each little foot.

she was relieved, but left in a state of confusion.

and it was too much and she was too tired and
too happy all at the same time to try to sort it out.


“The Outsider” came about in a different fashion than most of my work. I usually start with a real event or a thought, something that has happened (the narrative pieces) or with a phrase that just pops into my mind (the non-narrative pieces).

This is how “The Outsider” came about. It started with a little essence piece that I shared with bilingual members of a writer’s group I was participating in some five or ten years ago.


On my feet
I have fingers.

I was surprised when no one understood my intent. Perhaps frustrated or just plain motivated to communicate the meaning of that little piece, I went home and wrote “The Outsider”. “The Outsider” comes out of a lot of feelings I had at the time related to medical mess ups and treatment, but has no content basis in reality. The story is pure fantasy.

Marjorie Kanter, Madrid, November 18, 2009

Originally published (with slight modifications) in “Courting the Bull”, Edited by Sarah E. Rogers, Innoword Media. Available in Courting the Bull and in offprint paper published format by La Espiral Escrita.

Identities and Reconciliation – by Marjorie Kanter

October 9th, 2013 by

When two languages
or culturesJellyfish
contradict each other
and you live inside both of them,

Marjorie Kanter

Author Marjorie Kanter, writes, installs the word in public places, facilitates performative interventions and gives workshops. She will be giving journal keeping workshops this fall amongst other things.

You can contact her at and read more about her on her web at

María Dueñas to speak at Instituto Internacional in April

March 19th, 2013 by

The International Newcomers Club of Madrid (INC) is pleased to invite members and non-members to join us on Wednesday, April 17 for a presentation (in English), question & answer session and book signing by best-selling author María Dueñas. Location, cost and RSVP process at the end of the article.

maria.duenasMaría Dueñas holds a PhD in English Philology; she has been a professor at the University of Murcia and has held temporary positions at universities elsewhere in Spain as well as the US. The author of several academic articles, Dueñas has participated in various educational, cultural and editorial projects.

INC is trying to arrange the sale of her two novels at the event. Her most recent novel Misión Olvido has only been released in Spanish to date. However, Dueñas’ first novel El tiempo entre costuras will hopefully be available along with the translation The Seamstress (British version). Review: …chapters zip by at a pulsing pace. — USA Today If you happened to purchase a copy in the US, the book was printed under the title The Time in Between.

The Seamstress

Seamstress-coverThe Seamstress transports the reader to Spain, northern Morocco and Portugal in the 1930s through the life of its main character, a talented seamstress named Sira Quiroga. Although a work of fiction, the structure of the novel is based on historical accuracy; and Dueñas was able to draw on the experiences of family members who lived for many years in Spanish-occupied Morocco. In one interview, Dueñas commented, “My mother was a tremendous resource since she essentially grew up there, and it was such a joy to be able to revisit her youth with her in this unique way.”

This event will be held from 11 am to 1:30 pm on Wed, April 17 in the Paraninfo auditorium at The International Institute on Calle Miguel Ángel 8, Madrid. (For a map, go to You must reserve your place with an RSVP here or to Danielle at by April 10th. Free for INC members. The Guest Fee for non-members of INC is 25€ and must be paid in cash at the door; it includes your admission and a beverage and pastry during the coffee break. If you decide to become a member of INC during the month following the event, your Guest Fee will then be applied towards your Membership Fee. To find out more about us, visit our about us page. INC of Madrid has been bringing people together for 25 years.