Reading books about Spain is a great way to get familiar with the country’s rich history, culture, and way of life. With vibrant cities like Madrid and Barcelona, as well as stunning rural landscapes like the Pyrenees Mountains and Andalusia vineyards, Spain is the perfect backdrop for captivating stories waiting to be told. Whether you’re looking for a travel guide to help you navigate around the country, a non-fiction memoir to teach you about the country’s political strife, or a classic work of fiction written by award-winning Spanish authors, there is so much to discover in Spanish books.
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So if you’re ready to be transported into an enchanting book set in Spain that will inspire any wanderlust traveller, keep reading to find the books that will take you to Spain from the comfort of your armchair.
Fabulous Non-Fiction Books about Spain
Let’s start with the best biographies, memoirs and true stories. There is no better way to learn about the history, politics and economy of a country than by reading non-fiction literature about Spain…
1. Ghosts of Spain: Travels through Spain and Its Silent Past by Giles Tremlett
The most exciting book about Spain that any wanderlust traveller should read, is Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett. Giles Tremlett is a British author, historian, and journalist who journey’s across the country, interviewing locals and trying to understand how life has moved on since the days of Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain as a dictator until 1975.
What’s fascinating about Ghosts of Spain is that you, as the reader, go on a journey across the country, learning about the region’s most notable landmarks, its history, and the experience of travelling in Spain, but through the eyes of an investigative reporter. Get this glorious book now.
The way Giles delivers facts is like uncovering a mystery. It’s deeply personal, and you get to learn so much about the Spanish people and their culture from the responses of the people who have struggled.
It’s part investigative journalism and part guidebook. It’s definitely one of the most interesting books about Spain on the market. Pick up a copy of Ghosts of Spain here.
2. Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart
If you’re looking for a funny travel book about Spain, then Driving Over Lemons will have you laughing out loud. It’s written by Christ Stewart, the former drummer of the rock band Genesis, who moved to El Valero in Spain with his wife, Ana.
On a whim, he purchased an isolated sheep farm in the Alpujarra Mountains, with lush olive groves, almond groves, and a lemon orchard – it sounds idyllic, but it lacked a few essentials, such as running water, electricity and a road to get to it.
He also had a far more pressing problem, the previous owner, Pedro Romero, refused to leave.
Chris, being ever the optimist, decided it all sounded like one incredible adventure.
This is the story of how one man’s sheer determination and spontaneous spirit lead to an enviable life in the rural countryside of Spain. Learn how he fit in with the community, made new friends, and learned to navigate a new way of life in a country far from his own.
If you’ve ever considered moving to Spain, then this a great book to gain an insight into what it might be like – though, moving to a remote farm in the Spanish countryside is a little extreme!
3. Homage To Catalonia by George Orwell
If you’re looking for a first account of life fighting against the fascist regime in Spain, then George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia is the ultimate choice.
In 1936, George Orwell was working as a reporter and travelled to Spain to report on the Civil War. Instead, he joined the fight with the POUM militia of the Republican army to fight against the Fascists.
Homage to Catalonia describes his first-hand experience of the war and his involvement in the fight.
If you have ever read any of Orwell’s works, such as 1984 or Animal Farm, you can expect Homage to Catalonia to be just as powerful and just as thought-provoking.
4. Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway
Death in the Afternoon is a non-fiction book about Spain’s bullfighting industry by Ernest Hemingway. It was released in 1932 and covers the metaphysics of bullfighting, as well as the traditions, ceremonies and beliefs in extraordinary depth.
Hemingway reveals how bullfighting in 1930s Spain was almost ritualized, like a religious practice, and he was fascinated by the nature of tempting death.
While bullfighting has always been a controversial topic, it has been a long-standing part of Spanish history and culture. If you’re fascinated about the reasons why people take part in this event, and what it means to the Spanish people, this is a great novel to get a broader understanding of it.
What makes Hemingway’s novels so unique is that his experience as a journalist makes him able to portray fiction like non-fiction, and non-fiction like fiction. This is beautifully written as well as insightful.
Top Fiction Books about Spain
Reading fiction books about Spain is a great way to get a feel for the geography, visualise the landscape, and fall in love with the culture, people, and lifestyle.
5. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Arguably one of the greatest Spanish writers of the 21st century is Carlos Ruiz Zafron, whose highly acclaimed novel Shadow of the Wind has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
Shadow of the Wind is the first book in The Cemetery of Lost Books series, though you can read it as a standalone novel as it does not end with a cliffhanger.
Each of the four books is set in Barcelona and follows a young boy named Daniel, whose father owns a bookshop. After the death of his mother, Daniel’s father takes him to the Cemetery of Lost Books and tells him he can pick one book of his choosing to take home.
He picks up a book titled “Shadow of the Wind” by an author called Julian Carax. He instantly falls in love with the book and treasures it for years. This is a spellbinding book
A few years later, he decides to look for more of Carax’s works but discovers that someone has been on a mission to destroy every last one of his books. Daniel then goes on a journey to try and find, and stop, the man responsible for destroying Carax’s work, before someone comes for his own beloved book.
Shadow of the Wind is beautifully written with some gothic undertones. It has a plot that keeps you hooked from start to finish and a writing style that will have you mystified. Pick up a copy of The Shadow of the Wind here.
6. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist is another highly acclaimed novel that will have you dreaming of the Andalusian mountains and warm Spanish sun. It follows a boy, who remains nameless throughout, who was once a shepherd in Andalusia. He travels from town to town, sheering sheep, and living a comfortable and modest life.
One day, in the Spanish town of Tarifa, he meets a man who claims to be a king and tells him where he can find a bounty of treasure. He tells him to sell all his sheep and embark on a journey across the sea and into the Sahara desert.
And so the boy does. But what he finds on his journey is more than treasure. He finds a simple merchant who teaches him the difference between free will and fate, he meets a woman in the desert who teaches him to love, and he meets an Alchemist, who teaches him the power of the Earth.
The Alchemist is the story of one boy’s journey of travel and self-discovery. You can get a copy of the Alchemist here.
7. The Last Jew by Noah Gordon
The Last Jew is a historical fiction novel set in Spain and tells the story of Spanish Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492, during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Though not all of them wish to leave, and those who remain are intimidated into becoming Catholics.
Yonah Toledano is 15 years old and the son of a celebrated Spanish silversmith, who saw his brother and father murdered during this terrible time. Trapped in Spain, he wants to honour the memory of his lost family by remaining Jewish. Now a fugitive, Yonah must journey across the vast country of Spain, taking manual labour jobs and shepherding.
This is the story of the inner life of a secret Jew living in Spain at a time when that would have been dangerous. It’s a story of one man’s determination, strength and courage, and self-discovery. It’s a magnificent read, get your copy here.
8. Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom
If you’re looking for something a little more exciting, then Winter in Madrid is a thrilling mystery/thriller novel set in Spain. It’s set after The Spanish Civil War in a ruined Madrid, where people are starving and in a state of turmoil and uncertainty.
Harry Brett is a veteran of Dunkirk who turns into a spy for the British Secret Service. He’s sent to Spain to gain the confidence of a former school friend, Sandy Forsyth, who is working as a shady businessman in Madrid. You can read more here.
But Harry finds himself wrapped up in a dangerous mystery, taking him back to times in his past and to people he thought he had left behind. It is a story of love, sacrifice and survival. It’s a part crime mystery and part love story and written in a style that’s similar to the era in which it’s set (the 1940s).
Children’s Books about Spain
If you’re looking for an exciting kid’s book about Spain, then you’re little ones will enjoy reading these joyful Spanish children’s books…
9. Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska
Shadow of a Bull is a bold and emotive middle-grade children’s book set in Spain and the winner of the 1965 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature.
The story follows Manolo Olivar, whose father was the greatest bullfighter in Spain. Everyone expected Manolo to follow in his father’s footsteps, but Manolo is not sure he wants to be a bullfighter.
Full disclosure, this story is not for everyone. It has a lot of information about the art and culture of bullfighting, so it’s not suitable for squeamish children. However, for the curious child, it could get your child thinking deeply about the ethics of animals used for entertainment, and a great way for you to have thought-provoking conversations with them about duty and honour. Read more reviews about this children’s book about Spain here.
10. Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi by Rachel Rodríguez
Building on Nature is a fictional tale about Antoni Gaudí, the famous Spanish architect known for his groundbreaking architectural styles seen in the city of Barcelona.
The story begins in Catalonia, which is famed for its rugged mountains and silvery olive groves, backed by a glistening ocean. We learn about how the beauty of nature inspires Gaudi, and how he incorporates it into his designs. This is a great way for children to learn about one of the most inspirational people in Spain, learning how the rules of the norm can be challenged to create something beautiful and unique.
Antoni Gaudí became famous for turning nature into art, and if your child is interested in learning about notable people, this book would be a wonderful addition to their bookshelf.
11. Adventures of Don Quixote by Argentina Palacios Ziegler
Don Quixote is one of the oldest and most famous Spanish books which was written in the 17th century.
It follows the journey of Alonso Quijano, an ageing knight who sets out on an adventure on his horse, only to be misled into chivalric romances which he read about in books.
While Quixote’s tales may be written in a language too old for modern-day children to appreciate or understand, this book remains one of the most important works of Spanish children’s literature and deserves a spot on this list.
Final Thoughts on Books about Spain
Whether you’re looking for a book to give you insights on what to expect before your trip to Spain, or you’re looking for a memorable souvenir to take home, there can be no greater gift to your bookshelf that a captivating story about Spain. They also often offer a unique perspective on daily life in Spain and give you a deeper insight into its culture and history. Hopefully, this guide has helped you to discover the best books about Spain and provides you with a new read that will grow your appreciation for this fascinating country.
Stock images in this article are courtesy Deposit Photos.
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