Traveling to Spain soon or simply want to learn a bit more about the country? The following fifteen books about Spain go into its history, culture, and cuisine. And they might take you into a magical world full of mystery :-)
The best books about Spain
1. “Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past”
In “Ghosts of Spain”, The Guardian editor Giles Tremlett exposes the country’s painful past that was kept “silent” due to what Spaniards call the “pact of forgetting”.
He asks questions that no one dares to ask behind major historical and political events and expounds answers to these. These include: Who caused the Spanish Civil War? Why do Basque terrorists kill? Why do Catalans hate Madrid?
He also discusses how these events affected and changed the present consciousness and mentality of the Spanish people. This book is definitely a revelatory and insightful read about the ghosts of Spain’s past.
2. “The New Spaniards”
First published in 1986 under the title “The Spaniards”, John Hooper’s award-winning revised and updated bestseller “The New Spaniards” talks about Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy after the death of Francisco Franco, also known as “El Caudillo” (The Leader), a military general who ruled the country from 1939 until his death in 1975.
Hooper shows how daily life, traditions, norms, and beliefs have changed for ordinary people in contemporary Spain following the restoration of democracy. He discusses a variety of subjects surrounding Spanish culture including religion, politics, music, the role of women in society, gambling, sex, housing, education, and a lot more.
3. “Discovering Spain: An Uncommon Guide”
Penelope Casas is considered one of the experts in Spanish cuisine. She has published several Spanish cookbooks and has also written articles about food and travel for the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and Food &Wine.
In “Discovering Spain: An Uncommon Guide”, she takes readers on a culinary journey around Spain, featuring the best that each of the twelve regions has to offer, including the Balearic and Canary Islands. She also recommends hotels and shops, as well as sample itineraries with tours to historical sites.
4. “The Shadow of The Wind”
“This book” by Carlos Ruiz zafón is set in postwar Barcelona and it revolves around the story of a young boy named Daniel Sempere who is taken to a secret “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books” by his father.
He finds a book in this mysterious and hidden library that unexpectedly sets him off on a life-changing adventure filled with mystery, magic, betrayal, and forbidden love. The main character’s love for books is the central theme of the story but the author also references the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War in the book.
It's one of the first books set in Spain I read and still a favorite.
5. “The Last Jew”
“The Last Jew” by Noah Gordon tells the tale of Yonah, who crosses Spain on his donkey Moise trying to stay out of the hands of the Inquisition while holding on to memories of Jewish culture.
He answers questions about his past, finds love, and creates a role for himself in society playing an Old Christian physician while feeling and thinking like a Jew. This is a beautiful story filled with adventure, love, and history.
6. “Steps Out of Time, One Woman's Journey on the Camino”
Steps Out of Time, One Woman's Journey on the Camino is Katharine Soper's memoir of her pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. She documents the history, culture, and beauty of this ancient pilgrimage all while comparing it with her overwhelm about the pace of modern life.
7. “The Way, My Way”
Another memoir about the famous Camino, “The Way, My Way” is more focused on the spiritual discoveries Bill Bennett had while taking this adventure.
8. “The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation”
Mark Kurlansky's history of the Basque country is a fascinating read. Europe's oldest nation has never been a country of their own. Delve deep into the history of the language, cuisine, religion, economics, and literature while discovering the influences the people of this region have had on modern European culture.
9. “Homage to Catalonia”
This account of the Spanish Civil War by George Orwell is a must-read if you want to understand more about Spanish history. He went to Spain in 1936 to report on the war and ended up joining the P.O.U.M to fight against the fascists. His account helps the reader to understand the outcome of the Civil War.
10. “Death in the Afternoon”
Written by Ernest Hemingway the subject of “Death in the Afternoon” is bullfighting. With deep insight into the art of the bullfight, this non-fiction book is very different to Hemingway's better-known novels. He goes deep into the intricacies and drama of bullfighting and although not defending it, explains the technical aspects of this Spanish tradition.
11. “Driving Over Lemons”
Driving Over Lemons” is the account of Chris Stewart who relocates to start a new life on a rural sheep farm in Southern Spain. His book is very funny as he tells the story of life as an expat and the challenges of going off-grid in the Spanish countryside.
12. “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning”
Laurie Lee left his home in Gloucestershire England with nothing but his violin and a tin of biscuits in the 1930s before the start of World War II. He ended up traveling from northern Spain to the southern coast before the outbreak of the Civil War which put an end to his journey.
“As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning”https://amzn.to/2YxOwtb documents that journey and what it was like to be young and unemployed in Europe at that time.
13. “Don Quixote”
This historical fiction, written by Miguel de Cervantes, documents the adventures of a 16th-century knight Don Quixote who rides through Spain. This novel is considered a classic and is both humorous and tragic at the same time. Definitely worth a read if you like your historical fiction.
14. “The Alchemist”
Another classic, Paulo Coelho's story of self-discovery and mysticism follows a young Andalusian boy who goes on a journey in search of a treasure but ends up finding wisdom about life. So The Alchemist is not technically set in Spain itself but about someone who comes from there.
15. “A Concise History of Spain”
“A Concise History of Spain” is a book for those who are looking for some more historical information about the country. This comprehensive examination of Spain's history from the prehistoric through to modern times.
A look at migration, religion, culture, politics, its place in Europe, and influences from outside are just some of the themes covered. If you want to have a broad understanding of this fascinating country's history before visiting, then this one is the one for you!
What do you think are the best novels set in Spain? Do you know any unmissable books to learn more about the country? Let me know in the comments!
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