Books to Read About Spain

Spain is a magical place with so much to see and discover (and eat!) – stir up your passion for our beautiful country with these amazing books!

We’re willing to bet that if you ask any expat living in Spain how they came to fall in love with the supposed land of flamenco, bull fights and paella they will say that it all started in the classroom. Whether it be a language, history or anthropology class, the vibrant culture and fascinating past of Spain has the power to stick out among all other topics, capturing the attention of the eager student.

For the dreamers in the world there are few things better than being transported to another land in the midst of the monotony of the day-to-day, and what better image to get lost in than the fiery passion of Andalusia or the palpable pride and mystery of Basque Country? If you’re looking for a way to escape to Spain, start with literature. Read after work, between classes, on your lunch break…whenever you can.

Artists have been flocking to the peninsula for centuries and have been kind enough to share their experiences and inspiration with the rest of the world, so there’s no reason to miss out on all we have to offer if you can’t get away at the moment.

After devouring any of these great books to read about Spain, you’ll start to understand the intricacies of this complicated culture from afar, and surely won’t be able to resist planning a trip!

Check out our list of books to read about Spain and discover some of the most interesting and exciting books ever written about our wonderful country!

Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn

The Hand of Fatima – Ildefonso Falcones

This epic work of historical fiction will fill your head with images of fabled Granada, thrilling you with tales of religious struggle, forbidden love and the development of the southern Spain we know today. Falcones has become the king of Spanish historical fiction in recent decades and never fails to find the perfect balance between historical details and enchanting tales. The Hand of Fatima tells the story of Hernando, a Moor in Christian Granada who seeks to quiet the bloody conflict between Christianity and Islam. He faces incredible cultural, romantic and moral obstacles that make for a haunting and revealing read. Wandering the alleyways of Granada has a whole new significance after taking in the story Falcones weaves.

Ghosts of Spain – Giles Tremlett

A non-fiction novel written in the first person, Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain offers a journey through Spain’s hidden past, complete with personal anecdotes and true accounts of the darker aspects of the past century. Starting with the Spanish Civil War and ending in modern-day Spain, Tremlett touches on the truth of flamenco, tourism, Franco, Basque nationalism and Catalan separatism, describing the significance of each theme for both Spaniards and visitors. This work lets you into the little-spoken about side of Spanish history, and should not be missed if you’re looking to experience and understand this enigmatic nation.

The Sun Also Rises – Earnest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises takes place half in Paris and half in Spain, exposing the perspective of an ex-patriate in Europe of an age long-passed. Hemingway tells a semi-autobiographical tale of a journey from Paris to San Sebastian to Pamplona and finally Madrid, explaining in a way only Hem can how the passion, violence and beauty of bull fighting captured his heart, and how the country captured that of his lover. This classic novels provides entertainment as well as a look into the controversial sport of bullfighting, exploring the heroism and authenticity of Spanish culture.

Carmen – Prosper Merimée

One of the most famous images of Spain is that of the flamenco-dancing gypsy and Merimée’s “Carmen” may just be responsible for that. The author of this short story (which would later be turned into an opera and remodeled into many a film version) became enraptured by gypsy culture when traveling through southern Spain in the 19th century and succeeded in painting a picture of what he saw using both realities and a strong imagination. “Carmen” tells the story of an honorable Christian from northern Spain who falls in love with a beautiful and cunning gypsy from Sevilla, giving up everything he knows to join her in her adventures around the south. This short, easy read is chock-full of cultural truths and folklore, with a heavy dose of romanticism that will keep you dreaming of Andalusia long after you’ve finished.

Gypsy Ballads – Federico García Lorca

For poetry lovers and Spain aficionados, the work of Lorca can not be missed. Gypsy Ballads is his most famous book of poetry, dedicated to the Andalusian countryside, flamenco and gypsy culture and history of Spain that so enchanted the artist. Each line of each poem is filled with metaphors that pull the reader in and demand that you get lost in the words and images. You see something different in Lorca’s poetry each time you read it, and Gypsy Ballads in particular is a book about Spain that you will never tire of reading and re-reading.

Other books about Spain by some of these authors include For Whom the Bell Tolls and Cathedral of the Sea, both of which should be added to your e-reader after you’ve devoured those listed above. Be warned that you will not be able to resist hopping over to Madrid once these books have your imaginations running wild.

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Feature Image Credit: Ginny

1 Comment

  1. July 4, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks a lot for writing this. I’m going to check some of those out. I wrote a response on my blog with some of my favorite books about Spain: http://expatmadrid.com/2014/07/04/books-to-read-about-spain-and-madrid/

    Reply

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