Looking for the best books about Spain?
Here are some of my favorites…
This was inspired an article that caught my interest today. It was a list of books to read about Spain. Unfortunately, I’ve only read one of them: The Sun Also Rises.
Spanish people can complain about guiris and their obsession with Hemingway, but the reality is that Pamplona would probably be nowhere today without that book. There’s a Running of the Bulls type festival in a thousand other Spanish towns.
Anybody up for the one in San Sebastian de los Reyes this year, right outside Madrid?
Probably Restaurante Botín would be much less known also, if it weren’t for Hemingway. At the end of the book, Big Papa name-checks Botín and the suckling pig, which you should try if you’re in town and you’ve got the money.
Anyway, here are a few of my recommendations…
The best books about Spain (and Madrid)
You should be able to get these books in Spanish at any reasonable bookstore (check out the Casa del Libro on Gran Vía for the biggest one in town).
And you can definitely get them by clicking my (affiliate) links to Amazon.es right here on the blog. So read on!
First up is La Colmena, by Camilo José Cela.
A story about poverty and society in postwar Madrid. It’s one of these hyper-realistic novels about a few days in January, some time in the 1940s. You can go to some of the places mentioned in the book, it revolves around a café that’s a lot like Café Comercial in Glorieta de Bilbao.
The author, Cela, received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1989. I liked the book. It’s a classic. And it gives you an idea of what Madrid was like in the post-Civil-War period, which was no picnic.
La Voz Dormida
My personal favorite book about Spain: La Voz Dormida by Dulce Chacón.
This is maybe the best novel I’ve ever read. I don’t know. I read a lot of books, so it’s a tough call. But this one is really good.
Maybe I just read it at the right moment in my life to appreciate these kinds of things…
Anyway, it’s about the resistance to the dictatorship, also after the war. At that time, a lot of families had people in prison, a lot of leftists went into exile, and there were people up in the mountains trying to carry on the Civil War even though it had officially been lost years before. The book is also a damn good love story.
Unfortunately, the author died shortly after writing it, so she doesn’t have any other novels. Check it out.
Homage to Catalonia
And finally, Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. Full disclosure time: I read this because it was at the top of some list of the best nonfiction books of the 20th century. It the week before I was planning to move to Spain, and I picked it up without even realizing it was going to be about Spain.
Catalonia? WTF is that? I actually thought it was going to be about catatonics in a mental hospital or something. Catalonia, catatonia, whatever… That was the extent of my ignorance about what I was getting into.
Anyway, the story is that George Orwell came over as a war correspondent and ended up joining the fight against fascism.
His descriptions of sitting in a trench, covered in fleas, and with just a few bullets every day and a rifle that barely worked anyway give you a pretty good idea of why the Second Republic didn’t last long. Great story, despite the bad ending.
I read the first two in Spanish. They might be translated into English, but whatever. Learn languages. It’ll be good for you.
I’ll continue this another day with some more books that I like – these are all related to the Civil War, but what can I do? The war and the 40 years of dictatorship that followed absorbed quite a bit of Spanish history in the 20th century.
More Spanish awesomeness…
My friend Lauren runs Madrid Food Tour and the article I read is from their blog.
Apart from the fact that her company is awesome and you should go on one of her tours when you’re in town, she also has the – shall we say – cojones to deal with Spanish bureaucracy and actually start a business.
You think you’ve got it rough? Try starting a business in this country. We’re right down there with Gaza on the World Bank ranking for ease of starting a business.
Keep it real, y’all. Happy 4th of July!
P.S. I’ve also got an article about some of my favorite books about writing. So you can check that out as well. And if you have a favorite book about Spain, let me know, right here in the comments…
P.P.S. Okay, I did a whole thing about Orwell and Homage to Catalonia. I finally reread it, and it’s pretty good. There’s also a podcast about it, and more. Enjoy!