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Admittedly, Spain isn’t the top of my bucket list. However, after reading a few books set in Spain, I know it will crawl its way up my list. I’ve compiled this list of Spain travel books, Spain memoirs, novels set in Spain, Spanish non-fiction, and more. Basically, everything you could look for in books about Spain. So grab a pot of coffee, sit back, and get that Kindle out (or however you read, no judgment here) and get reading!
If you’re interested in trying Audible, you can get your first month free! This is a great option if you want to listen to books more. If you’re on more of a budget, try Scribd! You can get your first month free there as well.
Young love doesn’t always work out, but what happens when they reunite eleven years later? Pilar has grown to be a strong and independent woman and her childhood friend has become a charismatic spiritual leader. She learned how to bury her feelings and he turned to religion as a refuge from inner conflicts. They are now on a journey together full of difficulties after blame and resentment resurface after more than a decade, but their relationship is examined by the waters of the River Piedra. This is one of those classic books set in Spain that you just have to read.
Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken to live with their half-brother King Enrique and his sultry, conniving queen. Before she knows it, Isabella is thrust into a plot (unwittingly) to dethrone Enrique. She is torn between loyalties until, at seventeen, she is the heiress of Castille, the largest kingdom in Spain. She is plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown and marry the one man she loves but is forbidden – Fernando, Prince of Aragon.
They unite their two realms and face an impoverished Spain. Her throne is at stake while she resists the demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. Soon, the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war and Isabella’s resolve, courage, and belief in her destiny are tested.
Odelle Bastien gets a job at the Skelton gallery in London in 1967 and knows her life will change forever. She struggled to find her place in London after moving from Trinidad five years before, but she knows her life is about to change when she accepts the job as a typist under the glamorous Marjorie Quick. While Marjorie helps her unlock her confidence and find her place, she becomes lost again when a masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.
Back in 1936 in rural Spain, we find out the history of the painting with Olivia Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, has secret ambitions of her own. Soon we meet Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa who weave themselves into the Schloss family with explosive and devastating consequences. This is one of my favorite books ever. I had no idea what it was when I got it in a mystery book box, but I love it!
It’s September 1940 and Madrid is in ruin as the Germans continue their march through Europe. General Franco of Britan is debating on abandoning neutrality and entering the war. Enter Harry Brett, a reluctant British Spy traumatized by his experience in Dunkirk. He is sent to gain the confidence of Sandy Forsyth, an old school friend, now a shadowy Madrid businessman.
Meanwhile, Barbara Clare, Sandy’s girlfriend an ex-Red Cross nurse, is on her own mission: to find her ex-lover Bernie Piper who disappeared on the battlefields of Jarama thanks to a love for Communism.
It’s Christmas in Barcelona in 1957 and Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea have a new baby, Julian, and a close friend, Fermín Romero de Torres, that is soon to be wed. But that is all disrupted soon when a stranger shows up in the Sempere bookshop threatening to spill secrets from the city’s dark past. Soon Fermín and Daniel are plunged into an adventure back in the 1940s, during the dark days of Franco’s dictatorship. Their lives are transformed on this journey fraught with jealousy, suspicion, vengeance, and lies. This is a great choice if you’re looking for a book set in Barcelona.
Jack Telford is a foreign correspondent on the run from a territory controlled by Franco’s fascists in northern Spain in October 1938. Telford is a hunted man after killing someone close to the Generalismo’s heart. Jack will learn a lesson about mortality and survival in a climactic chase from Madrid to the Republic’s last outpost in Alicante during the closing days of the Spanish Civil War.
Sira Quiroga is left penniless in Morocco by her lover when she forges a new identity for herself. Before she knows it, she is the most sought after couture designer for socialite German Nazi officer wives. Soon, she is embroiled in a dangerous political conspiracy as she passes information to the British Secret Service through a code stitched into the hems of her dresses.
Maybe it was middle-age. Maybe it was diet cola. Whatever it was, Randall St. Germain found himself called to the 500-mile long Camino de Santiago in 2010. His trip was a dedication to his mother, a personal challenge, and historical enlightenment. A million steps and a few pounds of gauze and tape later, he finds himself in Santiago de Compostela with a better understanding of himself. Oh, and he did it all in 20 days.
In this book, we get to hear the stories of the people who grow, cook, and eat the hugely varied and little-known foods of Spain. We are immersed in coastal foods, ancient shepherd cooking, and modern cuisine from cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and San Sebastian where chefs are setting trends across the globe. If you’re a foodie, this is a must-read. If you’re looking for a good foodie book set in Barcelona, look no further!
Alberto is old, but he doesn’t know how old. He doesn’t remember anything before his arrival at an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. He doesn’t think about his childhood. Well, not until his grandson Tino discovers he’s never celebrated a birthday. Together, they set out to find Alberto’s birthday so they can change that. The search takes them deep into the heart of Spain, a country that pledged to forget it’s painful past. He realizes he lost part of himself as he hears the stories of courage, cruelty, and love, but with Tino’s help, they might just find that part again.
The Way Is a River of Stars: A Buddhist’s Journey Through Northern Spain on the Camino Pilgrim Route
Helen finds herself walking through Northern Spain along the picturesque Camino Way, a Christian pilgrimage revered since the medieval times. Ancient towns and villages with their own cultures and cuisines dot the Camino and her memories and miles intertwine the countryside, her Christian upbringing, and her later life as a Buddhist. Helen contemplates the heart of two religions on a quest for a deeper meaning that can unite us all with recollections of meditation and monasteries.
Emoni Santiago, a high school senior, faces tough decisions while caring for her daughter and supporting her Abuela, but she has to do what must be done. Thankfully, in the kitchen, she can let her responsibilities go a little and add some magic to everything she cooks. Still, she knows she doesn’t have time for her school’s new culinary class, much less the class trip to Spain, and that she shouldn’t still be dreaming of working in a real kitchen. EEven with all the rules she has for life, her only choice in the kitchen is to let her talent break free.
The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain
María Menocal is showing us a new portrait of a medieval culture where literature, science, and tolerance flourished for 500 years to undo the familiar notion of it being a period of religious persecution and intellectual stagnation. It starts with a young prince in exile when he finds a new kingdom on the Iberian peninsula: al-Andalus. The new kingdom and its successors, with its combination of the best of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures, influenced the rest of Europe in dramatic ways. The Glory of the Andalusian kingdoms lasted until the renaissance when Christian monarchs forcibly converted, executed, or expelled non-Catholics from Spain.
In Barcelona, in 1986 the dictatorship is over, but Elisa can’t forget what happened in the seventies. Her past comes back to trouble her in the form of her ex-husband Arnau, who needs her help exonerating an old comrade. Elisa relives her Catholic childhood, her marriage, her blind loyalty to the Communist party, her experiments in feminism, and her prison time to create an emotional history of the political Left in Spain. The women who faced all of this with her weave their stories together making it more than a novel and give a voice to the silenced.
Jamie Draper is searching for his estranged wife, Pam, who left him without explanation or warning, on the island of Mallorca. He finds himself looking in her last known location when he comes across a letter she left behind promising a full explanation, but to get that he has to find a series of letters hidden along the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain. Now that he has clues, he starts to track her down and meets plenty of colorful characters along the way.
Steven Nightingale wants change so he moves his family to the ancient Andalucian city of Granada. However, as he explores the hidden courtyards, gardens, and plazas, he realizes that Granada’s past and present can’t be separated. This begins his eight-year quest to discover more. At one time Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived harmoniuosly and arts and sciences flourished, but soon places of worship and books were burned to the ground. It had a turbulent rise over the next three centuries as deterioration worsened. Nightingale shares a portrait of the now thriving city and all the joy he discovered there.
If you want a book about traveling in Spain, this is for you. This is the story of Cees’ thirty-five years living in Spain, his second home. He shares the architecture, art, landscapes, villages, and people of little-known Spain. He presents a version of Spain not easily seen by tourists through the spirits of El Cid, Cervantes, Alfonso the Chaste and Alfonso the Wise, the Hapsburgs, and Velazquez. He writes with the depth of a historian, the bravado of an adventurer, and the passion of a poet.
Gwen lost everything at once: her center, her marriage, and her future. This inspires her to find a new path and she sets off on the Camino de Santiago, a journey that redefines her life.
The Basques are Europe’s oldest nation without ever being a nation, tucked into a corner of France and Spain marked on no maps but their own. No one has been able to determine their origin and even their language, Euskera, the most ancient in Europe, doesn’t resemble any other language on Earth. However, their influence has been felt for centuries. Human stories are flawlessly blended with economic, political, literary, and culinary history in this rich heroic tale.
In 1945, Barcelona was a city slowly healing from its war wounds. Daniel is the son of an antiquarian books dealer mourning the loss of his mother when he finds solace in a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. When he sets out to find his other works, instead he finds someone has systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. Daniel may have the last of his books in existence and his quest opens the door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets. This is another classic book set in Barcelona that everyone needs to read. I keep seeing it on Facebook and everyone loves it!
Ann Salter is a geologist being haunted by demons of her past and present that seeks sanctuary on the island of Lanzarote. Once there she meets Richard Parry, a charismatic author, and Domingo, an indigenous potter and they explore the island together. Ann struggles to figure out who she is, was, and wants to be as she encounters the hidden treasures of the island.
Thomas Sebastian is an English Conman on the run, hiding out on an old Spanish Finca in Mallorca in the 1960s. He discovers the house is untouched since the death of its last owner, Senyor Rodriguez. There is fine art on the walls, a library full of books, and a cellar full of wine. Thomas easily slips into his new life and falls in love with his new neighbor, Isabella Ferretti, but once he slips into Rodriguez’ white linen suit and heads into the city, things start to get out of hand.
Ramón Mercader was picked from the frontlines of the Spanish Civil War by the Soviets to murder Leon Trotsky, the great intellectual leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, exiled in the 1920s for opposing Joseph Stalin. While he is training for the task, he adopts a new identity and lives a lush life in Paris befriending famous artists, like Frida Khalo. He is ordered to seduce a left-leaning Jewish woman to get at Trotsky, but falls in love with her instead.
Evie Fuller is approaching her thirtieth birthday and is fed up with her life in London. Soon she heads to Madrid at the offer of a free month of language lessons, the perfect escape route. She blossoms from being a shy English girl under the Spanish sun and learns the hardest part about moving abroad is deciding to go home. If you want a book about moving to Spain or living in Spain, this is a good choice.
Adam Gordon is a brilliant, unreliable, young American Poet on a prestigious fellowship in Madrid struggling to establish his sense of self and relationship to art. Instead of following the dictate of his fellowship, his research becomes a meditation on the possibility of the genuine in the arts and beyond.
The easy part for Chris Stewart was handing over a check. The hard part was telling his wife Ana that they were now the proud owners of a sheep farm in the Alpujarra Mountains in Southern Spain. While the farm may be lush in olive, lemon, and olive groves, it is quite lacking in running water, electricity, and an access road. Then there’s the problem of the previous owner that won’t leave, Pedro Romero. Pedro is a perpetual optimist and Chris has an unflappable spirit that nothing can diminish.
In 1934 a young man walked from the Cotswolds to London to make his fortune where he would play the violin and work on a building site. At least until he decided to see Spain when he knew one Spanish phrase. He spent a year traveling through the country, even with signs of civil war clearly visible. Thirty years later Laurie Lee captured the atmosphere and beauty of the Spain he saw as a young man.
Catalina dee Erauso escaped a Basque convent in 1599 dressed as a man and went on to live one of the most wildly fantastic lives of any woman in history. She was a soldier in the Spanish army, traveled to Peru and Chile, became a gambler, and even accidentally killed her own brother in a duel. This is one of the oldest known autobiographies of a woman and is a translation of her own work.
Joe and Vicky moved to a tiny village in the Alpujarra Mountains, but would they have if they knew what it would really be like? They reluctantly become chicken farmers and happen to have the most dangerous cockerel in Spain. They are befriended by an 85-year-old spliff-smoking sex-kitten and are even rescued by a mule. Life is never dull on this five-year plan, but at the end of their five years, they have to decide: stay or go?
After their year in the Middle East, Victoria and Joe return to their Spanish mountain village, ready to return to their normal life, but the village won’t allow that, especially with Lola Ufarte’s behavior and a new millionaire neighbor.
The “Pact of Forgetting” was broken more than sixty years after the Spanish Civil War ended when mass graves containing victims of Fransisco Franco’s death squads were found. When this happened, Giles Tremlett started off on a journey around the country and it’s history to see why some of Europe’s most voluble people stayed silent for so long. Tremlett delves into emotional questions like who started the civil war and why Catalans hate Madrid while offering observations on modern life in Spain, like why Spainards dislike authority figures but are cowed by a doctor’s white coat and how women have embraced feminism without men noticing.
Polly Evans is single and stressed in the hustle and bustle of living in Hong Kong meanwhile having visions of mountains, orange groves, and matadors on a hassle-free journey across Spain by bicycle. While the dream was perfect, the reality was less so as she began to experience thighs screaming in pain, goats trying to derail her, strange local delicacies, and overzealous suitors. We are taken on her journey across the country from the towering Pyrenees to the vineyards of Jerez de la Frontera.
The last living inhabitant of Ainielle, a village high in the Spanish Pyrenees, is at death’s door, but he lingers on in the deserted village ruins. As the “yellow rain” of leaves fall around him and the first snowfall of the year happens, he recalls the life he lived and the ghosts of his friends and neighbors who have take possession of his solitude.
Jack Hitt walks the Camino de Santiago, visiting and exploring the sites that people believe God once touched like the fortress said to contain the real secret Adam heard when he bit into the apple, the sites associated with the Knights Templar murdering monks, and the places home to the relics including a vial of the virgin Mary’s milk and a sheet of Bartholomew’s skin.
He finds himself on this journey with a strange group of fellow pilgrims: a Flemish film crew, a drunken gypsy, a draconian Belgian air force officer, a one-legged pilgrim, and more. Along with a few good meals and some dry shelter, they find some fresh ideas about old-time zealotry and modern beliefs. This is a good choice if you’re looking for a book about the Camino de Santiago.
One day, Nellie Bennett falls in love with Flamenco in a dance studio in Sydney, but that’s not enough and she’s bored of her retail job so she packs her bags for Seville, Spain to get closer to the real thing. Soon she realizes Flamenco is a way of life, not just a dance and she finds herself in love three times before discovering it’s the country that held her heart all along.
This will be published (most likely) in September 2020.
It was a bad year. A father figure passed. A friend and mentor suffered a mental illness. One child entered psychosis. Another took his life. And a 14-year marriage ended. As a new life began, he was called to the Camino de Santiago halfway across the world. This is the story of following the same trail as Saint James with its miraculous and mysterious ways.
Have you read any of these books set in Spain? Which ones? Anything I should add?