Books about Spain – essential reading
Where do I start! There are many books about Spain, its people, culture, history, customs, landscape and its social, political and economic history. Here we have listed a few seminal books about Spain written in, and about, different eras but which we believe are essential reading for any budding hispanophile. They are NOT academic works – these are great books about Spain, Spanish culture and Spanish history by perceptive authors who have spent a long time in Spain and who have successfully managed to describe key aspects of this complex country.
The New Spaniards by John Hooper
This seminal work was first published in 1986 and subsequently revised and updated 20 years later in 2006. Both dates are significant. As John Hooper points out, The (New) Spaniards is not about economics or politics but an attempt (and a very successful one) to paint a picture of Spanish society from the 1960s to the 2000s.
1 January 1986 was one of the most significant dates in recent Spanish history as Spain joined the European Community. Spain then went through a 7 year transition period where certain areas of its economy were protected but it had, to all extents and purposes “grown up” and finally joined the big boys club – after spending many centuries it must be said on the fringes of Western Europe.
In the early chapters Hooper covers the background from the end of the Civil War to the advent of democracy superbly – without political bias, succinctly and very well written. It particularly shines a light on the economic situation Franco faced after the Civil War and the actions he took to address it – from “los años de hambre” through to the “años de desarollo”, something, in my experience, many uninformed but vocal “observers” actually know very little about.
Hooper provides compelling statistics and examples but also discusses the impact this economic boom had on Spaniards and their way of life and thinking. It makes fascinating reading which sets the scene magnificently as an introduction to the main body of the book which covers the myriad of social and cultural changes Spain went through following Franco’s death. This is one of the seminal books about Spain and will help any hispanophile understand how recent Spanish history and the subtle changes in Spanish culture brought about by the end of the Franco dictatorship and the advent of democracy.
Spain by Jan Morris
“Spain” is one of the classic books about Spain. Nothing is more compelling than the drama, at once dark and dazzling, of that theatre over the hills – the vast splendour of the Spanish landscape, the intensity of Spain’s pride and misery, the adventurous glory of a history that set its seal upon half the world …Passionate, evocative and beautifully written, “Spain” is a companion to the country: its people, its history – and its character. First published in 1964 and no less compelling today, Jan Morris’ classic is back in print, bringing Spain, its glory and its tragedy, vividly to life and joining a select number of classic books about Spain.
The Spanish Temper by V S Pritchett (Ebook)
In this recently re-released classic V S Pritchett takes the reader on a tour through most of Spain, from the Basque country through Castile, Andalusia, the Levante and Catalonia. He discusses the characteristics of each region in terms of political, economic and cultural history, as well as its geography, and how this has impacted on the character of the people living in these regions.
Not only is The Spanish Temper well written but, for someone who only spent 4 years living in Spain 80 years ago, his insightful and astute observations demonstrate a deep knowledge and understanding of Spanish social, political and cultural history from art and literature to Franco to flamenco and bullfighting and, more importantly, a tremendous insight into the Spanish character and what underpins it.
So at the time of its writing, and perhaps for a number of years afterwards, The Spanish Temper represented, in my opinion, an accurate and incisive analysis of the Spanish character and is yet another of those books about Spain which is essential reading for those wishing to gain an insight into the character of the Spanish people and how Spanish culture it has been shaped by Spanish history.
The appearance – sixty years after that war ended – of mass graves containing victims of Franco’s death squads has finally broken what Spaniards call ‘the pact of forgetting‘. At this charged moment, Giles Tremlett embarked on a journey around Spain to explore recent Spanish history and its impact on Spanish culture and character and hence contemporary society.
Ghosts of Spain offers a wide snapshot of the country’s mindset about everything from prostitution to regional identity, political allegiances to local traditions. It covers more or less every aspect of modern Spain: religion and monarchy; sex and family; drugs, politics and terrorism; as well as history-changing events – Franco’s death, King Juan Carlos’ ascent to the throne and the transition; 11M; and key personalities from the 20th century: Jesus Gil, Sabino Arana, Manuel Fraga, Camaron de la Isla, Pedro Almodovar.
Whether you live in Spain, you’re considering moving here, you’re studying about the country, or you’re just fascinated by it, I strongly urge you to read another astutely observed, well-researched and authoritative books about Spain, as entertaining to read as it is chock-full of information. Along with John Hooper’s The New Spaniards, this is widely considered to the best books about Spain, offering a broad-ranging and deep overview of Europe’s most intriguing country.
The Face of Spain by Gerald Brenan
Gerald Brenan returned to Spain in 1949 after the Civil War. He returned to a land in the grip of famine but was determined to see what had become of Spain, to speak to ordinary people and to experience life in towns & villages unvisited by foreigners. Whether searching for Lorca’s unmarked grave, musing on the history of the great mosque in Cordoba and ancient synagogues in Toledo or chatting to provincial shopkeepers, Brenan was unfailingly perceptive. This witty and humane account of his visit illuminates a chapter of Spanish history that remains almost unknown. Focused on Andalucia and wider ranging than Norman Lewis’ Voices of the Old Sea this is yet another one of the classic books about Spain.
Books4Spain has a varied and interesting selection of books about Spain and it history and culture, ranging from subjects such Flamenco, the Spanish Civil War, Camino de Santiago as well as Spanish Literature in translation, Crime Fiction books set in Spain, books about Living in Spain, Novels set in Spain, Spanish Cook & Recipe books, and Travel and Holiday books about Spain and much more as well as books about Spanish authors and artists such as Federico García Lorca, Salvador Dali, Picasso, Franco, Bunuel etc.
Come and browse – Books4Spain can entertain, educate and stimulate!