Learning Spanish through reading is a beneficial way to increase your vocabulary and comprehension skills. It also allows you to incorporate learning into your everyday life.
With Spanish having some tricky grammar, like the subjunctive tenses and irregular verbs, reading a Spanish novel can help with recognising how and when to use the correct verbs and conjugations appropriately.
Reading is a vital aspect of language learning in every language. It is often the first step, along with writing, that you learn as a beginner. Confidence in reading will have a positive effect on your listening and speaking skills, so it’s a great option for learners who aren’t comfortable with speaking and listening just yet. Spanish is a particularly good language for reading, as the material available is so diverse.
Being able to read in Spanish can create opportunities in Spain and Latin America, and also widens your knowledge of current issues and cultural knowledge. Finally, reading is easily accessible through books, the internet and various news platforms, magazines and newspapers and lots more. No matter what your level of Spanish, there will be some reading material ideally suited to you.
Recommended Spanish novels
Here are some of the best Spanish novels, as recommended by Raquel our Spanish linguist. We’ve separated them into levels so there is something for everyone learning Spanish. Each novel is a great starting point for reading in Spanish and will allow you to explore similar titles and authors. Our list includes a range of books from across the wide spectrum of Spanish literature, so you’re bound to find something you enjoy.
Easy reads – ideal for beginners
1. Papelucho by Marcela Paz
Papelucho is an 8-year old boy living in Santiago, Chile. The book is written in first person narrative, as Papelucho’s diary. It is an easier read because it’s all about everyday life through Papelucho’s eyes. There are 12 books in the Papelucho series, and they have been described as humourous, interesting and creative. Reading Papelucho would be a great introduction to reading in another language for Spanish beginners and is very un-intimidating. You can even find a Spanish-English translated version if you’re not confident to read long chunks of text in Spanish.
2. Manolito Gafotas (Manolito Four-eyes) by Elvira Lindo
“Don’t try to be different,” says Manolito’s mother. But he can’t help it—he doesn’t have to try. Whether he’s fighting over the One-and-Only Susana, trying not to fight with Ozzy the Bully, telling his entire life story to the school psychologist, or discovering the true meaning of World Peace, ten-year-old Manolito is a real original. As he’d say, in the worldwide world, there’s nobody like him! Join the unforgettable Manolito as he takes on life in Madrid.
Manolito Gafotas adventures are told in a collection of books written by Elvira Lindo. They are suitable for all those Spanish learners who have studied the language but don’t have an advanced level. You will undoubtedly improve your language skills! As well as the novel, there are also Manolito films to help you learn the story a little better.
3. Las Tres Reinas Magas by Gloria Fuertes
Gloria Fuertes was a Spanish writer and we highly recommend her if you want to improve your language skills. Although she wrote novels for adults, the most part of her work consists on literature for children. For this reason, her books are not difficult to read even if you don’t have a high level of Spanish. Moreover, among her works you will find novels, poetry and theatre plays. You can’t be bored reading an author like this one! Las Tres Reinas Magas is a modern theatrical twist on the Spanish Christmas story of Los Reyes Magos (The three Kings), with the main characters being the wives of the Kings, who are away at war, so the Queens need to deliver the gifts for them!
Medium reads – ideal for intermediate learners
4. Las Edades de Lulú (The Ages of Lulu) by Almudena Grandes
In this novel, Grandes tells the story of a young woman that embarks on a series of sexual adventures. Lulu’s journey begins the night she loses her virginity to Pablo – her brother’s best friend and twelve years her senior. Their relationship is obsessive – not possessive – and their appetites for new erotic territory are insatiable. Lulu’s thirst for sexual discovery takes her through voyeurism, power plays and homoeroticism. But soon she forays into illicit and dangerous sex threatening to absorb her completely.
This controversial novel is one of the icons in the current Spanish literature. Take a look at it and discover a new way of learning Spanish through a different and exciting story!
5. Cien años de soledad (One hundred years of solitude) by Gabriel García Márquez
Márquez’s great masterpiece is the story of seven generations of the Buendia family and of Macondo, the town they have built. Though little more than a settlement surrounded by mountains, Macondo has its wars and disasters, even its wonders and miracles. A microcosm of Columbian life, its secrets lie hidden, encoded in a book and only Aureliano Buendia can fathom its mysteries and reveal its shrouded destiny. Blending political reality with magic realism, fantasy with comic invention, One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the most daringly original works of the twentieth century.
If you’re a fan of original literature and dystopian stories, it’s time to read the work of the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez. You’ll definitely gain new language skills from this gripping novel!
6. Mandrágora by Laura Gallego
This novel tells the story of Miriam, the daughter of a wise man who is chosen to work for the royal family. When Miriam and her father start her new life in the castle of the King, a series of strange things happen. At this point, Miriam knows that she has to find out what is going on. In order to solve the mystery, she needs the help of her new friends.
It won’t be easy to find a translated version of this book. But, don’t be scared! It’s not difficult to read, perfect for those students that have been studying Spanish but don’t have a high level of this language.
7. Como agua para chocolate (Like water for chocolate) by Laura Esquivel
A classic novel that many of you will have heard about before. The story is about a young Mexican woman called Tita. Her older sister is getting married to the man she loves, Pedro. Tita cannot marry him because it is her duty as the youngest daughter to stay and care for Mama Elena until her death. The only way Tita can express herself is through cooking, and every chapter starts with a new Mexican recipe, which is linked to an event in Tita’s life. The novel covers themes of love, passion, self-growth and violence.
This novel is an easy enough read for intermediate level learners, but will also teach you lots of new vocabulary and is an enjoyable read!
8. Soldados de Salamina (Soldiers of Salamis) by Javier Cercas
In the final moments of the Spanish Civil War, fifty prominent Nationalist prisoners are executed by a firing squad. Among them is the writer and fascist Rafael Sanchez Mazas. As the guns fire, he escapes into the forest, and can hear a search party and their dogs hunting him down. The branches move and he finds himself looking into the eyes of a militiaman, and faces death for the second time that day. But the unknown soldier simply turns and walks away. Sanchez Mazas becomes a national hero and the soldier disappears into history. As Cercas sifts the evidence to establish what happened, he realises that the true hero may not be Sanchez Mazas at all, but the soldier who chose not to shoot him. Who was he? Why did he spare him? And might he still be alive?
If you are interested in learning more about Spanish Civil War, this is your book! Don’t be scared of learning Spanish through history. This story is a short novel and it uses an easy language, so you will be able to understand most of it even if you don’t have a high level of Spanish. There is also a film adaptation you can watch.
Challenging reads – ideal for advanced learners
9. La Sombra del Viento (The Shadow of the Wind) by Carlos Ruis Zafón
Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘cemetery of lost books’, a labyrinthine library. One day 10 year old Daniel, is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out ‘La Sombra del Viento’ by Julian Carax. However, he doesn’t expect the consequences of this choice. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind. This novel is perfect for those readers who love mystery and want to know more about Spain during the years after the Civil War.
10. La casa de los espíritus (The house of the spirits) by Isabel Allende
Spanning four generations, Isabel Allende’s magnificent family saga is populated by a memorable, often eccentric cast of characters. Together, men and women, spirits, the forces of nature, and of history, converge in an unforgettable, wholly absorbing and brilliantly realised novel that is as richly entertaining as it is a masterpiece of modern literature.
Isabel Allende was born in Chile and she is one of the most famous writers in Spanish. If you like stories about old traditions, big families and far places, you will love her books!
11. El tiempo entre costuras (The time in between) by Mária Dueñas
This novel is set in 1936; Spain is at the brink of civil war. Aged twelve, Sira Quiroga was apprenticed to a Madrid dressmaker. As she masters the seamstress’s art, her life seems to be clearly mapped out – until she falls passionately in love and flees with her seductive lover. But in Morocco she is betrayed and left penniless. As civil war engulfs Spain, Sira finds she cannot return and so turns to her one true skill – and sews beautiful clothes for the expat elite and their German friends. With Europe rumbling towards war, Sira is lured back to Franco’s Nazis-friendly Spain. She is drawn into the shadowy world of espionage, rife with love, intrigue and betrayal. And where the greatest danger lies. . .
Are you interested in the history of Spain during the 20th century? If you want to know more about Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, this is the appropriate novel for you. Remember that we you are learning a language, it is also important to learn about the culture and the history that surround it! There is also a TV adaptation of the novel so that you have additional opportunities to expand your language skills surrounding the novel.
12. La fiesta del Chivo (The feast of the Goat) by Mario Vargas Llosa
Urania Cabral, a New York lawyer, returns to the Dominican Republic after a lifelong self-imposed exile. Once she is back in her homeland, the elusive feeling of terror that has overshadowed her whole life suddenly takes shape. Urania’s own story alternates with the powerful climax of dictator Rafael Trujillo’s reign.
In 1961, Trujillo’s decadent inner circle (which includes Urania’s soon-to-be disgraced father) enjoys the luxuries of privilege while the rest of the nation lives in fear and deprivation. As Trujillo clings to power, a plot to push the Dominican Republic into the future is being formed. But after the murder of its hated dictator, the Goat, is carried out, the Dominican Republic is plunged into the nightmare of a bloody and uncertain aftermath. Now, thirty years later, Urania reveals how her own family was fatally wounded by the forces of historyMario Vargas Llosa is a Peruvian writer and one of the most important hispanic authors nowadays! In fact, The Feast of the Goat has been awarded as the best book of the century!
13. Las aventuras del Capitán Alatriste by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Captain Alatriste is a series of seven novels written by Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte. It deals with the adventures of the title character, a Spanish soldier and man of fortune living in the 17th century.
These books are suitable for students with a high level of Spanish, for example at degree level. However, if you can understand them, you will enjoy them without any doubt! If you want to learn more about Spain during the last sentences, Captain Alatriste’s adventures are perfect for you! There is also a film adaptation to serve as an additional lingustic resource.
Other Spanish learning hacks
Reading a novel by a Spanish writer is just one hack that can help you to improve your language skills and accellerate your Spanish learning. There are lots of other easy ways you can incorporate Spanish into your everyday life. For example, using Social Media. Follow your favourite Spanish speaking celebrities and Spanish news platforms and magazines on Twitter and Facebook. Try searching for Spanish resources on YouTube. There are lots of Spanish speaking vloggers, as well as English speaking amateur tutors who upload videos regularly to help with your learning.
Downloading apps like FlashAcademy that you can use each day for a short time is a great way to keep your memory fresh and keep your learning on track. Language exchange apps like Speaky are useful for improving your speaking and listening skills. Try listening to Spanish music and Spanish radio stations to improve your listening skills and keep up to date with Spanish popular culture.
Do you have a favorite Spanish novel that isn’t listed here? We’d love to read it! Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @FlashSticks.
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