10 Good Reads in Spanish: from Spain to South America

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International Book Day is almost here and this is the perfect time to get closer to Hispanic culture, but through the pages of some of the most iconic or great books of all times. In this post we’ve gathered a list with 10 different tittles, in which we’ve added something for everyone. Have you ever read a book in Spanish? What is your favourite Hispanic book? These are some of our all time favourites. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have. 

In this post you'll find:

Cien años de soledad, Gabriel García Márquez. (Novel)

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A modern classic and one of the most widely read books in Hispanic literature. In this iconic novel of magical realism, Gabriel García Márquez tells the story of the Buendía family, through its different generations. Love, betrayal, violence are mixed in what is the most important work of this writer. Keep in mind that if you want to read it, you will need the help of a family tree to avoid getting lost in the long list of characters, many of whom have similar names.

If you want to know more about this important Colombian author, we recommend you read our monographic post about him. Just click on the button you’ll find down bellow.

En la celda había una libélula, Julia Viejo. (Short stories)

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For those who love short stories, we recommend reading En la celda había una libélula (In the cell there was a dragonfly), a book which is not very well known but is highly recommended. It is a series of short stories full of magical realism and everyday situations. What would happen if you stayed locked in a supermarket all night? What if the ghost of your friend’s dead sister still lived in her house? How would you deal with a group of weasels invading your country house? These and many other questions are dealt with in this book full of stories as strange as wonderful.

El viaje, Agustina Guerrero. (Graphic novel)

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Agustina Guerrero (1982, Chacabuco, Argentina) is an illustrator who became popular when she created an autobiographical character called La Volátil. With the graphic novel El viaje (2020) she tells us the story of her trip to Japan with her friend, the embroiderer Loly Ghirardi, in which she makes you discover the wonders of Japan in a story of friendship, which also deals with the anxiety that the author was suffering at the time. Humour, sensitivity and illustrations full of colour, detail and beauty characterise the latest works of this talented Argentinian illustrator.

If you like this graphic novel, we recommend you also to read her novel La compañera, in which she takes a journey through some of the most significant moments of her personal and professional life.

Memorias de Idhún, Laura Gallego. (Young adult)

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For lovers of fantasy novels and epic sagas, we recommend Memorias de Idhún, by the Valencian Laura Gallego (Quart de Poblet, 1977). This literary trilogy is composed by La resistencia, Tríada, and Panteón. This series tells the epic story of Jack, Victoria and their friends who will try to save the inhabitants of Idhún, one of the three worlds of this universe, from the tyranny of Ashran the Necromancer and some creatures called “sheks” (snakes with wings).

On her official website you can find all her works and much more.

Yo mataré monstruos por ti, Santi Balmes y Lyonna (Children's book)

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If you are looking for a children’s book full of originality and with a useful lesson for the little ones, this is the perfect book for you. Yo matararé monstruos por ti brings us closer to a reality in which there are two parallel universes: one of humans and one of monsters. It’s a book about overcoming fears, in which Martina (a human girl) and Anitram (a little monster) fear each other. A tender and ideal book to share with the youngest members of the family and read before bedtime.

If you prefer, here is a video version commented by the person in charge of Cuéntame un cuento, a youtube channel where they show and read stories for children.

Eloísa está debajo de un almendro, Enrique Jardiel Poncela. (Play)

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This is a classic of the theatre of the absurd. Written in 1940 by the Madrid playwright and novelist Enrique Jardiel Poncela. Considered to be his greatest work, it’s about the love story between two young lovers, Mariana Briones and Fernando Ojeda, whose families seem to be hiding some kind of dark secret. Absurd and amusing situations follow one after the other throughout the play, with that intelligent and ironic sense of humour that characterised Jardiel Poncela and cost him many problems with the public during Franco’s dictatorship.

There is a film version made by Rafael Gil in 1943 and many theatrical performances. Here is a video of the one staged for Estudio 1 in 1973 for Spanish public television.

La palabra en el aire, Ángel Gónzalez. (Poetry)

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Poetry is one of the most complex literary genres to read in another language. That is why we’ve picked an anthology of poems by Ángel González (Oviedo, 1925), a poet for whom simplicity was one of his main characteristics. A member of the Generation of the 1950s, his poetry is full of autobiographical references with an ironic tone. El Instituto Cervantes paid tribute to him in 2023, which you can see here.

To give you a taste of this author’s style, we include a poem he wrote when he was a student in New York and was returning to Madrid, in the midst of Franco’s dictatorship.

Dato biográfico

Cuando estoy en Madrid,
las cucarachas de mi casa protestan porque leo por las noches.
La luz no las anima a salir de sus escondrijos,
y pierden de ese modo la oportunidad de pasearse por
mi dormitorio,
lugar hacia el que 

—por oscuras razones—
se sienten irresistiblemente atraídas.
Ahora hablan de presentar un escrito de queja
al presidente de la república,
y yo me pregunto:
¿en qué país se creerán que viven?;
estas cucarachas no leen los periódicos. 

Lo que a ellas les gusta es que yo me emborrache
y baile tangos hasta la madrugada,
para así practicar sin riesgo alguno
su merodeo incesante y sin sentido, a ciegas
por las anchas baldosas de mi alcoba. 

A veces las complazco,
no porque tenga en cuenta sus deseos,
sino porque me siento irresistiblemente atraído,
por oscuras razones,
hacia ciertos lugares muy mal iluminados
en los que me demoro sin plan preconcebido
hasta que el sol naciente anuncia un nuevo día. 

Ya de regreso en casa,
cuando me cruzo por el pasillo con sus pequeños
cuerpos que se evaden
con torpeza y con miedo
hacia las grietas sombrías donde moran, 

les deseo buenas noches a destiempo
—pero de corazón, sinceramente—,
reconociendo en mí su incertidumbre,
su inoportunidad,
su fotofobia,
y otras muchas tendencias y actitudes
que—lamento decirlo—
hablan poco en favor de esos ortópteros.

Here you have an audio in which you can listen to the poet himself reading this poem. 

Paula, Isabel Allende. (Autobiography)

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Isabel Allende (Lima, Peru, 1942) is one of the most international Hispanic writers. A Peruvian-born Chilean writer, she is particularly famous for novels such as La casa de los espíritus, Eva Luna, and Inés del alma mía, some of which have been or will be made into films. Paula, published in 1994, is an autobiographical work that recounts the time she spent caring for her daughter Paula, who was left in a coma due to a medication error after an illness, until her passing. In this book she mixes the letters she wrote to her mother and some episodes from her family’s past. In 2007, she published the continuation of this story: La suma de los días, a story in which she tells Paula what has been going on with her family since her death.

Me temo lo peor, Manuel Hidalgo. (Humour)

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Manuel Hidalgo (Pamplona, 1953) is a journalist and a writer who published a series of newspaper articles in which he dealt with his hypochondriacal habits in a humorous way. There are just snippets of his daily life with his wife and his thoughts and obsessive theories about bacteria and “life-threatening” situations.

Pretérito imperfecto, Nieves Concostrina. (Educational)

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Journalist and writer specialising in the spreading of history, a regular contributor to many radio programmes, she became popular for her peculiar way of explaining historical facts in a simple, direct way and with a great sense of humour. With this 2018 book, she continued her series of works, which began with Polvo eres in 2008, in which she recounts more than 80 different events in the history of Spain using her characteristic humour and her engaging style.

Here we leave you with one of his segments for the popular radio show La ventana, where she talks about the Treaty of Utrecht after the War of Succession in Spain and the loss of Gibraltar.

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