Best Books to Read Before Traveling to Spain

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I’ve spent much of this year with Spain on my heart and mind. I’ve also spent it with some of the best books set in Spain filling my (digital) shelves. Here are a few of my favorite reads to transport you to Spain before you travel there yourself.

Best Books Set in Spain to Read Before You Go

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Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Spain by Chris Stewart

This book is for anyone who dreams of buying up an old house in a foreign country and building a life. In other words, it’s A Year in Provence or Under the Tuscan Sun, but set in southern Spain.

The author and his wife move onto a farm lush with olive and lemon groves, but lacking in almost all else. The book follows their journey to domestic bliss in Spain, alongside a uplifting cast of characters.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

It is no secret that I have a soft spot for this Hemingway classic. Starting in Paris, the characters in this book traverse to the Basque country in Spain for the bullfighting festival. Typical drunken Hemingway chaos ensues.

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My connection to this book has only grown after my latest trip to Spain. I’ve traveled the same route as Hemingway’s characters do and while I didn’t see a bullfight itself, I did see children pretending to be bulls outside of Pamplona’s bullfighting ring (a much more adorable alternative).

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

If you’re in the mood for a mystical read, pick up The Alchemist. I’m not the first one to call this traveler’s fable a life-changing book. It follows a shepherd from the andalusian region of Spain who chases a dream.

The New Spaniards by John Hooper

Spain is a rapidly changing country and it’s people aren’t as staunchly traditional as they once were. The Spaniards have held tight to some traditions and bucked others with gusto. This read is perfect for anyone who wants to get a glimpse at the complex changes facing ordinary Spaniards today.

Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham (Sophie Kinsella) 

If you’re looking for a read on the beach in Spain, look no further. When two families are double booked at a friend’s villa, old histories and passions resurface in a sunny, Spanish locale. Sophie Kinsella reportedly wrote this novel under the pen name of Madeliene Wickham while listening to Spanish guitar music.

Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom

A spy novel set in post-Civil War Spain. This book is an action-packed game of intrigue that imparts a tangible sense of Spanish history in an entertaining way.

Roads to Santiago: A Modern-Day Pilgrimage Through Spain by Cees Nooteboom

I can recommend an entire reading list on the Camino de Santiago alone, and I have, but this memoir is more than just another account of a pilgrimage. It weaves the history, culture and people of Spain into every step.

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Follow That Arrow: Notes on Getting Here From There by Gwen Van Velsor

This one is for fans of Wild and Eat Pray Love (raises hand). It follows the story of a newly divorced woman who sets off to find a new path for herself. First traveling through the US and then to the northern route of the Camino de Santiago, this book is a reflection on the faith and food that she finds along the way.

The Ornament of the World by Maria Rosa Menocal

If you plan to find yourself in Sevilla or Granada and want to know the history of the region, give this book a chance. It investigates the 500-year era of peace and tolerance between Muslims, Jews and Christians in southern Spain.

Discovering Spain: An Uncommon Guide by Penelope Casas 

This book, by a well-known Spanish cookbook author, is part foodie memoir and part history lesson.

What books set in Spain should I add to my list? Have you read any of these great Spanish books?

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