19 Nov, 2023 @ 14:11
3 mins read

Must read: The 10 books which shine a light on Spain’s different regions – including Andalucia, Mallorca, Catalunya and more

EVERYONE has heard of Don Quixote, but book lovers who expand their reading lists beyond the classics will be rewarded with an indepth look at this diverse country. 

That’s why the Olive Press has compiled a list of lesser-known novels that best represent each region of Spain.  

From mysteries to adventures to historical fiction, there’s something for every bookworm. 


Andalus, by Jason Webster

This book delves deep into the Moorish legacy of modern Andalucia, as the author embarks on an adventure accompanied by Zine, a Moroccan immigrant, who has recently escaped from slave labour at a fruit farm. A ‘rollercoaster’ ride through the region, it unveils Spain’s Arab ancestry evident in its food, language and culture. 


Tuning Up at Dawn, by Tomas Graves 

Capturing the joy of Mallorcan summer days full of music, it celebrates the island’s traditions to a soundtrack of international stars including Jimi Hendrix, Bob Geldof and Sinead O’Connor. Tomas Graves is the son of legendary I, Claudius writer Robert Graves, who ended up in Mallorca by a happy accident. Tomas’ love for the island shines through the pages with his delightful musical escapades. 


The Carpenter’s Pencil, by Manuel Rivas  

A haunting reflection of the Spanish Civil War, The Carpenter’s Pencil sketches the destinies of a cast of unique characters caught in a national tragedy. Narrated from both sides of the conflict, the book offers an unflinching view of this complicated period of Spanish history through the eyes of the Galicians. Despite horror and hardship, the book captures the enduring tenderness of the human spirit and in 2001, it was adapted for the big screen. 


The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruis Zafron 

This magical novel will transport you to the winding streets of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter as 10-year-old Daniel uncovers the secrets of the ‘Cemetery of Lost Books’. A labyrinthine library, the boy is allowed to pick one volume from its collection of dusty novels, choosing ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Julian Carax. As he grows, so does a mysterious stranger´s interest in the book. Daniel must race to find the truth before it is too late under a continual backdrop of Catalan monuments and geography. 


The Hive, by Camilo Jose Cela

Banned for many years during Franco’s dictatorship, this book captures the stark reality of post Civil War Spain for Madrilenos. Featuring over 100 unique characters whose lives intertwine, the novel is a social documentary filled with violence, longing and unexpected tenderness. 


Lake of Dreams: Cañas y Barro, by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez

Set at the turn of the century, this prolific writer tells the story of a Spanish family living on the shores of the now famous Albufera lake. An honest depiction of life as a working class Spaniard among the radical changes of the industrial revolution, the novel is now considered to be one of the top 100 Spanish novels of the 20th century. 

The Basque Country

Obabakoak by Bernardo Atxaga 

Dubbed the Basque writer, there is no one who captures this unique region like Bernardo Atxaga. Obaba, the novel’s fictional town, represents the Basque country with its typical pelota court, fountain and church. The story is told through the peculiar tales of the town’s inhabitants, a geography teacher holding onto an old love, a boy lost in the forest, a young woman trying to get through the long winter alone. The novel has won many awards and been described as the ‘novel of the 20th century’. 


The Yellow Rain by Julio Llamarzes 

High in the Spanish pyrenees, the last remaining resident of a deserted town, Ainielle, reflects on his life. Written as a monologue, Ainelle has only his words to keep him company as he conjures up ghosts of past friends and neighbours. As he reflects on the joys and tragedies of his life, Ainelle’s story is a heartbreaking tale of sorrow, solitude and memory. 


Bueno by Christy Esmahan 

After his brother dies in Northern Spain, an American headmaster decides to discover the place his brother loved for himself. Pressured to make changes to the school, he meets much resistance. Set against the mountains of Santander, this is a tale of resistance, sympathy and multiculturalism. 


Iberia by James Michener

Any traveller to Spain would think to start their trip in the famed cities of Barcelona, Madrid or Sevilla. Not James Michener. He cared little for kings and cathedrals, searching instead for the humble shepard. In this novel he retraces the steps of conquistadors who set out from the Extremaduran towns of Trujillo and Medellin in search of the ‘new world’, returning to these sleepy, agricultural areas to find the true spirit of Spain. 

Yzabelle Bostyn

After spending much of her childhood in Andalucia and adulthood between Barcelona and Latin America, Yzabelle has settled in the Costa del Sol to put her NCTJ & Journalism Masters to good use. She is particularly interested in travel, vegan food and has been leading the Olive Press Nolotil campaign. Have a story? email yzabelle@theolivepress.es

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