Taking a trip to Spain: 10 of the Best Books to Read

Books to read on a trip to Spain

Books to read if you are taking a trip to Spain.

Odyssey has prepared and made this reading list. If you are taking a trip to Spain and seeking a list of books for the journey, then this collection of titles may assist.

 

1. Spain (1964)

by Jan Morris
Spain is one of the absolutes. 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’s classic work is back in print, bringing Spain, its glory and its tragedy, vividly to life. Jan Morris’s collection of travel writing and reportage spans over five decades.
Hav, her novel, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. This universally praised odyssey through Spain has been revised and superbly illustrated. History, legend, landscape, architecture, religion, character, and anecdote are brilliantly woven together to create a fascinating and complex portrait.
‘The most evocative book ever written about Spain.’ Independent

2. The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain (2009)

by Maria Rosa Menocal
Widely hailed as a revelation of a “lost” golden age. This history  book brings to vivid life the rich and thriving culture of medieval Spain. A time  where, for more than seven centuries, Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in an atmosphere of tolerance, and literature, science, and the arts flourished.
Iberia, Pyrenees

3. The New Spaniards (2006)

by John Hooper
A fully revised, expanded and updated edition of this masterly portrayal of contemporary Spain. The restoration of democracy in 1977 heralded a period of intense change that continues today. Spain has become a land of extraordinary paradoxes in which traditional attitudes and contemporary preoccupations exist side by side. The focus is on issues which affect ordinary Spaniards, from housing to gambling, from changing sexual mores to rising crime rates. John Hooper’s fascinating study brings to life the new Spain of the twenty-first century.

4. Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country’s Hidden Past (2008)

by Giles Tremlett

The Spanish are reputed to be amongst Europe’s most voluble people. So why have they kept silent about the terrors of the Spanish Civil War and the rule of dictator General Francisco Franco?

The appearance – sixty years after that war ended – of mass graves containing victims of General 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, and through Spanish history. As well as a moving exploration of Spanish politics, Tremlett’s journey was also an attempt to make sense of his personal experience of the Spanish. Why do they dislike authority figures, but are cowed by a doctor’s white coat? How had women embraced feminism without men noticing? What binds gypsies, jails and flamenco? Why do the Spanish go to plastic surgeons, donate their organs, visit brothels or take cocaine more than other Europeans?

‘Lively and well-informed . . . at once a history, a journalistic inquiry and a travel book.’ Sunday Telegraph

Avila, Spain

5. Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe (2016)

by John Julius Norwich
Four great princes – Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, Charles V of Spain and Suleiman the Magnificent – were born within a single decade. Each looms large in his country’s history. In this book, John Julius Norwich broadens the scope. He shows how, against the rich background of the Renaissance and destruction of the Reformation, their wary obsession with one another laid the foundations for modern Europe. Individually, each man could hardly have been more different ­- from the scandals of Henry’s six wives to Charles’s monasticism – but, together, they dominated the world stage. From the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a pageant of jousting, feasting and general carousing so lavish that it nearly bankrupted both France and England, to Suleiman’s celebratory pyramid of 2,000 human heads (including those of seven Hungarian bishops) after the battle of Mohács; from Anne Boleyn’s six-fingered hand (a potential sign of witchcraft) that had the pious nervously crossing themselves to the real story of the Maltese falcon.
Four Princes is history at its vivid, entertaining best. With a cast list that extends from Leonardo da Vinci to Barbarossa, and from Joanna the Mad to le roi grand-nez, Norwich offers the perfect guide to the most colourful century the world has ever known and brings the past to unforgettable life.
‘Never before had the world seen four such giants co-existing. Sometimes friends, more often enemies, always rivals, these four men together held Europe in the hollow of their hands’.

About Odyssey’s tours of Spain

Odyssey Traveller offers regular escorted small group tours to Spain each year. For a list of our tours of Spain, follow this linkClick here to order a copy of our current brochure for tours of the world. And to keep in touch with Odyssey Traveller and receive information on our upcoming tours, please call or send an email. We’d love to hear from you!

6. Homage to Catalonia (1938)

by George Orwell
Homage to Catalonia is George Orwell’s personal account of his experiences and observations in the Spanish Civil War. The first edition was published in the United Kingdom in 1938. The book was not published in the United States until February 1952, when it appeared with an influential preface by Lionel Trilling. The only translation published in Orwell’s lifetime was into Italian, in December 1948.
Basque Country, vineyard

7. The Revolution and Civil War in Spain (2008)

by Pierre Broue, Emile Temine
An outstanding history that shows how a promising workers’ movement ended in a fascist victory. What emerges most clearly in this detailed history, is how the popular front held back radical measures that would have galvanised the working class and peasant base of the revolution, and decisively weakened Franco’s forces.
Author Pierre Broue, a former professor of contemporary history at the Institut d’Etudes politiques in Grenoble.  Broue is a  world-renowned specialist on the Communist and international workers’ movements.

8. Moorish Spain (2006)

by Richard Fletcher
Written in the same tradition as John Julius Norwich’s engrossing accounts of Venice and Byzantium. Richard Fletcher’s Moorish Spain entertains even as it enlightens. He tells the story of a vital period in Spanish history which transformed the culture and society, not only of Spain, but of the rest of Europe as well. Moorish influence transformed the architecture, art, literature and learning. Fletcher combines this analysis with a crisp account of the wars, politics and sociological changes of the time.
Moorish architecture of Seville, Spain

9. The Moor’s Last Stand: How Seven Centuries of Muslim Rule in Spain Came to an End (2017)

by Elizabeth Drayson
The Moor’s Last Stand presents the poignant story of Boabdil, the last Muslim king of Granada. Betrayed by his family and undermined by faction and internal conflict. Boabdil was defeated in 1492 by the forces of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of the newly united kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. The Christian victory marked the completion of the long Christian reconquest of Spain and ended seven centuries in which Christians, Muslims and Jews had, for the most part, lived peacefully and profitably together. Five centuries after his death, Boabdil continues to be a potent symbol of resistance to the forces of western Christendom. His image endures in contemporary culture.
Elizabeth Drayson presents a vivid account of Boabdil’s life and times. Drayson also considers the impact of his defeat then and now.

10. Spain: The Centre of the World 1519-1682 (2010)

by Robert Goodwin
In the sixteenth century, the Spaniards became the first nation in history to have worldwide reach. Across most of Europe to the Americas, the Philippines, and India. Goodwin tells the story of Spain and the Spaniards. A story about  great soldiers like the Duke of Alba to literary figures and artists such as El Greco, Velázquez, Cervantes, and Lope de Vega, and the monarchs who ruled over them. At the beginning of the modern age, Spaniards were caught between the excitement of change and a medieval world of chivalry and religious orthodoxy.  Spaniards experienced a turbulent existential angst that fueled an exceptional Golden Age. A fluorescence of art, literature, poetry, and which inspired new ideas about International Law, merchant banking, and economic and social theory.
Malaga, Andalusia, Spain.
Odyssey Traveller offers regular escorted small group tours to Spain each year. For a list of our tours of Spain, follow this linkClick here to order a copy of our current brochure for tours of the world. And to keep in touch with Odyssey Traveller and receive information on our upcoming tours, please call or send an email. We’d love to hear from you!

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