When it comes to learning Spanish, there are about a million reasons why reading in Spanish is a good idea. It gives you time to examine sentence structure and grammar in detail, it shows you where those sometimes-confusing accent marks are supposed to appear, and it introduces you to vocabulary that you won’t often hear in day-to-day usage. And though you can gain all these benefits from reading short stories, reading Spanish novels adds another layer!
Novels allow you to immerse yourself deeply in the cultures of Spanish-speaking authors, societies and countries in a way that shorter, more condensed mediums simply cannot. That’s why reading Spanish novels is such a good idea for students of the Spanish language!
Over the centuries, an extremely rich body of literature has emerged from the Spanish-speaking world. When trying to choose a Spanish-language novel, it can be hard to know where to start. Lucky for you, that’s where we come in.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best Spanish novels. It’s by no means definitive, but it’s certainly a good starting point for any aspiring Spanish reader.
So are you ready to get started? If you need some inspiration, check out these language learning quotes. Then, once you’re ready, read our list and choose the Spanish-language novel that seems most interesting to you!
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605/1615)
Let’s be clear: Don Quixote (or, more properly, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha) is not an easy read. It is, however, the most renowned and influential of all Spanish novels, and arguably the first true novel ever written. Therefore, it only made sense to begin our exploration of Spanish novels here.
Don Quixote tells the story of the title character, a Spanish nobleman who reads so many chivalric stories that he becomes obsessed with their ideals and sets out with the goal of “restoring” chivalry to his unjust, contemporary world. To assist him in his quest, he recruits a squire in Sancho Panza, a simple farmer who nonetheless provides a measure of common sense to their journey.
The genius of Don Quixote among Spanish novels is the fact that it established the foundation of the modern novel as we understand it today. It was part satire and part homage, it blended fantasy and realism, and it directly influenced landmark works such as The Three Musketeers and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. You really can’t get more “classic” than this!
This being said, don’t expect Don Quixote to be easy to digest. Even native Spanish-speakers struggle with this novel, due to antiquated language and its extreme length. Nonetheless, if you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll hardly find a more rewarding read in the Spanish language.
To buy a Spanish-language copy of Don Quixote, click here.
Las memorias de Mamá Blanca by Teresa de la Parra (1929)
Skipping forward several centuries, the next Spanish-language novel on our list is Las memorias de Mamá Blanca, written by Venezuelan author Teresa de la Parra.
This novel is autobiographical to a certain extent; it’s been called a “fictionalized memoir” of the author’s experience growing up as an affluent Venezuelan girl at the dawn of the 20th century. It’s a nostalgic look at a world that was quickly disappearing, as well as a glimpse into family life and the rigid gender roles that existed in a family of five daughters during the period.
At face value, the novel reads as if written by an old-fashioned woman uncritically espousing the conservative viewpoints that surrounded her in her youth. However, especially considering the author’s own progressive and even proto-feminist ideals, it can also be understood as a critique of this very mindset.
No matter how you interpret it, this is one of the most influential Spanish novels to emerge from Venezuela and wider Latin American during the first decades of the 20th century.
You can find a Spanish-language copy of Las memorias de Mamá Blanca to purchase by clicking here.
For more classic Spanish novels, click onto the next page below!