Travel planning

Spain Reading and Movie List

Literature on Spain & Spanish History

  • Iberia, by James Michener. A lengthy, delightful, and essential reading on Spain.
  • The Story of Spain, by Mark Williams. A good readable overall history of Spain.
  • Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus, by Hugh Kennedy. An overview of eight centuries of history. Addison-Wesley, 1997)
  • The Basque History of the World, by Mark Kurlansky. A fascinating look at one of the most ancient cultures in Europe. (Penguin, 1999)
  • The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain, by Maria Rosa Menocal. A look at how three cultures, Judaic, Islamic and Christian formed a relatively stable co-existence from 786-1492. (Back Bay Books, 2003)
  • The Last Jew, by Noah Gordon. Fascinating fiction set in 1492 Spain. (St. Martin’s Press, 2000)
  • The Quest for El Cid, by Richard Fletcher. A provocative study of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid, the 11th century warrior-knight converted to national hero. (Oxford Press, 1991)
  • The Portable Cervante, by Miguel de Cervantes. Various translations in paperback including an abridged version of Don Quixote de la Mancha and others.
  • Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience, by Jane S. Gerber. Follows the paths of Sephardic Jews from pre-1492 to today. (Free Press, 1994)
  • Peace in War, by Miguel de Unamuno. A novel of the Carlist War in Bilbao region (Basque country).
  • Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls or any of his many works about Spain.
  • The Frozen Heart, by Almudena Grandes perhaps is ‘the’ modern Spanish novel. It chronicles the lives of two families from the start of the Spanish Civil War to 2005: their loves, their losses and their victories, the choices they make.
  • The Wind from the East: A Novel, by Almudena Grandes is another strong work by the celebrated author that tells two stories set in Madrid and Andalucia.
  • An Englishman in Madrid (2010) The plot centers on a British art expert who visits Spain in the increasingly chaotic days before war and discovers a canvas which appears to be a previously unknown Velazquez painting of incalculable value.
  • Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country’s Hidden Past, by Giles Tremlett (2007). Written by the Guardian’s Madrid correspondent, he provides an outsider’s observation of Spain past and present.
  • The Shadow of the Wind (Spanish: La sombra del viento) is a 2001 novel by Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and a worldwide bestseller. The book was translated into English in 2004 by Lucia Graves and sold over a million copies in the UK after already achieving success on mainland Europe, topping the Spanish bestseller lists for weeks. It was published in the United States by Penguin Books and in Great Britain by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and by Orion Books. It is believed to have sold 15 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books of all time. (see other books from same writer)
  • Soldiers of Salamis (Spanish: Soldados de Salamina) is a novel about the Spanish Civil War published in 2001 by Spanish author Javier Cercas. The book was acclaimed by critics in Spain and was top of the best- seller book list there for many months. A film adaptation Soldados de Salamina was released in 2003. The English translation by Anne McLean won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for 2004.
  • Driving over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucía, by Chris Stewart. A family’s account of buying a home and surviving in the Andalusian countryside. (Vintage, 2001)
  • The City of Marvels, by Eduardo Mendoza is an international best-seller that that follows a young boy as he travels to Barcelona in the late 1800’s. It is both a tale of the young protagonist and the growth of Barcelona as it develops for the 1929 World’s Fair.
  • No Word from Gurb, by Eduardo Mendoza is a short and funny book written by one of Spain’s most important contemporary writers. It is a tale of two aliens that land in Barcelona for research.
  • Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell. A compelling read about the author’s travels to Spain in 1936 to report on the civil war.
  • What’s up with Catalonia?: The causes which impel them to the separation, by Liz Castro (2013) takes a look at the Catalans’ aspirations for sovereignty.
  • Catalonia – A Cultural History, by Michael Eaude is an in-depth look at the region.
  • Following the Sun: A Bicycle Pilgrimage From Andalusia to the Hebrides, by John Hanson Mitchell. As a self-proclaimed sun worshipper the author shares his travel journey tales from Spain to Scotland on his old Peugot. His story is filled with history, archeology, lore, and the study of ancient sun worshipping cultures and his conversations with locals along the way. It includes an interesting discussion of the Camino de Santiago.
  • Spain…A Culinary Road Trip, by Mario Bartali (2008). Savor the food and sights as award-winning author and Chef Mario Bartali and Gwyneth Paltrow and friends take a road trip in Spain.
  • Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain, by Penelope Cavas evokes a cultural insight to Spain with recipes for tapas.

Literature on Barcelona

  • The Thief’s Journal (1949), Jean Genet’s existential novel
  • The Palace (1962), by Nobel prize-winner Claude Simon
  • The Margin, by André Pieyre de Mandiargues (1967), which was made into a film.

Literature on the Camino de Santiago

  • The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook, by David M. Gitlitz. (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2000).
  • Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago, by Nancy Louise Frey. Looks at the modern pilgrim experience both during and after the event.
  • Road of Stars to Santiago, by Edward F. Stanton. A recap of the author’s experiences of walking the Camino.
  • The Way of St. James, by T.A. Layton. Explores the historical and modern-day pilgrim experience.
  • The Road to Santiago, Pilgrims of St. James, by Walter Starkie (currently out of print – look for it at your library or through your favorite used bookstore). (London: John Murray, 1957)
  • The Pilgrimage to Santiago, by Edwin Mullins. (first published in 1974 and recently reprinted by Interlink books in 2001:
  • Off the Road – A Modern Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route into Spain, by Jack Hitt. (Aurum Press, London, 1994). A great account of a personal odyssey walking the Camino. This one reads well and is entertaining and educational as well.
  • The Pilgrimage, by Paulo Coelho. A fantastical story of self-discovery and the Camino.
  • Journey: A Novel of Pilgrimage and Spiritual Quest, by Elyn Aviva, Ph.D. For more information visit
  • Walking home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed, by Sonia Choquette. Walk along with the author and get a feel for the towns, route and arduous undertaking as she makes her spiritual pilgrimage over the Pyrenees and across northern Spain.

Movies and Shows about or set in Spain 

  • El Cid, featuring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren. This 1961 epic directed by Anthony Mann is the story of a legendary 11th-century warrior who drove the Moors from Spain. This great adventure was shot on location in Spain.
  • Spanish film-maker Pedro Almodóvar won an Academy Award for the film All About My Mother. He has also directed many other avant garde films set in post-Franco Spain.
  • South From Granada follows the life of English writer Gerald Brenan, who, as this story has it, fell for his idealized vision of a local girl and her rural town on the outskirts of Granada.
  • L’Auberge Espagnole. A great movie about university student life and young folks living in a European Union where it is easy to cross borders but not always easy to communicate! Based in Barcelona and includes Audrey Tautou (from Amelie). Directed by Cedric Klapisch.
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008). Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz star in this Woody Allen movie.
  • When the Moors Ruled in Europe (2008). A documentary of the Moors 700 reign in Spain featuring historian Bettany Hughes starting with the Moors conquest of the Visigoths and ending with the conquest of the Moors by the Catholic Monarchy of Isabella and Ferdinand.
  • The Way (2010). Starring real-life father and son Martin Sheen and Emilio Estavez, a father originally planning to fly to France to retrieve his son’s ashes finds himself walking the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St James) pilgrimage route to pay homage to his son who died while walking the route.
  • Welcome Mr. Marshall! (Spanish: ¡Bienvenido, Mister Marshall!) is a 1953 Spanish comedy film directed by Luis García Berlanga and considered one of the masterpieces of Spanish cinema. It tells the story of a small Spanish town, Villar del Río, which hears of the visit of American diplomats and begins preparations to impress the American visitors in the hopes of benefitting under the Marshall Plan.
  • Amanece, que no es poco is a 1989 Spanish comedy film directed by José Luis Cuerda. (+ subs)
  • The Trip to Spain is a British Comedy about two guys who sample the restaurants and hotels of the Spanish coastline, trading jokes and impressions over their lunches. The film offers great shots of the scenery and the local food. You will either love or hate these guys.
  • El Ministerio del Tiempo is a fun time-travel series about a Spanish government authority making sure history won’t change – an entertaining trip through history, spiced up with gentle self-mockery, a critical stance on history, and interesting trivia for the history buffs among us.

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