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12 Captivating Spanish Books to Add to Your Bookshelf in 2023

The best pieces of literature in any language are timeless and universal.

Some of the world’s greatest minds create these works in a bid to entertain, teach and expand your mind through philosophical quandaries.

As far as Spanish literature goes, the most powerful novels and short stories can appeal to native speakers, Spanish learners or even those just interested in reading the translations.

Here you’ll find 12 of the best Spanish books for anyone looking to add some Spanish novels to their “to read” list.


Learning Spanish? How to Find Success with Novels

Reading Spanish books in their original language can be extremely beneficial for Spanish language learners. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your novel reading:

  • Study the vocabulary. Note the frequently occurring terms that you don’t know, then add them to your study routine to expand your Spanish vocabulary.
  • Dissect the grammar. Look for sentences with Spanish grammar patterns you’ve recently learned, or parse sentences with grammar you don’t know yet.
  • Learn the culture. Choose novels set in a particular country or find books written by authors of a particular nationality to gain authentic exposure to Spanish culture and history.

For your Spanish books to really help you learn the language, you’ll want to supplement them with other Spanish language media. Find podcasts or movies that focus on similar topics as your novel to experience the vocabulary in additional contexts. Another option is an immersive Spanish language learning program, such as FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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1. Corazón tan blanco

Corazon tan blanco / A Heart So White (Spanish Edition)

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Author: Javier Marías

English title: A Heart So White

This Spanish novel penned by Madrid native Javier Marías was a defining literary work of the 1990s.

“Corazón tan blanco” delves into the life of a married man. The story uses flashbacks to tell us about his past, which includes a tragedy that occurred before he was born that would affect his entire life.

The novel ultimately focuses on what it means to be married, and the pain inherent to being in love.

It also speaks to the imperfect and biased nature of memory, and the human element of telling a tale—the telling always takes you one step farther away from the truth.

2. Niebla

Niebla (Spanish Edition)

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Author: Miguel de Unamuno

English title: Mist

“Niebla” is one of the defining novels of Miguel de Unamuno’s career.

The story features a young man who seeks meaning in his life following the death of his mother. He befriends a young woman and attempts to win her affection but faces a number of obstacles in the process.

The novel explores the hardships of love, youth and the search we all embark on to find a purpose to live.

De Unamuno’s beauty with the Spanish language and sentimentality is clear, and his words speak to the human spirit in a manner that is quite visceral and tied to nature. He is, in fact, quite well known for his quotes.

3. El obsceno pájaro de la noche

El obsceno pájaro de la noche

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Author: José Donoso

English title: The Obscene Bird of Night

Chilean author José Donoso was a preeminent writer of the magical realism movement, an iconic part of Latin American history, which combines traditional fiction with magical elements.

In this 1970 novel, the author examines how obsession and the accompanying anguish lead to suffering, including physical manifestations of fears.

Donoso uses allegory to depict deep psychological turmoil in a person, and excels at using imagery to depict emotion.

The fantastical elements of magical realism in this book often add an element of terror that can make the reader shiver in their own skin.

4. El criticón

El Criticón

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Author: Baltasar Gracián

English title: The critics

Published in the 1600s, this novel, along with “Don Qujiote” and “La celestina,” is considered one of the three iconic works of classic Spanish writing.

The story is told through the eyes of two men: the naïve Andrenio and the wise Critilo. Baltasar Gracián treats his protagonists as philosophers who serve a didactic purpose: showing what is right and wrong.

The title comes from the word crítica (critique, criticism) and prefaces the philosophical discourse of sorts that reflects Gracián’s pessimistic view of society—and truly, many of the ideas remain relevant today.

This work is an epopeya, an epic form of literature that revolves around a hero and ultimately serves as a tale of morality.

5. La breve y maravillosa vida de Oscar Wao

La breve y maravillosa vida de Oscar Wao (Vintage Espanol) (Spanish Edition)

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Author: Junot Díaz

English title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

This Junot Díaz novel was originally written in English, but the Spanish translation is just as good.

A contemporary piece of literature, this book examines what it’s like to be a Dominican and first-generation American. Both the protagonist Oscar Wao and the author fit this description, and Díaz uses his own story to craft a tale that hits close to home.

You’ll also get a peek into the effects of politics on society, as the book takes place during the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship that lasted for 31 years.

Rich in Spanish culture, this novel will give you insight into growing up in a Dominican household and the beauty and liveliness of the Caribbean nation. 

6. El general en su laberinto

El general en su laberinto / The General in His Labyrinth (Spanish Edition)

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Author: Gabriel García Márquez

English title: The General in His Labyrinth

Gabriel García Márquez is one of the most celebrated Latin American authors the world has seen, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

This book focuses on a fictional general meant to represent Simón Bolívar, the leader and liberator of Colombia, in his last days, which were plagued by disease.

The work ultimately shows how even the most noble of men can succumb to the limits of the body, as the author portrays just how much Bolívar gave for his country by describing how worn out he is.

“El general en su laberinto” is a great example why García Márquez is among the greatest writers of the 20th century.

7. Las batallas en el desierto

Las batallas en el desierto (Spanish Edition).

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Author: José Emilio Pacheco

English title: The Battles in the Desert

Mexican writer José Emilio Pacheco was also considered to be among the greatest writers of the 20th century.

This short novel, in which a man named Carlos narrates his childhood, focuses on the social and political circumstances of the time.

Topics include the six-year-long presidential tenure of Miguel Alemán, the morality in Mexico in the 1940s and the influence of American pop culture.

“Las batallas en el desierto” effectively weaves the story Pacheco is telling with the political turmoil that marked Mexico during this time in this semi-biographical but ultimately fictionalized novel.

8. Del amor y otros demonios

Del amor y otros demonios / Of Love and Other Demons (Spanish Edition)

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Author: Gabriel García Márquez

English title: Of Love and Other Demons

“Del amor y otros demonios” is the second Gabriel García Márquez selection on our list.

Much like in El general en su laberinto,” we see a character slowly wither away due to illness. This 1994 novel features a girl living in 18th century America who is bitten by a dog and ends up with rabies.

The protagonist is in a desperate situation, dying in her bed while she clings to some hope that would relieve her of her situation.

The author forces us to face our own mortality, the most important and basic element of life, and asks us to consider religion in the face of this inescapable truth.

9. El beso de la mujer araña

El Beso de la Mujer Arana (Spanish Edition)

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Author: Manuel Puig

English title: Kiss of the Spider Woman

“El beso de la mujer araña” almost reads like a play, as most of it consists of dialogue.

Manuel Puig delves deep into the underbelly of crime in Argentina, depicting an ongoing dialogue between two cellmates who develop a friendship.

The story explores homosexuality in the 1970s (the novel was published in 1976), which was one of the most important decades for same-sex rights in Argentina due to a civil revolution.

The value of a human being is at the crux of this novel, and Puig’s characters give a clear message—we are all worth the same, we have all made mistakes and we all deserve respect.

10. En el tiempo de las mariposas

En el tiempo de las mariposas (Spanish Edition)

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Author: Julia Álvarez

English title: In the Time of the Butterflies

The English translation of En el tiempo de las mariposas” is excellent, and a good film adaptation exists, but the original Spanish version by Dominican author Julia Álvarez is a work of art.

The novel advocates for social rights, as it covers the three Mirabal sisters who stood up to Dominican dictator Trujillo during his tyranny, which was especially harsh on women.

The narration of the sisters and their analysis of their country’s situation helps paint a picture of the rebellion and the irreverence that marked their character. 

The Mirabal sisters were outspoken and were ultimately assassinated by Trujillo’s forces. But they have been immortalized in Dominican lore—including in this powerful book—as those who gave a voice to a suppressed country.

11. Don Quijote de La Mancha

Don Quijote de la Mancha. Edición RAE / Don Quixote de la Mancha. RAE (EDICIÓN CONMEMORATIVA DE LA RAE Y LA ASALE) (Spanish Edition)

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Author: Miguel de Cervantes

English title: Don Quixote

This extremely famous classic Spanish novel was originally published in two parts in 1605 and 1615.

The story follows Alonso Quijano, a man from La Mancha, Spain, and a member of the lowest nobility class. Inspired by stories of chivalry, he takes up the name Don Quixote to become a knight and serve his country.

The book is considered both tragic and comedic, and has inspired numerous other works of art, including plays, operas, movies and a multitude of other novels.

“Don Quijote de La Mancha” is both one of the most-translated and one of the best-selling books in the world, and is often considered the first modern novel.

12. Cien años de soledad

Cien años de soledad (50 Aniversario) / One Hundred Years of Solitude: Illustrated Fiftieth Anniversary edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude (Spanish Edition)

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Author: Gabriel García Márquez

English title: One Hundred Years of Solitude

We’ll close out our list with another Gabriel García Márquez novel. “Cien años de soledad” was originally published in 1967 and is considered García Márquez’s magnum opus.

Set in the fictional town of Macondo, the story follows the town’s history through multiple generations of the Buendía family, who founded the city.

The author, using magical realism, shows readers a fictionalized history of Latin America with powerful themes including time, the past and the illusion of control.

“Cien años de soledad” has had major influence on literary forms around the globe and is one of the most important works of Hispanic literature, and world literature.


As with literature in any language, these 12 best Spanish books cover a vast array of topics, themes, writing styles and genres.

But they are all some of the most popular and influential pieces of literature ever written by the masters of the Spanish language.

So, which one are you going to read first?

And One More Thing…

If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.

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FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:


FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.


Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.


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The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.

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