You know that feeling of satisfaction when you finally begin a conversation in Spanish?
Or when you finally understand who’s dating who in the dramatic world of telenovelas?
If you can tick those things off on your list, your next challenge might be to finish reading a whole book in Spanish. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as the feeling when you turn the final page and realize you’ve actually done it—you’ve read a whole book in another language!
The Benefits of Reading in Spanish
Reading in Spanish will not only make you feel more confident about your language skills, but it’ll also improve them. It’ll expand your vocabulary and also help internalize the language you already know.
There’s also something special about seeing language written down, as opposed to just hearing it. Seeing the words written on the page will hopefully aid your memory of the word and help you recall it later.
Another benefit is that you’ll have lots of time to read sentences over and over again until you get the meaning, something that’s not so easy when you’re trying to eavesdrop on the bus.
There’s also less anxiety involved in reading than when you’re trying to get your message across verbally. In fact, reading is probably the most stress-free activity you can do to learn a language. When you read, you can sit back, relax and just take it all in at your own pace.
Reading in another language is also a great way to discover new stories that you might not otherwise have had the opportunity to read. Not all books written in Spanish are translated into English, so your Spanish skills may be able to help you discover a world you wouldn’t have known existed otherwise.
If the thought running through your head is, “But I’m not advanced enough!” think again. Just like when you learned to read in your own language, you can start with basic books and work your way up to something more complicated.
You can also use more structured interactive reading to build up your skills until you’re ready to tackle books. Try using FluentU’s subtitled videos to get you used to reading in Spanish, with the added bonus of flashcards, transcripts and instant definitions!
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. Videos are conveniently organized into lessons, so you can easily work towards a particular objective, topic or skill—like finally reading an entire Spanish book!
How to Pick the Perfect Spanish Book
Reading basic Spanish books will go even smoother if you pick a book that’s well-suited to your specific interests and level. Your perfect Spanish book should be:
- An achievable length. Don’t aim for “Don Quijote” on your first try. Think about the book length you would usually read in English, and then halve it, at least.
- Level-appropriate. It can be difficult to know which book is the right level for you, which is why graded readers that are made especially for Spanish learners can be useful. Ideally, you should understand roughly 70% of the words on the page. If you’re not sure, try reading the first page before you buy the book. If you can grasp the idea, more or less, that’s a good start! If you want to just get used to reading in Spanish, it might be a good idea to choose a book that you find fairly simple to help ease you into the reading habit.
- A story that interests you. The same goes for reading in any language. If you’re not into the story or subject, you’re unlikely to see the book through to the end. This is perhaps even more important for reading in Spanish. Try to find a story that you like, or you’ll end up frustrated and bored.
Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of our top 13 easy-to-read books to get you started.
Top 13 Easy-to-read Spanish Books for Spanish Learners
1. “La liebre y la tortuga” by Tina Valles
“La liebre y la tortuga” is the Spanish retelling of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” which is a beloved and well-known classic children’s book. This story has a target audience of three- to five-year-olds but will bring as much joy to an older reader as it’ll to any young listener!
This is an excellent way to build up your core vocabulary. This fun, yet meaningful, story is told using basic words and phrases. Additionally, the short sentences offer beginner learners a chance to practice reading Spanish aloud without being faced with long, complex sentences.
A bonus? The book features interactive scrapbooking activities. Any hands-on activities in Spanish are definitely beneficial for learners!
2. “El libro de Gloria Fuertes para niñas y niños: versos, cuentos y vida” by Gloria Fuertes
This collection of children’s literature by poet Gloria Fuertes is a treasure. The collection features over 100 poems and stories, many of which are beautifully illustrated by acclaimed artist Marta Altés, and is the ideal resource for beginner Spanish readers.
The stories are entertaining and the poetry is simple yet, often, profound. This book features dragons, bears, little chicks, turtles, kangaroos and many other adorable characters.
Not only will the stories captivate you, but they’ll also help you advance on your Spanish learning journey. While this book is geared toward the six- to eight-year-old age bracket, adults will also find great pleasure in this simple book too!
3. “First Spanish Reader: A Beginner’s Dual-Language Book” by Angel Flores
“First Spanish Reader: A Beginner’s Dual-Language Book” is an excellent introduction to the wonderful world of reading Spanish stories. The tales are presented with the Spanish story on one page and the English translation of the opposite facing page.
Many of the stories also include authentic Spanish idioms, which will only help deepen your understanding and connection to the language.
The vocabulary used in this volume is uncomplicated, but that doesn’t mean that the stories are overly simple or meaningless. These tales are thought-provoking!
Graded readers are an excellent option for beginner readers. They typically contain simple stories, use basic vocabulary and often add extras to help learners power up their skills. This book is no exception; there’s a bonus section that highlights vocabulary and offers practice exercises for Spanish learners.
Another plus of graded readers like this one is the fact that the stories are a manageable size. They’re great little bites of literature designed for language learning.
4. “Gael y la red de mentiras: una novela gráfica” by Ernesto Rodríguez
“Gael y la red de mentiras: una novela gráfica” (Gael and the Network of Lies: A Graphic Novel) is one of three books in a wonderful graded reader series. The other two books are called “Gael y las sombras de la huida” (Gael and the Shadows of Flight) and “Gael y el arte de la traición” (Gael and the Art of Treason).
This series uses a comic book format and the illustrations are fabulous. Each book also offers reading comprehension exercises for learners to assess their reading skills.
The series targets beginner level learners, but anyone who enjoys comic books will love reading about Gael and his amigos (friends). Gael is an unlikely hero. He’s a cat burglar whose adventures take him to Madrid, Mallorca and other intriguing spots.
He lives a thrilling life, one which Spanish learners will be swept into with far less trouble than it takes our intrepid hero to plot a theft!
I highly recommend this series, both for its language learning strengths, as well as for the stories themselves!
5. “La misión de Rox” by Laura Gallego
“La misión de Rox” (The Mission of Rox, known in English as “All the Fairies in the Kingdom”) is an easy-to-read young adult book. While it’s the third installment in a series, it’s a delightful tale that can easily stand alone from the other two books. You don’t need to read the other books to love this one, unless of course, you want to!
This is a brilliant tale about magic, a quest and the need to defend civilization. There are monsters, battles, secrets and tests of endurance. The book is easy to read although absolute beginners will likely benefit from a translation app or a good Spanish dictionary on hand.
6. “Enola Holmes y el sorprendente caso de Lady Alistair” by Nancy Springer
“Enola Holmes y el sorprendente caso de Lady Alistair” (Enola Holmes and the Surprising Case of Lady Alistair) is one of a series of graphic novels that feature the wildly imaginative Enola, who just so happens to be Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister!
The illustrations are gorgeous! They’re so detailed that even if you’re struggling a bit, there’s a high probability that just by looking at the drawings that accompany the text any confusion will be quickly cleared up.
The Spanish text is engaging, while remaining, in classic graphic novel style, short and to the point.
This volume includes Enola dressed in disguise and on the search for a missing teenager. She manages to keep one step ahead of her more well-known brother throughout the entire story. This book is such an interesting read from start to finish—and engaging resources are a Spanish language learner’s best friend!
7. “Detective Malasuerte” by Hilario Pena
Hilario Pena’s “Detective Malasuerte” (Detective Bad Luck) is an exciting read. It’s well-suited for beginner readers since the vocabulary is relatively uncomplicated. However, this book also provides just a touch of a challenge to help you keep moving forward and growing as a language learner. There are cultural references, slang and some intermediate-level passages, too.
A good translation app or Spanish dictionary will help get you over any vocabulary hurdles. Rely on the dictionary to look up what you don’t know. Remember, we use dictionaries to learn new words in our native languages, too!
The story includes a private investigator, Detective Malasuerte, who finds himself involved in a case that’s filled with supernatural occurrences. The unsavory characters he meets are both intriguing and revolting! This is a page-turner that every level Spanish learner will likely find attention-holding, especially those who like the detective genre.
This book will offer you an excellent opportunity to take note of some vocabulary that’s a bit more difficult, while also helping you gain confidence in all the vocabulary that you actually already know!
8. “Vivos se los llevaron” by Andalusia Knoll Soloff
“Vivos se los llevaron” (Taken Alive) is an account of a factual event. The graphic novel format of this story makes it accessible to beginner readers, as well as more advanced learners. The passages are clear and concise and the delivery is sequential—each event is told in a logical timeline.
This fascinating factual account involves the Mexican police and 43 student teachers who disappeared from a college without a trace.
The novel relies on interviews and official documents to tell the tale. The story includes dangerous issues that affect Mexico and many other countries, such as drugs, corrupt politicians and everyday citizens who get caught in the crossfire of these issues.
This is a true-life story that you’ll never forget. While reading, make sure you also take note of the colorful cultural references and any unfamiliar slang!
9. “Papelucho” by Marcela Paz
Written by Chilean author Marcela Paz, “Papelucho” is a series of 12 books written between the 1940s and 1970s about an eight-year-old middle-class boy named Papelucho.
The stories, written in diary form, detail Papelucho’s everyday life in Santiago, Chile and are based on the author’s own childhood experiences.
Books include “Papelucho historiador” (Papelucho the Historian), “Papelucho y el marciano” (Papelucho and the Martian), and “Papelucho ¿Soy dix-leso?” (Papelucho, Am I Dyslexic?).
These stories were unusual at the time they were written because unlike other popular children’s stories, they weren’t moralistic. These books also have lovely illustrations that help explain the story.
As the stories are written from the perspective of an eight-year-old boy, the prose is simple and easy to understand. They’re also fairly short stories, so the books are definitely manageable reads. The stories also deal with everyday life, so they’re packed full of useful vocabulary.
If you really can’t get enough of Papelucho, you can also watch the Papelucho animated film, “Papelucho y el marciano” (Papelucho and the Martian) which was released in 2007.
10. “Cuentos de la selva” by Horacio Quiroga
A book of short stories for children, “Cuentos de la selva” (Stories from the Jungle) was written in 1918 by Uruguayan author Horacio Quiroga. Quiroga spent many years living in the jungle of Misiones, Argentina and used his experiences to bring the jungle to life in these short stories.
This is a world where crocodiles put on banana necklaces and smoke Paraguayan cigarettes, where parrots invite tigers around for tea and where one lazy bee drinks all the honey to avoid having to work.
These short and sweet stories are easy to read, and you’ll definitely have improved your animal vocabulary by the time you’ve finished.
11. “El principito” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Although this book was originally written in French, its simple story and sweet pictures mean that it’s a delight to read in any language. Some people claim that the alien landscapes described in the book refer to Patagonia in Argentina, as Saint-Exupéry flew over the region many times during his time as a pilot.
A good book for practicing simple dialogue and the past tense, “El principito” is a slim volume, and is a manageable length for intermediate students and above.
Even if you’ve already read “The Little Prince” in English (or another language), you’ll find it useful to read it again in Spanish since you’ll be able to just concentrate on the language and enjoy the familiar story.
12. “El alquimista” by Paulo Coelho
Originally written in Portuguese, the Spanish translation of this international bestseller is a good one if you want to read a whole novel in Spanish. The story of “The Alchemist” concerns a young Spanish shepherd who goes on a quest after having a recurring dream.
Lessons learned by the shepherd throughout the book can be applied to a variety of life decisions, and because of this, the book is often referred to as more “self-help than literature.”
Apart from its spiritual message, this book’s main language benefit is that both the vocabulary and grammar are simple and easy to understand.
13. “El túnel” by Ernesto Sabato
This psychological thriller was written in 1948 by Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato. It was highly acclaimed internationally when it came out, and is a popular text for teenagers in Argentina today. It has also been adapted for the stage and the big screen.
The plot of “El túnel” (The Tunnel) concerns Juan Pablo Castel, a painter from Buenos Aires who has killed the woman he loved, María Iribarne. Castel examines his motives and much of the book deals with existentialism. It’s also heavily laced with the author’s characteristic acid pessimism.
This book deals with some tricky subject matter, but is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to challenge themselves to read a book in another language that’ll truly make you think.
Don’t forget to record any new vocabulary you learn as you go along, and not to give up if there are words or even sections of any of these books you don’t understand. You don’t know every word in your own language, so of course you won’t understand all the Spanish words right away either.
Most importantly, try to find a nice space to sit back and enjoy your book. Whether it’s a comfy sofa, hammock or just lying in bed, enjoy the experience and savor that feeling of satisfaction once you’re done.
Oh, And One More Thing…
If you love growing beyond basic textbook Spanish, you’ve got to try FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, commercials, news, and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized Spanish learning experiences.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
The FluentU Spanish video collection boasts a wide variety of videos—covering topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, 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.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Learn Mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU for free on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store for iOS and Android devices.
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