To read or not to read.
That is a silly question.
Books are like portable magic, Stephen King would say. And now that you’ve got another language to read in, you’re not gonna let that all go to waste by not actually reading, right?
I mean, you didn’t go through all that trouble just so you can order properly at a Spanish restaurant, did you?
All those nights learning the basics of Spanish grammar and shoring up your vocabulary, all the effort differentiating “ser” from “estar”—you’re not about to leave them to rust or lay dormant, right?
Reading is just too important an activity to leave to the people in retirement homes.
So I’m going to give you seven vital books that should be on the reading list of every intermediate Spanish learner.
But before that, let me tell you quickly why you should read intermediate Spanish books, and the signs that you’ve got one in your hand.
Why Read Intermediate Spanish Books?
It Polishes Your Spanish 101
You can honestly say that you’ve got the basics of Spanish down. You know because you’ve put in the serious work. But just like everything in life, if you don’t use it, you’re gonna eventually lose it.
Let me paint you a picture. Imagine you’re standing on an inclined plane tilted about 60 degrees. That would be very hard, right? Gravity would do what it does best, pulling your sorry self to the ground.
In order for that not to happen, you’ve got to keep on moving, running upwards. If you’re not running upwards, then you’re really slipping down.
That inclined plane is your Spanish knowledge.
Reading in the intermediate ensures that you don’t forget your basic Spanish.
If you make Spanish a part of your everyday activities, you’ll never have to take a refresher course in your life. You’ll just know Spanish, period.
So reading in Spanish will integrate that basic knowledge, and you’ll never look back.
It Introduces You to Nuances That are the Exceptions to the Rules
When you first learned Spanish grammar rules, your teacher was probably thinking, “Well, there are plenty of exceptions to that rule, but I’m not gonna throw that at them right now.”
For good reasons. You probably wouldn’t have the basics down if you’d been bombarded with every exception to the rules. For example, the Spanish language has plenty of false cognates, irregular verbs with plenty of tenses, aspects and moods that have shown the “exit door” to many eager learners.
In the intermediate level, that’s when you start to really get into nuances and the textures of language. The intermediate Spanish books will make you say, “Hey, wait a minute, that’s an interesting conjugation. I want to take a closer look at this.”
A single page of intermediate Spanish writing can teach so many new things. So read up!
It Makes the Spanish Culture Come Alive
One of the rewards of reading is that it takes you to a different world and time.
Books are not merely mirrors of a culture, they are the very soul of a culture. An intermediate book will introduce you to the richness of Spanish in a way that connects the dots for you, and makes you appreciate the beauty of a people and their language.
A basic Spanish book can scarcely do that, but an intermediate book can take you to new places and show you realities and magic that will hopefully stay with you for the rest of your life.
The Qualities of a Good Intermediate Spanish Book
Not as Thick as Your Spanish Dictionary
An intermediate book can be as short as 10 pages. If it tops 50, then you’re probably dealing with an advanced-intermediate book. (Unless the book is a collection, then it can easily go over 100 pages.)
With intermediate books, the chapters are shorter. They are strategically divided into manageable chunks to give readers respite, and prevent folks from burning out and getting overwhelmed.
Friendly Fonts, Font Size and Colors
How will you know if a book will be light reading or if it will require you to wrestle with your Spanish dictionary and thesaurus? Look at the fonts, their size and their colors.
If they are brooding and serious, then it’s a sign that you’ve got heavy topics ahead.
If the fonts look friendly and jump out of the page, they will be more on the level you want. (Friendly fonts include Helvetica, Calibri, Arial and Verdana.)
Pictures Are Always a Good Sign
Pictures are a graphic guide to what’s going on in the book. They provide context clues to the events in the plot, and make the characters come alive and stick to your mind.
Colored pictures are usually the sign of a nice beginner-intermediate book.
Many of the Words Are Familiar When Skimming
Skim the whole thing. Look at the words. Do they look familiar to you?
If you are 30-60% familiar with the words you see, then reading such a book would strengthen what you already know, and still teach you something new too.
If, on the other hand, almost nothing seems to be making sense to you, that book is way too advanced for you. Likewise, if you already understand the whole thing, then you need something more challenging.
Sentences Don’t Require a Whole Paragraph
Sentence length is a good indication of the level of comprehension expected from the readers. Now there’s no hard and fast rule about this, but if at first glance you’re already seeing nested sentences and commas upon commas, then step away from the shelf.
Pick books with sentences that you can easily translate into English, and whose relationships between different parts of speech are clear.
If the sentence structure looks too complex for you to deconstruct, then it’s too complex for you to understand.
Ok enough of that. Let me give you now seven books that will be perfect additions to your reading list. They are intermediate books that will not only reinforce the language, but will also make you appreciate yourself for investing your time in Spanish.
7 Intermediate Spanish Books to Make You Fall in Love with Spanish
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FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, as you can see here:
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Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
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In the meantime, let’s get this reading started!
1. “El gato en el sombrero” (“The Cat in the Hat”)
Let’s start with something really sweet and easy. You’ve probably been tucked in by mommy with this bedtime story, right?
This one’s a Spanish adaptation of that beloved Dr. Seuss classic about a cat who wears a hat, naturally—who comes into the house of Sally and her brother one cold and rainy day.
The gregarious kitty proceeds to liven Sally’s day with a series of home-wrecking games, tricks and balancing acts—despite the lively protestations of their talking pet fish. The house was in a complete mess, so of course mommy was about to come home!
Well, you know what happened. If not, you can begin by reading the full text in English, which will give you a better starting point for the Spanish version.
2. “10 años con Mafalda”
This is the best-of-the-best collection of the “Mafalda” comic book series that came out in the ’60s and ’70s. It is sort of the “Peanuts” of Argentina, and will really be like hitting three birds with one stone since Spanish learners can have fun while picking up a second language and learning about social issues.
Mafalda is an idealistic, young girl with plenty of thoughts about humanity, world peace and other debatable topics.
Readers will benefit from the memorable Mafalda and the cast of other characters who shed light on the social and political zeitgeist of the era. Its comic book nature makes it an easy read, readily tamed by the vocabulary set of intermediate Spanish readers.
In addition, the pictures help develop the contextualization skills of foreign language learners.
Mafalda is effective both as a vehicle for social commentary and as a tool for language acquisition, without being pushy on both accounts.
So what are you waiting for? Get to know Mafalda and the whole gang!
3. “Hermanos Grimm” – Dual Language Edition
Get the chance to read the Grimm brothers’ grisly original version of the fairytales. Included in this collection are well-known classics such as La Cenicienta (Cinderella), Rapunzel (Rapunzel), La Bella Durmiente (Sleeping Beauty) and some lesser known tales like Los músicos de Brema (The Bremen Town Musicians), Los tres pelos de oro del Diablo (The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs) and El joven gigante (The Young Giant).
The most rockin’ feature of this edition is that the stories come in four formats: English into Spanish, Spanish into English, full English and full Spanish.
So you can probably start off with a full English version and then graduate to the English with Spanish translations underneath. Then when you feel a little cocky, you go ahead with the full Spanish text.
The translations are quite accurate and Spanish learners will have the benefit of the stories to contextualize word use and vocabulary.
(Just a little heads up, since this the Grimm brother’s original version of the fairytales, you might feel a little nausea when reading. No worries though, it only means that your Spanish is working!)
4. “Learn Spanish II” – Parallel Text
If you’ve had some hours of Spanish under your belt, then it’s an absolute travesty not to enjoy this charming collection of easy-to-read and easy-to-follow short stories from Polygot Planet Publishing.
The stories, which often deal with European culture and characters, have been translated with the learners in mind. As a parallel text, they are told in a line-by-line translation method so that readers can cross reference their way to fluency.
With stories like “A Kiss in Florence,” “Anna and I” and “Gastronomic Experiences in Morocco,” you’ll be reminded of why you’ve fallen in love with the language in the first place.
Read this while having good wine and cheese, and you’ll know be the classiest intermediate Spanish learner on the block!
5. “Short Stories in Spanish” – New Penguin Parallel Text
Talk about learning Spanish from the greats, this collection of short stories includes those from Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende and Carlos Fuentes.
Not only can you sense culture in every story, but you can also sense an author’s style—sharpening your Spanish instinct.
If you’re pretty confident of your Spanish, then you should probably order this one already. It’s perfect for advanced-intermediate learners with solid Spanish fundamentals, since the translations are less literal than the other parallel texts. In this one, the translators went after the intention and the emotion of the original author. This book will really put your Spanish through its paces.
Only one question remains: Do you have what it takes?
6. “Spanish Novels: Fútbol en Madrid”
This is the first book in the Spanish Novels series by the Madrid-born fiction writer Paco Ardit.
It’s a funny story about a man in his fifties and his dream of playing professional soccer—with Real Madrid, no less—alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.
“Fútbol en Madrid” is light reading for the intermediate Spanish learner. Don’t be fazed by its 80 chapters; each chapter is usually just five sentences long.
The only thing you need to keep handy is your knowledge of simple present tense. With short sentences, easy grammar, basic vocabulary and useful dialogues for everyday situations, this one’s a keeper for anyone looking for a great Spanish language-learning tool.
7. “Historias de Latinoamérica”
Wanna shake things up a bit and stray from usual Spanish fare and learn about the myths and legends of the countries in Latin America?
Yep, there’s something in this book from the rich heritages of Paraguay, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Guatemala and Puerto Rico.
The stories are enchantingly written in a simple, conversational Spanish and English so that an intermediate Spanish student can both appreciate the story and pick up some Spanish gems along the way.
“Historias de Latinoamérica” will take you on the Latin American roller coaster ride and make the intermediate learner realize, “Yeah, I made the right choice with Spanish.”
Book your Latin American tour right now!
And there we have it, seven awesome books for intermediate Spanish learners. Pick up one of these gems today to solidify your Spanish basics and keep moving up!
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