“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”—George R.R. Martin
Reading is an adventure.
Are you looking for a new fantasy to sink your teeth into?
Or maybe just a heartwarming tale to lose your troubles in?
Tired of staring at a textbook?
Reading in Spanish doesn’t need to be boring. In fact, it can unlock a whole new world of stories you might never have discovered otherwise.
Even if you’ve just started learning the language, there are some excellent Spanish novels for beginners that’ll help you learn while keeping you engrossed in the story.
Practicing your Spanish reading will never feel like a chore again!
How Spanish Novels for Beginners Can Help You Improve Your Language Skills
I know, tackling a novel in Spanish might sound scary. But it shouldn’t be!
There are plenty of Spanish novels out there just waiting to be read by beginners just like you. And not only will it be far more interesting than a glossy textbook, but it’ll also help accelerate your learning.
Studying a list of vocabulary or making some flashcards are great methods for learning new words, but you may find that you pick up new Spanish vocabulary faster just by reading. Reading a Spanish novel is the perfect way to expand your vocabulary, while seeing new words in context will help you retain them better.
Reading a novel will also help you to familiarize yourself with Spanish sentence structure and grammar. No more simple textbook sentences!
Unlike traditional courses, you can work through a novel at your own pace. So take your time.
Finally, not only is reading a novel in Spanish far more interesting than reading a textbook or studying flashcards, but it’s also very relaxing. It’s far less mentally stimulating than watching or listening to something in Spanish, so it’s the perfect way to practice when you don’t want to feel like you’re studying.
How to Choose Your First Beginner-friendly Spanish Novel
This part is key. Choose right and you won’t want to put your book down. Choose wrong and you may find yourself struggling to get through each page.
The most important part of choosing the right book for you is to select one that’s right for your level. Don’t get too ambitious but don’t sell yourself short, either.
The best way to figure out your level is by testing an excerpt of the book. You should be able to understand 70% to 80% of what’s on the page. That’ll give you just enough to keep your brain learning, but not so much that it overwhelms you.
Next, this might seem like an obvious statement but choose something you actually want to read. If you need to force yourself to read, then you probably haven’t chosen the right novel. Reading, even in Spanish, should be enjoyable!
Don’t choose something too long, either. Now’s not the time to try to tackle “Don Quixote.” There are more than enough short novels out there to start with and if that’s too much for you to handle, why not try reading a few short stories or some short reading exercises instead?
You can get even shorter and add videos to support your reading by watching authentic content on FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
9 of the Best Spanish Novels for Beginner Language Learners
“Aura” by Carlos Fuentes (Bilingual Edition)
Still worried about tackling an entire novel in Spanish? Here’s your solution. The bilingual edition of “Aura“ has the novel in Spanish and English side by side to help improve your understanding of the text.
“Aura“ is a mystery tale about Felipe, a man who goes to work in the house of a widow to edit her deceased husband’s memoirs. While there, he meets and becomes enamored by her niece, Aura. Carlos Fuentes was a renowned writer in the Latin American world and this short novel is sure to keep you engrossed.
Much of the story is written in the present tense, so this is a great place to start if you’re still getting a handle on Spanish tenses. You’ll also pick up a lot of interesting vocabulary you wouldn’t necessarily find on a beginner’s vocabulary list.
“El principito” (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
While not strictly a Spanish novel, this is a classic that should be read by everyone at some point. So why not kill two birds with one stone? The Spanish translation is excellent, perfect for beginners looking to practice. Sentences are short and relatively simple and the vocabulary isn’t overly complex, but very useful.
The story is about a pilot who crashes his plane in the Sahara and is left stranded. There, he meets a young boy, known as the little prince. The little prince tells him his story and the pilot discovers that the boy is from a small astroid and has been traveling to different planets. It’s a charming tale that highlights the potency of imagination.
“Cuentos de la selva” (Tales of the Jungle) by Horacio Quiroga
This a great collection of stories published by Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga in 1918. The book was originally written for children and is less than 100 pages, so it’s a perfect place to start for a Spanish beginner. It’s a useful resource to find a lot of key Spanish words and, of course, many nature-based vocabulary.
Quiroga fell in love with the jungle in the province of Misiones in Argentina and lived there at various points during his life. His love for the place is expressed in these wild tales of the jungle and the animals that live there. It’s an excellent read for any adventurer.
“Esperanza renace” (Esperanza Rising) by Pam Muñoz Ryan
This beautiful novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan recounts the story of a young girl growing up on a ranch in Mexico who’s forced to leave with her mother for California. There, she must face hardships in a Mexican farm labor camp during the Great Depression.
The story was inspired by Ryan’s grandmother’s personal experiences. It’s been the recipient of several awards and has received praise from critics.
At less than 300 pages, this novel shouldn’t be missed. You’ll pick up a lot of great adjectives and descriptive phrases and it’ll also help you learn Spanish present and past tenses.
“La vida imaginaria” (The Imaginary Life) by Mara Torres
“La vida imaginaria” is a wonderful story, driven by Fortunata “Nata” Fortuna. After being left by her significant other, Nata has to face life anew. The reader follows Nata through her post-relationship recovery as she grapples with her past and present circumstances.
This is Spanish journalist Mara Torres’ first novel. It’s one of the few books on the list not aimed at children or teens and the language used reflects this. Despite this, it’s still simple enough for a beginner and you’ll be able to learn a lot of colloquial words and phrases from this novel.
It’s a good option for beginners who aren’t interested in reading a children’s book, and it’s less than 200 pages long! You’ll be finished in no time.
“Mentira” (Lie) by Care Santos
This stirring tale highlights the pitfalls of love in the technological era. Xenia is a hardworking student, driven by her goal of studying medicine. But these goals are set aside when she meets a mysterious boy online and falls in love with him. Desperate to find out who he is, she goes on a hunt for information, only to discover that it’s all a lie. The truth will surprise you.
Spanish author Care Santos has written multiple novels and has been the recipient of several awards. “Mentira” won the 2015 Edebé Youth Literature Award and is a great addition to any bookshelf. It’s also only around 250 pages and it’s a vocabulary gold mine. Have a Spanish dictionary on hand and make a list of useful words and phrases as you go.
“Wonder: La lección de August” (August’s Lesson) by R. J. Palacio
You’ve no doubt already heard of this one. This is the Spanish version of the English novel “Wonder,” which was made into a hit movie starring Julia Roberts in 2017. The story follows the journey of August Pullman, a boy with a severe facial disformity, as he navigates the difficulties of starting fifth grade at a new middle school.
The story has been lauded with praise from critics and earned several awards. It’s written in the first-person point of view so it’s great to help you get a handle on multiple verb tenses without being overwhelmed. You’ll also learn a lot of new verbs in the process.
It’s a little bit longer than the previous novels on this list but well worth it and still easy enough for the more experienced beginner.
“La ciudad de las bestias” (The City of Beasts) by Isabel Allende
This final novel is a little more difficult than most on this list and is around 400 pages. It’s very descriptive so it might take a while to get through. Only tackle it once you’re feeling a bit more confident.
That said, it’s perfect for any beginner ready to move up and looking for a bit more of a challenge! Once you’re done, you might even feel ready to move on to longer Spanish books aimed at adults.
The story follows the fantastical adventure of 15-year-old Alexander Cold as he journeys through the Amazon rainforest with his grandmother, searching for a legendary tribe and a mysterious beast. Written by Chilean-American author Isabel Allende, the book was listed in the San Francisco Chronicle’s book review and Book Magazine as one of the best young adult books of 2002.
It’s the first book in a series so there’s plenty more to read if you’re still looking for more adventure when you finish!
So where will your next adventure take you? Grab a cozy blanket and a hot drink and lose yourself in one of these exciting Spanish novels for beginners!