The best books on essential Spain

Gijs van Hensbergen Author Of Guernica: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon
By Gijs van Hensbergen

The Books I Picked & Why

Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past

By Giles Tremlett

Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past

Why this book?

As the Guardian correspondent in Madrid, Giles Tremlett’s book is a no-holds-barred deep investigation into the Spanish psyche and recent history and its uncomfortable relationship to the trauma of the Spanish Civil War. It is brave, provocative, deeply-researched but above all immensely readable.


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New Art of Cookery: A Spanish Friar's Kitchen Notebook by Juan Altamiras

By Vicky Hayward

New Art of Cookery: A Spanish Friar's Kitchen Notebook by Juan Altamiras

Why this book?

Most books on cookery in Spain are little more than a mish-mash cobbled-together collection of other people’s recipes. Vicky Hayward’s visit to the 18thc via this Spanish Friar’s collection of recipes is an astonishing work of anthropology whose modernity and relevance to Spanish cooking today is extraordinarily prophetic.  If you want to see the future of Spanish cooking – the world’s most celebrated cuisine – go back to the past. To its roots.


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The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain

By Paul Preston

The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain

Why this book?

No one knows better or has dug deeper into the dramatic history of 20th c Spain. The esteemed biographer of Franco and ex-King Juan Carlos reveals a harrowing horrific organised extermination of Franco’s political enemies that continued for a decade after the end of the Spanish Civil War. It is essential reading.


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The Disinherited: Exile and the Making of Spanish Culture, 1492-1975

By Henry Kamen

The Disinherited: Exile and the Making of Spanish Culture, 1492-1975

Why this book?

With intellectual life almost completely closed down and censored by the Franco regime, the shaping of Spanish cultural life was led by its guardians in exile. From an exterior focus Kamen’s light is shone back on the brilliance and resilience of Spanish intellectual life.


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Pablo Picasso: His Life and Times

By Pierre Cabanne

Pablo Picasso: His Life and Times

Why this book?

The world of Picasso's biography is a deeply contentious and well ploughed field. I should know as I worked for 5 years on the yet-to-be-published Volume 4 of John Richardson’s epic sex fest.  Hiding in the glare of the Picasso craze is Pierre Cabanne’s revelatory masterpiece. Cabanne knew him, knew his circle, and was not frightened to enter Picasso’s Spanish world in exile. This is the first step to a genuine understanding of Picasso’s genius.


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