The best books about ex-pat life in Spain

Why am I passionate about this?

I am passionate about the written word and effective communication. My articles and reviews have been published in major newspapers and magazines and for two decades I taught writing on the university level. Travel writing is a subset of my experience as editor of the best-selling In Mind literary anthologies and editor and writer for more than a dozen guidebooks. In addition, I have been “first reader” and editor for prospective authors and shepherded several books to publication, the most recent Red Clay Suzie by first-time novelist Jeffrey Lofton (publication January 2023). 


I wrote...

Spain in Mind

By Alice Leccese Powers,

Book cover of Spain in Mind

What is my book about?

Spain in Mind is the most recent book in my “In Mind” literary travel anthologies published by Vintage/Random House. Others in the series include Italy in Mind, Ireland in Mind, France in Mind, and Tuscany in Mind. Comprising short stories, novel excerpts, journal entries, letters, and poetry, Spain in Mind captures the traditions of Spanish life, but also glimpses of modern Spain. Contributors include Lawrence Ferlinghetti, James Michener, Calvin Trillin, and, of course, Ernest Hemingway. Spain in Mind has been a bestseller since its publication—a literary guide for travelers and a literary souvenir for all who love Spain. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Snowball Oranges

Alice Leccese Powers Why did I love this book?

Snowball Oranges is by my Scottish friend Peter Kerr. Kerr and his wife left their home in East Lothian, Scotland, and moved to Majorca to grow oranges. Anyone familiar with the Peter Mayle/Frances Mayes genre can predict what happens to the Kerrs. They are buffaloed by the locals, battle the elements, and ultimately triumph—or not.

After three years in Majorca, the Kerrs returned to Scotland, but Spain left an enduring impression. “We were beginning to realize that the passage of time through the unhurried serenity of Majorcan country life was something to be marked by the slowly changing face of nature, not by the hands of a clock or the pages of a calendar.”

By Peter Kerr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Snowball Oranges as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

I could hardly believe my eyes. A cold mantle of white was rapidly transforming our sunny paradise into a bizarre winterscape of citrus Christmas trees, cotton wool palms and snowball oranges.

When the Kerr family leave Scotland to grow oranges in a secluded valley on the island of Mallorca they are surprised to be greeted by the same freezing weather they have left behind. Then they realise that their new orange farm is a bit of a lemon...

Laughter, finds Peter Kerr, is the best medicine when faced with a local dish of rats and the live-chicken-down-a-chimney technique of household…


Book cover of South from Granada

Alice Leccese Powers Why did I love this book?

Like many World War I veterans, British Gerald Brenan left the army depressed and dispirited. He moved to Spain and settled in Andalusia, specifically the small village of Yegen. Like many ex-pats, he wanted a simpler life.

He had a small house and humble furnishings but brought his entire library—2000 books—from England. Although he was isolated, Brenan had many visitors, including Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, and Hemingway. He died at 92 in Spain, of course. Brenan’s book is one of the first “ex-pat” Spanish memoirs and sets the standard for the genre.

By Gerald Brenan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked South from Granada as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of A Woman Unknown: Voices from a Spanish Life

Alice Leccese Powers Why did I love this book?

I love to read books about women travelers whose lives take an unusual path. Lucia Graves is the daughter of poet Robert Graves and his second wife. Her parents moved to Majorca after World War II, and their daughter—like many ex-pats—had to bridge the cultures between the land of her birth, England, and the land of her heart, Spain.

She was raised in a Bohemian household but educated in the strict Catholic schools of Franco’s Spain. Her book A Woman Unknown explores the sense of dislocation and disorientation of her bifurcated life. “I found myself creating an imaginary land where I spent much of my time.”

By Lucia Graves,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Woman Unknown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lucia Graves, daughter of the poet Robert Graves and his wife Beryl, grew up in the beautiful village of Deia on the island of Majorca. Neither Spanish nor Catholic by birth, she nevertheless absorbed the different traditions of Spain and felt the full impact of Franco's dictatorship through the experience of her education. Lucia found herself continually bridging the gaps between Catalan, Spanish and English, as she picked up the patterns and nuances that contain the essence of each culture.

Portraying her life as a child watching the hills lit up by bonfires on Good Friday, or, years later, walking…


Book cover of Driving Over Lemons

Alice Leccese Powers Why did I love this book?

Chris Stewart had a circuitous path to ex-pat life in Spain. He was the drummer for the band Genisis, a sheep shearer, and a travel writer. Then he and his wife bought a farm in Andalusia and grew olives, almonds, and lemons. His book Driving Over Lemons was an unexpected hit, with 350,000 copies sold.

Suddenly, people were making a pilgrimage to their farm in Spain. Although Stewart follows some of the familiar tropes of the genre (the resourceful locals, the quirky members of the ex-pat community), his writing is fresh and funny. Unlike Peter Kerr, Stewart and his wife still live in Spain.

By Chris Stewart,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Driving Over Lemons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A special anniversary edition with an updated chapter set 25 years on by Chris Stewart.

Over two decades ago we set up Sort of Books to help our friend, the some-time Genesis drummer Chris Stewart, bring his sunlit stories of life on a Spanish mountain farm to print. Ever the optimist, Chris hoped to earn enough money to buy a second-hand tractor for his farm. He got his tractor, as the book spent a year on the Sunday Times Top 10 charts and went on to sell a million and a half copies.

His story is a classic. A dreamer…


Book cover of My Half Orange

Alice Leccese Powers Why did I love this book?

A few weeks ago, I got an email from John Julius Reel asking to blurb his new book My Half Orange. I read it and happily endorsed it. Reel moved to Seville from his native New York in his late 30s. Recovering from a broken relationship, he was adrift. Reel met his Andalusian wife—his half-orange—and in short order, they moved in together and had two sons.

Like other ex-pats, Reel bridges two cultures. His parents live in New England, and his wife’s Spanish family lives close— perhaps too close—to Reel, his wife, and his children. Published this year, My Half Orange is the latest addition to “ex-pats” in Spain.  

By John Julius Reel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Half Orange as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his late thirties, John Julius Reel left his native New York for Seville, hoping to reinvent himself, find his voice as a writer, and cast off the shadow of his famous father. When his girlfriend dumped him after a month-long visit, the last tie was cut, and he had to face his future from his stark, mosquito-infested rented room. Alone in a foreign land, struggling with the language, and longing to find his place and purpose in the world, he began to rebuild his life.

What follows is a tender, comical, and illuminating story about what it means to…


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Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

By Leslie Tall Manning,

Book cover of Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

Leslie Tall Manning Author Of Maggie's Dream

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Mentor Laugher Research nut Avid reader

Leslie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Winner of the Literary Titan Book Award

Bright but unassuming Marilyn Jones has some grown-up decisions to make, especially after Mama goes to prison for drugs and larceny. With no one to take care of them, Marilyn and her younger, mentally challenged brother, Carol, get tossed into the foster care system. While shuffling from one home to another, Marilyn makes it her mission to find the Tan Man, a mysterious man from her babyhood she believes holds the key to her family’s happiness.

But Marilyn’s quest is halted when her daddy, an ex-con she has never met, is chosen by…

Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

By Leslie Tall Manning,

What is this book about?

Bright but unassuming Marilyn Jones has some grown-up decisions to make, especially after Mama goes to prison for drugs and larceny. With no one to take care of them, Marilyn and her younger, mentally challenged brother, Carol, get tossed into the foster care system. While shuffling from one home to another, Marilyn makes it her mission to find the Tan Man, a mysterious man from her babyhood she believes holds the key to her family's happiness.

But Marilyn's quest is halted when her daddy, an ex-con she has never met, is chosen by the courts as the new guardian. Caleb…


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Interested in Spain, expats, and the Spanish Civil War?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Spain, expats, and the Spanish Civil War.

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The Spanish Civil War Explore 51 books about the Spanish Civil War