The most recommended books about Francoist Spain

Who picked these books? Meet our 12 experts.

12 authors created a book list connected to Francoist Spain, and here are their favorite Francoist Spain books.
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Book cover of The Shadow of the Wind

Mark Stibbe Author Of A Book in Time

From my list on the magic of books, bookshops, and libraries.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a boy, my adoptive father – a star pupil and friend of C.S. Lewis – heard I’d started reading the Sherlock Holmes stories. He bought every Sherlock Holmes book he could find. I remember lifting one to my nose and smelling the pages. I fell in love with books that day. I went on to earn a senior scholarship in English Literature at Cambridge University, and a PhD in storytelling. Since then, I have written over 50 books of my own and ghostwritten over 30 titles. I now host The Christian Storyteller Channel on YouTube, and I run BookLab, dedicated to helping emerging authors. My whole life is books.

Mark's book list on the magic of books, bookshops, and libraries

Mark Stibbe Why did Mark love this book?

I love the idea that books have souls, and I adore this quotation from Zafon’s classic novel: “Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it.”

I was thrilled to find this novel after I’d written my book because it shows that there are others who sense the soulful quality of old books. I also love it because it is written by a Spanish novelist, and it is in the Spanish-speaking world that we find the true literary origins of my most-loved genre of writing – magical realism.

By Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Lucia Graves (translator),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Shadow of the Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller

"The Shadow of the Wind is ultimately a love letter to literature, intended for readers as passionate about storytelling as its young hero." -Entertainment Weekly (Editor's Choice)

"One gorgeous read." -Stephen King

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer's son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author's other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been…

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

Alice Leccese Powers Author Of Spain in Mind

From my list on 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). 

Alice's book list on ex-pat life in Spain

Alice Leccese Powers Why did Alice 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 Guernica

Diana Rosie Author Of Pippo and Clara

From my list on that happen to be set in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author of Pippo & Clara and Alberto’s Lost Birthday, Diana Rosie writes historical fiction that tells a story first and foremost, while gently uncovering the history of a time and place. In the vast spectrum of the genre, where historians like Hilary Mantel and James A Michener sit at one end, the novels that inspire her most can be found at the other. The books she recommends here are stories to make your heart ache and your soul sing. And they just happen to be set in the past.

Diana's book list on that happen to be set in history

Diana Rosie Why did Diana love this book?

You don’t have to know much about the Spanish civil war to have heard of Guernica. If you’ve ever seen Picasso’s work depicting the bombing, this book creates the story of the people of the town going about their everyday lives just before the painting’s horror. As a reader, you know what is coming but are helpless to do anything but care for characters who are oblivious to the destruction coming their way. 

As an author, I found inspiration in this novel for my own portrayal of the civil war in Spain. The trick is to let ordinary people tell the story for you.

By Dave Boling,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An extraordinary epic of love, family, and war set in the Basque town of Guernica before, during, and after its destruction by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War.

In 1935, Miguel Navarro finds himself in conflict with the Spanish Civil Guard and flees the Basque fishing village of Lekeitio to make a new start in Guernica, the centre of Basque culture and tradition. Once there, he finds more than just a new life - he finds someone to live for. Miren Ansotegui is the charismatic and graceful dancer he meets and the two discover a love they believe…

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

Steven Nightingale Author Of Granada: A Pomegranate in the Hand of God

From my list on the truth about Spanish history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer who lived in the city of Granada for almost four years, in the uncanny barrio of the Albayzin. The daily blessings of life there are powerful and cumulative, and I wrote a book in honor of such luminosity; and I wrote it, as well, because most of us have been lied to about Spanish history. But the truth, like the poetry of Garcia Lorca, cannot be suppressed. In my sojourn in Spain, and in my visits over the years, I have found Granada to be a treasure-house of stories and poetry; and in flamenco singing, the home of one of the most powerful art-forms of music in the world.

Steven's book list on the truth about Spanish history

Steven Nightingale Why did Steven love this book?

The whole of Spanish history is contentious, with hardly a fact not subject to challenge or attack. But slowly, clarity and understanding have come forth, and finally, in this volume, the extraordinary scholar Paul Preston gives us the facts about the campaigns of extermination in the Spanish Civil War. Anyone who wants a solid, grounded, informed understanding of this miserable time of slaughter needs this book. Painful reading, and all the more necessary for that.

By Paul Preston,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Spanish Holocaust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Evoking such classics as Anne Applebaum's Gulag and Robert Conquest's The Great Terror, The Spanish Holocaust sheds light on one of the darkest and most unexamined eras of modern European history. As Spain finally reclaims its historical memory, a full picture can now be drawn of the atrocities of Franco's Spain-from torture and judicial murders to the abuse of women and children. Paul Preston provides an unforgettable account of the systematic terror carried out by Spain's fascist government.

Book cover of Prison of Women: Testimonies of War and Resistance in Spain, 1939-1975

Johana Gustawsson Author Of Blood Song

From my list on resistance during The Spanish Civil War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a French writer of Spanish origin. My two grandfathers shared history with Spain’s darkest hours. My maternal grandfather was born in Barcelona and he was a teenager at the time of the war; just like Salvayre’s parents, he had to flee Spain as the bombs were hitting his city. My paternal grandfather, who was in his twenties at the time of the civil war, decided to fight for the “International Brigades” to defend Spain’s freedom. It is to honour their memory and one of the millions of men and women who suffered from those almost four decades of dictatorship that I wrote Blood Song, a historical thriller, the third installment in the Roy and Castell series.

Johana's book list on resistance during The Spanish Civil War

Johana Gustawsson Why did Johana love this book?

Tomasa Cuevas, who spent herself many years in jail during the Franco dictatorship, collected testimonies of women incarcerated following the Spanish civil war. Mary E. Giles brilliantly translated and edited those testimonies. Prison of women is a powerful book as it is an act of resistance by itself: Tomasa had to cross the country to interview those women at a time when Franco was still ruling and we cannot thank Mary E Giles enough for bringing these testimonies to us. She explains in a heart-warming introduction how she came to translate and edit this book.

By Mary E. Giles, Tomas Cuevas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A translation of women's testimonies about their experiences in the prisons of Spain following the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 collected by Tomasa Cuevas, herself a surviving victim of the Francoist prison system.

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

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

From my list on essential Spain.

Why am I passionate about this?

A lifetime of an obsession with Spain since a childhood spent on Miro’s farm in Montroig del Camp and just a short walk away from where Gaudi was born I have cooked, researched, battled, and fallen in love with this extraordinary country. Almost 40 years ago I bought a farmhouse in Arevalillo de Cega in the central mountains in Spain from where I have crisscrossed the country in the footsteps of Goya, the culinary genius Ferran Adria and in search of information for my biography on Gaudi – the God of Catalan architecture. Spain is an open book with a million pages, endlessly fascinating, contrary, unique, and 100% absorbing. I fell in deep.

Gijs' book list on essential Spain

Gijs van Hensbergen Why did Gijs love 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.

By Henry Kamen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A provocative, brilliant, and groundbreaking historical reconsideration of the roots of Spanish culture.

We all carry in our heads a seductive picture of what Spain stands for: its music, painting, buildings, and history. But much of what we think of as Spanish culture is, in fact, the invention of a very specific group: the Spanish in exile.

Historian Henry Kamen creates a vivid portrait of a dysfunctional, violent country that, since the destruction of the last Muslim territories in Granada in 1492, has expelled wave after wave of its citizens in a brutal attempt to create religious and social conformity.…

Book cover of Berta Isla

Alan Bollard Author Of Economists in the Cold War: How a Handful of Economists Fought the Battle of Ideas

From Alan's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historian Spy-reader Writer Professor Biker

Alan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Alan Bollard Why did Alan love this book?

This is a curious book. At one level it is an exploration of a marriage in Spain and a working career in Britain.

At another level it is a story about the covert life of a spy. It is all about secrecy, deception, and self-deception. After being pulled into the novel you start to question what is really going on, and you stay that way for much of the book.

Marcel Theroux writes: “Throughout the book, he enacts his characters’ various degrees of puzzlement in winding digressions about the mists and vapours that obscure our knowledge of each other and ourselves.”

Trigger warning: bad stuff happens and you have to endure agonisingly-long sentences at times. But nevertheless its fascinating.

By Javier Marías,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Berta Isla as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A thrilling new literary offering from the acclaimed author of The Infatuations and A Heart So White

'For a while, she wasn't sure that her husband was her husband. Sometimes she thought he was, and sometimes not...'

Berta Isla and Tomas Nevinson meet in Madrid. They are both very young and quickly decide to spend their lives together - never suspecting that they will grow to be total strangers, both living living under the shadow of disappearances.

Tomas, half-Spanish and half-English, has an extraordinary gift for languages and accents. Leaving Berta to study at Oxford, he catches the interest of…