The best books on the Spanish Civil War

25 authors have picked their favorite books about the Spanish Civil War and why they recommend each book.

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Forgotten Places

By Nick Lloyd,

Book cover of Forgotten Places: Barcelona and the Spanish Civil War

Another book which brings the history of a city to life. For years, Nick Lloyd has been leading highly informative guided walks around Barcelona sites associated with the Spanish Civil War, and now he has compiled much of his vast knowledge on the subject in this excellent book. Packed with fascinating details and anecdotes, this is pretty much the last word on the subject.


Who am I?

Jason Webster is the international best-selling author of fifteen books on Spain, including Duende, Sacred Sierra, The Spy with 29 Names, Violencia: A New History of Spain, and the Max Cámara series of crime novels. He is a publisher, broadcaster, award-winning photographer, a board member of The Scheherazade Foundation, and is married to the Flamenco dancer Salud.


I wrote...

Why Spain Matters: The Story of the Land that Shaped the Western World

By Jason Webster,

Book cover of Why Spain Matters: The Story of the Land that Shaped the Western World

What is my book about?

Frequently overlooked as just another southern European country, Spain has, in fact, long predicted the future of the West – from the Crusades to the Renaissance, the Discovery of the Americas, World War II, and the recent Occupy Movement. Moreover, without Spain, such emblematic Western concepts as rational thought, surgery, ‘modern’ artistic expression, 1984, or the American cowboy would all be missing. 

Mixing decades of research with personal anecdotes, Why Spain Matters is veteran author Jason Webster’s page-turning story of a hugely influential country from its beginnings to the present day. It is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand Spain and a complex and changing world.

Spanish Testament

By Arthur Koestler,

Book cover of Spanish Testament

This book was written in 1937 by a British journalist who was visiting Spain. This was the year that Málaga fell to the Nationalist forces. It is the year that I write about in Spanish Lavender, a love story set in the Spanish Civil War in Málaga. Arthur Koestler arrived in that city when thousands of people were fleeing from the advancing army. His book gives an eye witness account of what it was like there, the military situation, the devastation and the evacuation. He saw it all and wrote about it. Later he was arrested and imprisoned in a Nationalist gaol in Seville and described his experiences. For me it was the most useful book I could have found.


Who am I?

Joan Fallon is a Scottish novelist who has lived in the province of Málaga, in southern Spain, for almost thirty years. She has a great passion for all aspects of Spanish history and culture. While writing a book about the lives of Spanish women after the Civil War, she learned about the unbelievable massacre of thousands of innocent people as they left their homes and fled to Almería in 1937. Women, children and old men were gunned down by cruising gunboats. A historian, teacher and now an author, Joan wanted to know why nobody ever spoke about this tragedy.


I wrote...

Spanish Lavender

By Joan Fallon,

Book cover of Spanish Lavender

What is my book about?

Spanish Lavender is a love story set in the Spanish Civil War. In January 1937, Elizabeth, a young English girl decides to remain in Spain when the rest of her family returns to the peace of England. Alone in the devastated city of Málaga, she makes friends with two young men, Juan, an idealistic Spaniard, and Alex, a pragmatic Englishman. Together they make their escape from the war-torn city along the coast to Almería. Amongst the death and carnage, she falls in love with Juan, only to lose him shortly afterward when he is badly wounded. Believing he is dead she returns to England.

Blood of Spain

By Ronald Fraser,

Book cover of Blood of Spain: An Oral History of the Spanish Civil War

Based on interviews Fraser conducted with both activists and everyday citizens (over 300 people, in total) who survived the Civil War, this book provides a powerful picture of the struggles, successes and defeats experienced by those who lived through it. It provides an extraordinary view of the complexity of the war and of the organizations that became involved in it.


Who am I?

I have been studying and writing about, anarchism, gender, and the Spanish Civil War for almost 4 decades. I first explored what it would mean to organize a society without formal institutions of authority; and, as part of that research, I looked at how anarcho-syndicalist organizations related to governmental institutions and the struggle against fascism in Spain. I then engaged in a multi-year investigation of the social revolution that occurred in the midst of the ensuing Civil War and, in particular, the activities of the anarchist women’s organization, Mujeres Libres. Through the research for my book, Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women, I was captivated by the extraordinary strength and enthusiasm of those women, and committed myself to telling their stories in ways that would be relevant to contemporary readers.


I wrote...

Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women

By Martha A. Ackelsberg,

Book cover of Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women

What is my book about?

Cowards don’t make history, and the women of Mujeres Libres were no cowards. In the midst of the Spanish Revolution, they fought for women’s empowerment within the anarcho-syndicalist organizations of their time, while also struggling against fascism, and working towards liberation for all. Concentrating their activities on education, literacy, health care, and better working conditions, they mobilized over 20,000 women within the organization Mujeres Libres (free women). This book contains stories of the heady possibilities of revolution and is filled with lessons that will resonate with anyone involved in the social movements of today. It is a call for community, especially among women; and it is a call for full equality and participation—not after the revolution, but now.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

By Ernest Hemingway,

Book cover of For Whom the Bell Tolls

Anaïs Nin doesn’t mention historical fiction, though she dances around this solution. So I approached Hemingway’s classic novel having already written mine, cowed by the fact that this was my first reading of the model of Spanish Civil War fiction. But I was immediately drawn in by the tangibility of the action, by the sensations, and by the completeness of the characters. It was somehow comforting to know that the main character was based on the noble Robert Merriman of the International Brigades, almost like a family connection, with other historical people mentioned by name. The Spanish language hovers in the background of the dialog and occasionally bursts out raw. I loved translating to myself phrases like, “I obscenity in the milk of thy mother,” and laughed at Hemingway’s tirades against anarchism, completely contrary to Orwell’s viewpoint. 


Who am I?

My passion for historical fiction evolved late in my life. I was assigned to teach the second of the core courses required of all undergraduates at Holy Names University. Required materials: the Divine Comedy, the Canterbury Tales, Sundiata, Don Quixote, Othello, the Tale of Genji, Leonardo da Vinci, Islamic calligraphy, the music of Ravi Shankar… But everything was set in history–boring!dates and places I could never remember, events that meant nothing to me. But my passion for genealogy and for oral history made me realize that everything had a story. This course was about people telling their stories. Now that I’m retired from teaching, I want to tell people’s stories–in their historical context.


I wrote...

Home So Far Away

By Judith Berlowitz,

Book cover of Home So Far Away

What is my book about?

Peek into the diary of Klara Philipsborn, the only Communist in her merchant-class, German-Jewish family. Klara’s first visit to Seville in 1925 opens her eyes and her spirit to an era in which Spain’s major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, shared deep cultural connections. At the same time, she is made aware of the injustices in Spanish society. By 1930, now working at the medical school in Madrid, she feels less “different” than she did in Germany, as she learns new ways of expressing her opinions and desires. And when the Spanish Civil War erupts in 1936, Klara enlists in the Fifth Regiment, transporting her across the geography of the embattled peninsula and ultimately endangering a promising relationship and even Klara’s life itself.

Who am I?

Joan Fallon is a Scottish novelist who has lived in the province of Málaga, in southern Spain, for almost thirty years. She has a great passion for all aspects of Spanish history and culture. While writing a book about the lives of Spanish women after the Civil War, she learned about the unbelievable massacre of thousands of innocent people as they left their homes and fled to Almería in 1937. Women, children and old men were gunned down by cruising gunboats. A historian, teacher and now an author, Joan wanted to know why nobody ever spoke about this tragedy.


I wrote...

Spanish Lavender

By Joan Fallon,

Book cover of Spanish Lavender

What is my book about?

Spanish Lavender is a love story set in the Spanish Civil War. In January 1937, Elizabeth, a young English girl decides to remain in Spain when the rest of her family returns to the peace of England. Alone in the devastated city of Málaga, she makes friends with two young men, Juan, an idealistic Spaniard, and Alex, a pragmatic Englishman. Together they make their escape from the war-torn city along the coast to Almería. Amongst the death and carnage, she falls in love with Juan, only to lose him shortly afterward when he is badly wounded. Believing he is dead she returns to England.

Between Two Fires-Guerrilla War In The Spanish Sierras

By David Baird,

Book cover of Between Two Fires-Guerrilla War In The Spanish Sierras

This book takes a different look at the Spanish Civil War. It looks at the history of the guerrilla war in the Spanish sierras, where poorly armed men waged a drawn out battle against the Nationalist troops for years. It is also in the province of Málaga.


Who am I?

Joan Fallon is a Scottish novelist who has lived in the province of Málaga, in southern Spain, for almost thirty years. She has a great passion for all aspects of Spanish history and culture. While writing a book about the lives of Spanish women after the Civil War, she learned about the unbelievable massacre of thousands of innocent people as they left their homes and fled to Almería in 1937. Women, children and old men were gunned down by cruising gunboats. A historian, teacher and now an author, Joan wanted to know why nobody ever spoke about this tragedy.


I wrote...

Spanish Lavender

By Joan Fallon,

Book cover of Spanish Lavender

What is my book about?

Spanish Lavender is a love story set in the Spanish Civil War. In January 1937, Elizabeth, a young English girl decides to remain in Spain when the rest of her family returns to the peace of England. Alone in the devastated city of Málaga, she makes friends with two young men, Juan, an idealistic Spaniard, and Alex, a pragmatic Englishman. Together they make their escape from the war-torn city along the coast to Almería. Amongst the death and carnage, she falls in love with Juan, only to lose him shortly afterward when he is badly wounded. Believing he is dead she returns to England.

Prison of Women

By Tomas Cuevas, Mary E. Giles,

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

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.


Who am I?

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.

I wrote...

Blood Song

By Johana Gustawsson, David Warriner,

Book cover of Blood Song

What is my book about?

Terrifying, vivid, and recounted at breakneck speed, Blood Song is not only a riveting thriller and an examination of corruption in the fertility industry, but a shocking reminder of the atrocities of Spain's dictatorship, in the latest, stunning instalment in the award-winning Roy & Castells series.

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco's brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women's prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

The Sleeping Voice

By Dulce Chacon, Nick Caistor,

Book cover of The Sleeping Voice

The Sleeping Voice is the most poignant novel about women in the Spanish civil war you will get to read. Those voices are the ones of the women who fought throughout the dictatorship not to be forgotten as the silent soldiers they were. Those voices tell us that the real heroes are very often anonymous. You won’t be able to part with Hortensia, Elvira and Tomasa, the heroines: I can guarantee that they will all stay with you. I actually chose a quote from that book to open Blood Song: it is about a mother wondering how the sea looks like as her boys are laying in it. 


Who am I?

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.

I wrote...

Blood Song

By Johana Gustawsson, David Warriner,

Book cover of Blood Song

What is my book about?

Terrifying, vivid, and recounted at breakneck speed, Blood Song is not only a riveting thriller and an examination of corruption in the fertility industry, but a shocking reminder of the atrocities of Spain's dictatorship, in the latest, stunning instalment in the award-winning Roy & Castells series.

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco's brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women's prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Cry, Mother Spain

By Lydie Salvayre, Ben Faccini,

Book cover of Cry, Mother Spain

The former French psychiatrist Lydie Salvayre won the prestigious Goncourt Prize for that brilliant novel about the Spanish civil war. Salvayre’s parents, who were Republicans, had to flee Franco’s regime, and we feel that her writing is sewn with emotion and memories. The two voices we hear echo perfectly that troubling period of Spanish history: the one of Salvayre’s own mother recounting her experiencing the civil war and the one of the French writer Georges Bernanos. A novel not to be missed.


Who am I?

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.

I wrote...

Blood Song

By Johana Gustawsson, David Warriner,

Book cover of Blood Song

What is my book about?

Terrifying, vivid, and recounted at breakneck speed, Blood Song is not only a riveting thriller and an examination of corruption in the fertility industry, but a shocking reminder of the atrocities of Spain's dictatorship, in the latest, stunning instalment in the award-winning Roy & Castells series.

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco's brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women's prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Homage to Catalonia

By George Orwell,

Book cover of Homage to Catalonia

What the Spanish Civil War meant to the world, told by an outsider who was plunged into it–by choice. Possibly the first book I read about the conflict (my copy is from 1967–Beacon Press). This little volume (232 pages) epitomizes the well-loved book, splashed with coffee stains, bristling with Post-Its, and peppered with underlining and notes. The author of the better-known Animal Farm and 1984 doesn’t spare us his strong opinions, as in this description of a Russian agent: “… it was the first time that I had seen a person whose profession was telling lies–unless one counts journalists.” But Homage presents a generous view of people “who, with their innate decency and their ever-present Anarchist tinge, would make even the opening stages of Socialism tolerable if they had the chance.” 


Who am I?

My passion for historical fiction evolved late in my life. I was assigned to teach the second of the core courses required of all undergraduates at Holy Names University. Required materials: the Divine Comedy, the Canterbury Tales, Sundiata, Don Quixote, Othello, the Tale of Genji, Leonardo da Vinci, Islamic calligraphy, the music of Ravi Shankar… But everything was set in history–boring!dates and places I could never remember, events that meant nothing to me. But my passion for genealogy and for oral history made me realize that everything had a story. This course was about people telling their stories. Now that I’m retired from teaching, I want to tell people’s stories–in their historical context.


I wrote...

Home So Far Away

By Judith Berlowitz,

Book cover of Home So Far Away

What is my book about?

Peek into the diary of Klara Philipsborn, the only Communist in her merchant-class, German-Jewish family. Klara’s first visit to Seville in 1925 opens her eyes and her spirit to an era in which Spain’s major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, shared deep cultural connections. At the same time, she is made aware of the injustices in Spanish society. By 1930, now working at the medical school in Madrid, she feels less “different” than she did in Germany, as she learns new ways of expressing her opinions and desires. And when the Spanish Civil War erupts in 1936, Klara enlists in the Fifth Regiment, transporting her across the geography of the embattled peninsula and ultimately endangering a promising relationship and even Klara’s life itself.

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