A Spanish Book Reading Resource

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kanewai
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A Spanish Book Reading Resource

Postby kanewai » Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:41 pm

I'm interested in starting a Spanish book resource similar to the French Book Reading Resource that Carmody started (I'm even copying the naming format!).

I haven't been impressed with a lot of the "Best Spanish Books" lists that I see scattered around the web. I see the same authors listed over and over ... and some of these authors have bored me. But then, when I looked up the same books on Spanish websites like quelibroleo or casa del libro I find that many of these "best" books aren't even in the top 100 in their home countries! And surprisingly, more than half of the most popular books were completely new to me, and never seem to appear on those lists.

I nerded out, and made a list of all the books I saw on the "best of" lists, and then looked up their user ratings on goodreads, quelibroleo, casa del libro, and the Amazon sites for Spain, Mexico, and the US. And while this wasn't a scientific approach at all, I still thought the results were worth sharing (and a good point to kick off a discussion on our favorite Spanish books):

Top Ten - These books received high user ratings across the board.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón. La sombra del viento.
Dolores Redondo. Trilogía del Baztán.
Fernando Aramburu. Patria.
Fernando del Paso. Noticias del Imperio.
Javier Salazar Calle. Ndura. Hijo de la selva. .
Mario Vargas Llosa. La fiesta del Chivo.
Mario Vargas Llosa. La guerra del fin del mundo.
Roberto Bolaño. 2666.
Santiago Posteguillo. Trilogía Africanus.
Torcuato Luca de Tena. Los renglones torcidos de Dios.


Next Ten - These books scored great on some sites, but only average on others.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Cien años de soledad.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez. El amor en los tiempos del cólera.
Isabel Allende. La casa de los espíritus.
Jorge Luis Borges. Ficciones.
Julia Navarro. Dime quién soy.
Julio Cortázar. Historias de cronopsios y de famas.
Julio Cortázar. Rayuela.
Julio Llamazares. La lluvia amarilla.
Laura Esquivel. Como agua para chocolate.
María Dueñas. El tiempo entre costuras.


The stragglers - These books would get a high score on a single site, but not on others. Interestingly, a lot of these authors are more popular on the critics' "best-of" lists.

Camilo Jose Cela. La familia de Pascual Duarte.
Carlos Fuentes Gringo viejo
Carmen Laforet. Nada.
Enrique Vila-Matas. Bartleby y Compañía
Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Crónica de una muerte anunciada
Ildefonso Falcones. La catedral del mar.
Javier Marías. Corazón tan blanco.
Javier Marías. Mañana en la batalla piensa en mí
Jose Donoso. El obsceno pájaro de la noche
Manuel Puig. El beso de la mujer araña.
Marcos Chicot. El asesinato de Sócrates.
Miguel Delibes. Los santos inocentes
Roberto Bolaño. Los detectives salvajes.
Tomás Eloy Martínez. Santa Evita
Jesús Sánchez Adalid. El mozárabe.
Last edited by kanewai on Sat Nov 16, 2019 12:04 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: A Spanish Book Reading Resource

Postby kanewai » Sat Nov 16, 2019 1:02 am

I'm curious to hear who others would recommend. Here's my take on the top names:

Mario Vargas Llosa - One of my favorite authors in general, though I'l only finished one of his books in Spanish.

Santiago Posteguillo - He writes great historical epics set in ancient Rome. He's always at the top of any Spanish-language review of best books of the decade (usually just ahead of Game of Thrones), but never at the top of any English-language review of the best Spanish books.

Roberto Bolaño - He has a lot of fan-boys, and reading the reviews you'd think he was the most popular Spanish-language author ever. I think he might be more popular in translation - he gets high scores, but not that many actual reviews, on Spanish sites.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon - I liked him the first time I read him, but don't think his books hold up on a second read.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez - I liked him enough in translation, though I didn't love 100 Years of Solitude the way everyone else did back in the 80s. I'd like to read more of his stuff.

Dolores Redondo. Fernando Aramburu. Javier Salazar Calle. Fernando del Paso. Torcuato Luca de Tena - Who? I feel like I've stumbled on a whole new world with these names. I don't even know where to start.

Isabel Allende. Laura Esquivel. María Dueñas. Julia Navarro - Las chicas. I haven't actually read any works by women in Spanish, though I've read some in translation, and started a book by Allende. I'll need to correct that.
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Re: A Spanish Book Reading Resource

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sat Nov 16, 2019 1:05 am

Thanks for this post.
My first take is that it will be a productive list of good books to read, or at least try to read. I have already read, or tried to read, books from each category. With sometimes a thumbnail description and a rating on a scale of 10 (but no rating for books I didn’t like, since most of them I did not even finish), here is a summary of what I have read on the list.

Those I read and liked:
La sombra del viento (7/10: good read but of little substance), Cien años de soledad (11/10: one of my all-time favorite novels that I have read 3 or 4 times and listened to 2 or 3 times), Como agua para chocolate (10/10: lots of fun, and watch out for that wedding cake!), Nada (10/10: quiet and low-key, a Jane Austen kind of book).

Those I read or tried to read and did not like were
2666, El amor en los tiemps del cólera, Rayuela (a “wasn’t Paris great? Book, to me, very dated), El tiempe entre costuras (a shaggy dog story, seemed to go nowhere), [i]La catedral del mar[/i] (something for a Catalan familiar with the history, perhaps), Corazón tan blanco (reading as being strangled by a boa constrictor), Los detectives salvajes (just way, way too long).

Kind of indifferent to Crónica de una muerte anunciada (6/10)



Did not read El beso de la mujer araña by Manuel Puig, but did read--a couple of times--his Boquitas pintadas (10/10: something like a soap, except very realistic).
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Re: A Spanish Book Reading Resource

Postby coldrainwater » Sat Nov 16, 2019 6:10 am

I read and listened to a good number of books, perhaps 100+, in 2017 and 2018. Here are several of my top picks, some of which that might otherwise take some extra digging to find:

Books
Leopoldo Alas (Clarín) - La Regenta
Benito Pérez Galdós - Fortunata y Jacinta
Benito Pérez Galdós - Episodios Nacionales - 1.º Serie
Emilia Pardo Bazán - Los pazos de Ulloa
Miguel Delibes - Las ratas
Jésus Carrasco - Intemperie
Gabriel García Márquez - Cien años de soledad
Gabriel García Márquez - El amor en los tiempos de cólera
Alberto Vazquez-Figueroa - Tuareg

Surprisingly good as an audiobook:
Arturo Pérez-Reverte - El capitan Alatriste
Rudyard Kipling - El libro de la selva, el segundo libro de la selva
Robert Louis Stevenson - La isla del tesoro

Comments:
Galdós - I read books across multiple centuries with a focus on 19th and 20th-century works. For 19th-century novels, Galdós was the most consistent and prolific. He wrote in a realist style that is eloquent yet very accessible for language learners. After reading his words from the 19th century, I felt more than well equipped to speak in the 21st century. He came across just that well (to me at least). Also helpful for language learning is that his National Episodes comprise 46 full books, the first 10 of which I list here since I think they are by far the best. You can follow a cohesive story from Trafalgar through to La Batalla de los Arapiles. Fortunata y Jacinta is separately a long and superb book that is very often compared with La Regenta.

Clarín - In contrast, though Alas had a very interesting life, he was not as prolific as Galdós. Nevertheless, La Regenta was likely my favourite 19th-century novel. I will never forget Vetusta and combined with Galdós, I felt fully immersed in the 19th century (like it was far more familiar than the 20th or 21st century) while enjoying these books.

Bazán - Emilia was most famous for her work in Naturalism and Los pazos de Ulloa is her most famous text. Speaking on a personal level, she may have been my favourite author to read in ES. From one sentence to the next, I could not predict how she would turn a phrase. She was more intellectual than her romantic partner (who was Galdós by the way), and I would judge her works as more challenging overall due to her advanced use of vocabulary and lack of predictability. Los pazos de Ulloa reminds me a bit of Wuthering Heights and I would not miss it. Great backdrop, storyline and character development.

Delibes - very highly acclaimed 20th-century author. I have only read a couple of his works so far, but I loved Las Ratas. Great period piece and quite excellent for advancing the language. I had a tough time finding 20th-century authors with challenging prose, but Delibes delivered quite nicely and is masterful otherwise also. They even have a Delibes dictionary available for purchase to assist with reading. That is definitely not to discourage anyone as he is an awesome author and worth the time.

Marquéz - needs no intro. In my case, I read his two most famous works early on in my studies and, partly for that reason, they left a huge impression. There is something that is not always stated about tackling harder books early. They take you longer to get through and for that reason, more attention may be paid to them and more lasting memories formed. Such is the case with my treatment of Marquéz. Very powerful and imaginative author with a deep understanding of the world. He also made the famous comment and compliment that one of the translations into English (I believe it was 100 years of solitude) was actually better than the original Spanish version. To me, that makes for a rather perfect parallel text. While I am on the topic, Borges and Cortázar were excellent translators, so it might be worth seeking them in other languages also.

I listed a few books (two of which are in translation) that I felt were awesome as audiobooks. I don't mean to give audiobooks short shrift as I listened to them in droves (and will continue to do so). I just think it is important to point out that just because you might not have liked a book in text, doesn't mean it is not good as an audiobook (and vice-versa). Finally, I wanted to find a way to succinctly share information about works translated into Spanish, especially since we as language learners will read many such books. There is a very useful and active forum that does just that in: Abretelibro. I conducted most of my research using Goodreads but would have been well-served by abretelibro also. There are several other similar forums, but I find they are often not as broadly focused as abretlibro.
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Re: A Spanish Book Reading Resource

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Mon Nov 18, 2019 1:58 am

I ordered a few books you all have recommended: freebies on Kindle or in my local library. One of them worries me. At 700+ pages, Africanus Son of the Consul may throw out my back. :roll: And it is not even the shortest.
Thanks again for taking the time to list all these. 8-)
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Re: A Spanish Book Reading Resource

Postby kanewai » Mon Nov 18, 2019 7:17 pm

MorkTheFiddle wrote: Como agua para chocolate (10/10: lots of fun, and watch out for that wedding cake!),

Rayuela (a “wasn’t Paris great? Book, to me, very dated),

At 700+ pages, Africanus Son of the Consul may throw out my back. :roll:


Como agua sounds like the kind of book I've been looking for. I want something fun, but not simple. I see it's on audible too; I might check that out.

As for Cortázar, he's one my "one day maybe" list. The critics all say he's one of the best, a friend gave him five-stars on goodreads (and she rarely gives five stars), but his books just sound gimmicky to me.

Have fun with Posteguillo! His books are so long they can be exhausting, but they are very much worth it.

coldrainwater wrote:Finally, I wanted to find a way to succinctly share information about works translated into Spanish, especially since we as language learners will read many such books. There is a very useful and active forum that does just that in Abretelibro. I conducted most of my research using Goodreads but would have been well-served by abretelibro also. There are several other similar forums, but I find they are often not as broadly focused as abretlibro.


Abretelibro is new to me; thanks for that link!

I haven't tried any 19th century Spanish literature yet. How do you think it compares to other countries? I've been surprised how much I like French and Russian lit from that era, and also how much I despise British lit.
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Re: A Spanish Book Reading Resource

Postby Querneus » Wed Nov 20, 2019 11:42 pm

When I was a teenager, we read various books by Uruguayan author Horacio Quiroga (1878-1937) in Spanish literature class in El Salvador and my classmates loved them. I'm kind of surprised not to see his name there, he's pretty popular. I think his books were the only ones my classmates ever really enjoyed out of the many we were forced to read in Spanish class.

Heck, I think even *I* liked them, even though I generally get reactions such as swollen eyes, dizziness, wheezing and hives when approaching a book of fiction of any kind.
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Re: A Spanish Book Reading Resource

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Fri Nov 22, 2019 1:47 am

A video from Easy Spanish with book recommendations. The dialogue is in (Mexican) Spanish, but there are Spanish and English subs. Don't forget to check out the comments.


Several Youtubers do book review series. Here is one example, Iris Grimm, out of several reviewers. It is in Spanish but without subs.
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Re: A Spanish Book Reading Resource

Postby coldrainwater » Fri Nov 22, 2019 3:04 am

kanewai wrote:I haven't tried any 19th century Spanish literature yet. How do you think it compares to other countries? I've been surprised how much I like French and Russian lit from that era, and also how much I despise British lit.

I lack the experience to properly compare Spanish 19th-century lit to Russian or French (though I hope to be able to tackle French lit in the near-ish future and Russian at some point). But my gut feeling is that it is going to be a very tall order trying to compare the Spanish to either. On what is hopefully a more helpful note, I can say for sure that Spanish 19th-century lit is drastically different than British lit from the same period. I found the Spanish lit to be best in order to feel deep down the perspective of living on the Iberian Peninsula during that century and being able to very easily put myself in their shoes and understand what they had to live through even though I haven't a drop of Spanish blood in me (and at the time, I had neither visited nor read sufficient history on the topic). As a side note, I did have experience with other centuries of Spanish lit and 19th century works definitely helped me make sense of earlier times. Many things had not changed and others had become even more intriguing. It is likely good advice to be a little picky and look before you leap. A little may take you far given how much literature experience you already have.
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Re: A Spanish Book Reading Resource

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Fri Nov 22, 2019 10:40 pm

coldrainwater wrote: I found the Spanish lit to be best in order to feel deep down the perspective of living on the Iberian Peninsula during that century and being able to very easily put myself in their shoes and understand what they had to live through even though I haven't a drop of Spanish blood in me (and at the time, I had neither visited nor read sufficient history on the topic). As a side note, I did have experience with other centuries of Spanish lit and 19th century works definitely helped me make sense of earlier times. Many things had not changed and others had become even more intriguing.
This is a very insightful pair of comments/observations. I mean, to watch a society grow and change in its culture over the course of its literature is a very interesting idea. One could probably do the same with Hawthorne-->Dickenson-->Melville-->Twain-->Faulkner&Heminingway&Steinbeck-->Updike and Oates (just to pick out a few names) for the USA. Hmm. :idea: And for French and Russian and Japanese and so on, though those are more languages than I can chew on. And does reading those authors give some idea of what it was like to live in those times?
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