Help Mom find gripping Spanish language books to read
December 9, 2018 5:27 PM   Subscribe

My mom is looking for Spanish language literature to help improve her fluency while also staying entertained. She's had trouble finding stuff she enjoys. Can you help?

Her criteria:
Most importantly, the story should be interesting and gripping, not slow or boring
Fiction, non fiction, short stories, whatever are fine, but it should be prose, not poetry
She's willing to read a normal length novel and to be a bit challenged while she does, but she doesn't want to read like a 700 page epic or some kind of Spanish Finnegan's Wake
No magical realism and nothing too morbid or depressing
Jewish themes or writers are a big plus but not strictly required

Thanks for your help!
posted by phoenixy to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I've thoroughly enjoyed most of Arturo Pérez-Reverte's work, albeit in English translation.
posted by zamboni at 5:53 PM on December 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

She may enjoy Mi país inventado (My Invented Country) by Isabel Allende. It's a memoir. Allende writes really engagingly about Chile's geographic and political landscape and about her family.

She may also like something like Eduardo Galeano's Espejos (Mirrors) or Los hijos de los días (Children of the Days). Both are constructed as collections of quasi-historical speculative vignettes, usually 1-2 pages long. They're food for thought that don't necessarily require the same stamina as a full novel. (Your mom may be further along than me; I find reading in Spanish exhausting after a while.)

Would she be interested in rereading books she already knows and loves in translation? I read Pride and Prejudice (Orgullo y Prejuicio) last year as an exercise, and it was a new perspective on Spanish and on an otherwise familiar book.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 9:59 PM on December 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’m a Spanish learner and did some reading this year! I loooooved Nueve lunas by Gabriela Wiener— artistic anarchist sex columnist gets pregnant and details the experience. Nonfiction, really fun, sometimes sad but always funny.

I did also read two romance novels in Spanish, both by Laura Esparza, both pretty ridiculous but delightful. ¡Piratas! is, as the title indicates, extremely not boring; A contrarreloj was maybe a little more slow. She will probably know right away if she’ll like either of them.
posted by peppercorn at 10:44 PM on December 9, 2018

La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
La casa de los espiritus by Isabel Allende
posted by bertran at 11:36 PM on December 9, 2018

yeah i came here to recommend silly romance novels as well, i don't have any specific recommendations but they're usually easy reading, engaging, and have the side benefit of giving you some hilariously inappropriate new vocabulary.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:11 AM on December 10, 2018

Carmen Posadas has a nice line in black comedy. I particularly liked Pequeñas Infamias .
posted by kelper at 5:51 PM on December 10, 2018

Thanks all!

I pointed Mom at Arturo Perez-Reverte, and I am marking it as "best answer" because it 100% satisfies the constraints I put in in the question, but Mom wasn't a fan -- she found the writing style too simplistic.

Based on "fish..."s suggestion she also tried Paula by Allende (it seemed similar to Mi país inventado but had better Goodreads ratings and I thought the topic would resonate a little more with her) and that one is a winner!
posted by phoenixy at 12:30 PM on February 4

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