Yo busco una novela muy divertida.
June 3, 2006 10:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm studying Spanish and realize that I need to start reading in Spanish for pleasure if I want to reach a strong level of fluency. Any reading recommendations?

For the record, I'm 31 years old. I took 3 years of Spanish in high school and am recently refreshing my learning with college courses. I would classify my Spanish skill as rusty but intermediate. I love the language and the culture but have little exposure to Spanish literature. So please recommend your favorite Spanish authors or books that will be simple enough for me to understand but fun, well-written and interesting enough for my adult mind to enjoy. Fiction or nonfiction are both welcome! (Poetry would probably be a bit too challenging, though.)
posted by Jonasio to Education (24 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Previous thread that may be useful

(aside: one signal to me that you are new to Spanish is beginning a sentence with "Yo" - a native speaker would just begin with "Busco.." since the "yo" is implicit /friendly tip/observation)

posted by vacapinta at 11:07 PM on June 3, 2006

Best answer: I've read English translations of a couple of things by Jorge Luis Borges and enjoyed them a lot.

But if you feel like taking on medieval Spanish, why not read the original version of Don Quixote?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:08 PM on June 3, 2006

Best answer: People en Espanol is easy to read "en Espanol."
posted by Frank Grimes at 11:37 PM on June 3, 2006

Best answer: Residence on Earth: Neruda.
posted by Aghast. at 11:59 PM on June 3, 2006

I second the suggestion of People En Espanol - reading spanish language magazines is a good tool for beginners because the reading level is lower than books. Also the same for newspapers.
posted by Amanda B at 12:56 AM on June 4, 2006

Best answer: There's a book that I found really useful when learning Spanish, it's called 'Parallel Text, Short Stories in Spanish/Cuentos en Espanol' and it's by Penguin publishers. I would put a link to Amazon (it's on both the English and US sites) but I don't know how to do links yet!!

Anyhow it's really great because it has the short stories both in Spanish on the one side of the page, and on the facing side the English, so essentially you can read the Spanish sides of the pages, but if you don't understand a word, or need an idea of the gist of a sentence you can refer to the English! Highly recommended.
posted by schmoo at 1:25 AM on June 4, 2006

Parallel texts are great. I rapidly improved my French with a bunch of parallel texts. They're hard to find though (I went to that French bookstore at Rockerfeller Center).

Why not read Spanish blogs?

Would be as interesting as People en Espanol.
posted by jak68 at 3:43 AM on June 4, 2006

Best answer: The first book I read all the way through in Spanish was Como agua para chocolate by Laura Esquivel. It's magic realism/romance, pretty good, and pretty simple except for the food words, many of which weren't in my dictionary.

The second book I got most of the way through in Spanish was La sombra del viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It's a bibliographic mystery/coming of age story set in postwar Barcelona. (It's, like, long, and I didn't finish it because I had to take it back to the library... I really liked what I read of it, but I wouldn't suggest reading something that long in Spanish because it'll take a ridiculous amount of time to finish it.

I'd suggest reading S.D.Krashen's The Case for Narrow Reading--my experience bears out what he's saying.
posted by Jeanne at 3:58 AM on June 4, 2006

I second magazines. You could even get versions of mainstream English language magazines - many appear in Spanish versions. They're fun and use language closer to spoken language than novels tend to.

I would put a link to Amazon (it's on both the English and US sites) but I don't know how to do links yet!! Just click on the underlined, bolded "link" word below the box where you are typing your response. A window will pop up. Type the url into that window. Click "okay." If you preview the post, you can click on the link and see if it works before you post your comment.
posted by Amizu at 5:46 AM on June 4, 2006

Best answer: And don't read Don Quixote. Too hard, and why learn such antiquated Spanish? Having experimented with Spanish books that are too hard, I say start with baby steps, otherwise you might get overwhelmed and drop the whole idea.

I've read easy English books in their Spanish translations, and found that useful because I have a sense of whether I'm on track in my understanding of what's happening. E.g. Harry Potter books, although that might be above your level, believe it or not. (Surprisingly difficult vocabulary.)
posted by Amizu at 5:50 AM on June 4, 2006

Best answer: "Platero y yo." (Available here in nifty facing-page translation version.) It's by a Nobel prize winner and I read it when I had four years of high school Spanish under my belt. I don't know that it had me on the edge of my seat or anything, but it definitely provided a sense of accomplishment. (I can read literature!)

I had never heard of the dual-language books before today, but if you want to get your feet wet with the errant knight, there's a book of dual-language selections from Don Quixote here.
posted by veggieboy at 6:25 AM on June 4, 2006

Best answer: This is a good dual-language book of short stories.
posted by Wet Spot at 10:20 AM on June 4, 2006

I'd also suggest magazines or blogs. They use a much simpler language than (good) books.

Or you could get the Spanish translation of your favorite book; it's easier to understand if you already know what's happening.
posted by Penks at 11:33 AM on June 4, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I've marked best answers for everyone with an idea I liked.

Vacapinta, thanks for the language advice. I'll keep it in mind. Actually, I suppose I should have said "buscando una novella muy divertida," since "I look for a very good novel" is a pretty n00b headline, also.
posted by Jonasio at 12:32 PM on June 4, 2006

Response by poster: Also, thanks all for responding so quickly. If there's ever a bad time to post a question to ask.me, it must be at 12:33am on a Sunday morning. I was fearing I'd get pushed down the page before anyone had a chance to see me!

Pasen un buen dia.
posted by Jonasio at 12:35 PM on June 4, 2006

Best answer: The best thing I found to do when I was studying Spanish was to get Spanish translations of my favorite children's books (as in intermediate/YA, not as in "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"). I knew the basic plot so that I couldn't get too lost, but I hadn't read them in long enough that I didn't need to read carefully to understand what was going on scene-by-scene. It introduced me to words that I wasn't getting from the class (burbujear, IIRC, "to bubble") and also let me get a better idea of how some forms worked in context (Spanish sometimes uses the infinitive where we'd use the present progressive, and I got a better sense of when to use the -ando form once I started reading those books) without getting over my head with the language, which at my then-reading level would've been on par with my five-year-old picking a novel off my shelf--he'd get the language, but actually reading it all would give him a headache, and there are likely to be specialized words he'd have trouble with.

The best part I remember was reading Charlie y la Fábrica de Chocolate, with footnotes explaining some of Willy Wonka's puns (like a note that explains that in English, the word "poached" can mean both "stolen" and "boiled").
posted by Cricket at 1:22 PM on June 4, 2006

Best answer: Pablo Neruda is wonderful. You can find versions with Spanish on the left-hand side and English on the right-hand side, which might be a way to ease into it. You said poetry might be too challenging, but Neruda is very into simple evocative images. He's not academic or obscure at all.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:51 PM on June 4, 2006

Best answer: La Casa en Mango St. is written for younger kids, so the Spanish is pretty easy. I've read passages from it for Spanish class.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 4:48 PM on June 4, 2006

If you're a fan of the Harry Potter series, you should read them in Spanish. They are excellent.
posted by Number27 at 5:54 PM on June 4, 2006

Best answer: I suppose I should have said "buscando una novella muy divertida"

Not necessarily. The present progressive is used far less frequently in Spanish than in English. Probably eight times out of ten, the present progressive in English translates as the simple present in Spanish. (IANA native speaker, though, so if someone with more knowledge than I would like to correct me, please do!)

También, quisiera recomendar El Principito por Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Es un historia para los niños, sí, pero contiene muchas palabras hermosas y líricas.
posted by jesourie at 6:02 PM on June 4, 2006

Response by poster: Jesourie, I'd also like to also ask how you (or anyone) place the Spanish accents in all the right places. Do you memorize alt+keypad combinations, or is there some more convenient method? Since I'm using a laptop without a keypad, I'm finding this quite inconvenient.
posted by Jonasio at 6:33 PM on June 4, 2006

I use the Spanish configuration on my laptop keyboard. The accent is right next to the "p". You hit "accent key" and then the vowel to get it. There was another AskMe thread today (I think) about switching keyboard configurations. You can toggle between the languages you have installed with Alt+Shift.

Otherwise the Alt combinations are:
á - Alt+160
é - Alt+130
í - Alt+161
ó - Alt+162
ú - Alt+163
ñ - Alt+164
Ñ - Alt+165

The "ñ", by the way, is right next to the "L" in the Spanish keyboard.
posted by Penks at 8:07 PM on June 4, 2006

Here is the thread I was talking about.
posted by Penks at 8:13 PM on June 4, 2006

Jonasio, I have a Mac--thankfully, the keyboard shortcuts for accent marks are very simple, because I'm not sure I'd ever be able to remember all those Alt + number combinations.

On my Mac, Option + E creates a highlighted space, and typing any letter into that space accents it. So Option + E and then the letter "a" gives me á, Option + E and then the letter "e" gives me é, etc. Option + N and then typing the letter "n" gives me ñ.
posted by jesourie at 7:36 AM on June 5, 2006

« Older Vietnam war stories   |   Jaghad Guru Speaks Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.