5 Most popular books by Spanish authors in 2021

With the end of 2021 drawing near, Spanish publishers are amassing their best-sellers and polishing their stands for Christmas shoppers.

As always, books that have won one of the prestigious Spanish literary awards (Premio Planeta, Premio Cervantes, Premio Nadal) are expected to get the most attention.

And 2021 has, no doubt, been an eventful year in that regard.

Spain shocked the whole world when, on 15th of October, when Premio Planeta is traditionally awarded, one of the most prestigious Spanish writers, Carmen Mola, was revealed to be three men, who strutted with huge grins on their faces to the podium to pick up their €1,000,000 ‘cheque’ − the most valuable literary award in the world for an author or book.

The controversy around that will only skyrocket the sale of their newest book − as our list will reflect.

On a very different note, Spain has also lost one of its most memorable writers of our time, Almudena Grandes, who eternalized Madrid in her books and became the unofficial patron of the city, but has sadly lost the battle to cancer on November 27th 2021.

You will be able to read more about her life and work in our upcoming post.

And now, let’s take a stroll down the 2021 aisle.

1. La Bestia – CARMEN MOLA

The popularity of La Bestia is partly due to the controversy evolving the authors.
  • Genre: historical thriller
  • Number of pages: 544
  • Date of publication: 4/11/2021

 

Carmen Mola is best known for ‘her’ violent, merciless crime fiction, and this book is no exception.

Picture it: Madrid, 1834, not the metropolitan city we know today, but a much smaller one, surrounded by walls and on its knees due to the cholera epidemic.

The devastating sickness, however, isn’t the only thing the residents fear.

Bodies of little girls have been appearing in the city slums, but no one knows anything beyond rumours; that a mysterious creature that no one has ever seen, but all call la Bestia (The Beast) is the culprit.

Our main protagonists are a somewhat unexpected trio: a one-eyed policeman, a snoopy journalist and a monk with a mysterious ring on his hand.

And the resolution of the mystery? Just as unexpected.

Carmen Mola, that is, Jorge Díaz, Agustín Martínez and Antonio Mercero, are known for getting their readers ‘hooked’, as they’d proven with the La novia gitana trilogy.

There’s no doubt that the popularity of La Bestia is partly due to the controversy evolving the authors.

Premio Planeta is awarded to the unpublished manuscripts so the book has only been out for a little while, and the trio had already been pretty established on the Spanish literary scene, making La Bestia a recipe for success.

Is it worth the hype? We highly recommend you find out yourself.

Carmen Mola is a great introduction to modern Spanish fiction.

2. Últimos días en Berlín – PALOMA SÁNCHEZ-GARNICA

In the middle of it, the hardest thing is to remain human.
  • Genre: Contemporary
  • Number of pages: 648
  • Date of publication: 4/11/2021

 

Yuri Santacruz is a man caught between two nations and two political systems.

He ran away from Saint Petersburg with what was left of his family, after a revolution that had left them with nothing, only to witness Hitler’s rise to power in Berlin.

But Yuri isn’t inclined to either one of those systems.

His belief system is deeply human, and that was exactly what prompted him to defend a young communist assaulted by Hitler’s troupes.

Little did he know that, on that same day, he would meet a woman called Claudia, and as it usually happens, his life will get a lot more complicated.

This is a story that doesn’t explore the evils of Nazism only.

It’s one of the rare books that boils down two apparently opposed ideologies to one and the same, as both Nazism and Communism use terror to remain in power and leave thousands of dead in their wake.

In the middle of it, the hardest thing is to remain human.

Find out what happened to Yuri Santacruz in this delicious story about love and war, hope and survival.

3. Sira MARÍA DUEÑAS

Meet Sira, a seamstress, a spy, and a lover.
  • Genre: Contemporary
  • Number of pages: 648
  • Date of publication: 14/4/2021

 

Sira, the beloved character from El tiempo entre costuras (‘The Time in Between’, literally ‘The Time Between Seams’), originally created in 2009, made a comeback in 2021.

For a lot of readers, it’s like catching up with an old friend.

The first book in the duology was also adapted into a very successful TV show in 2013.

So what makes Sira so special?

She was a simple seamstress living with her mother in the pre-Civil War Madrid.

The upcoming war and turbulent relationship with a man made her turn her life upside down and move to Tangier, Morocco.

The love story, the political upheaval, and the imminent mystery all reminiscent of the classic Casablanca.

If you want to find out how a seamstress who just fell in love and opened her store, ends up working for the British Secret Service, and hiding Morse code in her patterns, we recommend you read the first part of the book, although starting from the book two doesn’t hinder the understanding of the same, as Sira follows her life after the events of the first book.

You’ll see Sira on new adventures around the world, including Jerusalem, London, Madrid and, in the end − Tangier, making the story come full circle.

With a complex, intelligent female character immersed into a story of adventure, love and intrigue, the part two of the story was bound to be one of the best-sellers of the early 2021.

Meet Sira, a seamstress, a spy, and a lover:

4. Lo que la marea esconde – MARÍA ORUÑA

The story really does seem like something out of Agatha Christie’s plume.
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Number of pages: 416
  • Date of publication: 16/6/2021

María Oruña is best known as the Galician Agatha Christie, only the main protagonist of her mystery novels isn’t just the detective Valentina Redondo and her team, but also the Cantabrian landscape itself.

It’s precisely the newest book that’s been proclaimed her most ambitious thriller so far, under the banner of ‘There are crimes that seem impossible to solve.’

The story really does seem like something out of Agatha Christie’s plume.

The story starts when one of the most powerful women of the city was found dead in her cabin on the boat that was carrying very few, selected guests from the world of tennis.

To make things even more sinister, the cabin was locked from the inside and everyone on that boat seemed to had had a very good reason to want her dead.

Only one thing is certain: no one could have entered the boat to commit the crime, and no one could have left it after, either.

Read this classic Spanish murder mystery and find out whodunnit.

5. El italiano − ARTURO PÉREZ-REVERTE

Based on true events, including most of the characters.
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Number of pages: 400
  • Date of publication: 21/9/2021

 

As a master of Spanish language, who initially refused to have his novels translated to anything but French, Arturo Pérez-Reverte is a great author for the more advanced learners of Spanish.

A well-established name on Spanish literary scene, he was also a war correspondent for 21 years, so it’s no surprise that many of his books revolve around the topic of war − and this one is no exception.

El italiano is based on true events, including most of the characters.

In 1942 and 1943, during the Second World War, Italian submarines destroyed 14 enemy boats in Gibraltar and on the coast on Algeria.

Elena Arbués, a 26-year-old librarian, finds one of those divers while walking on the beach, and saves his life – an act that will change the course of her life forever.

If you feel like you’re up to the challenge, find out what made Arturo Pérez-Reverte the seat T of the Real Academia Española (Spain’s official royal institution in charge of the Spanish language):

 

READ WITH ROMANCE LANGUAGE CENTRE

Spanish publishers are rubbing their hands together and hoping for an equally successful 2022.

When all the cash registers close at the end of the day, 2021 has proved to have been a prolific year for Spanish writers.

We’ve seen new books from distinguished authors such as Arturo Pérez-Reverte, controversy and yet another best-seller for ‘Carmen Mola’, successful thrillers that are always popular at this time of year, and the return of a beloved María Dueñas’ character from 2009.

All in all − Spanish publishers are rubbing their hands together and hoping for an equally successful 2022.

And we will be here to select the best next year, too, because at Romance Language Centre we promote reading as one of the best ways to learn a language, understand culture and broaden your horizons.

Find our why we strongly recommend reading as number one tool for reaching fluency faster.

We also give you 5 invaluable strategies on how to learn Spanish through reading that will improve your language skills faster over time.

We have also compiled a vast library for our students and readers, where you can find some of the greatest classics of Hispanic literature, but also modern literature, including some of the names from this list.

To find more books like the ones we’ve covered, and to discover new ones that you’ll enjoy, take a stroll down our library.

Happy reading and see you in 2022!

Recent articles:

  • 5 Most popular books by Spanish authors in 2021

 

Anita Glavan

Anita Glavan

Writer, book worm, teacher, hispanophile, polyglot and translator. I encourage learning through reading stories. Not only is it a great way to expand the vocabulary, but also allows a glimpse into the soul of a nation; I firmly believe that art reflects the state of mind, history, culture and the unique way of using the language to express worldview. As García Márquez had said:

‘‘El deber de los escritores no es conservar el lenguaje sino abrirle camino en la historia.’’

Georgina Vujic

Georgina Vujic

Linguist, academic, former lecturer, writer, teacher and counsellor.
I have always been fascinated by the notion of language as ‘a mirror of mind’, One could argue it reflects my love of psychology and everything human. Education was my light at the end of a long tunnel, as education and illumination have been semantically connected since the dawn of human thoughts.

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