We firmly believe that the best way to explore a region, long before you arrive, is to read its stories. And there is a wealth of wonderful literature about the Spanish Basque Country in which to immerse yourself. After many years of oppression, Basque people are fiercely proud of their traditions, language and heritage; the books on this list are a window into these and the region’s tumultuous recent history.
Here are some of our favourite books about the Basque Country in Spain.
by Bernard Atxaga
Atxaga’s novel, the winner of Spain’s National Prize for Literature, is a classic work of Basque fiction. ‘Obabakoak’ can be translated as ‘those from Obaba’, the remote village in which the book is set. The novel weaves together the stories of the villagers, providing a window into rural Basque life in a playful, yet often somber, way.
by Fernando Aramburu
This moving novel covers the lives of two best friends, Miren and Bittori, growing up in a small town in the north of Spain. But relationships are overshadowed by the threat of separatist group the ETA. When Bittori’s husband starts to receive threatening letters, she turns to her friend for help, but Miren is torn: her son has been called up to join the ETA and she can’t denounce her own child. This gripping story explores family, friendship, and the threat of terrorism.
The Basque History of the World
by Mark Kurlansky
This all-encompassing history is the perfect read to truly understand the Basque Country. The book covers the Basques’ greatest accomplishments, from Juan Sebastian de Elcano being the first man to circumnavigate the globe, to the invention of beach resorts. Among the history, Kurlansky mixes in anecdotes, poems and recipes, making this a truly entertaining read.
The Battle for Spain
by Antony Beevor
Bestselling author and military historian Antony Beevor offers a comprehensive account of Spain’s Civil War between 1936 and 1939. This was one of the most hard-fought conflicts of the 20th century with savage fighting and political genocide. Beevor excellently unravels the complex forces that contributed to this violent war in a way that is both moving and gripping.
Ghosts of Spain
by Giles Tremlett
After asking why Spanish people have kept so silent about their Civil War, Tremlett embarked on a journey to discover Spain and its history. He found ghosts everywhere, as well as plenty of other questions about Spain’s past that he needed to explore.
by Dave Boling
This epic tale of family, love, and war is set in the Basque town of Guernica, which was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War. The story follows the Navarro family as they deal with love, loss, and grief against the backdrop of conflict.
Life and Food in the Basque Country
by Marìa José Sevilla
There are so many reasons to visit the Basque Country, but if we could only pick one, we’d be tempted to say the food. In this beautiful book, Marìa José Sevilla describes the region through its culinary traditions, sharing stories and recipes along the way.