Best Intermediate Spanish Books for Adults (B1-B2)
Reading is an act of power. It cures ignorance, opens doors to other worlds, and stimulates curiosity and creativity. And reading in a foreign language adds even more value to your literary experience as it shows you a practical way to use the language. Novels and books in Spanish take you far beyond grammar lessons or lists of irregular verbs; they immerse your mind in a culture that is foreign to you. The list of books we’ll look at today are perfect for intermediate Spanish learners at level B1 or B2.
What is Intermediate B1 and B2?
If you’re familiar with the CEFR’s ratings then seeing “Spanish level B1” isn’t such a mystery to you. Maybe you’ve even tested yourself and you know that you fall somewhere between B1 and B2. CEFR considers a learner at this level an “independent user.” What does that mean, specifically?
Well, at B1 Intermediate Level, a Spanish learner can:
- Understand family, work, school or leisure-related topics.
- Communicate well in most travel situations.
- Read and write simple texts on topics of personal interest.
- Briefly describe experiences, events, opinions, and personal goals.
At B2 Upper Intermediate Level, a Spanish learner can:
- Understand the main ideas of complex literary and technical texts.
- Interact spontaneously with native speakers.
- Read and write detailed texts on a wide range of subjects.
Intermediate Spanish Books: Novels and Textbooks
In this blog post, I’ll share with you a list of intermediate Spanish novels as well as intermediate Spanish textbooks. Why? Well, if you are just entering the intermediate realm as a B1 level Spanish learner, then you will also benefit greatly from the extra practice and experience that a textbook provides. On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with more complex texts as an upper intermediate Spanish learner, then I have a long list of novels for you to choose from! Take your pick, mix and match, and overall, have fun with it.
How to Pick the Right Spanish Book
“No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.”
—Mary Wortley Montagu
Montagu’s wise words about reading reveal a secret to success when it comes to choosing a book: make sure it’s entertaining! The fact is, we don’t like to read books that are boring or antiquated—and this is a universal preference. Reading is meant to be an act of joy, exploration, and most of all, mind-expansion. When you look for your perfect Spanish book, choose a topic that fascinates you and motivates you at every page-turn to push beyond the inevitable obstacle of incomprehension.
As you peruse the first few pages of potential books to add to your personal Spanish library, you want to focus on texts that are hard enough to challenge you but not so hard that you end up in despair. What’s more, the story must be compelling enough to get you through the first two chapters, which are often the hardest as you learn to follow the author’s pace and word-choice.
The Perfect Intermediate Spanish Novel
Sometimes your intuition is all you need to guide you when you run across a novel that seems perfect. Other times, you’ll need to check off a list of criteria to help you pick the best one for your level. While looking through your choices, keep in mind that your Spanish novel should be:
- Exciting, to keep you engaged and willing to push through it.
- Contemporary, to provide you with modern language, not outmoded words or phrases.
- Not too academic or technical, to avoid reading Spanish that you would never use in conversation.
- Not too long, ideally between 200-500 pages.
- A professional publication, so as to avoid spelling and grammar errors.
Intermediate Spanish Novels & Dual Language Texts
All of these books fall into the category of “intermediate Spanish” because they have short sentences, use simple language, and they’re written in simple tenses (past, present, future). Other books that join this category are parallel textbooks with English and Spanish translations. Without further ado, let’s see some of your options!
La vida imaginaria by Mara Torres
What goes through your head when the person you love is leaving? What do you do with your life when you have to think about it again? Do you make it up? Nata’s world is filled with questions when Beto leaves her. But time does not stop, and the episodes that Nata tells of her own story take her to a place where everything is possible again.
La casa de los espíritus by Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende’s first novel tells the saga of a powerful family of landowners. The despotic patriarch Esteban Trueba has built with an iron hand a private empire that begins to falter with the passage of time and an explosive social environment. Eventually, the patriarch’s personal decline will drag the Trueba family into painful disintegration.
Other great titles by this author: El reino del dragón de oro
El alquimista by Paulo Coelho
Follow a young Andalusian shepherd who leaves his flock of sheep to begin a journey in which he learns to listen to his heart and decipher a language that is beyond words. His experience reminds us of our own calls to destiny and our chance to create an original personal legacy.
El entenado by Juan José Saer
The cabin boy (also known as deckhand) of a Spanish expedition to the Río de la Plata, at the beginning of the 16th century, is captured and adopted by Indians. Soon he’s faced with traditions and rituals that begin to change his perception of reality. Why does this otherwise peaceful tribe hold cannibalistic ceremonies annually? Why doesn’t the cabin boy face the same fate as his companions?
Abcalia, el viaje de los sueños by Dr. Ricardo Roque Mateos
Abcalia tells the story of Daian, a man whose vivid dreams take him to other lives, where he enters new realities and discovers a love that he must protect while unraveling the meaning of his own existence. The story takes the reader on a journey, asking crucial questions about love and the meaning of life. Written by a university Spanish lecturer, it’s especially useful for Spanish learners.
Genre: Spanish Language Instruction
Electronic versions: Kindle
El príncipe de la niebla by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Carver’s new home is shrouded in mystery. It still breathes the spirit of Jacob, the son of the former owners, who drowned. The strange circumstances of that death only begin to be clarified with the appearance of a diabolical character: the Prince of Fog, capable of granting any wish to a person at a high price.
Electronic versions: Kindle
El curioso incidente del perro a medianoche by Mark Haddon
At fifteen, Christopher knows the capitals of all the countries in the world, he can explain the theory of relativity and recite prime numbers, but he finds it difficult to relate to other human beings. Despite never having been beyond the corner store, Christopher’s run in with the neighbor’s murdered dog leads him to search for the culprit. He’ll soon reveal family secrets that will turn his orderly and safe world upside down.
Genre: Mystery & Thriller
Electronic versions: Kindle
Luces en el Mar by Miquel Reina Antolín
This is the story of Harold and Mary Rose Grapes, a couple who, after the tragic death of their son, put aside their youthful dreams and resign themselves to living on a remote island, far from everything. One fateful night, a strong storm appears and lightning causes the house to break off the cliff and fall into the sea with them inside. Together they must fight in the face of adversity if they want to survive.
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Electronic versions: Kindle
En el tiempo de las mariposas by Julia Alvarez
Four sisters become symbols of defiant hope in a country shadowed by dictatorship and despair. The daily horrors of life under the Dominican dictator Trujillo force them to sacrifice their comfortable lives for freedom. They were “the Butterflies,” and in this extraordinary novel, the Mirabal sisters tell us their own stories. From anecdotes about hair ties and secret infatuations to arms smuggling and torture in prison.
Genre: Political fiction
Electronic versions: Audiobook
Rosaura a las diez by Marco Denevi
An atypical crime novel, it’s a humorous and psychologically-penetrating study of a group of people inhabiting a Buenos Aires boarding house in the mid-1950s. The reader sees the same events as perceived differently by all of the witnesses. Keep in mind that the story contains many words and expressions distinctive to Spanish in Argentina.
Genre: Young Adult Mystery & Thriller
Electronic versions: Kindle
Spanish Dual Language Books
- Short Stories in Spanish: New Penguin Parallel Text by John R. King
- First Spanish Reader: A Beginner’s Dual-Language Book by Ángel Flores
- Cursed Inheritance / Herencia Maldita (Bilingual English Spanish) by Ángeles Goyanes
- Gracie: A Bilingual Adventure in the Blue Ridge Mountains by Kathryn Leslie
- El hombre del bar / The Man from the Bar (B2) by Jordi Surís
Intermediate Spanish Textbooks
When it comes to choosing the right textbook for you, it’s all about your preferences: the pace you like, the methods you prefer, and the type of information you want to learn. While looking for a textbook that suits your needs, it’s important to read as many reviews as possible to see how others perceived their use of it. Explore your options as in-depth as possible before confidently making your purchase. Here are three textbooks that get plenty of positive reviews and have had an impressive impact on Spanish learners.
By Mercedes Meier
Amazon Review: “What an excellent and refreshing way for students of all ages to advance in their Spanish-learning journey! I have been looking for books for my beginner, intermediate and advanced students to improve their vocabulary while giving them confidence that they can understand most of what is going on. And, I found it! I just finished the book and it left me wanting to know what happens next in Jenna’s adventure. Great story-telling adapted for language learners. Highly recommended.” — Haydee
By Margarita Madrigal
Amazon Review: “For the price, this book is tough to beat as a self-study method for learning Spanish. It’s not perfect. Originally published in the 1950s and never updated, some of its lessons have to do with taking dictation or sending telegrams. Don’t expect lessons on emailing or text messaging here. But the fundamentals of the Spanish language haven’t changed much since the ’50s, and fundamentally the book is rather useful.” — Quinn Fox
By Caitlin H Cuneo
Amazon Review: “It really is a workbook instead of trying to be a textbook. It doesn’t have vocab lists or cultural sections or long, complicated instructions. Instead, it’s all about the activities. I’ve seen a few people say in reviews that there is no answer key. There IS an answer key; it’s on the author’s website. Altogether, this book gets 5 stars from me because it does exactly what it promises to do better than any other resource I’ve yet found.” — Jack
Balance Reading and Speaking
Reading Spanish is an excellent way to improve your fluency, but you will need to balance it with an element of speaking. Remember, the key to acquiring a foreign language is to harmonize your inputs and outputs; in other words, to read as much as you speak! Sign up today for a free class with a native Spanish-speaking teacher at HSA and tell them all about the books you’re planning to read. If you’d like, you could even ask your teacher to read the book with you and explore its elements and vocabulary together. Give it a try!
Would you like free Spanish lessons and resources? Check these out!
- An Exclusive Beginner’s Guide to Spanish Conjugation
- Clothes in Spanish: A Guide to Spanish Fashion
- Spanish Classroom Survival Phrases for Beginners
- Indirect Object Pronouns in Spanish: 10 Great Online Exercises
- Spanish Preterite vs Imperfect: 25 Online Exercises to Practice Your Skills
- ‘Ser’ Adjectives and How to Use Them in Spanish Sentences
- How to Become Conversational in Spanish: Tips and Tricks
- The Most Amazing Advanced Spanish Books for Adults (C1-C2)
- Spanish Preterite vs Imperfect: 25 Online Exercises to Practice Your Skills - June 28, 2020
- Father’s Day in Spanish-Speaking Countries: Celebrating el Día del Padre - June 17, 2020
- Best Intermediate Spanish Books for Adults (B1-B2) - June 14, 2020