The best books about the Spanish Civil War

A round-up of the best books on the Spanish Civil War, both fiction and non-fiction.

2 minutes to read
Black and white photograph of a Spanish woman standing on top of her demolished home

The civil war that tore Spain apart between 1936 and 1939 and attracted liberals and socialists from across the world to support the cause against Franco was one of the most hard-fought and bitterest conflicts of the 20th century: a war of atrocities and political genocide and a military testing ground before WWII for the Russians, Italians and Germans.

Non-fiction books about the Spanish Civil War

Spain in Our Hearts

by Adam Hochschild

Book cover for Spain in Our Hearts

From the moment it began in 1936, the Spanish Civil War became the political question of the age. Hitler and Mussolini quickly sent aircraft, troops and supplies to the right-wing generals bent on overthrowing Spain's elected government. Millions of people around the world felt passionately that rapidly advancing fascism must be halted in Spain. More than 35,000 volunteers from dozens of other countries went to help defend the Spanish Republic.

 Adam Hochschild evokes this tumultuous period through the lives of these volunteers. A few are famous, such as Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell, but others are less familiar. They include a nineteen-year-old Kentucky woman, a fiery leftist who came to wartime Spain on her honeymoon; a young man who ran away from his Pennsylvania college and became the first American casualty in the battle for Madrid; and a swashbuckling Texas oilman.

The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution and Revenge

Book cover for The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution and Revenge

A vivid and authoritative account of the Spanish Civil War and the rise to prominence of General Franco.

 No modern conflict has inflamed the passions of both civilians and intellectuals as much as the Spanish Civil War of 1936–39. Burned into our collective historical consciousness, it not only prefigured the imminent Second World War but also ushered in a new and horrific form of warfare that would come to define the twentieth century. At the same time it echoed the revolutionary aspirations of millions of Europeans and Americans after the painful years of the Great Depression.

The Battle For Spain

Book cover for The Battle For Spain

Drawing on newly discovered material from the Spanish, Russian and German archives, Antony Beevor's account narrates the origins of the Civil War and its violent and dramatic course from the coup d'etat in July 1936 through the savage fighting of the next three years which ended in catastrophic defeat for the Republicans in 1939.

 He successfully unravels the complex political and regional forces that played such an important part in the origins and history of the war.

The Spanish Civil War

Book cover for The Spanish Civil War

What was it that roused left-wing sympathizers from all over the world to fight against Franco between 1936 and 1939? Why did the British and US governments refuse to intervene? And why did the Republican cause collapse so violently?

 Hugh Thomas's classic account offers a full and vivid analysis of this passionate struggle where fascism and democracy, communism and Catholicism were at stake - and which was as much an international war as a Spanish one.

Homage To Catalonia

Book cover for Homage To Catalonia

Orwell’s first-hand account of the brutal conditions of the Spanish Civil War.

 With passion and clarity, he describes the bright hopes and cynical betrayals of that chaotic episode: the revolutionary euphoria of Barcelona, the courage of ordinary Spanish men and women he fought alongside, the terror and confusion of the front, his near-fatal bullet wound and the vicious treachery of his supposed allies.

Fiction books about the Spanish Civil War

Winter in Madrid

by C. J. Sansom

Book cover for Winter in Madrid

1940: Madrid lies ruined, its people starving, while the Germans continue their relentless march through Europe. Britain now stands alone while General Franco considers whether to abandon neutrality and enter the war.

 Into this uncertain world comes Harry Brett: a traumatised veteran of Dunkirk turned reluctant spy for the British Secret Service. Sent to gain the confidence of old schoolfriend Sandy Forsyth, now a shady Madrid businessman, Harry finds himself involved in a dangerous game - and surrounded by memories.

 A vivid and haunting depiction of wartime Spain from the bestselling author of the Shardlake series.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

by Ernest Hemingway

Book cover for For Whom the Bell Tolls

Inspired by his experiences as a reporter during the Spanish Civil War, For Whom the Bell Tolls tells the story of Robert Jordan, an American volunteer in the International Brigades fighting to defend the Spanish Republic against Franco.

 After being ordered to work with guerrilla fighters to destroy a bridge, Jordan finds himself falling in love with a young Spanish woman and clashing with the guerrilla leader over the risks of their mission.

The Muse

by Jessie Burton

Book cover for The Muse

The new novel from the million-copy international bestseller The Miniaturist, unveils the mystery of a lost masterpiece with a secret history.

The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .

Alberto's Lost Birthday

by Diana Rosie

Book cover for Alberto's Lost Birthday

Alberto is an old man. But he doesn't know how old - he remembers nothing before his arrival at an orphanage during the Spanish civil war.

 He rarely thinks about his missing childhood, but when seven-year-old Tino discovers his grandfather has never had a birthday party, never blown out candles on a birthday cake, never received a single birthday present, he's determined things should change. And so the two set out to find Alberto's birthday.

 Their search for the old man's memories takes them deep into the heart of Spain - a country that has pledged to forget its painful past.

The South

by Colm Toibin

Book cover for The South

The South is the award-winning novel that first introduced readers to Colm Tóibín.

 Katherine Proctor has dared to leave her family in Ireland and reach out for a new life. Determined to become an artist, she flees to Spain, where she meets Miguel, a passionate man who has fought for his own freedoms. They retreat to the quiet intensity of the mountains and begin to build a life together. But as Miguel’s past catches up with him, Katherine too is forced to re-examine her relationships: with her lover, her painting and the homeland she only thought she knew.


by Dave Boling

Book cover for Guernica

An extraordinary epic of love, family, and war set in the Basque town of Guernica before, during, and after its destruction by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War.

In 1935, Miguel Navarro finds himself in conflict with the Spanish Civil Guard and flees the Basque fishing village of Lekeitio to make a new start in Guernica, the centre of Basque culture and tradition. Once there, he finds more than just a new life – he finds someone to live for. Miren Ansotegui is the charismatic and graceful dancer he meets and the two discover a love they believe nothing can destroy . . .

Rich in the history of the region, the Red Baron, the Luftwaffe and even Picasso make appearances in Guernica as the fate of the Navarro family is traced through the early decades of the twentieth century.

'A heart-rending yet life-affirming story' Daily Mail