Spanish literature is more than a thousand years old and there are great writers who have greatly influenced our country.
In the 19th century we can speak of a turning point between American and European literature.
The determination of the quality of a book is not always linked to the number of copies that are sold, or so they say.However, there are copies that throughout history have been present generation after generation due to the importance and influence they have had on their culture, this is the case of the best-selling books in any language.
We refer therefore as “best sellers” to the number of copies that have been sold of the book, among which we find as leaders in the ranking titles such as A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, with more than 200 million copies sold. and English as the original language, written in 1859.
The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, a work that was made into a film with the success that it brought, through the filming of one of the greatest trilogies in the history of cinema, originally written in English and with 150 million copies sold as far as the literary work is concerned, written in 1954.
Another of the best-selling works in history is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling, written in English in 1997 and with an estimated 140 million copies sold. Other titles that follow the ranking are The Little Prince, The Hobbit, Dream of the Red Chamber, Triple Representativeness, Ten Little Blacks…
Below we have a list of the most successful books globally, with the filter that everyone considers Spanish as the language to follow in their writing, at least as the original language.
List of best-selling books in Spanish
1. Don Quixote of La Mancha
The full title of the ingenious work of Miguel de Cervantes is The ingenious hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha. The work began to be written in the 16th century in the Seville prison while Cervantes was serving a sentence for seven months for economic issues.
This great Spanish work is about a nobleman from La Mancha in his 50s who, after reading many books on chivalry, a genre that was very popular in the 16th century, decides to become a knight-errant and embark on a series of adventures alongside of his old horse Rocinante and with the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza.
It is a parody of the stories of chivalry, where Cervantes mocks the image of the hero and gives Quixote a character that is more humorous than heroic while making us reflect on how the path to reach our ideals is traced through love and faith. This work has even reached the big screen and the theater.
It is the most outstanding work of Spanish literature and one of the main works of universal literature, as well as being the most widely read after the Bible. The book was divided into two parts, the first with 52 chapters and the second with 74.
Miguel de Cervantes was a Spanish novelist, poet, playwright, and soldier who is also known by the nickname “Prince of Wits.” Some 500 million copies of his literary work are sold worldwide. Hence the Instituto Cervantes takes its name from him for being such an important figure in the history of Spanish literature.
2. One hundred years of solitude
Gabriel García Márquez delights us with his 1967 work, which has sold 30 million copies worldwide, and with the story for which the Colombian writer won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. In addition, this book has been translated into more than 40 languages.
It is considered the pinnacle of Spanish-American literature. The book tells the story of the Buendía family, who have lived for seven generations in the fictional town of Macondo, with a large number of personalities who represent different feelings and characteristics that enrich the story.
Adding up, this literary work has been listed as one of the most important in the Castilian language at the “IV International Congress of the Spanish Language that was held in March 2007 in Cartagena de Indias. It is also included in the list of “the 100 best books of the 20th century” according to the newspaper “Le Monde” and is among the 100 best books of all time according to the “Norwegian Book Club”.
This work has also reached the big screen and the theater and his works include novels, short stories, non-fiction, journalism, memoirs, theatre, speeches, films, interviews and dialogues.
3. The shadow of the wind
In our century, in 2001, the author Carlos Ruiz Zafón wrote a work about the Spanish Civil War, a transcendental event in the national context, which sold more than 15 million copies.
It has been translated into 36 languages and its genre includes suspense, intrigue, horror, drama and romance. It is the first book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books saga.
Set during the Industrial Revolution, specifically in Barcelona, it tells a thrilling story that tries to combine reality with fantasy and mystery with love. Its author is from the same city and unfortunately also recently died, specifically in 2020. He is known as a writer, screenwriter, publicist and composer.
After five years in the ranking of Spain, it is considered a great milestone. According to a survey in Germany, readers consider The Shadow of the Wind one of the best books of all time.
4. Saint Evita
The last best-selling title is Tomás Eloy Martínez’s 1995 work, which has sold more than 10 million copies. It is the most translated work of Argentine literature and has been translated into thirty languages.
The novel develops real and fictional facts focusing on the life of Argentina’s First Lady Eva Perón after her death at the age of 33 and the subsequent fate of her embalmed corpse.
Some contemporary writers, such as Mario Vargas Llosa, have described this narrative as a “masterpiece” which, like all the previous ones, has reached many parts of the world with a corresponding translation.
One of the writer’s great friends, Rodrigo García, son of Gabriel García Márquez, has directed a series of this novel made up of seven episodes.
5. The House of the Spirits
It is the first novel by Isabel Allende, a Chilean writer. It was published in Barcelona in 1982 and had an international bestseller success.
With 70 million copies sold and translated into numerous languages, this work has been brought to the big screens under the same name by Bille August with great actors like Meryl Streep, Winona Ryder and Antonio Banderas.
The story is based on the life of the Trueba family through four generations from the early 20th century to the 1970s and follows the social and political movements of Chile’s post-colonial period.
It is narrated from the perspective of two of its protagonists, Esteban and Alba Trueba (grandfather and granddaughter), and a third narrator who is an omniscient witness. The events portrayed in it deal with love, family, death, ghosts, social classes, revolution, politics, ideals, and the marvelous.
It is therefore concluded that Spanish literature has nothing to envy to that of any culture worldwide, questioning whether it is the richest in the context. And it is that having Don Quixote de la Mancha as the best-selling work in history, which is set solely in Spanish culture, gives our country a ranking from which it will be difficult to lower, at least in the coming times.
We must clarify that this list comes from a study of printed books that were sold in the last 50 years, and therefore digital sales, which are relatively recent, are not taken into account. In our Spanish classes you will be able to learn in depth all the literary works and the history of the great writers.