18 Best Spanish Authors Of All Time

Discover the best Spanish authors in our detailed guide featuring writers, playwrights and poets who have changed the literary landscape.

From Latin America to Europe, the Spanish language spans the globe, and many writers over the centuries have written novels, poems, and short stories in this language. Spanish authors have contributed to the entire literature world, with the first modern novel coming from the Spanish language and many influential works in other areas. If you’re looking for more recommendations, check out the best American authors.

Many works in Spanish have English translations, allowing a new generation of readers to discover these works without reading them in the original language. Still, the poetry and cadence of the works are best seen with the original language translation.

Popular Spanish Writers

If you want to appreciate the various Spanish-speaking cultures globally, literature is a great place to start. This list of the top 15 Spanish authors will help you understand what makes Spanish and Latin American cultures colorful and influential.

1. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, 1964 – 2020

Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Carlos Ruiz Zafon was a Spanish novelist best known for La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind)

Carlos Ruiz Zafon was born in Barcelona. He first worked in advertising, which sparked his love for writing. He eventually moved to Los Angeles to work as a screenwriter but died of cancer at 55. Zafon published several Spanish-language novels throughout his life, with The Prince of Mist being his first in 1993. He published four young adult novels in Spanish, some of which had English translations, before publishing The Shadow of the Wind, his first adult novel and the first of a series entitled The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He is the most widely published contemporary Spanish writer, with books published in 45 countries and over 40 languages.

“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
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02/18/2024 07:45 am GMT

2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1927 – 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude sold over 50 million copies

Born in Columbia in 1927, Gabriel Garcia Marquez was one of the most significant Spanish language authors of the 20th century. He earned the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1972 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982. He died in 2014 in Mexico City at the age of 87. Marquez started his writing career as a journalist and non-fiction writer. He was widely known for One Hundred Years of Solitude; additional books include Love in the Time of Cholera and The Autumn of the Patriarch. They were excellent examples of magical realism in the world of Spanish authors.

“It’s enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment.”

Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
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02/18/2024 01:50 am GMT

3. Isabel Allende, 1942 – 

Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is a Chilean writer who writes magical realism novels

Isabel Allende is a modern Chilean writer who sold over 75 million copies of her 25 books in 42 languages. She was born in 1942 in Peru to Chilean parents and became an American citizen in 1993. Today, she resides in California near her family.

She is heavily involved in advocacy and earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2014 for her philanthropy, including the Isabel Allende Foundation, which supports women’s and children’s rights.

Allende’s work earned her the National Prize in Literature from Chile, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has many famous works, including Of Love and Shadows and A Long Petal of the Sea.

“All you will have is the present. Waste no energy crying over yesterday or dreaming of tomorrow. Nostalgia is fatiguing and destructive, it is the vice of the expatriate. You must put down roots as if they were forever, you must have a sense of permanence.”

Isabel Allende, Of Love and Shadows
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02/18/2024 07:52 am GMT

4. Miguel de Cervantes, 1547 – 1616

Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes was an Early Modern Spanish writer and one of the greatest Spanish writers of all time

Often called the most excellent writer in the Spanish language, Miguel de Cervantes was born in Spain in 1547 and died in 1616 in Madrid. He was one of the world’s first novelists, yet he spent most of his life in poverty despite his long-lasting literary influence. Most of his surviving writing came from his last three years. De Cervantes is most famous for his novel Don Quixote, considered the first modern novel, but his first novel was La Galatea, published in 1585.

“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up, and he went completely out of his mind.”

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote
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5. Federico Garcia Lorca, 1898 – 1936

Federico Garcia Lorca
Federico Garcia Lorca was a Spanish poet and playwright

Federico Garcia Lorca was a playwright and poet who lived in Grenada from 1898 to 1936. He attended Columbia University and the University of Granada. He was an outspoken socialist and sadly died via assassination by the Nationalist militia at 38.

Garcia Lorca was famous for his plays and poetry, with Gypsy Ballads being his most famous poetry book. His best-known plays are the Rural Trilogy, including Blood Wedding, Yerma, and The House of Bernarda Alba. In the late 1800s, Garcia Lorca’s work was under censorship, which did not end until 1953.

“To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.”

Federico García Lorca, Blood Wedding and Yerma
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6. Jorge Luis Borges, 1899 – 1986

Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentinian short-story writer, poet, translator, and essayist

Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires in 1899 and settled in Switzerland, where he died in 1986. He was a prolific writer who had a hand in making Spanish-language literature mainstream. Luis Borges is most famous for his books Ficciones and El Aleph, published in the 1940s. These are compilations of his short story collections. His works were particularly famous because they put the common language of Spanish people into mainstream literature.

“There are those who seek the love of a woman to forget her, to not think about her.”

Jorge Luis Borges, The Aleph and Other Stories

7. Mario Vargas Llosa, 1936 –

Mario Vargas Llosa

Mario Vargas Llosa was born in 1936 to a middle-class family in Peru

Mario Vargas Llosa attended the National University of San Marcos and studied literature, and as a teenager, he wrote a play and worked for a local newspaper. His dedication to social change in his writing earned him the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature and the Miguel de Cervantes Prize in 1994.

Vargas Llosa’s first work was a three-act play, The Escape of the Inca. He published his first novel, The Time of the Hero, in 1963. He also wrote humorous stories, children’s works, and darker tales. Looking for other best authors from the nearby countries of Spain? Check out our round-up of the best Moroccan authors.

“One can’t fight with oneself, for this battle has only one loser.”

Mario Vargas Llosa, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter
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02/18/2024 07:57 am GMT

8. Rosa Montero Gayo, 1951 –

Rosa Montero Gayo
Rosa Montero Gayos’s best work is The Lunatic of the House, which won the Qué Leer Prize for the best book

Rosa Montero Gayo is a Spanish journalist and contemporary fiction writer born in 1951. She contracted tuberculosis and remained at home for several years as a child. This illness caused her to read and write, and she was able to study journalism in college before launching her writing career in journalism.

Montero Gayo published her first novel in 1979 called Chronicle of Enmity. She won the National Journalism Prize in 1980. Today, she travels extensively and often receives visiting professor requests from major universities around the globe.

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02/18/2024 08:11 am GMT

9. Carlos Fuentes Macias, 1928 – 2012

Carlos Fuentes Macias
Carlos Fuentes Macias was a novelist and essayist born in Panama in 1928Carlos Fuentes Macias was a novelist and essayist born in Panama in 1928

Carlos Fuentes Macias traveled throughout Latin America as a child before claiming his Mexican citizenship in the 1930s. Before focusing on politics and writing, he studied law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

His first work was Where the Air Is Clear, and it pushed him to instant fame as a writer. He wrote numerous novels, short stories, essays, plays, and screenplays. He won several awards, including the Miguel de Cervantes Prize, and died in 2012 at 83.

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02/18/2024 01:55 am GMT

10. Javier Marias, 1951 – 2022

Javier Marias
Javier Marias was a Spanish author and translator famous for his short stories and essays

Javier Marias, one of the most celebrated writers in Spain, was born in 1951 in Madrid. He works as a novelist, translator, and columnist with several awards, including the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. He studied philosophy and literature at the Complutense University of Madrid and spent many years teaching.

Marias has several works with English translations, including his second novel, Voyage Along the Horizon, and his 1992 work A Heart So White. He wrote his first novel, The Dominions of the Wolf, at age 17.

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02/18/2024 08:27 am GMT

11. Julia Alvarez, 1950 –

Julia Alvarez
Julia Alvarez is an American New Formalist poet and writer

Julia Alvarez was born in New York City, but her parents returned to the Dominican Republic shortly after birth, so she grew up speaking Spanish. At age 10, she had to flee with her family to the United States because of her father’s work against the country’s dictator.

Alvarez has many novels, but How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies are two of her most important. Her works examine the cultural expectations of women in both countries she lived in, and she is one of the most successful Latina writers in modern history. In 2002, she won the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature.

“I’d just left a small cage to go into a bigger one, the size of our whole country.”

Julia Alvarez, In The Time of Butterflies
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02/18/2024 08:36 am GMT

12. Laura Esquivel, 1995 – 2009

Laura Esquivel
 Laura Esquivel is a Mexican novelist and publication who serves in the Mexican Congress

Born in 1950 in Mexico City, Laura Esquivel is a Mexican novelist and screenwriter. She is a member of the Legislature of the Mexican Congress and spent her early professional life working as a teacher. Her work often covers the science fiction and magical realism genres.

In 1989, Esquivel released Like Water for Chocolate, and it became a nearly instant bestseller. It later became an award-winning film. She also wrote The Law of Love and Between the Fires.

“Keeping secrets will always lead to unhappiness, and communication is the key to love.”

Laura Esquivel, Swift as Desire
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02/18/2024 08:47 am GMT

13. Javier Sierra, 1971 – 

Javier Sierra
Javier Sierra is a Spanish writer, researcher and journalist 

Javier Seirra was born in 1971 in Teruel, Spain. His professional career started at 12 years old when he hosted a radio program and launched the journal Ano Cero six years later. As an adult, he became the first Spaniard to hit the Top Ten list in the United States.

Sierra writes on ancient mysteries. In 1995, he published Roswell: Secreto de Estado about the Roswell incident. His 2006 novel The Secret Supper hit the New York Times bestseller list and was published in 42 countries. The Lady in Blue is his most recent work to receive an English translation.

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02/18/2024 03:10 pm GMT

14. Juan Gomez-Jurado, 1977 –

Juan Gomez-Jurado
Juan Gomez-Jurado is a Spanish columnist and author

Spanish journalist and author Juan Gomez-Jurado was born in 1977 in Madrid. He is a columnist for two news stations in Spain and has books translated into 42 languages. Today, he is one of the most successful living Spanish authors. He is also an activist against colon cancer and an ambassador for Save the Children.

Gomez-Jurado won the Premio de Novela Ciudad de Torrevieja award for his novel The Traitor’s Emblem, which literary critics praised as a riveting thriller and love story. His first novel, God’s Spy, has been translated into multiple languages.

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02/18/2024 03:11 pm GMT

15. Camilo Jose Cela, 1916 – 2002

Camilo Jose Cela
Camilo Jose Cela was a Spanish novelist, poet and short story writer

Camilo Jose Cela was a Spanish writer born in 1916. He died in Madrid at 85 in 2002. In 1989, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature because he challenged people to consider the vulnerability of humanity.

Two of Jose Cela’s most famous works are The Family of Pascual Duarte and The Hive. The Hive had to be published in Buenos Aires because it was censored in Spain, which is interesting given that Jose Cela was working as a censor at its publication. He also wrote several poetry collections and short-story collections.

“I’m not made to philosophize, I don’t have the heart for it. My heart is more like a machine for making blood to be spilled in a knife fight…”

Camilo José Cela, La familia de Pascual Duarte
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02/18/2024 03:12 pm GMT

16. Elvira Navarro Ponferrada, 1978 –

Elvira Navarro Ponferrada
Elvira Navarro Ponferrada best-known novels include The Happy City and Rabbit Island

Elvira Navarro Ponferrada was born in 1978 in Spain. She completed her philosophy degree at the Complutense University of Madrid and won the City Council of Madrid’s Young Creators Competition in 2004. In 2010, Granta Magazine named her one of the 22 best Spanish language novelists under 35.

She is known for The City in Winter, The Happy City, and The Working Woman. Her fiction book, The Last Days of Adelaida Garcia Morales, comes from the real-life story of Morales. In addition to writing novels, Navarro Ponferrada writes for several Spanish magazines.

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02/18/2024 02:10 am GMT

17. Christina Rivera Garza, 1964 – 

Christina Rivera Garza
Christina Rivera Garza is a Mexican author and professor

Christina Rivera Garza is a highly accomplished writer and literary professor; she has a repertoire that includes novels, short stories, opera, nonfiction, poetry and editing work. As one of her generation’s most prolific Mexican writers, she has written many successful books and collaborated with popular publications like El Cuento, El Sol de Toluca, Excélsior, and more. 

Some of her best-selling novels include Luliana’s Invincible Summer and Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country. Luliana’s Invincible Summer is a heart-wrenching book that Rivera Garza wrote to shed light on the life of her sister, who was killed 30 years ago. Cristina embarks on a path to justice by revisiting the life and death of her beloved sister.

“I seek justice, I finally said. I seek justice for my sister. . . . Sometimes it takes twenty-nine years to say it out loud, to say it out loud on a phone call with a lawyer at the General Attorney’s office: I seek justice.”

Christina Rivera Garza, Luliana’s Invincible Summer
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02/18/2024 03:20 pm GMT

18. Carmen Martín Gaite, 1925 – 2000

Carmen Martín Gaite
Carmen Martín Gaite was a Spanish author known for her screenplays, novels and short stories

Carmen Martín Gaite is an accomplished Spanish author known for contemporary literature. Her literary insights look at complex relationships. Despite the Spanish Civil War taking place during her educational years, she still graduated from high school and later university with a degree in Romance Languages. She found herself among other writers who were a part of the Generation of ‘50, which inspired her affluent literary career. Her most notable works include The Back Room, a striking contemporary work that delves into the intricacies of memory and family dynamics.

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02/18/2024 03:21 pm GMT

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best Argentinian authors!

The Final Word On The Best Spanish Authors

These Spanish authors have much to offer from poetry, plays, and fiction. If you enjoyed our round-up of the best Spanish authors, we have many more articles on the best authors from around the globe. Why not check out our list of the best Portuguese authors? Or use the search bar at the top right of the page to search for authors in a country or region you are interested in.

FAQs About Spanish Authors

Who are some up-and-coming Spanish writers?

Keep an eye out for Andrea Abreu and Munir Hachemi. 

Who is the most widely read Spanish author?

It’s hard to say who is the most widely read Spanish author, but Miguel de Cervantes is arguably the most famous.