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Books on Spain

A round-up and review of Books on Spain. Some old some new, fiction and non-fiction. Sometimes brief, sometimes in depth but never negative. If I don’t like it, I won’t review it!

Wild Spain
24 October 2014 @ 08:48

It came as a great surprise to me when I discovered the distinct lack of books about the wildlife of Spain.

For such a huge and diverse country  which ranges from the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the lush forests of Catalonia or the arid desert of Almeria one would think the sheer variety of wildlife alone would give rise to a whole library of books on the subject. 

Search Amazon for books about wildlife in Britain and one is presented with over 2,000 titles yet try the same thing with Spain and apart from a handful of bird watching books, probably aimed at the visiting British twitcher, there is very little. A few out of print nature books or a handful of general guidebooks to Spain but nothing which really covers the wildlife in any depth.

Some years ago I managed to obtain an out of print copy of Wild Spain and if one wants a good view of Spanish wildlife this is certainly a book to hunt down. Note, there are actually two books titled Wild Spain by different authors, I have them both but the one I am currently reviewing is the hardest of the two to find by Frederic V Grunfeld. 

Although this version was published in 1988 much is still as relevant today as the day it was printed. The roads he describes are now more developed and there is a wider choice of places to stay but of course the landscapes and wildlife remain pretty much unchanged.
 The book is set out in a highly accessible and organised manner. The landscape of Spain is diverse in both its wildlife and its geology and refuses to conform to the neat lines of the autonomous regions so Grunfeld largely ignores these artificial divisions, preferring instead to divide it into nine geologically defined sectors including the Balearics and Canary islands. 

The first thing one notices about this book is the remarkable quantity and depth of information provided. This is definitely not a travelogue with whimsical descriptions of little white villages or tasty tapas, This is a neatly structured informational resource of quite extraordinary detail. 

Each of his chosen geographical sections are further divided into a dozen smaller regions, although again with little regard to human demarcation lines which are subject to the vagaries of politics. 
In each area he describes, he gives the nearest airports and public transport. He explains how to reach each place by road, rail and bus. He then goes on to list all the names and numbers of the maps which cover the area and provides a useful selection of guidebooks for further reading.  He also give a selection of places to stay although sadly, many of these places no longer exist. 

And in case one takes the impression this is just a dry, dense fact book consider this evocative description, “What really struck me as I sat looking down on this incredible landscape, was the sound of the swift’s wings ripping through the air close to my head, the noise strangely mirrored by the rasping of the scythes as the local people harvested their wheat and barley in the valley below.”  Grunfeld has mastered the difficult task of blending a huge amount of factual data with flashes of poetic beauty.  
His descriptions of each area include an in depth discussion of the flora and fauna, the climate, landscape and scenery, He points out places that one should visit including many still very remote and untouched locations.

The photographs that pepper the text are, with a few exceptions, mostly informative rather than artistic. There are also a good number of sketches of the local wildlife and some clear maps on how to locate each place.

All in all, this is quite an extraordinary work with a staggering amount of information. It’s such a shame this marvellous book is currently out of print and very difficult to locate as there are no current publications that comes anywhere close to this. Unfortunately the author died just as this book was published.

Publisher: Ebury Press 
ISBN-13: 978-0852236932

Like 0


peter-c said:
26 October 2014 @ 20:38

Excellent review, but the problem now is getting the book! It's just the type I've been looking for. Hope I can track one down. Thanks for the information!

peter-c said:
26 October 2014 @ 20:46

Update to my last post: found a used copy on Amazon and ordered it (cost only a couple of pounds). Thanks again for pointing me in the right direction.

DavidLud said:
28 October 2014 @ 07:25

Thanks Peter, glad you managed to find a copy and I'm sure you'll find the effort rewarding!

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