Although I don’t think books are the best way for a beginner to start learning a language, Alpha Teach Yourself Spanish in 24 Hours is an easy to use guide to the basic concepts of Spanish grammar, pronunciation, usage, and overall language. Author Clark Zlotchew puts together a lot of information in his hour long lessons, complete with practice exercises in clear and easy to understand language with a lot of examples.
Zlotchew starts out, as one might expect, with the alphabet and Spanish pronunciation. He does a great job of explaining the sounds of Spanish vowels and consonants and the rules of accents and stress. He breaks down stress into 3 rules: If a words ends with a vowel, an s or a n then the stress is on the penultimate syllable (next to last). If a word ends with any consonant other than s or n the stress is on the last syllable. The last rule is that exceptions will carry a written accent mark. The language he uses to describe these rules is clear and simple and plenty of examples are provided.
The author spends a few chapters mixing indicative verbs with other topics, all the while intertwining vocabulary. I like his approach to mixing the vocabulary instruction with the grammar. Every indicative tense is covered ( preterite, imperfect, progressive, present, future, conditional). The next section does a fantastic job of covering the complicated Spanish subjunctive. Once again I must commend this book for taking a complex subject and breaking it down into simple language. This book helped me with my personal understanding of the subjunctive. Different units include cultural tips to help you betterunderstand the language and communicate. He also explains some vocabulary differences between Spain and Latin America, such as regional words for foods (ex. gambas in Spain and camarones in Latin America for shrimp).
While I’m not a fan of books for the beginning language learners, this book could certainly help someone who has basic pronunciation down. There is much to be gained, especially from the simple to understand grammar explanations.