No problem (Do not worry); when i say you really need to read these best classic books by latin american authors i’m not trying to shame you for not having read them yet i’m trying to get you excited to read truly exceptional writings. And you don’t have to worry if you’re not a fluent Spanish speaker (or reader) – the books covered in this list hold up perfectly well to translation, just another testament to their quality. (And with a nod to translators, whose job is of course much more complex than just the exchange of languages.)
Latin American literature is hardly monolithic – no single theme informs all major works, no small number of historical events frame much of the writing, and no handful of stereotypical characters repeat themselves over and over again. . That said, there are a few trends running through a number of major Latin American works that tie the books together. These include a fantastic and semi-magical advantage to otherwise standard narratives, a crude and realistic portrayal of the harshness of everyday life, and the complicated and often strained relationship with the northern country that has appropriated the name of ‘one or two entire land masses. Of course, you’ll also find everything from heart-wrenching memoirs and hilarious farce to sizzling romance and gripping armrest action in books by Latin American authors. So read on, then read on.
100 years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
If you didn’t read this book in high school or college, you either dodged your homework or you need to find the one who was supposed to be your enlightened teacher and slap him on the back of the neck. This book is, depending on what page you’re on, weird, lyrical, hilarious, creepy, and still compelling. It tells the story of all of human history through the story of a small town lost in a mythical forest. It also contains just about all the emotions a human being is likely to feel between the bookends of birth and death. There is lust, violence, love, kindness, madness and more in this epic novel that cemented Marquez’s Nobel Prize for Literature.
Like water for chocolate by Laura Esquivel
This famous book, later transformed into a famous film, is a perfect example of the magical realism so often associated with Latin American fiction. Without a little magic, the story couldn’t take place. But magic is only the seed, not the heart of the story. The core of Like water for chocolate is a combination of food, love, and longing, with a bit of family resentment and secret lust. It is the story of a young girl, but also an allegory of the changes taking place in Mexican society as a whole. And as you might be wondering, the title refers to heated and about to boil water as it is used to make a popular chocolate drink and alludes to emotions about to explode.
Crux – A cross-border memoir by Jean Guerrero
This book is several things at the same time. This is an account of the current Latinx experience in America. It is an account of the modern experience of emigrants and immigrants. And it is simply a memoir of an American writer, since the author, Jean Guerrero, was born in San Diego. His American citizenship, education and journalism background come together to help Guerrero look at life through the eyes of his Mexican immigrant father, through the lens of those who cross the crossing today, and from the point of view of viewed by American citizens, the result is a book that is both balanced and heartfelt.
Residence on Land of Pablo Neruda
Written over two decades and published in three volumes between 1925 and the mid-1940s, this book of poetry is considered by many to be Neruda’s masterpiece and contributed significantly to his 1971 Nobel Prize. wrote much of the book while away from his Chilean homeland, having served as a diplomat in several remote parts of South Asia in his youth. The poems touch on everything from sex to loneliness, death and the mundane.
Isabel Allende’s House of Spirits
Continuing the radical epic tradition with a bit of magic, this debut novel put Allende on the map as a major author of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The book follows several generations of a Chilean family (in fact, the country is never named, but it’s Chile) with all the ups and downs that one would expect from decades of life and more. Beyond the drama of the Trueba family, there is the upheaval in this unnamed country itself, upheaval in which young Alba Trueba will play a central role. (And don’t just watch the 1993 film version, no matter how powerful it was. We’re talking about Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, Winona Ryder, Glenn Close, and Antonia Banderas – wow, right !? OK.)
Mario Vargas Llosa’s green house
Move over David Foster Wallace, because before there was Infinite joke, there was The greenhouse. Fair warning: This 1966 novel by Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa is not an easy read. But the conflict at its core, innocence versus corruption, is not easy to resolve. The title of the book refers in part to the Amazon rainforest which lies just beyond the fictional city at the center of the story and in part to a physically green house built on the outskirts of this city, a green house where the sex is for sale and the character of the city and its inhabitants in play. The sentences can be long and complicated and many are worth reading twice to make sure you get the meaning, but here the journey is the crux, not the destination.
When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
Memorialist Esmeralda Santiago is American by birth, having been born in Puerto Rico, but reading her story as a childhood on the island and as a young adult after the family moved to New York makes you wonder what that really means. . Her story has all the hallmarks of immigrant history, except for the need to obtain citizenship or escape exclusion otherwise: the culture she knew and loved when she was. child is almost unrecognizable in his new home. But Santiago managed to find his way, graduating from Harvard, authoring several acclaimed books and becoming an advocate for troubled youth, battered women, and public libraries, among others.
Open Veins from Latin America by Eduardo Galeano
If you want to feel bad about living in an exploitative, greedy and rapaciously capitalist country, read this seminal work by Eduardo Galeano. Still relevant almost 50 years after its first publication in 1971, the subtitle of this book will make its subject quite clear: Five centuries of plundering a continent. The book is simultaneously a work of history, political science, social commentary and condemnation. The left-wing book would be banned in several South American countries for much of the 20th century, with governments held by strong right-wingers.
Ernesto Che Guevara’s motorcycle diaries
Read this book with a grain of salt. Yes, the account of young Che’s journey through South America is fascinating. It’s filled with beautiful places, memorable people, personal perspectives, adventures, and the hustle and bustle of political thought. It’s romantic in a non-sexual sense. It’s a part of Latin American history. But despite all of this and more, remember that, best intentions aside, Guevara’s commitment to radical left-wing politics has indirectly (and in some cases directly) led to many deaths.