Twenty Books to Read in Spanish

  1. Rayuela by Julio Cortázar (Hopscotch): a novel taking on stream-of-consciousness and an unorthodox structure; the reader must “hopscotch” through the chapters. Excited to read this one—I’ve heard good things.
  1. Cuentos de la selva by Horacio Quiroga (Jungle Tales): published as a children’s book, it features eight short stories that merge fantasy and nature. Quiroga’s darker-themed stories, more appropriate for older readers, can be read in Cuentos de amor de locura y de muerte (Love stories of madness and death.)
  1. El obsceno pájaro de la noche by José Donoso (The Obscene Bird of the Night): magical realism is exalted in this novel as the main character Humberto experiences a deconstruction of the self. This sounds like a trippy and mind-boggling novel, for those that enjoy that kind of reading experience.
  1. La tregua by Mario Benedetti (The truce): If you’ve read poems by Benedetti, you’ve read truly beautiful poetry (look up “Bodas de Perlas,” “Wedding Pearls”) Diary entries written by the main character form the structure of the novel. The narrative centers on a love story, but it is not ideal love that is depicted.
  1. Papeles de Pandora by Rosario Ferré (Pandora Papers): collection of short stories that dwell on the role of women in a patriarchal culture; some of the stories mimic archetypes in fairy tales—look up “La bella durmiente,” “The Sleeping Beauty”—this one is sure to surprise!
  1. Crónica de una muerte anunciada by Gabriel García Márquez (Chronicle of a Death Foretold): a novel using a narrative structure similar to that of a detective novel; the story was inspired by an event that took place during the author’s youth. I think this would be an interesting read for those that enjoy the style of Jorge Luis Borges’ short stories.
  1. Yo-Yo Boing! by Giannina Braschi (Spanglish novel): the book mixes Spanish and English in its narrative and a collage of literary genres is used to tell the story of artists living in New York City during the 1990’s.
  1. Luz sobre Luz by Luce López-Baralt (Light upon Light): Currently reading this gem of a book; the collection of short poems elaborate on divine love and the metaphysical concept of oneness.
  1. El túnel by Ernesto Sábato (The tunnel): the novel’s main theme is an existential one—the main character’s journey is to understand the motivation behind a crime. Here’s the kicker: the story starts with the main character’s confession.
  1. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges (Collected Fictions): book of short stories featuring some notable ones such as “Las ruinas circulares” (“The Circular Ruins”) and “La muerte y la brújula” (“Death and the Compass.”) If you enjoy reading detective novels or putting together a puzzle, Borges’ detective stories are both captivating and challenging for the reader.
  1. Eva Luna by Isabel Allende: the novel recounts the story of an orphan girl growing up in South America during a period of political turmoil. Magical realism is explored in Eva’s gift for creating enchanting stories in the midst of an oppressive time and place in history for women in Latin America.
  1. Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada by Pablo Neruda (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair): a classic in Latin American poetry, most of the poems explore love and nature. Look up poem #15 and poem #20 (this would be a good time to break out the tissue box.)
  1. El alquimista by Paulo Coehlo (The Alchemist): This one is renowned for being a highly inspirational book; the truth is that it is an enlightening read: “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
  1. La tía Julia y el escribidor by Mario Vargas Llosa (Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter): this semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of Mario, a teenager who falls in love with his aunt. Moral dilemmas are moral dilemmas indeed: this isn’t just an age-gap romance, but an age-gap romance with family drama.
  1. Romancero gitano by Federico García Lorca (Gypsy Ballads): book of poems that explores themes such as love and death; notable ones are “Romance Sonámbulo” (“Sleepwalking Romance”) and “Romance de la luna” (“Romance of the moon.”)
  1. El Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges (The Aleph): this book includes seventeen stories that explore the meaning of life in concepts such as infinity, immortality, and reality. I think Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” was inspired by Borges’ work, particularly this book.
  1. El Principito by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince): this classic book in children’s literature is not solely for children; any reader can learn something fascinating from the adventures of the narrator, who ventures from planet to planet, learning something new in each of his encounters.
  1. Cien años de soledad by Gabriel García Márquez (Hundred Years of Solitude): this book is considered on of the best in Latin American literature: it tells the story of the Buendía family in Macondo (this fictional town—this fictional world—will the leave the reader in a tangle of uncertainty about time and place in the traditional sense.) This is not your typical novel, but it is definitely a must-read.
  1. Open spot for a recommendation. I’m up for anything!
  1. Bestiario by Julio Cortázar (Bestiary): As is expected with Cortázar, this collection of short stories might leave the reader utterly confused for days. A notable one was “Carta a una señorita en París” (“Letter to a young lady in Paris.”) The task at hand is to figure out why the narrator pukes bunnies. Anyone want to give it a go?

 

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