1. Veinte Poemas de Amor (Twenty Love Poems)
In his seminal work, ‘Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair’, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda charts the depths of love’s joys and sorrows to produce a collection of poetry that reverberates with emotion. The achingly beautiful and subtly nuanced poems have made Neruda a favourite amongst both confirmed poetry lovers and those who don’t usually care for verse, and the poet’s genius for capturing the universal renders this a powerful – and heartbreaking – literary masterpiece.
2. Como Agua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)
Tita de la Garza is bound by a family tradition which prevents her, as the youngest daughter, from marrying; instead she must remain in the family home and nurse her mother into old age. When the love of her life, Pedro, marries her sister Rosaura to be closer to Tita herself, their repressed love and the desperate desires of the novel’s heroine begin to spill into her cooking, and soon her moods manifest themselves in all those who eat her delicious, and sumptuously described, Mexican meals. Laura Esquivel’s novel is a feast of a book, bubbling with passion, longing – and recipes.
3. Cien Anos de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude)
An obvious choice, but with good reason: Gabriel García Márquez’s classic history of seven generations of the Buendía family is unparalleled in scope and originality. The author’s inimitable style imbues its pages with magic and myth, turning the fictional setting of Macondo into a South American microcosm. If it sounds light and fanciful it is anything but: the intrusion of political turmoil, senseless violence and cruelty into the isolated world of Macondo make this a huge and many-faceted narrative.
And if you enjoy this book, you can also look forward to the rest of the Nobel-winning author’s acclaimed body of work – try ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, ‘Of Love and Other Demons’, ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ or the non-fictional ‘News of a Kidnapping.’
4. La Casa de los Espíritos (House of Spirits)
Isabel Allende’s epic novel traces Chile’s turbulent history through the tragedies befalling successive generations of women. Events are foreshadowed by the premonitions of Clara del Valle Trueba, whose supernatural gifts ensure that the ghosts of the family’s misfortunes are never far away. In this wide-ranging work, held together by the family relationships at its core, Allende skilfully weaves together the political and the personal.
5. In Patagonia
Bruce Chatwin’s extraordinary chronicle of his wanderings through Patagonia breaks the travel writing mould, delivering an idiosyncratic take on a remote region. Part-travelogue, part-history, part-fiction, ‘In Patagonia’ builds up like a ramshackle house of cards as Chatwin’s journey to an ancient cave is waylaid by intriguing characters and tall tales. If you’re looking for a description of Patagonia’s main attractions then look elsewhere, but if you want to understand its mythology and the quirks of its people, let yourself be transported by this unusual and compelling book.