The best books of Latin American magical realism

Why am I passionate about this?

Daniel Loedel is a book editor based in Brooklyn. His first novel, Hades, Argentina, was inspired by his half-sister, who was disappeared in Argentina in 1978 by the military dictatorship. It won the Prix du Premier Roman, was a finalist for the Prix Femina, and was longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and VCU Cabell First Novel Award. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, LitHub, Poets & Writers, and other publications.


I wrote...

Hades, Argentina

By Daniel Loedel,

Book cover of Hades, Argentina

What is my book about?

In 1976, Tomás Orilla is a medical student in Buenos Aires, where he has moved in hopes of reuniting with Isabel, a childhood crush. The reckless passion that has long drawn him is leading Isabel ever deeper into the ranks of the insurgency fighting an increasingly oppressive regime. Tomás has always been willing to do anything to prove himself. Yet what exactly is he proving, and at what cost to them both?

It will be years before Tomás is summoned back, now living as Thomas Shore in New York. It isn’t a homecoming that awaits him so much as an odyssey into the past, an encounter with the ghosts that lurk there, and a reckoning with the fatal gap between who he has become and who he once aspired to be.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of One Hundred Years of Solitude

Daniel Loedel Why did I love this book?

This is the iconic novel of Latin American magical realism, the one that most typifies what the genre is in people’s minds. But that’s not to say it’ll feel familiar or predictable; to the contrary, no book is more full of surprises, more original on every page than this story of a family over a hundred years in the legendary down of Macondo. Curses, angels, forbidden love, guerilla war, and the renewing and obliterating power of time—all that and much more are in this classic epic that created what we understand to be magical realism.

By Gabriel García Márquez, Gregory Rabassa (translator),

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked One Hundred Years of Solitude as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women -- brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul -- this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.


Book cover of Pedro Páramo

Daniel Loedel Why did I love this book?

Garcia Marquez famously claimed to have memorized Pedro Páramo, making it in some ways the actual cornerstone of Latin American magical realism. A strange, haunting novel about a man in search of his father, Pedro Páramo, who finds himself in a ghost town and listening to the memories of phantasms, this book is a spectral, beautiful story with mystifying power. It was probably the chief influence for my own novel which similarly follows a young man into a ghost world of the past.

By Juan Rulfo, Margaret Sayers Peden (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Pedro Páramo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner, Fred Whitehead Award for the Best Design of a Trade Book from Texas Institute of Letters Western Books Exhibition Selection, Rounce & Coffin Club, 2003 Deserted villages of rural Mexico, where images and memories of the past linger like unquiet ghosts, haunted the imaginations of two artists-writer Juan Rulfo and photographer Josephine Sacabo. In one such village of the mind, Comala, Rulfo set his classic novel Pedro Paramo, a dream-like tale that intertwines a man's quest to find his lost father and reclaim his patrimony with the father's obsessive love for a woman who will not be possessed-Susana San…


Book cover of Ficciones

Daniel Loedel Why did I love this book?

The Argentine literary icon’s mode of magical realism is perhaps the most different from others, the one that stands most apart. Couched in history and intellectualism, many of his stories read at first as essays until they dart into some realm of the fantastical to make a startling point about identity, storytelling, or human existence. No writer uses the far reaches of the possible to make you think more than Borges.

By Jorge Luis Borges, Anthony Bonner (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ficciones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The seventeen pieces in Ficciones demonstrate the gargantuan powers of imagination, intelligence, and style of one of the greatest writers of this or any other century.

Borges sends us on a journey into a compelling, bizarre, and profoundly resonant realm; we enter the fearful sphere of Pascal's abyss, the surreal and literal labyrinth of books, and the iconography of eternal return. More playful and approachable than the fictions themselves are Borges's Prologues, brief elucidations that offer the uninitiated a passageway into the whirlwind of Borges's genius and mirror the precision and potency of his intellect and inventiveness, his piercing irony,…


Book cover of Fever Dream

Daniel Loedel Why did I love this book?

Originally titled Distancia de Rescate (“The Rescue Distance”), this novel which blends contemporary concerns of environmental catastrophe with the magic of psychics and haunted children is truly a feverish reading experience, one which you will devour in a single sitting and need to restart to understand what was real and what was not.

By Samanta Schweblin, Megan McDowell (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Fever Dream as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE 2017

'The book I wish I had written' Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women and Animal

A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a remote Argentinian hospital. A boy named David sits beside her.

She's not his mother. He's not her child.

At David's ever more insistent prompting, Amanda recounts a series of events from the apparently recent past, a conversation that opens a chest of horrors. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.

A chilling tale of maternal anxiety and ecological…


Book cover of Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories

Daniel Loedel Why did I love this book?

Another contemporary book of Latin American magical realism, this one is perhaps subtlest in its surrealism and has most in common with the American Gothic tradition of Edgar Allan Poe. Things We Lost in the Fire reveals to us an Argentina filled with ghosts and haunted houses and satanic rituals while simultaneously bringing the country as it is today to vivid, powerful life. 

By Mariana Enríquez, Megan McDowell (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Things We Lost in the Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A portrait of a world in fragments, a mirrorball made of razor blades' Guardian

Sleep-deprived fathers conjuring phantoms; sharp-toothed children and stolen skulls; persecuted young women drawn to self-immolation. Organized crime sits side-by-side with the occult in Buenos Aires - a place where reality and the preternatural fuse into strange, new shapes. These stories follow the wayward and downtrodden, revealing the scars of Argentina's dictatorship and the ghosts and traumas that have settled in the minds of its people. Provocative, brutal and uncanny, Things We Lost in the Fire is a paragon of contemporary Gothic from a writer of singular…


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Holy Terror

By John R. Dougherty,

Book cover of Holy Terror

John R. Dougherty Author Of Holy Terror

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have felt a spiritual call in my life from as early as I can remember having memories as a young child. Being a life-long Christian has always drawn me to try to see God in everything around me, from people I encounter, to creation itself, to songs, to movies, etc. So, reading books which contain Christian allegory – symbols, meanings, underlying Biblical references – is very exciting for me. I enjoy trying to decipher that symbolism and try to understand the undertones that the book’s author is trying to communicate indirectly. I find that to be a personal challenge as I read, but also I find it very inspiring as well!

John's book list on Christian action books allegorical references

What is my book about?

None of them knew what was coming, and none of them will ever be the same again...

Detective Jelani is a tough, veteran cop. His younger partner, Detective Madigan, is brash and confident. But they were not prepared to become embroiled in a series of cosmic events they could never have dreamt of. As has been the case since the beginning of time, God and His heavenly host are facing off with Satan and his hellish host.

Caught in the middle is Thumos, a warrior angel, "quickened" by God for one thing: battle. But Thumos has become a disgruntled warrior…

Holy Terror

By John R. Dougherty,

What is this book about?

None of them knew what was coming, and none of them will ever be the same again...

Detective Jelani is a tough, veteran cop, who earned his stripes in the rough-and-tumble streets of St. Louis before relocating to Miami.  His younger partner, Detective Madigan, is brash and confident.  But they were not prepared to become embroiled in a series of cosmic events they could never have dreamt of.  In a world where the angels of heaven and the angels of hell bring their ageless battle to Earth, how will these men and their families overcome such insurmountable challenges?

As has…


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Interested in magical realism, Latin America, and Argentina?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about magical realism, Latin America, and Argentina.

Magical Realism Explore 435 books about magical realism
Latin America Explore 119 books about Latin America
Argentina Explore 52 books about Argentina