The best books about Buenos Aires

1 authors have picked their favorite books about Buenos Aires and why they recommend each book.

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The Tunnel

By Ernesto Sabato, Margaret Sayers Peden (translator),

Book cover of The Tunnel

The painter Castel meets Maria, the only person in the world capable of understanding him and his art. They start a relationship, but he becomes obsessive and wants her to live for him only. Castel describes his mind as a dark labyrinth in which occasional flashes of lightning illuminate dark corridors. The increasingly paranoid painter murders Maria and the novel takes the form of his prison-cell confession. Unable to understand why he committed the crime; he is at a loss how to justify himself. Sabato’s tortured protagonist is up there with Camus’ Meursault and Dostoevsky’s Underground Man. Femicide is a huge problem in Latin America, and Sabato was praised for being able to recreate the mind of a monster. However, I found Castel somewhat sympathetic.


Who am I?

At twenty-six I was living in Wuhan. I had been in China for a couple of years and was looking for a change. Not ready to go back home to New Zealand, I made my way across Europe, through the USA, and on to Argentina. Since that visit, I’ve followed Argentina's economic crises and scoured its newspapers for quirky crime stories. I started to send out true crime articles to various magazines. Eventually, I had enough material to write a novel. For years I’ve wanted to find a literary yet straightforward crime novel set in Argentina. The search goes on, but below are the best I’ve come across so far.


I wrote...

Buenos Aires Triad

By F.E. Beyer,

Book cover of Buenos Aires Triad

What is my book about?

A searing portrait of small-time crooks and immigrant gangs. When an armed robber shoots a British tourist in Buenos Aires, Lucas's life changes forever. A humble watch-seller moonlighting for the gang behind the robbery, Lucas picked the British woman as a target. He wants out of the gang but instead becomes more entangled and joins gang leader Gustavo in extortion work for the triads. In the Argentina of this well-researched noir, an enterprising type can store their loot with crooked nuns, or bet it on scorpion fights at illegal casinos.

Money to Burn

By Ricardo Piglia, Amanda Hopkinson,

Book cover of Money to Burn

More about hiding out and the lead-up to the final shoot-out than the bank robbery at the start, this novel is based on a real case from the 1960s. After they rob a bank in the Province of Buenos Aires, Dorda and Brigone, escape with the money over the Rio de la Plata. They find a bolthole in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, a country much like Argentina culturally and historically, but with fewer hysterical tendencies. Not happy about this are the politicians and police officers involved in the robbery and anxious for their cut of the loot. Piglia does a good job of recreating Argentina in the 1960s. Despite some stylistic pretensions and his overwriting of the main characters, the author manages not to get in the way of the story.


Who am I?

At twenty-six I was living in Wuhan. I had been in China for a couple of years and was looking for a change. Not ready to go back home to New Zealand, I made my way across Europe, through the USA, and on to Argentina. Since that visit, I’ve followed Argentina's economic crises and scoured its newspapers for quirky crime stories. I started to send out true crime articles to various magazines. Eventually, I had enough material to write a novel. For years I’ve wanted to find a literary yet straightforward crime novel set in Argentina. The search goes on, but below are the best I’ve come across so far.


I wrote...

Buenos Aires Triad

By F.E. Beyer,

Book cover of Buenos Aires Triad

What is my book about?

A searing portrait of small-time crooks and immigrant gangs. When an armed robber shoots a British tourist in Buenos Aires, Lucas's life changes forever. A humble watch-seller moonlighting for the gang behind the robbery, Lucas picked the British woman as a target. He wants out of the gang but instead becomes more entangled and joins gang leader Gustavo in extortion work for the triads. In the Argentina of this well-researched noir, an enterprising type can store their loot with crooked nuns, or bet it on scorpion fights at illegal casinos.

Death Going Down

By María Angélica Bosco, Lucy Greaves (translator),

Book cover of Death Going Down

An Agatha Christie-style mystery set in Buenos Aires. At two in the morning, Pancho Soler returns drunk to his apartment building on Santa Fe Avenue. He presses the button for the lift, and it arrives with a surprise inside: a beautiful blonde woman, sitting upright, but dead. Many of the suspects who live in the building are recent immigrants from Europe and, as the novel is set in the 1950s, their memories and secrets from WW2 are still fresh. Boris, a Bulgarian chemist who worked for the Nazis, is the most entertaining of the lot. There are the usual red herrings and revelations in the search for the murderer. The young Argentinian detective is a little flat by Christie's standards, but this is a satisfying whodunnit.   


Who am I?

At twenty-six I was living in Wuhan. I had been in China for a couple of years and was looking for a change. Not ready to go back home to New Zealand, I made my way across Europe, through the USA, and on to Argentina. Since that visit, I’ve followed Argentina's economic crises and scoured its newspapers for quirky crime stories. I started to send out true crime articles to various magazines. Eventually, I had enough material to write a novel. For years I’ve wanted to find a literary yet straightforward crime novel set in Argentina. The search goes on, but below are the best I’ve come across so far.


I wrote...

Buenos Aires Triad

By F.E. Beyer,

Book cover of Buenos Aires Triad

What is my book about?

A searing portrait of small-time crooks and immigrant gangs. When an armed robber shoots a British tourist in Buenos Aires, Lucas's life changes forever. A humble watch-seller moonlighting for the gang behind the robbery, Lucas picked the British woman as a target. He wants out of the gang but instead becomes more entangled and joins gang leader Gustavo in extortion work for the triads. In the Argentina of this well-researched noir, an enterprising type can store their loot with crooked nuns, or bet it on scorpion fights at illegal casinos.

National Rhythms, African Roots

By John Charles Chasteen,

Book cover of National Rhythms, African Roots: The Deep History of Latin American Popular Dance

In this fascinating study, Chasteen examines the historical experiences that molded Latin American popular dance from an Atlantic perspective. It delves into the “deep” history of Latin American culture and analyzes the development of dancing culture in its socio-historical context. This is not only a well-researched, but also a well written and oftentimes funny book that is broadly accessible. It is a must-read for any new scholar interested in the field of Black performance culture. Although the focus is on Latin America, Chasteen’s study reveals connections that are also of great importance to understanding the historical development of Black dance culture in North America.


Who am I?

I am a philologist with a passion for Atlantic cultural history. What started with a research project on the African-American Pinkster tradition and the African community in seventeenth-century Dutch Manhattan led me to New Orleans’ Congo Square and has meanwhile expanded to the African Atlantic islands, the Caribbean, and Latin America. With fluency in several foreign languages, I have tried to demonstrate in my publications that we can achieve a better understanding of Black cultural and religious identity formation in the Americas by adopting a multilingual and Atlantic perspective. 


I wrote...

From the Kingdom of Kongo to Congo Square: Kongo Dances and the Origins of the Mardi Gras Indians

By Jeroen Dewulf,

Book cover of From the Kingdom of Kongo to Congo Square: Kongo Dances and the Origins of the Mardi Gras Indians

What is my book about?

From the Kingdom of Kongo to Congo Square presents a new interpretation of the Mardi Gras Indians, one of New Orleans’ most enigmatic cultural traditions. By interpreting this performance in an Atlantic context and using historical sources in multiple languages, I traced the “Black Indians” back to the ancient Kingdom of Kongo in Africa and its war dance known as “sangamento.” The book shows that talented warriors in the Kongo kingdom were by definition also good dancers, masters of a technique of dodging, spinning, and leaping that was crucial in local warfare. Furthermore, it demonstrates how this performance tradition accompanied enslaved Kongolese communities to the African island of São Tomé and, subsequently, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Louisiana.

Zama

By Antonio Di Benedetto,

Book cover of Zama

Argentinian masterpiece written in 1956 and only recently published in English in 2016, Zama is told from the POV of a minor Spanish official colonizing Paraguay. The alienation of Don Diego de Zama reads like a horror storytaut and psychological, hes both villain and victim of the systems he perpetuates. Zama was adapted brilliantly into a film by Lucrecia Martel in 2017, which is how I learned about the book. I expected the film to have radically adapted its source material, but what I discovered instead was a novel from the 1950s that felt incredibly fresh and modern. 


Who am I?

Writer and essayist Agnes Borinsky called my debut novel The Seep, A swift shock of a novel that has shifted how I see our world.Here are five short, urgent novels that continue to live with me in the months and years after reading them. These are some of my most beloved books, all of which happen to be under 200 pages, which ache with the inner mystery of what is hidden, and what is revealed. These books are my teachers, each a precise masterclass in world building, suspense, and purposeful storytelling. Enjoy these ‘swift shocks!’


I wrote...

The Seep

By Chana Porter,

Book cover of The Seep

What is my book about?

A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porters fresh, pointed debut explores a strange new world in the wake of a benign alien invasion. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on. A 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, Finalist for the Otherwise Award, Times of London Best Sci-Fi of 2021.

A unique alien invasion story that focuses on the human and the myriad ways we see and dont see our own world. Mesmerizing.” —Jeff VanderMeer

Tschiffely's Ride

By Aimé Tschiffely,

Book cover of Tschiffely's Ride: Ten Thousand Miles in the Saddle from Southern Cross to Pole Star

It’s an extraordinary journey, people said it was absurd and impossible. I read it as a teenager, and even then it struck a chord with me. And it showed that what people call impossible is merely a sign of challenge. It also shows what deep reserves of stamina we all have in us, only found if we dig deep enough. It stayed with me as an inspiration, and as a dream of adventure


Who am I?

If I needed an excuse to be an explorer, I’d say it was inherited wanderlust. My grandparents moved to China in the 1920s and my grandmother became an unconventional traveller by mule in the wilds. My mother spent her childhood there. And much of her married life in West Africa, where I was born and raised. The wildest places fill me with curiosity.


I wrote...

Madagascar Travels

By Christina Dodwell,

Book cover of Madagascar Travels

What is my book about?

Madagascar is an island of secrets, where new species of wildlife continue to be discovered and rumors of mysterious aboriginals and natural phenomena persist in the forest. Christina Dodwell explores its least accessible corners and makes friends with its people. Her four-month journey began in the highlands where, travelling by horse-drawn stagecoach, she encounters a healer, a village poet, and families who perform bone-turning rites for their ancestors. Taboos, fetishes, and astrology weave through her travels among wood-carvers and lead to a royal meeting. Christina’s great courage, open mind, and unbounded curiosity enable her to go to places few would dare visit, and she almost invariably finds kindness and hospitality wherever she travels.

Little Eyes

By Samanta Schweblin, Megan McDowell (translator),

Book cover of Little Eyes

A Firby-like robot pet becomes an international fad, where a “keeper” buys a little wheeled robot and is randomly paired with a “dweller” who teleoperates the robot. The robot has only a camera and microphone, but no audio output, and the identity of the keeper and dweller are hidden. The game is that the keeper is entertained trying to figure out why the robot does what it does, while the dweller is entertained by exploring a new place. What could go wrong?  Lots. Lots! Little Eyes absolutely terrified me, much more than any Stephen King novel because there is nothing supernatural, it could really happen.


Who am I?

I have loved science fiction ever since I was a kid and read all my Dad’s ancient issues of Analog Science Fiction and Fact from the 1940s. The first book I can remember reading was The Green Hills of Earth anthology by Robert Heinlein. Fast forward to the 1990s, when, as a new professor of computer science, I began adding sci-fi short stories and movies as extra credit for my AI and robotics courses. Later as a Faculty Fellow for Innovation in High-Impact Learning Experiences at Texas A&M, I created the Robotics Through Science Fiction book series as a companion to my textbook, Introduction to AI Robotics


I wrote...

Robotics Through Science Fiction: Artificial Intelligence Explained Through Six Classic Robot Short Stories

By Robin R. Murphy,

Book cover of Robotics Through Science Fiction: Artificial Intelligence Explained Through Six Classic Robot Short Stories

What is my book about?

Robotics Through Science Fiction explains how robots actually work in a way that anyone, not just a scientist, can relate to. The book is a collection of six famous sci-fi stories, each of which illustrates some important aspects of real-world robotics, such as teleoperation, organization of intelligence,  machine learning, and human-robot interaction. Each story has a prologue that introduces the concept illustrated in the story and what to watch for while reading. After the story, there is a discussion of what was accurate or wrong, and why. It was originally intended as a fun companion to the college-level textbook, Introduction to AI Robotics, but became a standalone book for teaching anyone how robot intelligence is programmed. 

The City of To-morrow and Its Planning

By Le Corbusier, Frederick Etchells (translator),

Book cover of The City of To-morrow and Its Planning

Read this book if you care about cities. True, you may want to throw it across the room at times (I did),  but it is one of the most influential books of the 20th century and you should know your enemies. Written shortly after World War I when automobiles were beginning to clog streets, its author Le Corbusier had good intentions. He thought narrow crowded streets should be replaced by apartment towers set on green lawns. He used concrete boldly, opened up the interiors of buildings so light could flood in, and insisted that residences be far away from industry and commerce. But while the model can work for luxury housing, it doesn't work when neighborhoods are destroyed to build these high-rise blocks, and separating work from home by automobile-only roads means urban sprawl. 


Who am I?

I like to say I'm a born-again pedestrian. After a childhood in car-friendly Southern California, I moved first to the San Francisco Bay Area and then to Montreal. There I discovered the pleasures of living in walkable cities, and over the years I've explored them in a series of books about people, nature, and urban spaces in which the problems of spread-out, concrete-heavy cities take a front-row seat. The impact of the way we've built our cities over the last 100 years is becoming apparent, as carbon dioxide rises, driving climate changes. We must change the way we live, and the books I suggest give some insights about what to do and what not to do.


I wrote...

Concrete: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future

By Mary Soderstrom,

Book cover of Concrete: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future

What is my book about?

Imagine a world without concrete: there’d be no skyscrapers, no highways, no subdivisions, no grand irrigation projects, no out-of-season vegetables, no cities as we know them. There would be a shortage of electricity, more mud in some places, more solitude in others. But because of the fossil fuels and other resources required to make concrete, there also would also be less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and less dramatic climate change. In Concrete: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future, Mary Soderstrom tells the story of concrete’s surprising past, extravagant present, and uncertain future with careful research, lively anecdotes, and thoughtful reflection.

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