26 books directly related to Chile 📚

All 26 Chile books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Madwomen: The Locas Mujeres Poems of Gabriela Mistral

By Gabriela Mistral, Randall Couch (translator),

Book cover of Madwomen: The Locas Mujeres Poems of Gabriela Mistral

Why this book?

Gabriela was a Chilean poet-diplomat, educator, and humanist, who became the first Latin American author to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature. Her poetry often focuses on dark, humane themes that undoubtedly reflect on traumatic episodes that she had personally endured. 

Gabriela has the knack of scratching the surface, which is potent enough to get all your senses actively experiencing the emotions and character she puts forth. The poems resonate on a deep level, offering a compelling clarity of life with its tragedy and complications. The women depicted here are anything but mad; some would say entirely strong-willed and intense, with a collected control and a modernistic sense of independence.


Buying Into the Regime: Grapes and Consumption in Cold War Chile and the United States

By Heidi Tinsman,

Book cover of Buying Into the Regime: Grapes and Consumption in Cold War Chile and the United States

Why this book?

You’ll never look at table grapes the same after reading Tinsman’s excellent Buying into the Regime. Her book takes a different approach from the texts above – instead of looking at a single movement, she focuses on a single industry (Chilean grapes) in multiple contexts: cultivation in Chile, Cold War consumption in the United States, and consumer activism and grape boycotts in both nations. The result is a remarkable transnational history that underscores how consumption itself is a “terrain of political struggle.” Tinsman’s expansive perspective, which engages a number of different fields, also offers lessons for activists in the age of globalization, notably that building transnational alliances is incredibly difficult work.


My Tender Matador

By Pedro Lemebel, Katherine Silver (translator),

Book cover of My Tender Matador

Why this book?

Lemebel was a courageous and flamboyant activist during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Having lived in Chile myself, I think this book captures the erotic Chilean soul in all its humor, grief, and idealism at an important historical moment. The hopelessly romantic and delightfully ironic seamstress/protagonist Queen of the Corner lives on a rooftop in one of Santiago’s poorest barrios and hosts discussion groups by local leftist students who keep leaving behind really heavy boxes, ostensibly full of books, as they prepare a vague plan that will have enormous implications. The group’s ringleader Carlos is a charmer ala Che Guevara, and the Queen is soon head over heels in love as a friendship and a tender unrequited love affair begins. A story of remarkable humanism that mixes the erotic with revolution.


By Night in Chile

By Roberto Bolaño, Chris Andrews (translator),

Book cover of By Night in Chile

Why this book?

Im also a playwright, so I really admire a full story told in propulsive first-person monologue. This novella is a confession of Father Urrutia from his deathbed, beginning with the line I am dying now, but I still have many things to say.As he speaks, the priest untangles the twisted, uncomfortable agreements between artists and institutions in Chile under Pinochet. I often recommend this book for people who have not yet read Bolaño and might feel intimated by the length of his major works. 


The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability

By Peter Kornbluh,

Book cover of The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability

Why this book?

The 1973 coup in Chile violently destroyed the freely elected Marxist government of Salvador Allende and installed the brutal 17-year dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. For years afterward suspicions swirled that the U.S. was behind the event. But evidence was largely anecdotal. What is so impressive about this book is Kornbluh’s persistence deploying the Freedom of Information Act to obtain thousands of classified documents related to the coup. Kornbluh connects the dots and reveals the smoking guns. Through facsimiles of actual cables, telexes, and phone memos (many still highly redacted) this dossier allows you to draw your own conclusions about what really happened in Chile.


Space Invaders

By Nona Fernández, Natasha Wimmer (translator),

Book cover of Space Invaders

Why this book?

Translated from Spanish and a mere 70 pages in length, you may be hungry for more (as I was) when you've finished this bracingly brief story. Fortunately, you can pick up this author's The Twilight Zone (as I did) to read a longer exploration by this author of the events and themes introduced here. Fernández writes from the perspective of a young person living during the Pinochet regime in Chile, evoking the time with an extended metaphor about the ‘80s video game Space Invaders. The concerns of the young are strangely pushed and pulled by the terrible realities of that regime, which, like an invader from another world, descends upon their lives.


The Falling Sky

By Pippa Goldschmidt,

Book cover of The Falling Sky

Why this book?

Scottish astronomer and novelist Pippa Goldschmidt mixes astronomy and fiction in her novel. The book provides insight into the way that astronomy is carried out now in modern, remote, mountain-top observatories and in space (I can vouch for its verisimilitude). Jeanette is a young, lonely, junior researcher working in a university department dominated by male egos and incompetents. She puts academic politics and unsatisfactory affairs aside and travels to a mountain-top observatory in Chile for her research, making an unexpected discovery that throws her into conflict with her colleagues. Like her love life, her scientific life spirals out of her control: the Universe is ordered by science but her life and the lives of scientists are not.


Desired States: Sex, Gender, and Political Culture in Chile

By Lessie Jo Frazier,

Book cover of Desired States: Sex, Gender, and Political Culture in Chile

Why this book?

Using a truly interdisciplinary approach anchored in queer studies and affect theory, Frazier subverts the common approach to sex as privatized and located in individual subjectivity by looking at desire as a central component of political culture and power. The book explores a variety of Chilean political projects and actors throughout the twentieth century including feminists, the revolutionary left, and the military dictatorship to understand the ways in which both sexual and non-sexual practices and ideologies were intrinsically connected to emotions and ideas of pleasure and to sexualized and gendered discourses and experiences.


Paula: A Memoir

By Isabel Allende,

Book cover of Paula: A Memoir

Why this book?

In this heart-wrenching memoir, international best-selling author Isabel Allende interweaves her own extraordinary life journey and heritage, with her daughter Paula’s slow and torturous death. 

Driven out of Chile into exile herself, plus endangering her own life helping other refugees escape, Allende writes with deep psychological incite into the fate of the displaced. To being forced to leave one's home and country, to lose your tribe and nation, to survive the damage to your soul, and forever fearing not being safe.


Arauco

By John Caviglia,

Book cover of Arauco

Why this book?

Another big, ambitious book that tells a war from both sides: here the 16th-century Spanish invasion of Chile. Equal time is given to the cast of Spaniards and the cast of Mapuche – large casts in each case. You’ll learn a battery of Mapuche words, for epics were always educative. What I love most, perhaps, about this book – after the shaman Ñamku, whom you see on the wonderful cover – is its witty style, its wordplay, gambolling in its sentences like a porpoise in the ocean, for sheer exuberance’s sake. Exuberance is a quality of epic. Along with expansiveness, and arguably, the upturn at the end, the grace note in spite of atrocities.


Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People

By Monica Brown, Julie Paschkis (illustrator),

Book cover of Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People

Why this book?

Monica Brown’s picture book biography of Pablo Neruda is a wonderfully written account of his life and the creation of his beautiful writing and poems that sing, even under the weight of tremendous struggles. The lyrical text soars on the page while Julie Paschkis’ colorful illustrations capture the heart and soul of the poet of the people. This is a must-read!


Reagan and Pinochet: The Struggle Over U.S. Policy Toward Chile

By Morris Morley, Chris McGillion,

Book cover of Reagan and Pinochet: The Struggle Over U.S. Policy Toward Chile

Why this book?

So much ink has been spent on the Nixon administration’s early 1970s plotting and policies during the regime of democratic socialist president Salvador Allende. This exquisite book is a sharp reminder that, while far less studied, the Reagan administration was deeply involved in a Chile run by the very political actor who ousted Allende: General Augusto Pinochet. Yet, contrary to what we often assumed, the Reagan team eventually embraced a policy aimed to get Washington’s erstwhile ally out of power. 


Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures

By Nick Pyenson,

Book cover of Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures

Why this book?

Everyone loves whales, right? But almost no one knows anything about them (I didn't). As a paleobiologist, Pyenson gives us a compelling view of their world, dating back over ten million years. Using vivid detail and rich narrative prose he shows us just how essential they are to marine ecology, and how our fate is inextricably linked to theirs. I've rarely read a book that so transformed my view of the world. 


How to Order the Universe

By María José Ferrada, Elizabeth Bryer (translator),

Book cover of How to Order the Universe

Why this book?

In this beguiling short novel just out from Tin House, Ferrara also examines the Pinochet regime, but through the eyes of a child. 7-year-old M sells tools to hardware stores with her salesman father, slowly realizing his downtrodden place in their society, along with dark secrets about the world around her. The dance of revelations through the young narrators perspective is poetic and effective. I read this in an afternoon, oscillating between feeling breathless and meditative. A high wire act, to say the least. 


Seven Days In May

By Fletcher Knebel, Charles W. Bailey II,

Book cover of Seven Days In May

Why this book?

Like most readers, I’m scared these days about the future of our democracy. As a reporter I’ve covered trouble spots; like Somalia – where no law existed - and Sudan, where I was in a crowd fleeing at the mere sight of an airplane, fearing bombs. One of my friends lost his wife in a Washington car bombing. Others escaped danger during a Chilean coup. Seven Days in May imagined an attempted coup in the US, and although the setting was decades ago, some forces at play are the same, since human motivation never changes. This book sobered up the nation back then by reminding readers what happens when some of us....any of us...think they know better than everyone else and believe force is the way to go. We could use that reminder now.


Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish: A Whole Brunch of Recipes to Make at Home

By Cathy Barrow, Linda Xiao (photographer),

Book cover of Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish: A Whole Brunch of Recipes to Make at Home

Why this book?

Maybe you’re not in the mood for eggs this morning. Then this is the cookbook for you. First, learn to make homemade bagels, then discover all kinds of toppings, salads, and spreads to serve them with. Even those not confident in their baking skills will be able to create authentic NY bagels at home. James Beard Award nominee Cathy Barrow has written the cookbook that immediately inspired me to master homemade bagel baking.


In the Midst of Winter

By Isabel Allende,

Book cover of In the Midst of Winter

Why this book?

Having loved Allende’s previous novels, this tale of history and suspense took me into the magical worlds of South American culture, to gain a better understanding of what the immigrant experience is really like for other people. Redacting from a reviewer’s comment, “this story filled with Allende's signature lyricism and ingenious plotting, teaches us what it means to respect, protect, and love.”


Antipoems: How to Look Better & Feel Great

By Nicanor Parra, Liz Werner (translator),

Book cover of Antipoems: How to Look Better & Feel Great

Why this book?

Pablo Neruda is the Chilean poet everyone knows. But Nicanor Parra is the Chilean poet everyone ought to know. If you enjoy sending up poetry’s preciousness, Parra is your poet. From daily living to romantic love and from political upheaval to climate disaster, Parra parses irreverence and satire in ways that make his sentiments cut much deeper than other poets’ straight-forward sincerity. “Butterfly:” he writes, “you have to pull off its wings / to see how it flies.”


The Night Watch: 25 Years of Peculiar Service

By David Atlee Phillips,

Book cover of The Night Watch: 25 Years of Peculiar Service

Why this book?

David Atlee Phillips played such a major role in covert ops in Latin America I had to make sure he appeared in my novel. After a long and successful CIA career, Phillips wrote this memoir of undercover derring-do. It reads like recruiting propaganda for the agency but what fascinated me was his frankness about the missions he ran and the methods he used. He was publisher of an English-language newspaper in Chile when the CIA recruited him in 1950. A natural storyteller, Phillips describes his undercover shenanigans in Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Brazil. By the 1970s he was at Langley HQ, in charge of all Western Hemisphere covert ops, including the actions (discreetly omitted in his memoir) leading to the coup in Chile.


The House of the Spirits

By Isabel Allende,

Book cover of The House of the Spirits

Why this book?

Inspired by Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Isabelle Allende lets loose with her own Chiléan version of el realismo mágico.

Here, she chronicles the astonishing lives of the Trueba family, an unconventional bunch who’d give The Addams Family a run for their money.

Dichotomies are dusted down by Allende and given their moment to shine: love and hate, good and evil, triumph and tragedy. And I can guarantee that the dastardly male lead, Esteban Trueba, will cause flames to come shooting forth from your nostrils!

This is a sweeping novel, beautifully written by the leading light of female South American authors. And in her capable hands, the mainstays of magical realism—absurdity and realism—are used to great effect.


The Explorer's Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials

By Daniel J. Hinkley,

Book cover of The Explorer's Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials

Why this book?

I am a plant collector and love growing unusual plants, especially perennials. When I first picked up The Explorers Garden, many of the plants in it were new to me. I fell in love with Daniel Hinkley and his plant selections and have now grown many of the plants in this book.

Unlike many perennial books that all show you the same 100 common plants, this book is full of plants nobody else talks about. Daniel Hinkley travels the world to discover new plants and describes some of the best in this book. These plants are uncommon, but many are now available in better nurseries.


Psychedelic Chile: Youth, Counterculture, and Politics on the Road to Socialism and Dictatorship

By Patrick Barr-Melej,

Book cover of Psychedelic Chile: Youth, Counterculture, and Politics on the Road to Socialism and Dictatorship

Why this book?

Vibrant countercultural scenes grounded in local rock movements transpired across virtually every country in Latin America during the 1960s-70s. There are now several important books that examine various facets of these countercultural movements, and Barr-Melej’s is one of the best in that respect. Focusing on the brief period of Socialist President Salvador Allende (1970-73), his discussion of Chilean jipis and the political battles waged by the Left to contain this so-called foreign import is fascinating. The book falls short in providing an earlier context to the rise of Chile’s countercultural movement and ends abruptly with the rise of dictatorship—a period that transformed rock music into a site of active political protest. But its merits outweigh its shortcomings, especially the lively narration about the Piedra Roja rock festival, Chile’s equivalent of Woodstock. 

I’ve known Barr-Melej for many years and eagerly awaited the publication of this book, which was one of only a handful at the time taking Latin American countercultures seriously. The title alone, Psychedelic Chile, is brilliant as it neatly encapsulates the juxtaposition of youth counterculture in an “unexpected” place, at the southern end of the hemisphere. The book is amply illustrated and thus provides a number of impressive photographs of youth engaged in rock and other countercultural practices.


Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home

By Nando Parrado, Vince Rause,

Book cover of Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home

Why this book?

What would you do if your plane crashed in the mountains and you were forced to eat your friends and family to survive. This is an inspiring story of survival and positive mindset. The story, made famous by the film Alive, is told by the man who survived 72 days in the Mountains and managed to rescue his friends. But above all, it is a story of the power of a positive and forgiving mindset. It is a book I will never forget and that has made a lasting impact on me.


Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors [A Cookbook]

By Andrea Nguyen,

Book cover of Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors [A Cookbook]

Why this book?

Brimming with smart, flavor-packed recipes and expert advice, Vietnamese Food Any Day opens up a world of flavor to cooks at every level and from every background. Drawing on decades of experience writing and teaching about her native cuisine, Nguyen demystifies Vietnamese cooking and shows us how use easy-to-find ingredients (no specialty markets required!) to successfully – and quickly – create sensational, authentic favorites. Whether you're an experienced cook or a novice, the lessons and tips in this book will have a delicious influence the rest of your cooking.


Ode to an Onion: Pablo Neruda & His Muse

By Alexandria Giardino, Felicita Sala (illustrator),

Book cover of Ode to an Onion: Pablo Neruda & His Muse

Why this book?

This biography focuses on one moment, one lunch, and one poem in Neruda’s long and prolific career. And yet it captures so much! Giardino manages to suggest all of the paradoxes in Neruda’s life and work—the sadness and the joy, the grand themes of labor and oppression, and the ordinary sensuous details of daily life. The story arc begins with gloom and the solitary work of writing, but ends with a celebration and a shared meal. The end pages are papery onion skin that the child reader will want to touch. Neruda’s poem, “Ode to an Onion,” is printed in the back in Spanish and English. I can see children being inspired to write their own odes to ordinary objects.


We Were Never Here

By Andrea Bartz,

Book cover of We Were Never Here

Why this book?

Andrea Bartz’s twisty tale about two friends (aptly compared to Thelma and Louise), dead bodies piling up around them, and secrets they hold from the past is a fresh backdrop for a genre that has been dominated by domestic set-ups. Delving into the complexities of female friendships and how they can control and define us, I found this to be a thoroughly engaging read. A New York Times Bestseller and Hello Sunshine Book Club pick, you can’t go wrong with We Were Never Here!