Top 10 Must Read Books For Anyone Traveling to South America

Updated July 16th, 2018.

There’s that feeling, pulsing through your entire body. Travel is on its way, but it isn’t here yet. Countdowns cover your walls. You record every episode showing on The Travel Channel (watching each multiple times).

A pile of things to pack begins growing in the corner of your room (even though you are not leaving for months). …and you read every single blog that has any connection to where you are going.

Trust us when we say we completely understand, as our travels to South America approach we are finding it hard to sit still and contain our overflowing excitement.

One of the best fixes we have found is to read, anything connected to the land we are about to explore. We’ve been perusing the libraries, the internet, and spending all of our holiday money on Kindle downloads.

Luckily we have found a lot to keep us occupied! Here are our top 10 favorite books for anyone traveling to South America.

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude

Written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

CLASSIC LITERATURE: Arguably Latin America’s most famous author and the man who put Colombia on the map with his profound work of magical realism.

Set in the fictitious town of Macondo this spellbinding novel illuminates the intangible mysterious air that seeps into the skin of every South American traveler.

Buy this book on Amazon now! One Hundred Years of Solitude (Penguin Modern Classics)


2. The Invention of Morel

Written by Adolfo Bioy Casares

CLASSIC LITERATURE: In this exceptionally crafted novel Argentinian born Casares takes our understanding of reality and masterfully contorts it.

Written into a concise 90 pages this story spins around the adventures of a fugitive who flees to an unknown island, only to be met by a group of strange arrives.

As he runs, however, odd things begin to happen; conversations that repeat weekly, bizarre daily rituals, and most unexpectedly of all a love story begins to unfold. The kind of novel you can read multiple times, each time uncovering infinite layers of universal truths.

3. The Matter of Desire

Written by Edmundo Paz Soldan

CONTEMPORARY FICTION: The story of a Bolivian teacher, Pedro, who becomes romantically involved with his student while teaching at a New York State University.

Left with a multitude of unanswered questions the novel circles back to Bolivia where answers are hard to find, forcing Pedro to dig deep into the private and protected secrets of his father’s past. A collision of cultures and identities.

4. The Bad Girl

Written by Mario Vargas Llosa

CONTEMPORARY FICTION: In this novel, renowned Peruvian author Llosa has created a story about love in it’s most passionate obsessive form. Originally meeting in Lima, Peru, Ricardo Somocurcio chases this alluring woman around the world.

From Paris to Japan, readers watch as the seductive power of a world-class bad girl dictates the course of his life.

5. Lost City Radio

Written by Daniel Alarcon

CONTEMPORARY FICTION: A fast-paced novel that centers around the mysterious disappearance of a woman’s husband.

As Norma sits in her broadcasting studio reading the names of the lost she is caught off guard when a young boy from the jungle arrives unannounced. Carrying a link to the whereabouts of Norma’s husband the two embark on an unlikely adventure.


6. Viva South America! A Journey Through a Restless Continent

Written by Oliver Balch

TRAVEL MEMOIR: A journalist’s experiences and perspectives on the politics and issues currently facing South America. While in each country Balch chooses to examine a certain aspect of the country.

Talking to locals about the role of religion and shamanism in Peru, the rights of indigenous peoples in Ecuador, and the struggle for racial equality in Brazil. An insightful novel guaranteed to get your thoughts swirling.

7. The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey

Written by Ernesto Che Guevara

TRAVEL MEMOIR: In South America, adventure is the name of the game, and no novel captures this energy better than the young journals of radical Che Guevara.

Deeply moved by the world around him, Che let his introspections guide his journey, getting lost in the many layers of his surroundings.


8. My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile

Written by Isabel Allende

MEMOIR: Straddling two different worlds Allende writes about her childhood in Chile and her adult life in America. Drawing on the spirit and resilience of her native Chile she describes the traumatic event that prompted her to write and the aftermath that brought her to the United States.

Allende then writes about the terrorist attacks on September 11th, a reality-shaking her new home which forces her to confront her stratified sense of self.

9. The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over the World

Written by Tom Feiling

NON-FICTION: A brilliantly absorbing read which explains the political and social implications that cocaine has had on South American history.

Examining the cultivation, distribution, and difficult censorship of the drug; this novel is a gripping piece of journalism revealing the complexities that run like electric currents under the feet of every wide-eyed traveler.

10. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent

Written by Eduardo Galeano

NON-FICTION: Giving voice to the stories that often lay dormant, Eduardo Galeano tells the story of Latin America’s exploitation. From the discrimination against its indigenous cultures to the pillage of its natural resources, Galeano has bravely chosen to illuminate the truth in Latin American history.


Written by: Tyler Protano-Goodwin 

Our Recommended Travel Resources

  • Join Our Facebook Group: South America Backpacker Community
  • Travel Insurance: True Traveller and World Nomads.
  • Flight Search: Skyscanner.
  • Accommodation: and HostelWorld.
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