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It’s no secret that South America has plenty of hidden gems and uncommon travel destinations. But with the never-ending epidemic and social unrest in the area, it was difficult to visit them. Fortunately, these South American-set books will get you there, at least roughly, in the meantime.
The books below have been set in different countries in South America, and they are not just limited to Spanish-speaking regions. This list also includes a collection of books in Brazil, the largest country on the continent, whose language is Portuguese. Books are also grouped into three genres: fiction, mystery, and romance.
Some of the books here will take you back in time to understand a country’s past and its social upheavals. Others will help you understand the social class of a bygone era, evoking a sense of awe in your eyes. Two books delve into platonic friendships as they take you into town and country. One book will take you to a cocoa farm in Ecuador. Another one that will take you to the mountains of Patagonia, delighting your senses with the cool breeze. Two books will take you to the Amazon rainforest to see what it looks like there – plants, wild animals, and people, while another will take you to a remote jungle jungle in Bolivia.
Let’s explore what the continent has to offer with these books set in South America. ¡Vamos!
Fiction book collection in South America
Heads, Argentina to Daniel Laudel
Thomas Orella is guilty of playing a role in Argentina’s “Dirty War” in the 1970s. In that period of Argentine history, many people died. So Thomas escapes and starts a new life again. He now lives in New York as Thomas Shore, but his past in Argentina still haunts him, especially the girl he once loved. In this book, he takes a trip to Buenos Aires again to relive the past, meditate, and come to terms with what he did during the turbulent war.
Although the book’s subject matter is opaque, this makes me want to book a flight to dreamy Buenos Aires, learn about its history, and see the places the character visits.
The Night Will Be in Caracas by Carina Sainz Borgo
This is a fictional book that may also be true. We all know that Venezuela is currently in a crisis. Its citizens live a difficult life due to uncertainty and weak economic outlook, and the situation is aggravated by its dictatorial president.
Borgo builds on this event: in Caracas, it is a complete dystopia. Kill the protesters. There is violence in the streets. And her hero, Adelaide Falcone, flees the country. It’s a book that stays with you long after you read it.
But don’t let the above deter you from visiting the country. Venezuela is a secret corner hidden in South America (its attractions are amazing!), devoid of violence and crime. Unfortunately, it is too risky to travel there now, according to the government’s advisory. We hope to be safe in the future.
The Air You Breathe by Francis de Pontes Peebles
Set in 1930s Brazil, the book follows 9-year-old Doris, a poor orphaned girl who works on a sugar plantation, and Graca, the daughter of the farm owner. Despite the great difference in their social class, they become the best of friends. But as with other friendships, their friendship has many problems. In the end, they become competitors to each other.
I like the book’s theme: friendship and its many challenges. The book delights readers with descriptions of the suburbs of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro in the twentieth century.
South American Mystery Books Collection
Twenty After Midnight by Daniel Galera
Four friends, Andre, Emiliano, Aurora and Antero, were a hit during their days. They are the cream of the crop in Brazil during the ’90s, and they had this little magazine. However, when that ended, their friendship also deteriorated. Years later, Andre is murdered, forcing the remaining three to relive their pasts, discover what really happened, and find out if the friendship is still worth salvaging after so many decades.
Twenty after midnight It transports readers to the urban landscape of Brazil.
Elena Knows by Claudia Pinheiro, translated by Francis Riddell
This list would not be complete without adding one of the best crime fiction writers in Argentina. Elena’s daughter, Rita, dies under mysterious circumstances in airy Buenos Aires. The police say she committed suicide, but Elena knows it’s more than meets the eye. She believes there is a sinister manipulation of her daughter’s death. Despite being handicapped by Parkinson’s disease, she sets out to conduct her own investigation.
The book was nominated for the 2022 International Book Award.
Spanish daughter Lorena Hughes
Set in 20th century Ecuador, the film follows Maria Purificacion “Puri” de Lafon, who learns about the secret inheritance of her recently deceased father: a cocoa farm in Venice, Ecuador. Puri is supposed to inherit it from him.
From Spain, she set off for Ecuador. While on a ship, Puri is under a mysterious attack. She survived, but her husband Cristobal died. Apparently, there is someone in her family who does not want her to inherit what she has. In order to be safe, she disguises herself as Cristobal, and has to continue this stunt until she reaches Ecuador and finds out who the culprit is.
This works well for those who are into stories full of drama and intrigue.
Into the Woods by Erica Ferencic
Nineteen-year-old Lily wants to get out of the United States. When a teacher job in Bolivia lands on her lap, she seizes the opportunity and flies to Cochabamba. This post, however, is a wet trick. So Lily takes another party there to make ends meet. Then one night, I met a local named Omar, an Amazon, at a bar. The two soon fall in love.
But a horrific incident in Omar’s village in the Ayashiro countryside forced him back there, and Lily was carrying signs.
I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the forest and the people who live there. The dangers of the place present a different kind of mystery.
South American romance books
On Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende
This is the second novel by one of the most prominent Chilean writers. Of love and shadows Published in 1984 and set during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
The film follows journalist Irene Beltran and her husband, photographer Francisco Leal. The couple investigates a young girl who is believed to have magical powers. Instead, they discover the atrocities committed by Pinochet’s brutal regime. While the book looks a lot like a mystery, it actually focuses on the romance between the two protagonists.
Rock and Hard Place by Andrea Bramhall
This offbeat romance set in the mountains of Patagonia follows Jayden, a mountaineer. When an avalanche descends on Mount Everest, you quit. Meanwhile, Ryan is a marketing executive. When a reality TV project about mountain climbers falls into her lap, she seizes the opportunity. And so the two paths intersect, slowly developing a slow romance.
When you’re in the middle of nowhere, not to mention the cold mountains of Patagonia, some things can blossom in an unexpected way.
Amazon Lily Designed by Teresa Weir
First published in 1988, it is set in the Amazon rainforest. It follows Cory who travels to Brazil to do some errands for her church. Asher, a pilot, takes her there; He is in Brazil to look for his brother who went missing a few years ago. At first, they seem to hate each other because Asher treats Cory a cold shoulder. But then eventually, their romance develops.
Amazon Night It is very atmospheric. Although I haven’t been to the Amazon rainforest, reading the book really makes me feel the atmosphere. The storytelling is top notch, and the romance is the cherry on top.
I hope these books set in South America will be enough to satiate your craving for travel, impress you, and spark your curiosity.
If you want to go north and take a trip to North/Central America instead, here are 5 Latin American historical fiction books and 100 Latin American must-reads for your enjoyment!