The Greatest New Zealander, Mexican Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

    This novel transports readers to the ghost town of Comala, where the protagonist, Juan Preciado, ventures in search of his estranged father, Pedro Páramo. Upon arrival, he encounters a realm where the living and the dead coexist, and through fragmented narratives and spectral encounters, the story of Pedro Páramo's life, his love, tyranny, and the curses that plague the town unfolds. The novel's innovative structure, blending memory and reality, has cemented its status as a pioneering work of magical realism, offering a haunting exploration of power, guilt, and the inescapable echoes of the past.

  2. 2. The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes

    The novel revolves around the life of a self-centered Mexican media mogul, Artemio Cruz, who is on his deathbed. As he reflects on his past, the narrative shifts between first, second, and third person perspectives, exploring different stages of Cruz's life from his impoverished childhood, his participation in the Mexican Revolution, his ruthless pursuit of power, and his eventual downfall. The book is a critique of the corruption and moral decay in Mexican society following the Revolution.

  3. 3. Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

    This novel is a romantic, magical realism tale set in turn-of-the-century Mexico. It chronicles the life of Tita, the youngest daughter in a traditional Mexican family, who is forbidden to marry due to a family custom that mandates the youngest daughter must care for her mother until death. Tita falls in love with Pedro, who in turn marries her elder sister to stay close to her. The story is uniquely structured around the twelve months of the year, each beginning with a traditional Mexican recipe. The protagonist's emotions become infused with her cooking, leading to strange effects on those who consume her culinary creations.

  4. 4. The Burning Plain and Other Stories by Juan Rulfo

    "The Burning Plain and Other Stories" is a collection of short narratives set in the harsh rural areas of Mexico, depicting the brutal realities of peasant life. The stories are filled with characters who are haunted by their past, living in extreme poverty, and often meeting violent ends. The book is renowned for its stark, realistic portrayal of life and its exploration of the human capacity for hope and survival in the face of despair.

  5. 5. The Bone People by Keri Hulme

    "The Bone People" is a complex, emotional novel that explores the lives of three characters - a reclusive artist, a young mute boy, and his adoptive father - in New Zealand. The narrative delves into themes such as Maori culture, love, violence, and isolation while showcasing the struggle of these individuals as they try to form a family unit despite their personal traumas and societal pressures. The book's unique blend of prose and poetry, along with its blend of English and Maori language, adds to its depth and richness.

  6. 6. The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela

    "The Underdogs" is a novel set during the Mexican Revolution, depicting the conflict from the perspective of the peasants who fought in it. The story follows the journey of a poor, illiterate Indian named Demetrio Macias, who becomes a reluctant leader in the rebellion against the federal government. The narrative explores the brutality and chaos of war, the corruption of power, and the often futile nature of rebellion, painting a grim picture of the human cost of revolution.

  7. 7. The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz

    This book is a profound and vivid exploration of Mexico's character, culture, and identity. The author delves into Mexico's history, politics, and psyche, examining the country's deep solitude and its impact on the national character. The book provides a comprehensive analysis of Mexican society, its myths, symbols, and rituals, offering a deep understanding of the Mexican people's unique way of perceiving the world. It also discusses the influence of the United States on Mexico and the complex relationship between the two countries.

  8. 8. Faces In The Water by Janet Frame

    "Faces in the Water" is a chilling exploration of mental illness, based on the author's own experiences in psychiatric hospitals. The protagonist is a woman who is institutionalized after a suicide attempt and suffers through the dehumanizing treatment of the era, including electroshock therapy. The narrative is a surreal and fragmented reflection of her mental state, as she grapples with her sanity and the inhumane conditions of her confinement. The novel serves as a powerful critique of the mental health system and the societal attitudes towards mental illness in the mid-20th century.

  9. 9. Here's to You, Jesusa! by Elena Poniatowska

    This novel tells the story of Jesusa, a woman who experiences the Mexican Revolution, the Cristero War, and the development of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Through her eyes, readers witness the struggles of poverty, the brutality of war, and the realities of a woman's life in early 20th century Mexico. The protagonist's life is filled with hardship, but she remains resilient, embodying the spirit of the Mexican people during a turbulent time in history.

  10. 10. Terra Nostra by Carlos Fuentes

    This sprawling, complex novel is a rich tapestry of historical, philosophical, and literary references that explores the identity and culture of Latin America through a fantastical lens. Set primarily in 16th-century Spain during the reign of Philip II, the narrative weaves together the lives of historical figures and fictional characters, blending reality with myth and time travel. The story delves into themes of creation and destruction, the cyclical nature of history, and the quest for a utopian society, all while examining the consequences of colonialism and the search for a Latin American identity that reconciles its indigenous, African, and European heritage. The novel's intricate structure and dense prose challenge the reader to consider the past's impact on the present and future of a region with a tumultuous history.

  11. 11. False Years by Josefina Vicens

    "False Years" is a thought-provoking exploration of identity and the passage of time, following the life of a man who grapples with the authenticity of his existence. As he reflects on his past, he questions the decisions he has made and the roles he has played, which seem to him now as mere falsehoods. The narrative delves into the themes of existential angst and the search for self, as the protagonist confronts the dissonance between his inner self and the person he presents to the world. The book challenges readers to consider the masks they wear and the truths they live, making it a poignant study of the human condition.

  12. 12. Cartucho And My Mother's Hands by Nellie Campobello

    "Cartucho And My Mother's Hands" is a poignant collection of vignettes that offer a child's perspective on the Mexican Revolution. Through a series of short, vivid sketches, the narrative captures the brutality and humanity of the conflict as witnessed by the young protagonist. The work is both a personal memoir and a tribute to the resilience of women, particularly the author's mother, whose strength and tenderness are symbolized by her hands. The book blends the innocence of childhood with the harsh realities of war, providing a unique and emotionally resonant account of historical events that shaped Mexico's national identity.

  13. 13. City Of Kings by Rosario Castellanos

    "City of Kings" is a poignant exploration of the cultural and social dynamics in a Latin American town, where the indigenous and colonial legacies collide. The narrative delves into the lives of the town's inhabitants, both the oppressed indigenous people and the ruling Spanish descendants, revealing the complexities of power, race, and identity. Through a series of interwoven stories, the novel paints a vivid picture of a society grappling with the remnants of colonialism and the struggle for modernity, exposing the deep-rooted injustices and the characters' quest for dignity and redemption amidst a changing world.

  14. 14. A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh

    "A Man Lay Dead" is a captivating murder mystery set in a country house, where a group of guests gather for a weekend of games and entertainment. When a harmless game of murder turns into a real-life crime, Inspector Alleyn is called in to solve the case. As he delves into the lives and secrets of the eccentric characters, he uncovers a web of deceit, jealousy, and hidden motives. With a clever plot, intriguing characters, and a touch of humor, this book keeps readers guessing until the final twist.

  15. 15. Plumb by Maurice Gee

    In "Plumb" by Maurice Gee, readers are introduced to a small New Zealand town called Waimaru, where a tragic accident occurs, leaving a young boy dead. The aftermath of this event reveals the dark secrets and hidden tensions within the community, as the lives of various characters intertwine and unravel. With beautifully crafted prose and a keen exploration of human nature, Gee delves into themes of guilt, loss, and the complexities of human relationships, creating a gripping and thought-provoking narrative.

  16. 16. Badjelly The Witch by Spike Milligan

    The book is a whimsical children's story that follows the adventures of siblings Tim and Rose as they search for their lost cow, Lucy. Their quest leads them into an enchanted forest where they encounter a host of magical creatures, including giants, a fairy, and an evil witch named Badjelly who can turn people into sausages with her magic wand. With courage and the help of their new fantastical friends, the children must outwit Badjelly and rescue their beloved cow, embarking on a journey filled with humor, whimsy, and the triumph of good over evil.

  17. 17. In Search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi Escalante

    "In Search of Klingsor" is a historical novel that revolves around the pursuit of a mysterious Nazi scientist named Klingsor. The story is set during World War II and the Cold War, and follows two main characters, an American physicist and a Mexican mathematician, who are tasked with finding and identifying Klingsor. The novel uses real historical figures and events to explore themes of science, war, and morality, while also delving into the complex nature of truth and deception.

  18. 18. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

    "Lost Children Archive" by Valeria Luiselli is a novel that follows a family on a road trip from New York to Arizona. The parents are documentarians and are working on separate projects, while the children are preoccupied with their own interests. As they travel, the family becomes increasingly aware of the migrant crisis and the children's obsession with finding lost things takes on a new meaning. The novel explores themes of family, identity, and the power of storytelling.

  19. 19. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

    Set during the New Zealand Gold Rush of the 19th century, this novel follows Walter Moody, a prospector who stumbles upon a secret meeting of twelve local men who are trying to solve a series of unsolved crimes. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the crimes, which include a rich man's disappearance, a prostitute's attempted suicide, and a huge fortune found in a drunkard's cottage, are all interconnected. The novel's complex narrative structure, which uses astrology to organize its characters and events, adds another layer of intrigue to the story.

  20. 20. The Short Stories by Katherine Mansfield

    The book is a collection of short stories that delve into the complexities of human relationships and emotions, often focusing on moments of epiphany in the lives of ordinary people. Set primarily in the early 20th century, the stories explore themes such as love, loss, and the search for meaning amidst the mundane. The author's keen observations and subtle wit bring to life a range of characters, from lonely spinsters to disillusioned couples, each portrayed with a deep sense of empathy and psychological insight. Through her masterful use of language and narrative structure, the author captures the fleeting impressions and nuances of everyday existence, leaving a lasting impact on the reader.

  21. 21. Poems Of Octavio Paz by Octavio Paz

    This collection brings together the lyrical and evocative work of a Nobel laureate, showcasing his profound exploration of the human condition and his relentless pursuit of the philosophical and the sensual. The poems traverse a wide range of themes, from the intimate to the universal, reflecting on love, solitude, the passage of time, and the interplay between culture and nature. The poet's masterful use of language and form, drawing from both indigenous Mexican heritage and modernist influences, creates a rich tapestry of imagery and emotion that invites readers to ponder the depths of their own experiences and the world around them.

  22. 22. A Change Of Skin by Carlos Fuentes

    The novel explores the complex and surreal journey of a disillusioned Spanish historian who, along with his estranged wife, her American lover, and a Mexican guide, embarks on a metaphysical road trip across Mexico. As they confront personal and collective histories, the characters grapple with themes of identity, betrayal, and the search for meaning amidst the ruins of the Aztec and Spanish empires. The narrative weaves together reality and fantasy, questioning the nature of truth and the possibility of genuine transformation in a world where past and present are inextricably intertwined.

  23. 23. Poems Of Juana Inés De La Cruz by Juana Inés de la Cruz

    This collection of poetry showcases the lyrical genius and intellectual prowess of a 17th-century Mexican nun, who became one of the most illustrious figures in Spanish literature. The poems delve into themes of love, feminism, religion, and the pursuit of knowledge, reflecting the poet's life as a self-taught scholar and her struggles with the expectations placed upon her gender. Her work is celebrated for its wit, complexity, and the passionate defense of women's rights to intellectual freedom, marking her as a pioneering figure in early feminist literature.

  24. 24. The Years with Laura Diaz by Carlos Fuentes

    "The Years with Laura Diaz" is a historical novel that centers around the life of a woman named Laura Diaz, a member of the Mexican upper class. The book explores the political and social changes in Mexico throughout the 20th century, as seen through Laura's eyes. Her journey includes a loveless marriage, a passionate affair, and a career as a photographer during the Mexican Revolution. The story weaves together personal, political, and cultural threads, creating a rich tapestry of Mexican history and the indomitable spirit of its women.

  25. 25. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

    In "Mexican Gothic," a young woman named Noemí travels to a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside to rescue her cousin who has seemingly fallen under the spell of her new husband. As Noemí delves deeper into the eerie and unsettling atmosphere of the house, she uncovers dark family secrets and confronts a malevolent force that threatens their lives. Blending elements of gothic horror and Mexican folklore, this atmospheric tale explores themes of colonialism, racism, and female empowerment in a captivating and chilling narrative.

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