The Greatest "South America" 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 273 '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. Candide by Voltaire

    "Candide" is a satirical novel that follows the adventures of a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism by his mentor. When he is expelled from the paradise for kissing a baron's daughter, he embarks on a journey around the world, witnessing the horrors of war, natural disasters, and human cruelty. Throughout his journey, Candide maintains his optimistic philosophy, despite the constant hardships he faces, ultimately concluding that one must cultivate their own garden, a metaphor for taking control of one's own destiny.

  2. 2. The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa

    The book is a historical novel that recounts the War of Canudos, a conflict in late 19th-century Brazil over religious fanaticism, political instability, and social inequality. The story is centered around an apocalyptic movement led by a charismatic, messianic figure who convinces the poor and downtrodden to rise up against the Brazilian government, leading to a brutal and bloody conflict. The book explores themes of faith, power, poverty, and the destructive potential of fervent belief.

  3. 3. The Lost Steps by Alejo Carpentier

    The novel tells the story of a disillusioned American musicologist who leaves his life in New York City to embark on a journey to an untouched, primitive part of the Amazon jungle in South America. He is in search of ancient musical instruments. Along the way, he experiences a spiritual and philosophical transformation as he reconnects with nature and the primal roots of humanity. He also falls in love with a native woman, further deepening his connection to the land and its people.

  4. 4. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

    In an unnamed South American country, a lavish birthday party is thrown for a powerful businessman, with a famous opera singer as the guest of honor. The party is interrupted by a group of terrorists who take everyone hostage, demanding the release of their imprisoned comrades. As weeks turn into months, the hostages and their captors form unexpected bonds. The story explores the relationships that develop under these extraordinary circumstances, and the transformative power of music and love.

  5. 5. The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

    This book is a vivid and exciting travel memoir as well as a detailed scientific field journal covering biology, geology, and anthropology that demonstrates the author’s keen powers of observation, written at a time when Western Europeans were still discovering and exploring much of the rest of the world. The author's five-year journey took him from the coasts of South America, Australia, and Africa to the South Pacific islands, during which he collected and documented the natural history of these areas. The voyage and the specimens he brought back would later form the basis for his famous theory of evolution.

  6. 6. In Search Of The Castaways by Jules Verne

    This adventure novel follows the thrilling journey of Captain Grant's children, who embark on a global quest to find their missing father with the help of a detailed but cryptic message found in a bottle. Accompanied by the generous Lord Glenarvan and his crew aboard the Duncan, they navigate through South America, Australia, and New Zealand, facing natural disasters, encountering exotic locales, and overcoming formidable obstacles. Throughout their perilous expedition, the group demonstrates resilience, ingenuity, and unwavering hope, showcasing the human spirit's capacity to endure in the face of uncertainty.

  7. 7. The Raw and the Cooked by Claude Lévi-Strauss

    "The Raw and the Cooked" is an anthropological analysis of the myths and customs of tribal societies, particularly those in South America. The author explores the concept of binary opposition, such as raw versus cooked or nature versus culture, as a fundamental structure in these societies' mythologies. The book provides a detailed and systematic study of the symbolic use of food and cooking in primitive societies, suggesting that the way a society categorizes food is a window into understanding its culture.

  8. 8. High Citadel by Desmond Bagley

    In "High Citadel" by Desmond Bagley, a group of strangers find themselves stranded in the Andes mountains after their plane crashes. As they struggle to survive in the harsh conditions, they discover that they are not alone. With danger lurking in every corner, they must work together to overcome their differences and escape the treacherous mountain range.

  9. 9. Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann

    "Measuring the World" is a historical novel that reimagines the lives of two brilliant and driven men, German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and German geographer Alexander von Humboldt. The narrative alternates between the two protagonists, exploring their individual quests to quantify and understand the world. Gauss, a child prodigy from a poor family, rises to become one of the greatest mathematicians in history, while Humboldt, a wealthy and ambitious explorer, embarks on a five-year journey across South America. Their paths converge in a humorous and touching manner, highlighting the contrast between their approaches to knowledge and discovery.

  10. 10. The Invention Of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf

    "The Invention of Nature" is a biographical account of Alexander von Humboldt, a 19th-century explorer, scientist, and naturalist who revolutionized the way we understand the natural world. Andrea Wulf chronicles Humboldt's travels across South America, his encounters with indigenous peoples, and his groundbreaking scientific discoveries that challenged prevailing notions of the natural world. Humboldt's ideas about interconnectedness and the unity of nature were ahead of their time and continue to influence environmentalism and conservation today. Wulf's book is a masterful exploration of one of history's most fascinating and influential figures.

  11. 11. Running the Amazon by Joe Kane

    This book is a thrilling account of an adventurous journey down the entire length of the Amazon River. The narrative documents the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the first team to ever attempt such a feat. The journey, filled with dangerous rapids, hostile natives, and internal conflicts within the team, provides a fascinating exploration of not just the Amazon, but also of human nature under extreme circumstances.

  12. 12. Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

    "Eva Luna" is a magical realism novel that tells the story of the eponymous protagonist, an orphaned girl in a South American country who uses her gift of storytelling to navigate through life. As she grows, she becomes a servant, a lover, and a revolutionary, always using her stories to bring comfort, provoke thought, and incite change. The narrative is a rich tapestry of characters, politics, and history, all woven together with a touch of the fantastical.

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