Dreaming of visiting South America? Here are the best books set in South America that will take you there, without even having to leave home!
South America is a large continent but contains relatively few countries (twelve in total.) While most of these countries are Spanish-speaking, there are a few that speak Portuguese, Dutch, French, and English. Despite this, South America is very diverse and rich in culture.
From the peaks of the Andes to the ancient Incan ruins of Peru to the jungles of the Amazon rainforest to the islands of the Galapagos, there is much to be discovered in South America.
These are the best books set in South America, ranging from fiction to nonfiction, historical to contemporary, that are guaranteed to transport you there!
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Best Books Set in South America
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Translated by: Magda Bogin
This magical realism novel that became an instant classic is set in Chile and follows three generations of a family. It’s an enthralling saga that spans decades and lives, twining the personal and the political into an epic novel of love, magic, and fate.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Translated by: Gregory Rabassa
This is another magical realism novel set in the fictional South American town of Macondo. It follows the rise and fall of this mythical town and its inhabitants.
Out of the Silence: After the Crash by Eduardo Strauch
Translated by: Jennie Erikson
This is an unbelievable memoir told by a survivor of the 1972 plane crash of an Uruguayan rugby team in the Andes mountains. Surrounded by death and destruction, the survivors of the crash had to make it in the harsh environment for over two months until they were rescued.
In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
In this travel memoir about Patagonia originally published in 1977, author Bruce Chatwin treks through “the uttermost part of the earth” in search of almost-forgotten legends, the descendants of Welsh immigrants, and the log cabin built by Butch Cassidy.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
Translated by: Edith Grossman
Set in the vibrant city of Cartagena, Colombia, this classic novel follows a couple who remains apart for nearly sixty years until they are finally reunited again.
Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano
Translated by: Cedric Belfrage
If you are looking for an enlightening nonfiction book about South America, this is a great choice. This engrossing read chronicles the politics, economy, and social and cultural aspects of the continent over time, examined through the lens of five centuries of colonialism.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
Turn Right at Machu Picchu is a fascinating and funny account of the author’s journey through some of the world’s most majestic, historic, and remote landscapes guided only by a hard-as-nails Australian survivalist and one nagging question: Just what was Machu Picchu?
Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez
This young adult novel set in Argentina follows a teenage girl, Camila, who lives a double life.
At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father. But on the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent with big dreams.
The Puma Years by Laura Coleman
This memoir follows the author’s time volunteering at a wildlife sanctuary on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
After quitting her job to backpack in Bolivia in her early twenties, she ends up taking care of a beautiful and complex puma named Wayra at the wildlife sanctuary.
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Eva Luna tells the story of a young orphan living in an unidentified country in South America. This novel recounts the adventurous life of poor but highly gifted Eva, who finds friendship, love, and success through her powers as a talented storyteller.
Ten Women by Marcela Serrano
Translated by: Beth Fowler
This fiction novel about the universal connections between women follows the stories of nine Chilean women, who on the surface could not seem more different.
Of disparate ages and races, these women represent the variety of cultural and social groups that Chile comprises. They seem to have nothing in common, except for their beloved therapist, who brings them together.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
A mesmerizing novel set in Colombia at the height of Pablo Escobar’s violent reign, this is the story of a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid who strike an unlikely friendship that threatens to undo them both.
Inspired by the author’s own life, this is a gripping and emotional read.
State of Wonder by Ann Pratchett
As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle.
Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness.
The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley
After Maia’s beloved adopted father dies, she receives a clue to her true heritage that takes her across the world to an intriguing past in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Two Spies in Caracas by Moisés Naím
Translated by: Daniel Hahn
Set in Venezuela in 1992, this is an edge-of-your-seat political thriller about rival spies, dangerous love, and one of history’s most devastating revolutions.
Papillon by Henri Charrière
This shocking memoir chronicles the author’s experience in French Guiana prison, where he was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he did not commit.
The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara
This travel diary from Che Guevara recounts the famed Cuban-Argentinian revolutionary’s experiences exploring South America by motorcycle in his youth.
The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles
This is a historical fiction novel set in Brazil. Orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graca, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well-fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill-behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graca quickly bond over shared mischief and music.
Marching Powder by Thomas McFadden and Rusty Young
This nonfiction book is about Thomas McFadden, a convicted English drug trafficker who was sentenced to Bolivia’s notorious and highly corrupt San Pedro prison.
Best Books Set in South America
These are some of the best books set in South America.
Have you read any of these books set in South America? Do you have any favorite books set in South America that I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!
Know someone else who wants to read books set in South America? Then please do pin this post.
Start with this list of the very best travel adventure books. It includes great reads that will fuel your wanderlust and have you staying up late to finish them.
You should also check out the following series of book lists set in specific destinations: