Mexican Must-Reads

Whether you live in Mexico, are interested in Mexican culture, or simply want to add to your general knowledge, these books will give you a taste of Mexico’s greatest authors.

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

One of the best-known Mexican books, Pedro Páramo is considered by many to be one of the first works of Latin American magical realism. It was published in 1955 and is one of only two novels ever written by the father of Mexican literature, Juan Rulfo.

After his mother’s death, Juan Preciado decides to visit the ghost town of Comala and find his father, Pedro Páramo. The novel tells two stories: Juan’s journey to meet his father to denounce his and his mother’s abandonment, and Pedro’s own story of power and corruption during the Revolution.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

In the 1980s, people thought magical realism had come to an end, but boy were they wrong. Laura Esquivel published Like Water for Chocolate in 1989, and it went on to become one of the most important works of Latin American literature ever created.

This beautiful novel tells the story of Tita, the last daughter of the De la Garza family. Being the youngest and following family tradition, she’s destined to take care of her mother right until the day of her death, sacrificing love or a family of her own.

Mirroring Tita’s devotion to cooking, every chapter of this novel starts with a recipe. Esquivel plays around with traditional dishes, flavors, feelings, and ingredients to envelop the story of a traditional family told through the eyes of a hopeless romantic culinarian who ends up falling in love.

The Memories of the Future by Elena Garro

The Memories of the Future is set in the fictitious town of Ixtepec during post-revolutionary Mexico. What makes this such a wonderful piece of work is its unconventional narrator: the town of Ixtepec itself.

The town lives in a melancholy state of fear, experiencing both the trial and tribulations of military ruler Francisco Rosas, who has taken control of the town’s government and the life of the Moncada siblings.  A novel that feels like a poem.

Aura  by Carlos Fuentes

The book tells the story of Felipe Montero, a young historian hired by Doña Consuelo to organize and write down her late husband’s memoirs. Felipe, who worked as a professor with a very low salary, will be paid a handsome sum by the old lady – under the condition that he lives in her house until the work is completed.Set in Mexico City in 1962, this gothic-inspired novel is less than 100 pages long and considered one of Fuentes’s best works.


Confabulario and Other Inventions   by Juan José Arreola

Arreola was one of the most prolific authors of his generation. He was deeply connected to Mexico and its cultural influences. He published Confabulario, his second work, in 1952. It consists of a collection and short stories that touch on the love, solitude, and frustration of modern humanity, told with a comedic, ordinary and sometimes absurdist touch.



Balún Canán by Rosario Castellanos

Balún Canán was Rosario Castellanos’s first novel, published in 1957.   It’s considered one of the pillars of the native “Indigenista” literature movement within Mexico – and an early example of Mexican feminist writing.

Castellanos set her novel in Chiapas, where she was born and raised. It narrates the decline of Chiapan landowners, especially the Argüello family, triggered by agrarian reform laws during the Lázaro Cárdenas presidency of the 1930s. The story discusses the clash between white settlers and indigenous communities and the      injustices that resulted.

The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz

The Labyrinth of Solitude is a collection of 9 essays published in 1950. In it, Nobel Prize winner Paz sought to grasp and define the essence of the Mexican people – individually and collectively. He ponders through different historical events going back as far as the Aztecs that gifted, according to him, a certain quality of pessimism, alongside other characteristics, to Mexican society.


— by Montserrat Castro Gómez, a freelance writer and translator from Querétaro, México.

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