Colombia’s literary scene is filled with a number of inspiring and best-selling Colombian authors who offer their own perspectives on Colombia’s dark past and the more promising present and future of Colombia.
We previously looked at the top Colombia travel blogs by expats. And we looked at alternatives to Narcos: 13 best Colombian movies and series. Also, we looked at 20 Colombia books written by expats. And we now look at 14 top books by Colombian authors.
Since I started traveling to Colombia in 2006 and while living in Medellín over the past nearly eight years, I have read many books by Colombian authors. Colombia has a number of excellent authors that have written many good books.
So, I selected 14 of my favorite books by Colombian authors for this list. And these books can help you understand some of Colombia’s tragic history and get a deeper understanding of the misunderstood country. In addition, these books by Colombian authors can help readers understand the culture of Colombia and its people.
Note that I only included books by Colombian authors that have been translated to English. Also, the above photo is of Colombian authors Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara and Laura Restrepo by Guillermo Ramos Flamerich.
In addition, the following list of books by Colombian authors are in order based on Amazon sales on January 16, 2019.
1. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – February 2016
Amazon sales rank: #1,774 in books
One Hundred Years of Solitude (in Spanish Cien Años de Soledad) is the defining Colombian novel of “magical realism”. This book is essentially the story of the fictional Buendía family through multiple generations in an imaginary village in Colombia that is haunting and beautiful.
This amazing book is both passionate and inspiring and has been translated into over 30 languages. It’s considered one of the most beloved and acclaimed novels of the twentieth century.
This was the first book by a Colombian author that I first read over 10 years ago. And I have reread the book a few times since. I found this book to be at times inspiring, whimsical and sad. And it does such a great job of blending together so many aspects of what makes up a person’s life.
William Kennedy even wrote “One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.”
And any look at books by Colombian authors would be incomplete without including author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Marquez won the Nobel prize for literature in 1982. And he is considered one of the most significant authors of the twentieth century. I included five books written by Marquez in this list of books by Colombian authors.
2. Chronicle of a Death Foretold – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – October 2003
Amazon sales rank: #5,143 in books
Chronicle of a Death Foretold (in Spanish Crónica de Una Muerte Anunciada) is a relatively short book that is the story of the last hours of Santiago Nasar. The events take place in a small coastal village in Colombia.
Angela Vicaro marries Bayardo San Roman. The wedding and celebration are lavish and expensive. But after the wedding Angela is returned to her mother when the husband discovers she is not a virgin. Angela names Santiago Nasar as her lover and Angela’s twin brothers set out to murder Santiago to recover her honor.
The brothers seem reluctant and tell everybody. So, everybody in the village seems to know but no effort is made to stop the murder. As the murder plot is outlined Marquez captures the absurd aspects of everyday life in the village.
I found this to be an amazing book. And it’s a quick read as it’s only 128 pages. But it’s beautifully written with good pacing and interesting character development. This book is another example of Marquez’s masterful storytelling. I highly recommend this book.
3. Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – October 2017
Amazon sales rank: #8,532 in books
This book is about Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. Florinto falls in love with Fermina and is rejected by her after their initial infatuation. And Fermina choses to marry a wealthy doctor.
So, Florentino is devastated but a romantic. Florentino rises in his career and has countless affairs but reserves his heart for Fermina. Fermina’s husband eventually dies and Florentino attends the funeral…
To me this book is another example of Marquez’s great writing ability. Marquez has a way of writing that entices you and makes you never want to put his books down. While Marquez is no longer with us, he left a great written legacy behind him.
4. The General in His Labyrinth – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – October 2003
Amazon sales rank: #36,241 in books
This book is historically based and depicts the last days of Simon Bolivar. Bolivar was 46 years of age and unhealthy. And he withdrew from political life and announced his pending exile to Europe. Boliver starts in Bogota, floats down the Magdalena River, spends time in Cartagena before his journey (and life) ends in Soledad.
It’s a tragic story but also a haunting and compelling story. In addition, it’s an intriguing look into the mind of one of the most compelling and important figures in Colombian and South American history and there are flashbacks of Bolivar’s fascinating life and adventures.
Similar to Marquez’s other books, this book is beautifully written with incredible detail. It’s a great book for people with a passion for history. Also, it has insights into South American culture. And it provides glimpses into the mind of a brilliant military strategist, making it a delightful book for many.
5. Pablo Escobar: My Father – Juan Pablo Escobar – August 2017
Amazon sales rank: #66,623 in books
Pablo Escobar: My Father (in Spanish: Pablo Escobar: Mi Padre) is essentially a biography written by the son of Pablo Escobar. The book is a surprisingly dispassionate account. The son examines the meteoric career of Pablo Escobar and eventually becoming a fugitive and finally his death.
Pablo’s son grew up in a world of incredible privilege that included a private zoo. Yet he also lived in isolation and his playmates were bodyguards. While focusing largely on his father, the book also includes the grim repercussions the cartel boss’s career had on the family.
The popular Narcos series has created demand for books about Escobar. And this book provides a unique perspective of the reality of childhood within the Escobar family.
The author, Juan Pablo Escobar, is the son of the infamous leader of the Medellín cartel, Pablo Escobar. Juan was only 16-years-old when his father died. He is now an architect, lecturer and writer. He lives in Argentina and was the subject of the award-winning documentary Sins of My Father.
6. Reputations – Juan Gabriel Vásquez – September 2016
Amazon sales rank: #182,991 in books
Reputations is about Javier Mallarino, a living legend. He is the country’s most influential political cartoonist working for a Colombian newspaper. And he’s a man capable of bring down governments and destroying politicians’ careers and repealing laws with his art.
After four decades he is at the height of his powers. But this changes when he’s paid an unexpected visit from a young woman who upends his history and makes him to re-evaluate his life and work.
This book was even named a best book of the year by several newspapers including the New York Times and the Guardian.
I read this book after first reading The Sound of Things Falling, another popular book by Vázquez listed above. I found Reputations to be a very interesting look at reputation, humiliation and power ensconced in the political and cultural landscape of Colombia.
7. The Farm – Héctor Abad Faciolince – April 2018
Amazon sales rank: #240,775 in books
The Farm is a book from one of Colombia’s leading writers that tells the story of La Oculta, which is a farm hidden in the mountains outside Medellín that weathered guerilla and paramilitary violence but with a future that is anything but secure.
This book looks at Antioquian settlers who tried to create a utopia for their descendants but had to deal with guerrilla kidnappings and massacres by paramilitaries. The book’s story is about three grown siblings dealing with what to do when they inherit their family’s farm when their mother dies.
The author, Héctor Abad, is considered one of Colombia’s leading writers. Abad was born in Medellín and reportedly studied journalism, medicine and philosophy. But he was expelled from a university for writing a defamatory text against the Pope.
So, he moved to Italy before returning home to Colombia. Abad experienced violence firsthand as his father was killed for opposition to war crimes being committed in rural areas in Colombia.
I read The Farm recently after reading Abad’s other book, Oblivion: A Memoir (#10 in this list). I found The Farm to be a fascinating book about the interplay of family life in rural Colombia near Medellín with some fury expressed for those who ravaged rural areas and sorrow at everything that has been lost.
8. The Sound of Things Falling – Juan Gabriel Vásquez – June 2014
Amazon sales rank: #263,291 in books
Antonío is a professor of law whose life is good. And he becomes acquainted with Ricardo with a questionable past. Antonío’s life is shattered when he and Ricardo are walking on a street they become victims of a drive-by shooting. Ricardo is killed and Antonío is gravely wounded. Antonío becomes obsessed in his search for the history of Ricardo and why he was killed.
I recommend this book that is magnificently written with a gripping story. The book also looks at how the present rarely escapes the past and at how fragile our relationships really are.
9. News of a Kidnapping – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – January 2008
Amazon sales rank: #266,111 in books
News of a Kidnapping is a non-fiction book about the kidnapping of 10 notable Colombians by Pablo Escobar.
Fearing extradition to the U.S., Escobar kidnapped 10 Colombians to use them as bargaining chips. In the book, Marquez tells the plight of the kidnappers and the victims as well as the politicians, common people and the media.
In my opinion, this non-fiction book surpasses most fictional crime thrillers with it’s incredible attention to detail and the way the author Marquez makes history come to life.
This book is written in a journalistic style but it reads like a novel. And the kidnappings and protracted negotiations are brilliantly told. The book also tells the story of how Pablo Escobar negotiated surrender to the Colombian government, which included a prison of his own design and staffing.
10. Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar – May 2018
Amazon sales rank: #290,388 in books
Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar (in Spanish: Amando a Pablo, Odiando a Escobar) is a book written by Virginia Vallejo, who in the 1980s was Colombia’s most famous television celebrity: a top-rated anchorwoman.
Vallejo was reportedly courted by Colombia’s four wealthiest men. And she interviewed Pablo Escobar on her news program in 1982. Soon after began a discreet and steamy romantic relationship with Escobar that lasted five years.
Unlike many books about Escobar, this book provides an intimate insider’s look at Escobar. It’s an interesting story that is essentially the chronicle of a young woman who believed, in her egocentricity, to play with fire and not burn.
11. Delirium – Laura Restrepo – March 2008
Amazon sales rank: #305,272 in books
This fascinating book delves into four lives: Agustina – a beautiful woman from an upper-class family who has suddenly gone mad; her husband Aguilar – a man in love with his wife and determined to find the cause of her madness; Midas – Agustina’s former lover and a drug-trafficker and money-launderer; and Nicolás – Agustina’s grandfather.
Through these four lives, the author paints a picture of a Colombian society battered by war and corruption.
I found this to be a gripping and well-written book that I definitely recommend.
The author, Laura Restrepo, was born in Bogotá, Colombia. And she has written numerous bestselling and prize-winning novels that have been published in over 20 languages. She also has worked as a left-wing activist and as an investigative journalist covering issues of human rights.
12. Oblivion: A Memoir – Héctor Abad Faciolince – May 2013
Amazon sales rank: #515,863 in books
Oblivion: A Memoir (in Spanish El Olvido que Seremos) is a heartbreaking written memoir to the author’s father, whose criticism of war crimes being committed in rural areas in Colombia resulted in his murder by Colombian paramilitaries.
Héctor Abad’s father was a doctor, a professor and an international health care advocate who worked tirelessly to help Colombia’s poor. It took the author nearly 20 years to get up the courage to write this book about his father, his life and the circumstances of his murder by paramilitaries.
The result is a cathartic and sentimental story of a man who fought against social inequality and oppression in Colombia. And paid for this with his life. Also, in the book, Abad provides the reader with an intimate picture of the human rights’ struggle in Colombia over the lifetime of his father.
While the book covers some of Colombia’s darkest moments, I found it to be a truly memorable book that is immensely personal and bittersweet. And the book provides a glimpse into the real Colombia and some of its major challenges.
13. The Armies – Evelio Rosero – September 2009
Amazon sales rank: #617,161 in books
The Armies is a disturbing look at life in rural Colombia.
The book begins by looking at an unspecified small town in Colombia that appears to be a paradise. But this paradise is marred as successive waves of guerrillas, paramilitaries, the army, and drug traffickers sweep back and forth through the town and the surrounding countryside.
Although the residents of the town are peaceful farmers with no interest in the country’s politics, every militant faction vying for power in Colombia somehow believes that these residents constitute a threat. And Ismail, a retired teacher is caught up in the drug wars that slowly destroy his small town.
This book succeeds in conveying the tragedies of rural life in much of Colombia in which the innocents always seem to be the main victims.
The author, Evelio Rosero, was born in Bogotá and is the author of several books of fiction including novels and short stories as well as plays and poetry. Also, he was awarded Colombia’s National Literature Prize by the Ministry of Culture.
14. Leopard in the Sun – Laura Restrepo – September 2000
Amazon sales rank: #740,947 in books
Leopard in the Sun is a book about a feud between two Colombian drug families, which escalates into a bloody, high-stakes war. The Barragans and the Monsalves are rival drug clans. The Barragans, headed by the brutal Nando, are tied to the ancient traditions. And the Monsalves struggle with whether follow Mani, their charismatic leader, into a modern age in which there are even fewer rules.
The book was recommended by a Medellin Guru reader and I found it to be a fascinating story with many of the pleasures of watching one of Colombia’s tragic, steamy telenovellas.
The author, Laura Restrepo, was born in Bogotá, Colombia. And she has written numerous bestselling and prize-winning novels that have been published in over 20 languages.
Buying on Amazon
Some of these books are available in only book format. And several are available in both book format and Kindle format.
If you want to buy books or other products on Amazon, note this is possible in Colombia. I live in Medellín and buy from Amazon all the time and I use the Mail Boxes Etc. ebox service.
This service provides a mailbox in Medellín that is linked to a mailing service in Miami. And any mail received at this mailing service in Miami is forwarded to Medellín.
So, I buy products on Amazon and ship using Amazon Prime for free to Miami and the items reliably show up in Medellín. In addition, Mail Boxes Etc. has offices in Barranquilla, Bogotá and Bucaramanga.
Amazon does ship some products to Colombia from the U.S. but not everything sold on Amazon ships to Colombia. But if you use the Mail Boxes Etc. service with Amazon Prime you get unlimited free 2-day shipping to Florida for products Amazon sells and the items show up reliably in Medellín with relatively low shipping costs.
Amazon Prime costs $119 per year but you can try Amazon Prime with a free 30-day trial.
Also, Amazon entered the Colombian market in July 2018 with a market place in Colombia starting with selling only electronic products, such as smartphones, tablets and televisions, as well as decorations and kitchen items.
The Bottom Line: 14 Books by Colombian Authors
Colombia has a number of excellent authors that have written many good books and we looked at 14 of the best in this article.
If you happen to know of any really good books by Colombian Authors that have been translated to English and we missed please let us know in the comments below.
And with new books by Colombian authors getting published each year, we plan to keep this article up-to-date.
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Editors note: updated on July 23, 2018 added information about Amazon entering Colombia and ability for a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime.
Editors note: updated on January 16, 2019 to add the “Leopard in the Sun” book recommended by a Medellin Guru reader and also reordered this list by current Amazon book sales.