Looking for a gift for the bookworm in your life? Or curious to expand your knowledge of Mexican history, culture and current events? We have you covered with our favorite reads of 2023, curated by the MND team.
Strangers by Guillermo Arriaga
“Strangers” explores the fascinating boom of science in the eighteenth century and its rivalry with religious and aristocratic standpoints.
The book shows us endearing characters, living on the edge. To write the book, Arriaga, one of Mexico’s best writers, only used words that were used in the eighteenth century.
Recommended by Camila Sánchez Bolaño, features editor
Salvar el Fuego by Guillermo Arriaga
Mexico City-born author and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga’s novel is my personal favorite of the year. It’s got it all: love, lust, violence, beauty, shame, and deceit. Thanks to an intriguing cast of characters, I’ve learned more about social classism, politics, and modern Mexican culture than I have in my daily life here.
Bonus: It has expanded my Spanish vocabulary tenfold.
Recommended by Bethany Platanella, contributing writer
The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington
Carrington (1917-2011) was a renegade, aristocratic British Surrealist painter who lived in Mexico City. Her short stories are strange, compelling, mythical explorations of the scope of the human imagination and our place in the world. Also funny and thought-provoking, she ponders the liminal spaces between life/death, dreams/waking, and man/beast.
Recommended by Henrietta Weeks, contributing writer
Several Ways To Die In Mexico City by Kurt Hollander
I recently returned to this 2012 non-fiction book, touted as an “autobiography of death” in Mexico’s capital. It’s a fascinating – and somewhat unnerving – read, broken into sections with memorable titles such as “Death Valley” and “Sick City.”
Recommended by Peter Davies, chief staff writer
Instrucciones para vivir en México by Jorge Ibargüengoitia
I love Ibargüengoitia’s sense of humor: the way he talks about everyday issues with simplicity and intelligence. If you want to learn more about Mexican culture and way of thinking, this novel is for you.
Recommended by Rosario Ruiz, editor
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Born in the U.S. but raised in a series of fantastical situations in Mexico made believable by Kingsolver’s unique skill, Harrison Shepherd’s brushes with fame and history reveal the character of both countries. He is brutally caught up in governments’ nationalist fears and the even wilder judgments of public opinion.
Recommended by Ann Marie Jackson, contributing writer
This is not Miami by Fernanda Melchor
This collection of twelve devastating short stories about life in Veracruz in the 1980s, is told with Melchor’s scintillating, honest and sharp voice. Translated brilliantly by Sophie Hughes, the book beautifully binds violence, pain and mystery together into gripping reportage stories based on real-life events in the port city.
Recommended by Gordon Cole-Schmidt, contributing writer
The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz
Paz explores the complexities of Mexican identity and culture, delving into the historical, social, and psychological aspects that shape the people. Paz reflects on the solitude inherent in the Mexican psyche, examining the profound sense of loneliness and introspection that characterizes the nation’s history and identity.
Recommended by Mark Viales, contributing writer
A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca by Andrés Reséndez
The incredible story of a Spaniard’s 4,000-km walk from Texas to Mexico City in the early 1500s. Six hundred sailed from Spain, but only four survived to tell the tale.
Recommended by John Pint, contributing writer
La Revolucioncita Mexicana by Rius
Political cartoonist Rius’ sly, humorous take on the Mexican Revolution taught me more about Mexican history than some classes I’ve taken on the subject. If you want to read in Spanish but you’re not quite ready for “A Hundred Years of Solitude,” try this graphic novel.
Recommended by Rose Egelhoff, editor
The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia
An enchanting and highly evocative story that unfolds in a small town in Mexico’s northeast. The story, told with the charm of magical realism, follows the lives of Simonopio and his adoptive family, the wealthy Morales, as they navigate the tumultuous times of the Mexican Revolution.
Recommended by Gaby Solís, contributing writer
The Dope by Benjamin T. Smith
Not only is this “myth-busting” history of the drug trade in Mexico a page-turner, it is a deeply-researched reference I have returned to repeatedly since first reading it.
Recommended by Kate Bohné, chief news editor
Keep an eye out for more MND staff picks this month, including favorite films, foods and cultural experiences.