35 Books Set in + About Argentina
Argentina has been on my bucket list of destinations since high school, but I doubt I’m going to get there anytime soon. Until then, books about Argentina will have to do. And this list of Argentina books has so many possibilities: historical fiction, suspense, fascinating non-fiction, and magical realism.
The political history of Argentina seems to permeate almost all the literature you’ll find here. I encourage you to read about it; but the tl:dr is that they had a lot of political instability in the mid-20th century, most notably the Dirty War, in which thousands of the people were “disappeared” by an oppressive government.
And you’ll find that oppression here. There is an undercurrent of suspense running through almost every book here. But don’t let that scare you away. Argentina has a rich literary history and there are some beautiful books here. If you are wanting to learn more about it, these books set in Argentina are a great place to start.
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Novels About Argentina
On a Night of a Thousand Stars by Andrea Yaryura Clark
When Paloma travels with her parents to Argentina, she realizes how little she knows of her family’s past. There, she uncovers what her father’s life was like before the beginning of the Dirty War, and she comes to question everything about her family and who she is. For fans of historical fiction and political fiction.
Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel
In the 1970s, Tomás escaped Argentina’s dictatorships. A decade later, he is living in New York. But when he returns to Argentina, he is haunted by ghosts, including that of the woman he once loved. For fans of literary fiction, political fiction, and novels with a ghost element.
Who Is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht
In 1960s Argentina, Vera Kelly is staking out government offices for the CIA, listening to officials from a room in a nearby café. But when the coup they’ve been expecting finally happens, her safety is threatened and she needs to get out the country. This is a slow burn of a book, for fans of literary suspense.
The Tango Singer by Tomás Eloy Martínez, Translated by Anne McLean
When Bruno travels to Buenos Aires, he is searching for a mysterious tango singer. But as he uncovers the path of this singer’s random performances, he learns more about the singer’s life as well as the history of Buenos Aires. For fans of literary fiction.
Optic Nerve by María Gainza, Translated by Thomas Bunstead
In Optic Nerve, a woman studying art recounts interesting anecdotes from art history as well as her life in Buenos Aires. This is a book about art and our relationship to it, and is for fans of literary fiction and readers interested in art history.
The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander
This novel is set in Argentina’s Dirty War. The Poznan family has seen what has been happening, as children are “disappeared.” Then one day, it hits too close to home and they find themselves trying to uncover answers in the Ministry of Special Cases. For fans of political suspense.
Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, Translated by Frances Riddle
When Rita is found dead in a church, it is ruled a suicide. But her mother, Elena, is sure it wasn’t. Elena travels across the city to uncover old secrets and prove what really happened. This is a book about women’s rights and authoritarianism. For fans of political fiction and slow, literary suspense.
Shantytown by César Aira, Translated by Chris Andrews
Maxi is a young man who picks up trash in the slums of Buenos Aires. He is a good-natured and lives a simple life, but he attracts the attention of a corrupt policeman determined to bust a drug ring. For fans of novellas and literary mystery.
The Linden Tree by César Aira, Translated by Chris Andrews
This short novella is also a fictional memoir. As an old man, the narrator recalls his childhood in rural Argentina with his parents during a time of social change. For fans of reflective, quiet books with a bit of surrealism.
The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, Translated by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Macintosh
In 1872 rural Argentina, China is a young woman who embarks on a journey to find freedom when her husband is conscripted to the army. She travels with a new friend, Liz, and together they discover the landscapes of Argentina. This is a modern version of the Argentine classic The Gaucho Martín Fierro. For fans of historical fiction, road trip novels, and modern retellings.
Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig
In this novel, two men in Argentina share a jail cell. They are jailed for entirely different reasons: one because he is a political revolutionary and the other for seducing a young boy. Yet as the novel unfolds and their friendship grows, you learn one of them is hiding an even bigger secret. For fans of mystery, political intrigue, and character driven stories.
Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois
Lily is thrilled to be studying abroad in Buenos Aires. But five weeks into her semester, her roommate is found murdered and she is prime suspect. Did she do it or not? Well, it depends on who you ask. For fans of psychological suspense and thrillers.
My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain by Patricio Pron
In this slim novel, a young man return to Argentina after living in Germany to see his ailing father. While going through his father’s study though, he finds papers he had collected about a recent local murder and begins wondering why his father cared and what the ties of this murder to his father’s past may be. For fans of literary fiction.
August by Romina Paula, Translated by Jennifer Croft
When Emilia returns to her home in Patagonia, it is in the wake of her friend’s death. And she can’t help but wonder if she had never left home in the first place, if any of the terrible things would have happened, all as she slowly folds herself into the life her friend once had. For fans of literary fiction.
All My Goodbyes by Mariana Dimópulos, Translated by Alice Whitmore
A young woman in Argentina is having an identity crisis. She is afraid of commitment, and as a result ends up leaving most people in her life. Finally, she escapes to the isolated landscape of Patagonia, but she is caught up a string of murders. For fans of literary fiction and books that are a little strange.
Portrait of an Unknown Lady by María Gainza, Translated by Thomas Bunstead
This novel, narrated by an art critic and auction house employee, centers around the idea of art authenticity and a master forger. While on the surface this may seem to be a mystery (who is the forger?), the narrator really reflects on art, narrative, and authenticity. For fans of literary fiction that is maybe a bit abstract.
Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez, Translated by Megan McDowell
While not a novel, this book of short stories examines the darkness of Argentina’s history and its impact on the present. There are stories about the disappeared, domestic violence, and governmental oppression, so this book comes with lots of content warnings. But it is perfect for fans of dark short stories.
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez, Translated by Megan McDowell
Enríquez’s most recent collection of short stories continues to delve into the dark and violent side of Bueno Aires. She has stories about families, witchcraft, missing children, and more. For fans of gothic literature, short stories, and horror.
Our Share of Night Mariana Enríquez, Translated by Megan McDowell
When Gaspar’s mother dies, he and his father set out to confront his mother’s family legacy: an evil family known as the Order. But the Order is Gaspar’s destiny, and as they try to draw him nearer to evil, he and his father go on the run. For fans of horror.
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, Translated by Megan McDowell
In a Buenos Aires hospital room, a boy sits beside a woman who is dying. I’m not sure I can really give much more plot description than this, because this is a bizarre book full of surrealism and horror (and I know a lot of readers have said they don’t really understand what is happening while reading). I’ve heard many a reviewer state that the title is perfect, because the book feels like a fever dream itself. For fans of horror and surrealism.
The Tunnel by Ernesto Sábato, Translated by Margaret Sayers Penden
First published in 1948, this novel set in Argentina tells the story of a man obsessed with a woman named María. In fact, he is so obsessed that he eventually murders her, and in this book he is telling his story from his prison cell. For fans of psychological suspense and modern classics.
Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar, Translated by Gregory Rabassa
After the death of a child and the disappearance of his mistress in Paris, Horacio Oliveira returns to his home in Buenos Aires and embarks on a series of odd employment adventures. But what is especially interesting about this book is that is can be read in two different orders: the traditional order from beginning to end, or a specific order that skips around and is listed in the beginning of the book. This is for fans of modern classics and books with interesting structures.
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
Borges is one of Argentina’s most well-known writers. This book of short stories shows of his masterful skills, featuring magical realism and examining big philosophical themes. This is for fans of modern classics, literary fiction, and short stories.
Read more about Argentina with these books set in Patagonia!
Non-Fiction Books About Argentina
In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
First published in 1977, In Patagonia has become a classic in travel literature. Chatwin travels through the isolated landscapes of southern Argentina, recalling the area’s legends and history while recounting his own travels. For fans of travel memoir and modern classics.
Enduring Patagonia by Gregory Crouch
In this non-fiction title, Crouch writes about his time literally enduring Patagonia through multiple climbing adventures. The harsh landscape provides for many terrifying adventures, with both failures and successful climbing accomplishments. For fans of adventure memoirs.
False Calm: A Journey Through the Ghost Towns of Patagonia by María Sonia Cristoff, Translated by Katherine Silver
While you may think of Patagonia as a beautiful wilderness, it was once the location of several oil boom towns. Now largely abandoned, Cristoff travels to these towns examining Patagonia’s history and current landscape. For fans of travel memoirs.
Angels with Dirty Faces: How Argentinian Soccer Defined a Nation and Changed the Game Forever by Jonathan Wilson
I think the subtitle tells it all, but if you are a sports fan this is the Argentina book for you. Here, Wilson tells the history of soccer (ahem, fútbol) in Argentina, how the history of the nation impacted the game, and how some of the most famous players in history came from Argentina. For fans of soccer and sports books.
The Real Odessa: How Perón Brought Nazi War Criminals to Argentina by Uki Goñi
In the aftermath of WWII, Argentina became a haven for several notorious Nazi war criminals. So how did that happen? And what was the link to Argentina’s government and the Catholic church? This is for fans of political and WWII non-fiction.
Children’s Books Set in Argentina
Abuelo by Arthur Dorros, Illustrated by Raúl Colón
In Argentina’s pampas (grasslands), a boy and his grandfather ride horses and have adventures. When the boy moves to the city, he misses his grandfather, but his special relationship with his grandfather still helps him to adjust. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.
The Magic Bean Tree: A Legend from Argentina by Nancy Van Laan, Illustrated by Beatriz Vidal
In this Argentinian legend, a young boy must figure out how to save his village from an evil bird who has the power to stop the rain. Recommended ages: 6 and up.
Get to Know José de San Martín (Conoce a José de San Martín) by Adela Basch, Illustrated by Paola De Gaudio
This bilingual children’s book tells the story of José de San Martín, a well-known figure in Argentina’s fight for independence. Although he was born in South America, his parents took him back to Spain as a child. But when Argentina was fighting for its independence, he felt called to come back and help. Recommended ages: 8 and up.
Middle Grade & YA Books About Argentina
Epic Athletes: Lionel Messi by Dan Wetzel
Lionel Messi is arguably Argentina’s most famous athlete ever, and this is the perfect book for any kid who loves soccer. This biography covers her his life as a kid in Argentina, the medical condition that almost stopped him from playing soccer, and his noteworthy career. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
Lobizona by Romina Garber
Manuela is an undocumented teen in Miami from an Argentinian family. When her already precarious world falls apart, she starts to dive deep into her family’s past. And she discovers a family curse full of witches and werewolves and Argentinian folklore. Recommended ages: 12-18 years.
Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez
Camila Hassan loves soccer and dreams of getting a scholarship to a North American university. The only problem is that her parents don’t know about her secret passion. If they did they would never allow her to play. Then things get more complicated when her old romantic interest, now a soccer star himself, shows back up. Recommended ages: 14-18 years.
The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring
Mavi is a young teacher in Argentina’s Patagonia, teaching at a small school full of eerie myths. Then the students and teachers start acting strange. This is for fans of gothic suspense and supernatural thrillers. Recommended ages: 15 and up.
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