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Whether you found this list searching for books set in South America before a trip or are participating in our Book Voyage reading challenge, we have a variety of fiction and non-fiction book recommendations set across the South American continent.
PS: You can read all about the Book Voyage challenge, find new book lists each month, and download your free printable map book tracker, with a color-coded map of each region here.
For many of us, our introduction to South America came from learning about the tropical rainforests of the Amazon Basin. The Amazon covers about 40 percent of the continent (an area roughly the size of the 48 contiguous United States). Despite once being even larger, the Amazon remains the world’s largest rainforest. It’s also one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.
Unlike the Amazon rainforest, one of the wettest places on Earth, Chile’s Atacama Desert is the world’s driest non-polar desert. Additionally, South America is home to the world’s longest mountain range – the Andes. The mountains stretch all along the western edge of the continent, from the northernmost coast to the southern tip.
The Incan Empire was established in Peru in the 1400s, then expanded to include parts of five other present-day countries. It is the most well-known of South America’s indigenous cultures, but many other indigenous societies also call this continent home. The indigenous populations of South America continue to have a strong influence on the human landscape of this continent. Although nearly half of the indigenous people now live in urban areas, they maintain a deep connection to the physical environment. The connection is manifested through their religious beliefs, cultural celebrations, and political actions.
The term Latin America generally refers to the entire region south of the United States in which Spanish, Portuguese, or French (all Latin languages) are officially spoken. The countries of Latin America span both the North American and South American continents. The seven countries often referred to as Central America are on the North American continent and will be covered by next month’s Book Voyage reading list.
This month our book recommendations cover the 13 countries of South America, including: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
As always, you are welcome to choose any book about South America that you’d like. We’ve compiled some highly recommended reads to get you started. Our list of books set in South America includes a wide variety of non-fiction, memoirs, historical fiction, and contemporary fiction. Several of the novels on the list feature elements of magical realism, which is a prominent subgenre in Latin-American literature.