08 November 2010

Reading list: Best Spanish language novels of the past 25 years

In 2007, the Colombian magazine Semana ran a list of the "100 Best Spanish-Language Novels of the Past 25 Years." The list was a result of a poll of 81 writers, editors, and literary critics, among others.

El amor en los tiempos del cólera by Gabriel García Márquez got the most votes, followed by La fiesta del Chivo by Mario Vargas Llosa. Also in the top ten were two novels each by Roberto Bolaño and Javier Marías. The top 25 are listed below. English translations, if available, are indicated.


Top 25 of the 100 Best Novels in Spanish Language, 1981-2006

1. El amor en los tiempos del cólera by Gabriel García Márquez (Love in the Time of Cholera, trans. by Edith Grossman)

2. La fiesta del Chivo by Mario Vargas Llosa (The Feast of the Goat, trans. Edith Grossman)

3. Los detectives salvajes by Roberto Bolaño (The Savage Detectives, trans. Natasha Wimmer)

4. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño (2666, trans. Natasha Wimmer)

5. Noticias del imperio by Fernando del Paso (News from the Empire, trans. Alfonso González & Stella T. Clark)

6. Corazón tan blanco by Javier Marías (A Heart So White, trans. Margaret Jull Costa)

7. Bartleby y Compañía by Enrique Vila-Matas (Bartleby & Co., trans. Jonathan Dunne)

8. Santa Evita by Tomás Eloy Martínez (Santa Evita, trans. Helen Lane)

9. Mañana en la batalla piensa en mí by Javier Marías (Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, trans. Margaret Jull Costa)

10. El desbarrancadero by Fernando Vallejo

11. La virgen de los sicarios by Fernando Vallejo (Our Lady of the Assassins, trans. Paul Hammond)

12. El entenado by Juan José Saer (The Witness, trans. Margaret Jull Costa)

13. Soldados de Salamina by Javier Cercas (Soldiers of Salamis, trans. Anne McLean)

14. Estrella distante by Roberto Bolaño (Distant Star, trans. Chris Andrews)

15. Paisaje después de la batalla by Juan Goytisolo (Landscapes After the Battle, trans. Helen Lane)

16. La ciudad de los prodigios by Eduardo Mendoza (The City of Marvels, trans. Bernard Molloy)

17. El jinete polaco by Antonio Muñoz Molina

18. El testigo by Juan Villoro

19. Salón de belleza by Mario Bellatin (Beauty Salon, trans. Kurt Hollander)

20. Cuando ya no importe by Juan Carlos Onetti (Past Caring, trans. Peter Bush)

21. La tejedora de coronas by Germán Espinosa

22. El paraíso en la otra esquina by Mario Vargas Llosa (The Way to Paradise, trans. Natasha Wimmer)

23. Cae la noche tropical by Manuel Puig (Tropical Night Falling, trans. Suzanne Jill Levine)

24. Doctor Pasavento by Enrique Vila-Matas

25. Herrumbrosas lanzas by Juan Benet

Complete list of 100 best novels:


  1. 'Best of' lists are always highly subjective as there can never be an objective fulcrum to ascertain or quantify their validity. In 5 years time this list could alter significantly. Surprised however that Garcia's '100 years of solitude' is not included, a novel a huge number of Shelfari readers love; i suppose one could always tabulate such a list from the number of Shelfari readers who had read and rated a book!

  2. '100 Years' appeared more than 25 yrs ago so was not considered in the list. I think the book has already been praised to the afterlife, so enough already.... You're right about the subjectivity of the listing exercise. But it's fun though. And instructive in terms of identifying books which have a large impact to or were considered important by the literati.... The no. of Shelfari readers and average rating are useful measures of popularity. But popular are usually scary. http://www.shelfari.com/books?t=a

  3. While I agree with you and Hydriotaphia about the potential weaknesses of lists, Rise, I'm sold on this one as a great and helpful reading tool: I've read 11 or 12 of the Top 25 books listed here, and all were very good to outstanding reads. Not a dud amongst the ones I read and some of my very favorite works in Spanish ever!

  4. I defer to your tastes on Spanish novels, Richard. I've read 4 books from the Top 25 list myself - all three by Bolaño (predictably) and one by Cercas - and they are enough to make me excited to go though the others in the list. So I've started hunting for these titles. I would have joined you in the Santa Evita reading but failed to find a copy in time.

    Apart from what I've already read, I own #s 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, & 11. I plan to go over them next year!

  5. Hi! The rest of the list contains works by women writers, though very limited in number.


    More suggestions at the links below, but they listed only writers in Spain.