Gabriel García Márquez, also referred to as “Gabo” or “Gabito” in Latin America, was a Colombian writer who published many successful novels, short stories, and even screenplays. He was one of the most important writers of the Spanish literature of the twentieth century, marked by the Nobel Prize in Literature that he was awarded in 1982.
The writer was born in March 1927 and was raised by his maternal grandparents. The writer was heavily inspired by them as his grandfather was a veteran and a hero of the Colombian Liberals, and his grandmother was a very spiritual person who had a magical view of the world in the most serious way possible. Most notably, both of them were great storytellers.
Sparks of Greatness
After graduating from high school, he started studying law at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. However, this was mostly to please his father. While attending the university, he also took his first steps into journalism and fiction writing. After the Bogotazo riots that took place in his second year, he had to change schools and he eventually dropped out to pursue journalism.
Best Gabriel García Márquez Books
As is usual, I will start this article off with one of the most well known and best selling Gabriel García Márquez books, One Hundred Years of Solitude. If you know anything about this piece, you know that it is a big deal. Not only was it the book that won the author his Nobel Prize, but it was also one of the few books that launched the “Magical Realism” genre.
The book takes place in the small town of Macondo where nothing weird ever happens. It does not have a, at least stereotypical, storyline, it feels much more like a worldbuilding exercise than a novel with connected events. We only get small glimpses into the little details of the town and its inhabitants. I guess you might be a little confused by now, just bear with me.
So, what does happen in Macondo that is worth a Nobel Prize? Well, the town’s patriarch lives tied to a chestnut tree for about twenty years, a pair of twins go about their days not knowing who is who, a man invites his seventeen sons all from different mothers and all named Aureliona to dinner, and so on. The point is that these things are usual and that, ladies and gentlemen, is magical realism.
The second piece on our list will be another one of the most popular Gabriel García Márquez books, Love in the Time of Cholera. This piece is also a product of magical realism but it was written nearly twenty years after the iconic One Hundred Years of Solitude and so, it is a bit more refined. It is also worth mentioning that this one does have a story to tell.
The story of this piece revolves around two young lovers named Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. Just as any love of the youth though, it results in heartbreak. Fermina, despite all of her alleged love, decides to marry a wealthy doctor from a good family. Florentino is devastated but he decides to live his life in the only way he knows: full of joy and romance.
A Real Romantic
Fifty years, nine months, and four days after the day Florentino first confessed his love for Fermina, he will attend the funeral of her lover’s now-dead husband. He built a successful career for himself and laid with 622 different women since their departure but his heart still sings for one and he will let it out of its cage in this day of grieving once again.
We are carrying on with our Gabriel García Márquez books ranked article and the third book that I will be introducing to you shortly is Chronicle of a Death Foretold. It is another magical realism novel but it is notably shorter than usual as it only has 120 pages. Not to worry though, it is still a book as brilliant as the rest of the author’s work and it hides a strong kick which is a mystery.
It tells us the story of a man who returns to a town he left behind so many years ago to dip deep into a murder that happened twenty-seven years ago. The murder in question was the result of a failed marriage. Angela Vicario was a beautiful woman who had been married to Bayardo San Roman two hours before he brought her back to her parents in disgrace.
Right Before Their Eyes
Angela’s family was ashamed and enraged by this public degradation. They did not waste much time interrogating Angela to get the name of her first lover, Santiago Nasar, and her twin brothers promised to kill him. What the curious man wonders is if everyone knew what was going to happen, why did they remain still? This mystery which gets more complicated the more we learn makes for my personal best Gabriel García Márquez book.
We are almost halfway done with our search to find the best Gabriel García Márquez novel and the fourth book that we will go over in this list will be Of Love and Other Demons. As you can already guess from the title, this book does not hold itself too accountable for being unrealistic. Yet, it manages to tell a story that will ring a bell or two in almost every one of us.
Sierva Maria is born to a family with a noble lineage that is falling out of grace despite their blood. She is her parent’s only child and they are understandably distraught when she is bitten by a rabid dog on her twelfth birthday. They declare her to be possessed by a demon and take her to the best convent in the South American seaport they occupy for her to be observed and cured.
On the Disturbing Side
Father Cayetano Delaura is the man tasked with exorcising the evil hiding in the naive child’s body. He enters her chamber to tend to her using sacramental oils and holy water but he is unsettled by the realization that he is falling in love with the girl. The worst of all is that his emotions are soon matched by Sierva’s. With this disturbing story, the author manages to tell a universal story of emotions.
Next up on our list of Gabriel García Márquez book reviews, I will be giving you a quick summary of the novel The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor. This book stands out among the others in this as it was written in 1955, twelve years prior to the author’s first meddlings in the magical-realism realm. Thus, it is a non-fiction book that tells the story of, you guessed it, a shipwrecked sailor.
The event that the author retells in this piece took place in the same year it was published. Luis Alejandro Belasco was the sole survivor of the wrecked destroyer Caldas. A storm had taken out the other seven crew members along with the ship and Luis “drifted on a liferaft for ten days without food or water”. His story quickly spread and he was proclaimed a national hero.
The Story of a Fraud
Until journalist Márquez had an interview with him, that is. In the interview, he made the shocking confession that there was no storm when Caldas sank. They had been carrying an unsafe amount of contraband and the destroyer was simply not able to hold the weight of its cargo. All it took for it to sink was a windy sea… This story was a complete scandal and it ran for more than two weeks.
With that, we are more than halfway through with our article and the next piece that I will be introducing to you is going to be one of the top rated Gabriel García Márquez books titled Strange Pilgrims: Twelve Stories. As you can probably guess, the book is a collection of twelve short stories. It is also an amalgam, meaning all the stories revolve around the same concepts.
In this piece, the concept that ties all of the stories together is what the book describes as the “émigré experience”. Basically, the stories talk about the experiences of Latin Americans who have migrated out of their continent. A permanent change in environment as big as this is usually not easy to digest and so, most of the stories have melancholic and sorrowful atmospheres.
Still, the author is a master of magical realism and this piece was published in 1992, long after he mastered and honed his craft to perfection. He is able to provide reassurements mixed with humor and absurdity even in emotionally intense stories like these. While the story of the Brazilian prostitute teaching her dog to weep at her future grave might be a very sad story at its core, its sheer absurdity covers it up to make it digestible.
We are continuing with our Gabriel García Márquez book list and our sixth piece will be The Autumn of the Patriarch. The character of the patriarch is not actually a stranger to the author. If you can recall, his exemplary book One Hundred Years of Solitude also included a patriarch who was one of the strangest details in his already alien world. He lived tied to a tree without a care in the world, from anyone.
The patriarch of this story bears some resemblances because he can also be seen as living in a prison. Only, it is portrayed in a much subtler way in this story. He is a tyrant in the Caribbean and he holds all the power he can want. But he is as corrupt and blind as he is strong. He answers to no one but over time, this very freedom has turned into a man who is nothing but a slave to his nature.
Power Left Unchecked
If you ask me, he is the study of a man who has lost his connection with his own being. He does not need to question his emotions or thoughts in any way whatsoever and thus, he does not practice self-analysis. He goes wherever his depraved and unhinged soul takes him which manifests in both a kind and affectionate, and a completely evil way. Overall, it is a strong contender for the best Gabriel García Márquez book title.
Our search for the best Gabriel García Márquez novels carries on and Innocent Erendira and Other Stories will be the eighth piece that we will take a look at. It is an early collection of some of the author’s shorter writings that were published in 1972. It includes eleven short stories and one novella which is the titular piece “Innocent Erendira”.
The piece that stands out the most in this collection is of course Innocent Erendira. It starts off with introducing us to the fourteen years old Erendira living with her cold grandmother who sees her as just a mouth to feed and a body to put to work. When the little girl accidentally sets their mansion on fire, the heartless grandmother forces her to repay her “debt” by selling her body.
Wicked Fairy Tales
The rest of the stories are in a similar style. I guess they can all be described as some sort of wicked fairy tale but I think the “fairy” parts of these tales just come from the author’s magical-realism style and so, they are no less serious than his other works. It is also worth mentioning that they have very apparent touches on Latin American cultures.
We are nearing the end of our best Gabriel García Márquez books list and News of a Kidnapping will be the second last book that I will introduce to you. It is a product of the author’s journalist side and it tells an astonishing non-fiction story. The interesting thing about it is that it was published in 1996. Long after the author started writing fiction pieces and even received a Nobel Prize for them.
In 1990, ten Colombians were kidnapped by the Medellín drug lord Pablo Escobar. They were all journalists except one and Escobar had a very clear reason as to why he kidnapped them. He was considering surrender and he wanted to use the journalists to assure that he and his cartel would not be given to the United States if they did so.
An Unreal Story
The book also considers this chain of events from the perspectives of the secretive president Cesar Gaviria, three of the women who were abducted and kept for months, one of the most famous journalists in the country Diana Turbay, the eighty years old priest who wanted to help bring peace, and of course, Escobar himself. It is no mystery why Márquez wrote this non-fiction story, it is as unreal as his novels.
Living to Tell the Tale is one of the best rated Gabriel García Márquez books and it will be the closing piece of our article. It is another non-fiction book and it was published in 2002 which makes it one of the last publications of the writer. I must inform you though, it is a little different than his other non-fiction stories. It does not tell us of a great scandal or crisis. Instead, it narrates the life of the exceptional author.
Márquez intended this piece to be the first volume of a three-part autobiography and so, this piece talks about the earlier stages of his life. Unfortunately, though, it remains the only chapter written. In it, he talks about his life starting with his childhood years and ending with the day he proposed to his wife. We learn about his school years and his early career as a journalist and writer.
Lots of Connections
An important thing to note is that this book also includes many small details about surreal imagery in his magical-realism works. For example, you can make a lot of connections between the people in his life and the characters in One Hundred Years of Solitude but I will not spoil them for you right now. It is definitely one of the best Gabriel García Márquez books to read if you are already a fan of his.
In the history of literature, there are a handful of people who had just the right personality and a great amount of talent to change the form of their art drastically. Gabriel García Márquez was without a doubt one of them. Through his own self-exploration and artistic insight, he helped open brand new doors of expression with the written word. Although he is gone, he should forever be remembered as one of the handful. May he rest in peace.
Michael is a graduate of cultural studies and history. He enjoys a good bottle of wine and (surprise, surprise) reading. As a small-town librarian, he is currently relishing the silence and peaceful atmosphere that is prevailing.