Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (Grove/Atlantic, $13). Miller is the writer who gave me the initial stimulus to write. When I read Miller, I said to myself, “Okay, this is literature.” He was a rebellious writer whose books were censored for years, and that in itself was meaningful for me.
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges (Grove/Atlantic, $13). I read one of Borges’ short stories in a science-fiction magazine when I was 20, and I immediately fell in love with his style and his universe. Later on, I discovered that the short story, “The Babel Library,” was part of this collection of short stories. Borges is the only South American writer all of whose books I have read and reread.
Or I’ll Dress You in Mourning by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins (out of print). This novel narrates the trajectory of one of last century’s most famous bullfighters, El Cordobés. The interesting point in the narrative of the book is the interpolation of the great bullfight in Madrid—where he will receive what is called the “alternativa” (that is, become a fully fledged bullfighter)—with the story of his life and of the bullfighting culture.
Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado (Vintage, $15). Amado is the best Brazilian writer. He portrayed the Brazilian spirit to the world.
The Stranger by Albert Camus (Vintage, $11). The very first pages of this violent book mesmerized me. I read it in my 30s and was fascinated by Camus’ simple and direct language. Given the increasing xenophobic tendencies in the world nowadays, the book is very topical.
1984 by George Orwell (Penguin, $10). I recently reread this book and was impressed by its visionary quality. Orwell’s thinking is implacable, unraveling our desires for freedom as well as our craving for power. This capacity to dive into the very essence of man makes 1984 timeless.