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Best books…chosen by Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende’s books have been translated into 37 languages and sold more than 57 million copies worldwide.

Isabel Allende’s books have been translated into 37 languages and sold more than 57 million copies worldwide. Her new novel, Ripper, is a murder mystery that’s set in San Francisco and features a teenage sleuth.

The Arabian Nights (Modern Library, $10). Imagine a solitary girl, 14 years old, in Lebanon, in the 1950s, reading these sensuous stories with a flashlight inside a closet to avoid parental censorship. That was me. A thousand and one nights, hundreds of stories, magic, eroticism, adventure, and mischievous characters: What an orgy of the senses and imagination! I keep all this in mind when I write.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (Harper Perennial, $19). The most important Latin American novel of the 20th century. Márquez’s characters seemed very familiar, and his voice sounded like my grandfather’s. I realized that with a family like mine, I didn’t have to invent anything to write fiction.

The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (Harper Perennial, $16). As a young woman, I was desperately angry with machismo until I read this 1970 book—revolutionary at the time—and discovered that there was an articulate, smart, and humorous way to tackle the patriarchy. I channeled my fury into action and became a feminist journalist.

Dracula by Bram Stoker (Dover, $5.50). We all know this macabre Victorian novel loaded with sexual innuendo, suspense, Christian paranoia, blood, mystery, and even a zoophagous madman. What is there not to like? It is badly written, but the story fascinates me to this day.

Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser (Villard, $16). Many years after my daughter’s premature death, Lesser’s spiritual memoir was a balm to my lingering sorrow. Broken down or broken open by pain? Bitterness or compassion? Self-pity or wisdom? These are choices we all have to make sooner or later.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Vintage, $15). Among the thousands of apocalyptic futuristic novels in existence, this one stands out as the most depressing. Yet it is so beautifully crafted that I have read it three times. In McCarthy’s tale, the love of a father for his son sheds the only light in the midst of supreme horror and darkness. What a writer!

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