With His Pistol in His Hand by Américo Paredes (Univ. of Texas, $19). Written with fine humor, Paredes's book explores the story behind a popular ballad about a Texas Mexican who in 1901 was wrongly accused of being a horse thief and stood up to the Texas Rangers who chased him. It's a fascinating account of the incident, and of the racism that Mexican-Americans lived through.

The Burning Plain by Juan Rulfo (Univ. of Texas, $18). As major an influence on Latin American fiction as Jorge Luis Borges, Rulfo produced a poetic, mythic rendering of the stark, arid reality of "El Norte" — northern Mexico. He is our Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and Chekhov. Nobody — and I mean nobody — is better.

Brides and Sinners in El Chuco by Christine Granados (Univ. of Arizona, $15). It is only since the mid-'70s that literature by Chicanos has even been a speck on a distant horizon in our country. Even less than a speck has been Chicana fiction. Granados represents the beginning of a new direction in fiction. In this 2006 collection, the characters she inhabits are both powerfully strong and messed up — just as poor and working-class people really are.

The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo by Oscar Zeta Acosta (Vintage, $15). Acosta is the "Samoan" lawyer in Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Some say Thompson stole his ideas from Acosta (and his style, too!). The dude is as hilarious as he is fired up and sad.

Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa (Aunt Lute, $17). The seminal work by a Chicana feminist who treated the border not only as the physical presence that it is but as a metaphor of both gender and sexual identity. Anzaldúa transmuted scholarly writing into a kind of poetic prose that was fiercely political.

The Account by Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (Arte Público, $13). The shipwrecked Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca lived for nine years among the indigenous people of what is now Texas, New Mexico, and northern Mexico. His tale of survival is one of the most fabulous and mysterious ever told.

Dagoberto Gilb is an award-winning novelist and short-story writer. His new book, Before the End, After the Beginning, collects stories he's written since he suffered a stroke in 2009.