The end of the year is always a time to look back and see what you did with your time. For me, that includes checking my GoodReads reading challenge and noticing that –one again– I failed at it, but it was totally worth it.
It is also a moment of the year when I remember which books I loved the most, think of which ones I would like to read again, and which new ones I want to read. So, in case it helps some lost bookworm out there asking herself the same questions, here is a selection of 4 books I would like to re-read next year. From oldest to newest, here they go.
“Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype” (1992/1995) by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
“Women Who Run with the Wolves” is Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés’s fascinating recount of traditional stories from all over the world on women’s nature. Dr. Pinkola Estés is a Mestiza Latina –Native American/Mexican Spanish, as she describes herself in her website– who has worked extensively in psychoanalysis and how it relates with nearly vanished oral and ethnic traditions. This book is a result of that research.
This book always becomes an intimate object because it is impossible not to see yourself in it. Due to its mixture of global myths and psychoanalytical tools, it is certain to have several chapters that will make you feel or think, “Fuck, that was me X years ago,” or
“God, that was the man I struggled to run away from,” or even “Now I understand why I always have a hard time letting go of things and what to do about it.”
You might want to read it all at once (like I did) or just open a random page each time and enjoy the wisdom it has to offer you, but it is certain to enlighten you in one way or another.
You can get it in Kindle, printed, and audiobook versions here.
“Havana Fever” (2009) by Leonardo Padura
“Havana Fever,” the English version of Padura’s “La neblina del ayer” (2005), tells an episode in the story of Mario Conde, a retired policeman in La Habana, Cuba, who now (barely) makes a living by selling second-hand books.
“Havana Fever” story starts when Mario Conde finds a decrepit mansion where the only thing left to be sold is its impressive library, untouched for 43 years. Inside, he finds a recipe book he takes to his best friend’s house, and while they drink before the feast, they find in-between the pages the picture of a sensual bolero singer, Violeta del Río who disappeared in the 1950s. Conde then dusts off his research skills, and the police novel begins.
You can find it in Kindle and printed versions here.
“Sudden Death” (2016) by Álvaro Enrigue
It is difficult to describe in a few words what “Sudden Death” is about, but let’s begin by saying that Salman Rushdie qualified it as the best novel he read the year it was published in English.
The novel begins with a tennis match between Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, the Italian painter who changed the history of art, and Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas, one of the greatest writers of Spanish poetry.
From what is recorded in Quevedo’s historical gossip and in the many legal proceedings that were opened against Caravaggio, both were drunkards and brawlers in addition to great artists. While Caravaggio and Quevedo serve, defend and score points and insults to each other, Enrigue takes us on a journey through the history of Italy, Spain, and Mexico. We see Pope Pius IV and Cardinals Borromeo and Montalto sowing Europe with fires, the Maliche sullying her world-changing clitoris, and Hernán Cortés winning an impossible battle, thinking it was only the first one, and sinking “into his own shit with his sword held up high.”
This description is frantic because the novel is a vortex. So much so that towards the end of the book Enrigue confesses:
“I don’t know, as I write it, what this book is about, what it tells. It’s not exactly about a tennis match. Nor is it a book about America’s slow and mysterious integration into what we obscenely call ‘the Western world’ –for Americans, Europe is the East. Maybe it is a book that is only about how this book could be told; maybe all books are only about that—a book with ups and downs, like a game of tennis. […] I don’t know what this book is about. I know I wrote it in rage because the bad guys always win. Maybe all books are written only because the bad guys play to their advantage, and that’s unbearable.”
You can find the Kindle and printed versions here.
“Nuestra parte de noche” (2019) (“Our Share of Night” out in 2022) by Mariana Enríquez
In this novel, Mariana Enríquez –this queen of the New Latin American Gothic– tells two horror stories: the story of a man trying to save his son from his destiny –becoming a vessel for his father’s soul to continue being a medium a sect called The Order– and the story of the Argentinian dictatorship.
As the two stories intertwine and you gain more information on the social context and The Order’s cult for darkness, the book becomes more difficult to let go of. With this novel, Marian Enríquez won the Herralde Prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in Spanish. “Nuestra parte de noche” will be published next year by Granta.