Top Latino Books of 2007

Authors pick their 2007 favorite books

Carlos Rodríguez Martorell
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Friday, December 14th 2007, 2:21 PM

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in a list of the best Latino books of the year, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” by Junot Díaz, got the most votes.

But Viva’s second annual favorites-of-the-year survey also proves that there is much more out there to discover in the Latino literary scene — in and outside the U.S., in English and Spanish.

To help you browse through an endless array of novelties, we asked 12 leading authors to name their favorite book of the year, and to let us peek into what they have in store for 2008.

EDUARDO LAGO (Spain-New York City)
His 2006 debut novel “Llámame Brooklyn” won Spain’s Nadal and National Critics’ prizes, and was voted best Latino book in last year’s Viva list.

PICKS: “The Art of Political Murder,” Francisco Goldman: “A very rigorous investigative work about political corruption in Guatemala, which also serves as a metaphor for all Latin America.”

“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” Junot Díaz: “A miracle in the current culture of junk entertainment.”

JUNOT DíAZ (New York City-Dominican Republic)
Author of the literary event of the year “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” which is raking in the awards, including best novel by New York and Time magazines – and Viva. “Hopefully next year I’ll actually start writing something else. Something longer than five pages.”

PICKS: “A Chance in Hell,” Gilbert Hernández: “A terrifying graphic novel. Couldn’t put it down, so disturbing and merciless.”

“El Olor de la Memoria,” Rhina Espaillat: “Tender, cunning, ravishingly beautiful.”

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN (New York City-Guatemala)
Twice a PEN/Faulkner award finalist for his novels, this year he published the non-fiction “The Art of Political Murder: Who killed the Bishop?” about the murder of the Guatemalan Bishop Gerardi in 1998.

PICKS: “Oscar Wao”: “Tremendous and trailblazing.”

“Lost City Radio,” Daniel Alarcón: “Lucid, terrifying, poetic and brilliant.”

LUIS ALBERTO URREA (Naperville, Ill.-Mexico)
Pulitzer Prize nonfiction finalist for 2005’s “The Devil’s Highway,” he’s finishing a “comedic epic novel” about immigration. “I’ll embark on ‘Hummingbird’s Daughter II’ [a followup to his best-selling 2006 novel] and complete the editing on a new volume of poems.”

PICK: “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue,” Manuel Muñoz: “An extraordinary writer with immense promise.”

JULIA ÁLVAREZ (Middlebury, Vt.-Dominican Republic)
Author of the celebrated novel “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents,” next summer she’ll be touring with her latest book, “Once Upon A Quinceañera.” “I’m working on a new book for young readers of all ages.”

PICKS: “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza,” Gloria Anzaldua (Reissued in 2007): “She really gave us, especially Latinas, the vocabulary and framework with which to understand ourselves as hybrid beings.”

“The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue,” Manuel Muñoz: “Muñoz maps out a culture and community of central California in interlocking stories that have moody mysteriousness and tenderness about them.”

PABLO DE SANTIS (Argentina)
Winner of this year’s first Planeta-Casa de América Ibero-American Narrative Prize for “El Enigma de París.” “I’m finishing with filmmaker Juan Pablo Buscarini the screenplay for the movie ‘El inventor de juegos,’ based on a novel of mine.”

PICKS: “La Muerte Lenta de Luciana B.” Guillermo Martínez: “A suffocating thriller where two versions of truth collide.”

“Los Hombres Invisibles,” Mario Mendoza: “Mendoza keeps masterfully mixing reality and fiction.”


EDMUNDO PAZ SOLDÁN
(Ithaca, N.Y.-Bolivia)
Winner of the 2002 Bolivian National Book Award for “Turing’s Delirium.” “I’m finishing a short novel, the first one set completely in the U.S. In February I will co-edit a book of essays about [Chilean writer] Roberto Bolaño.”

PICK: “Oscar Wao”: “It has everything for the demanding reader. Bursting with humor … It’s also the modern, painful story of the Dominican Republic and an account of the survival of many Latino immigrants in the U.S.”

ACHY OBEJAS (Chicago-Cuba)
Journalist and author of “Days of Awe,” and editor of this year’s detective stories compilation, “Havana Noir.” “I’m finishing the translation into Spanish of Junot’s book, and a collection of my own stories. And I’m on the threshold of completing a new novel.”

PICK: “Oscar Wao”: “It mixes high and low culture, history and invention, wicked humor and genuine sentiment.”

ROBERTO AMPUERO (Des Moines, Iowa-Chile)
Author of the best-selling “Pasiones Griegas” and a popular series featuring Cuban detective Cayetano Brulé. “I’m working on a new novel, to be published next year [and] following closely the filming of ‘Nuestros Años Verde Olivo,’ about one of my novels.”

PICKS: “La razón de los amantes,” Pablo Simonetti: “An extremely elegant psychological novel about a heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual love triangle in modern Santiago de Chile’s upper class.”

“El misterio de las Tanias,” Sebastian Edwards: “Whoever likes Latin American spy novels has to read this one.”

ANGIE CRUZ
(New York City)
Author of the celebrated Washington Heights chronicle “Let It Rain Coffee.” “I have adapted my first novel, ‘Soledad,’ for the screen and I am at work on the third novel, ‘In Search of Caridad.'”

PICK: “Handbook of Luck,” Cristina García: “Hilarious storytelling and a mix of complex characters that engage the reader in larger political and historical events.”

MARY CASTILLO
(Orange County, Calif.)
Mexican-American author of chica lit novels such as “Hot Tamara.” “I plan to write two new books … Also, I’ve adapted my novel ‘Switchcraft’ into a screenplay.”

PICK: “It’s Not About the Accent,” Caridad Ferrer. “Women of all ages can relate to her journey of self-discovery.”

JORGE FRANCO (Colombia)
Author of the acclaimed novel “Rosario Tijeras” (2004). The film adaptation of his “Paraíso Travel,” starring John Leguizamo, will premiere in January. He’s working on a new novel and writing a film adaptation of his first novel, “Mala Noche.”

PICK: “El Enigma de París,” Pablo de Santis: “It exalts the detective genre in a universal setting, but with a very Latin-American undertone.”

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