Here we are at the big three! The #3 favorite book for me is.......
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera. In itself, it is one of the best titles for a book, and it only gets better from there.
From the wonderful opening line:
"IT WAS INEVITABLE: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love."
to the epic tale of just that, an amazing, fantastic, meandering tale from the brilliant imagination of Garcia Marquez.
You can read the full excerpt of the opening salvo here.
Garcia Mazrquez was best known for his tour de force One Hundred Years of Solitude (opening line: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."), but this book was the first one of his I read, and perhaps that is why this makes my list and not the other.
Garcia Marquez, who writes in Spanish, but has the benefit of some amazing translators (Edith Grossman being the trnaslator of Cholera and every book since), is known as a writer of magical realism. He is the benchmark by which other Latin American authors are judged.
A publisher's website summarizes the book better than I can:
In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermino Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs--yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.
With humorous sagacity and consummate craft, García Márquez traces an exceptional half-century story of unrequited love. Though it seems never to be conveniently contained, love flows through the novel in many wonderful guises--joyful, melancholy, enriching, ever surprising.
I can only whole-heartedly and enthusiastically recommend this author. I have not read his latest, also wonderfully-titled, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, but I have read several others, including The General in His Labyrinth and Of Love and Other Demons.
If you have not yet discovered the magic of Garcia Marquez and his imagined, yet believably real worlds, check him out now. Enjoy!