Isabel Allende is one of the most widely read authors in the world, having sold more than 77 million books. She won worldwide acclaim in 1982 with the publication of her first novel, The House of the Spirits, which began as a letter to her dying grandfather in her home country of Chile. Since then, she has written almost 30 best-selling and critically acclaimed books, including Daughter of Fortune, Paula, and her memoir The Soul of a Woman. In addition to her work as a writer, Allende devotes much of her time to human rights causes. In 1996, following the death of her daughter, Paula, she established a charitable foundation in her honor that has awarded grants to more than 100 nonprofits worldwide. In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Allende the Presidential Medal of Freedom.