Our Recommended Reading List for Latin America
Want to dive into a country beyond a guidebook? Pick up one of these and it will have you planning your next trip to Latin America.
Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes and Revolutionaries by Kim Macquarrie consists of short stories along the spine of the Andes from Tierra del Fuego to Colombia. The author’s ability to share so much knowledge and detail on cultural, historical, anthropological, geographical, environmental, aspects but in a way that leaves you not wanting to put the book down and as if you are along on a great adventure story.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende – The saga of a family across four generations that also traces the turbulent history of an unnamed Latin American country (which pointed similarity to Chile.)
Poetry of Pablo Neruda – Chile’s Noble prize winning poet and later politician. Favorites include Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, The Captain’s Verses , Odes to Common Things and The Book of Questions
One River by Wade Davis is a rollicking adventure story that crisscrosses the Andes from Colombia down to Peru, that touches on so many topics it’s hard to summarize in a paragraph. Tie together botany, ethnobotany, natural history, indigenous tribes, world history, culture and conquest and you have a book that will leave your head spinning and ready to jump on your next flight to the Andes.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Young and passionate lovers, Fermina and Florentino are separated by social class and grow apart to live separate lives throughout decades. After 50 years of marriage Fermina’s husband finally dies falling out of a mango tree (trying to retrieve his pet parrot) and Florentino confesses his undying love to her once again at the funeral, claiming to maintain a pure heart over the years despite hundreds of affairs and trysts with other women. (also a film)
The General In His Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Fictional recollection of the last days of Simon Bolivar as he faces death and cynically reflects on his life. Darker than his other books.
Savages by Joe Kane takes readers deep and intimately into the Ecuadorian Amazon to tell the tale of the Huaorani Tribe and their fragile tightrope walk between defending their ancestral traditions and history against the onslaught of missionaries, oil companies and the government. A fantastic book about Ecuador.
The Panama Hat Trail by Tom Miller. Most people don’t realize that “Panama” Hats are actually made in Ecuador. This book not only tells you this but uses the Panama Hat as a literary focus to tell the tale of Ecuador from a unique angle.
The Jaguar Smile: Salman Rushdie’s first nonfiction book about his travels in Nicaragua in 1986, in the midst of America’s behind-the-scenes war against the Sandinistas. Great story telling about the people, politics, land and poetry of Nicaragua from a perspective that isn’t told in the United States.
The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough. Thorough by engrossing epic that traces the creation of the Panama Canal and packs a ton of historical detail that provides the traveler with context for understanding Panama today.
Last Days of the Incas by Kim Macquarrie is the definitive historical narrative of the discovery and conquest of the Incan Empire by the Spanish. This is the one book to read if you are going to Peru.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams is a great adventure book about exploring the true “lost cities of the Incas” in modern times. Part travelogue and part historical narrative, this book will get you excited about adventuring in the Incan heartland and introduce many characters still involved in the tourism landscape of Peru today.
Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa. Thriller, mystery & political allegory. Three male laborers go missing in the Andes and two Peruvian Army officers are sent to live among a remote village while they search for them. Weaves the modern terror of the Shining Path with ancient about monsters (pishtacos – a pale vampire) and black magic in the high Andes and the mistrust of people from different worlds.
A Neotropical Companion by John Kricher is the definitive handbook for anyone traveling to the tropical rainforests of Central or South America. Any biologist or naturalist has this in their travel library and uses it until it falls apart apart and they are sent looking for a new one.
The Motorcycle Diaries – Ernesto Guevara’s Memoirs of nine months on the road in Latin America that shaped the future revolutionaries’ beliefs that the only way to correct institutionalized inequalities was to enable the poor to rise up in armed revolution.
The War for Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts by Louis De Berniers – Hilarious parody on magical realism and many of the themes common to Latin American literature. The first of a trilogy. Highly recommend all three if you enjoy the first one.
The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano – Poems, short stories, illustrations and prose by the Uruguayan author – a mix of autobiography, political commentary and magical realism.
Did we omit a book that should be on this list? Leave a comment and let us know!