The best books on Central America

Who am I?

Ryan Murdock is Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Outpost, Canada’s national travel magazine, and a weekly columnist for The Shift, an independent Maltese news portal. His feature articles have taken him across a remote stretch of Canada’s Northwest Territories on foot, into the Central Sahara in search of prehistoric rock art, and around Wales with a drug squad detective hunting for the real King Arthur.


I wrote...

Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America

By Ryan Murdock,

Book cover of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America

What is my book about?

Vagabond Dreams explores the process of psychological and emotional change experienced by the traveller, set against the backdrop of a solo journey through Central America. No trip has the same impact of that first time you set out alone on the road. It mirrors The Hero’s Journey, but without grand heroism. This is a personal mythology, revealed by the self-imposed hardships of the road.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Around the Edge: A Journey Amoung Pirates, Guerrillas, Former Cannibals And Turtle Fishermen Along the Miskito Coast

Ryan Murdock Why did I love this book?

A journey on foot and by sea from Belize to Panama along the Mosquito Coast. Few roads penetrate this land of thick jungle, home to native Miskito, Rama, and Garifuna peoples, and at the time of his trip, rife with drug smugglers, CIA-sponsored rebels fighting the Sandinistas, and normal people living ordinary lives. It’s an unusual travel book about a little-known region, and it made me want to go there.

By Peter Ford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Around the Edge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An English journalist describes his travels along the Central American Caribbean coast from Belize to Panama


Book cover of The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914

Ryan Murdock Why did I love this book?

This is the story of the men and women who battled landslides, yellow fever, and rugged geography to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of carving a navigable passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The story of the Panama Canal is history that reads like a thriller, rife with political intrigue, technological innovation, medical breakthroughs, and the creation of a new country. It’s a brick of a book, and you won’t be able to put it down.

By David McCullough,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Path Between the Seas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Describes all the events and personalities involved in the monumental undertaking which precipitated revolution, scandal, economic crisis, and a new Central American republic.


Book cover of Salvador

Ryan Murdock Why did I love this book?

An account of El Salvador’s era of “disappearances” from one of the best non-fiction writers of her generation. Didion interviews the president, visits smoldering body dumps on the edge of San Salvador, and captures the atmosphere of revolution, civil strife, and Soviet-American rivalry that afflicted El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala in the 1980s. Essential reading for understanding the scars that continue to plague the region today.

By Joan Didion,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Salvador as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

El Salvador, 1982, is at the height of a ghastly civil war. Joan Didion travels from battlefields to body dumps, interviews a puppet president, considers the distinctly Salvadorean meaning of the verb 'to disappear' and trains a merciless eye not only on the terror there but also on the depredations and evasions of US foreign policy. Salvador is a restless and unflinching masterclass in the art of reportage by one of the great literary stylists of the twentieth century.


Book cover of Harry Morgan's Way: The Biography Of Sir Henry Morgan 1635-1688

Ryan Murdock Why did I love this book?

Henry Morgan was the scourge of the Spanish Main. Riches were brought to Europe each year by a treasure fleet of heavily armed galleons that collected loot on the coast of Panama before setting sail for the old world. Morgan captured Spain’s coastal fort of Portobelo and did what none had done before — crossed the isthmus to sack Panama City. He would later become acting Governor of Jamaica, but his exploits as a privateer, ably told by naval historian Dudley Pope, cemented his legend.

By Dudley Pope,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Harry Morgan's Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Morgan the Pirate' is a name long associated with all the trappings of pirate living - skull and crossbones, pieces of eight, speeding ships, almost in fact 'with a yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum'. As legend has it, his was a life of high adventure, dastardly battles and more than a few gold coins thrown in, collected by underhand means of course. Yet if this legend is true, why did Charles II knight him at the height of his career and why was he given the exalted position of governor of Jamaica? In this authoritative biography, Dudley Pope lays…


Book cover of Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico

Ryan Murdock Why did I love this book?

Far from being an extinct people swallowed by the jungle-like their famous temples, the Maya make up a significant percentage of the population of southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize, with vibrant ancient languages that are still spoken today. This beautifully written account of contemporary Maya culture will help you understand a remarkable people who explored the world through arithmetic and time.

By Ronald Wright,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Time Among the Maya as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Cut Stones and Crossroads" and "On Fiji Island" are previous books by Ronald Wright, author of this book concerned with the Maya, who in the first millennium AD, created the most intellectually and artistically advanced civilization native to the Americas. Despite a mysterious collapse in the ninth century and Spanish invasion in the 16th century, some five million people throughout Guatemala, Belize and south-eastern Mexico still speak Maya languages and preserve a Maya identity today. Ronald Wright set out to discover the roots of the Maya and the extent of their survival after centuries of invasion and a recent civil…


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The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

By Maryka Biaggio,

Book cover of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

Maryka Biaggio Author Of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Historical fiction author Lover of hidden stories Research nerd Opera fanatic

Maryka's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Model Spy is based on the true story of Toto Koopman, who spied for the Allies and Italian Resistance during World War II.

Largely unknown today, Toto was arguably the first woman to spy for the British Intelligence Service. Operating in the hotbed of Mussolini's Italy, she courted danger every step of the way. As the war entered its final stages, she faced off against the most brutal of forces—Germany's Intelligence Service, the Abwehr.

The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

By Maryka Biaggio,

What is this book about?

Celebrated model Toto Koopman had beauty, brains, and fame. Born to a Dutch father and Indonesian mother, she took up the life of a bon vivant in 1920s Paris and modeled for Vogue magazine and Coco Chanel. But modeling didn’t satisfy her. Fluent in six languages, she was adventurous and fascinated by world politics.

In London she attracted the attention of Lord Beaverbrook, the William Randolph Hearst of England. She soon became his confidante, companion, and translator, traversing the Continent and finding herself caught in the winds of impending war. Beaverbrook introduced her to influential people, including a director at…


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Interested in Central America, Pirates, and civil rights?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Central America, Pirates, and civil rights.

Central America Explore 32 books about Central America
Pirates Explore 80 books about Pirates
Civil Rights Explore 116 books about civil rights