The best books about Cuba, the Revolution, and Cuban exiles

Who am I?

Over fifty years ago I joined the Peace Corps in El Salvador. I married a Salvadoran woman, and our child was born during our two-year stay on a backcountry farm in Chile. My interest in Latin America has never faded—and in my latest novel, The World Against Her Skin, which is based on my mother’s life, I give her a pair of years in the Peace Corps. But it is Cuba that remains the most fascinating of all the countries south of our border, and of course I had to write about the giant turn it took in 1959, and the men and women who spurred that revolution.


I wrote...

A Hundred Fires in Cuba

By John Thorndike,

Book cover of A Hundred Fires in Cuba

What is my book about?

Clare Miller, a young American photographer, must choose between her stable Cuban husband and her first love, Camilo Cienfuegos. In real life, Camilo was the most charismatic of Castro’s rebel fighters. In this novel he’s also the father of Clare’s child. Unlike most of Fidel’s comandantes, Camilo likes to dance and drink. He likes women, and too many women like him. Clare worries that he’ll never make a good parent, but she cannot resist him.

The books I picked & why

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King of Cuba

By Cristina García,

Book cover of King of Cuba

Why this book?

Cristina Garcia has become the definitive chronicler of both Cuba and Cuban exiles. King of Cuba tells the story of two men: El Comandante (also called the despot, the tyrant, or El Líder—clearly this is Fidel) and a Miami exile, Goyo Herrera, who is as old and infirm as Castro himself. Garcia’s portrait of the desperation and ignominies these two old guys suffer, and of their hopeless attempts to cleave to past glories, transcends Cuban history and brings us two men I found cantankerous and self-inflating, but irresistible.

King of Cuba

By Cristina García,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A “darkly hilarious” (Elle) novel about a fictionalized Fidel Castro and an octogenarian Cuban exile obsessed with seeking revenge by the National Book Award finalist Cristina García, this “clever, well-conceived dual portrait shows what connects and divides Cubans inside and outside of the island” (Kirkus Reviews).

Vivid and teeming with life, King of Cuba transports readers to Cuba and Miami, and into the heads of two larger-than-life men: a fictionalized Fidel Castro and an octogenarian Cuban exile obsessed with seeking revenge against the dictator. García’s masterful twinning of these characters combines with a rabble of other Cuban voices to portray…


Telex from Cuba

By Rachel Kushner,

Book cover of Telex from Cuba

Why this book?

A portrait of the privileged American families living in Cuba just before the Revolution. Their concerns are the United Fruit Company and the sugarcane that surrounds them in Oriente Province, but they are soon to be thrown into tumult by Fidel Castro and his rebel soldiers, who have been building their revolution in the Sierra Maestra. This is a subtle and beautifully-written reminder of how an entire world can be turned upside down, something few in that community saw coming. In these tumultuous days, it sometimes makes me wonder about my own community.

Telex from Cuba

By Rachel Kushner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

FROM THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE SHORTLISTED AUTHOR OF THE MARS ROOM

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN FICTION

Fidel and Raul Castro are in the hills, descending only to burn sugarcane plantations and recruit rebels.

Rachel K is in Havana's Cabaret Tokio, entangled with a French agitator trying to escape his shameful past.

Everly and K.C. are growing up in the dying days of a crumbling US colony, about to discover the cruelty and violence that have created their childhood idyll.


One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution

By Nancy Stout,

Book cover of One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution

Why this book?

Stout gives us, in remarkable detail, the life of a woman deeply involved with the Cuban Revolution. Just how deeply came as a revelation to me. No book, I believe, in either Spanish or English, has told us a tenth as much about Celia Sanchez. Celia was Fidel’s partner through all the early days of the movement. I was swept along by the clear prose, the dynamic character of Celia Sanchez, and a thousand stories I’d never heard before. The Cuban Revolution, like many others, has been mythologized, and here is the perfect antidote: the story of a determined woman operating at the very heart of the Revolution.

One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution

By Nancy Stout,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Day in December as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celia Sánchez is the missing actor of the Cuban Revolution. Although not as well known in the English-speaking world as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Sánchez played a pivotal role in launching the revolution and administering the revolutionary state. She joined the clandestine 26th of July Movement and went on to choose the landing site of the Granma and fight with the rebels in the Sierra Maestra. She collected the documents that would form the official archives of the revolution, and, after its victory, launched numerous projects that enriched the lives of many Cubans, from parks to literacy programs to…


Loving Che

By Ana Menendez,

Book cover of Loving Che

Why this book?

A novel that reads like a memoir. After a childhood in Miami, the narrator explores her links to her Cuban past—and what Cuban exile has not done the same? But here are intimate, stimulating scenes that tie us to the Revolution, and in particular to Che Guevara. As Menendez writes, “Every trip to Havana is a dance between wanting to believe in the good of people and protecting oneself from the desperation that poisons every interaction.”

Loving Che

By Ana Menendez,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this “evocative first novel,” an elderly woman looks back on the world of revolutionary Cuba as she recalls her intimate, secret love affair with Ernesto “Che” Guevara (Publishers Weekly).
 
A young Cuban woman has been searching in vain for details of her birth mother. All she knows of her past is that her grandfather fled the turbulent Havana of the 1960s for Miami with her in tow, and that pinned to her sweater—possibly by her mother—were a few treasured lines of a Pablo Neruda poem. These facts remain her only tenuous links to her history, until a mysterious parcel…


Fidel: A Critical Portrait

By Tad Szulc,

Book cover of Fidel: A Critical Portrait

Why this book?

It was here that I first discovered Camilo Cienfuegos—whom I write about in my book. Camilo was the last of 82 men to board a small yacht, the Granma, which sailed, in November of 1956, from Tuxpan, Mexico to the south shore of Cuba. Fifteen men survived the landing and made their way up into the Sierra Maestra to start the Revolution. This is one of the hemisphere’s most remarkable stories, and Szulc’s book remains the definitive work on Fidel Castro and his campaign to unseat Fulgencio Batista.

Fidel: A Critical Portrait

By Tad Szulc,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The outcome of a long, direct relationship, this riveting portrait reveals astonishing and exclusive information about Cuba, the revolution, and the notorious, larger-than-life leader who has ruled his country with an iron fist for more than forty years. Only Tad Szulc could bring Fidel to such vivid life--the loves and losses of the man, the devious tactics of the conspirator, the triumphs and defeats of the revolutionary leader who challenged an American president and brought the world to the brink of nuclear disaster. From Jesuit schools to jungle hideouts and the Palace of the Revolution, here is FIDEL...THE UNTOLD STORY.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Cuba, Fidel Castro, and exile?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Cuba, Fidel Castro, and exile.

Cuba Explore 62 books about Cuba
Fidel Castro Explore 13 books about Fidel Castro
Exile Explore 13 books about exile

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Back Channel to Cuba, Pleasure Island, and The Art of White Roses if you like this list.