The best books on Peru

The Books I Picked & Why

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

By Charles C. Mann

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

Why this book?

Peru and South America had over 5,000 years of civilizations before the continent was “discovered” by Europeans. A great overview of that enormous sweep of history is Man’s 1491, which paints a picture of just how fascinating so many of those pre-Hispanic cultures were. It’s the next best thing to taking a trip in a time machine and flying over the area yourself.


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Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

By Jared Diamond

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Why this book?

If you ever wondered by Francisco Pizarro was able to travel to Peru and capture the Inca emperor, Atahuallpa instead of Atahuallpa traveling to Spain and capturing the Spanish King, then this is the book for you. Diamond’s magnum opus will not only help you understand Incan and pre-Incan civilizations, but will also illuminate the rise of civilizations in general, and why some are better positioned to conquer others.


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The Shining Path: Love, Madness, and Revolution in the Andes

By Orin Starn, Miguel La Serna

The Shining Path: Love, Madness, and Revolution in the Andes

Why this book?

Peru is often described as a country that is a combination of the coast, the Andes, and the Amazon, and this book on the origin of the Maoist Shining Path group in the Andes not only illuminates some of Peru’s recent political history, but also shines a light on many of the disparities that still exist between rural and urban Peru and between la costa, la sierra, and la Amazonia.


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Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time

By Mark Adams

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time

Why this book?

This is a fun, evocative account of the author retracing the steps of Hiram Bingham, the “discoverer” of the Inca citadel, Machu Picchu, published 100 years after its discovery. It’s also about the cast of characters that the author meets along the way. If you’ve ever wanted to take a long trek in the Andes in extremely rugged terrain, stumbling across Inca ruins all along the way--then this is the book for you.


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Mother of God: An Extraordinary Journey Into the Uncharted Tributaries of the Western Amazon

By Paul Rosolie

Mother of God: An Extraordinary Journey Into the Uncharted Tributaries of the Western Amazon

Why this book?

No one should make a trip to Peru--whether physically or via literature--without visiting the Amazon Jungle, which makes up 60% of Peru’s territory and is a whole world unto itself. The Upper Amazon is the Earth’s final frontier, where uncontacted Amerindians still roam, and that contains some of the richest biodiversity on Earth. This book will take you right into the thick of it.


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