The best novels set in the Caribbean

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since traveling across Cuba as a teenager in 2006, I’ve been fascinated by the Caribbean and Latin America. That trip inspired me to learn Spanish, study abroad in Mexico, and write a college honors thesis at Harvard about the Batista and Trujillo regimes in Cuba and the Dominican Republic respectively. Upon graduation, I merged this interest with my desire to serve my country by joining the Coast Guard – the military branch most involved in the Western Hemisphere. This proved to be a wise decision, as the two years I spent stationed in Puerto Rico and patrolling the Caribbean were two of the most enjoyable years of my life.


I wrote...

Mona Passage

By Thomas Bardenwerper,

Book cover of Mona Passage

What is my book about?

In 1991, young Galán Betances escapes Cuba, leaving behind his mother and developmentally challenged sister, Gabriela. In 2012, Pat McAllister joins the Coast Guard, determined to live up to the example set by his older brother, Danny, who was injured in Iraq.

When Galán and Pat meet as neighbors in San Juan, Puerto Rico, they build a friendship based on their shared status as outsiders and their common desire to heal. With Gabriela at risk of being committed to a mental health facility in Cuba, Galán arranges to have her smuggled to Puerto Rico via the treacherous Mona Passage. Pat, whose Coast Guard cutter patrols these waters for cocaine traffickers and migrants, must decide if he is willing to risk everything to unite a family.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Feast of the Goat

Thomas Bardenwerper Why did I love this book?

Set in the Dominican Republic, The Feast of the Goat explores the 1961 assassination of the monstrous dictator Rafael Trujillo from the perspectives of Trujillo himself, the assassins, and a Dominican emigrant who has returned to her native land decades later. Vargas Llosa recreates the suffocating atmosphere that pervaded the country in a way that no historian ever could. I had heard that the terrible legacy of Trujillo can still be felt today in the Dominican Republic, but I didn’t fully appreciate this until visiting Santo Domingo in 2017.

By Mario Vargas Llosa, Edith Grossman (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Feast of the Goat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The Feast of the Goat will stand out as the great emblematic novel of Latin America's twentieth century and removes One Hundred Years of Solitude of that title.' Times Literary Supplement

Urania Cabral, a New York lawyer, returns to the Dominican Republic after a lifelong self-imposed exile. Once she is back in her homeland, the elusive feeling of terror that has overshadowed her whole life suddenly takes shape. Urania's own story alternates with the powerful climax of dictator Rafael Trujillo's reign.

In 1961, Trujillo's decadent inner circle (which includes Urania's soon-to-be disgraced father) enjoys the luxuries of privilege while the…


Book cover of The Old Man and the Sea

Thomas Bardenwerper Why did I love this book?

This famous short story of Santiago, Manolin, and the marlin requires several readings. From the Cuban seaside village where Santiago and Manolin tend their gear and talk baseball to the cerulean blue waters of the Florida Straits where Santiago struggles with the marlin, so much is happening beneath the surface of Hemingway’s sentences. Having sailed these same waters with the Coast Guard, I have seen their majestic beauty and can understand why Hemingway choose them as the setting for arguably his greatest work. 

By Ernest Hemingway,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Old Man and the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This powerful and dignified story about a Cuban fisherman's struggle with a great fish has the universal appeal of a struggle between man and the elements, the hunter with the hunted. It earned Hemingway the Nobel prize and has been made into an acclaimed film. Age 13+


Book cover of Conquistadora

Thomas Bardenwerper Why did I love this book?

Esmeralda Santiago portrays the 19th-century journey of Ana Cubillas from imperial Spain to colonial outpost Puerto Rico. Cubillas has a complicated relationship with her family, slavery, and Puerto Rico, and the reader never knows quite what to think of her. Like Cubillas, Puerto Rico itself is complicated. I lived in San Juan for two years and grew to love the island, but I never felt like I quite understood it – any outsider who says they do is probably lying.

By Esmeralda Santiago,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As a young girl growing up in Spain, Ana Larragoity Cubillas is powerfully drawn to Puerto Rico by the diaries of an ancestor who traveled there with Ponce de Leon. And in handsome twin brothers Ramon and Inocente—both in love with Ana—she finds a way to get there. Marrying Ramon at the age of eighteen, she travels across the ocean to Hacienda los Gemelos, a remote sugar plantation the brothers have inherited. But soon the Civil War erupts in the United States, and Ana finds her livelihood, and perhaps even her life, threatened by the very people on whose backs…


Book cover of The Comedians

Thomas Bardenwerper Why did I love this book?

Three American men meet aboard a ship destined for 1950s Port-Au-Prince. These men, each of whom is a small-time big shot with inconsistent backgrounds, arrive in Haiti as “Papa Doc” Duvalier consolidates power. Much of this timeless story takes place in and around a darkly mysterious hotel that caters to an ebbing flow of foreigners. I say “timeless” because over half a century has passed since Greene wrote The Comedians, and the country of Haiti remains a mystery to that small subset of Americans that has deigned pay attention to it.

By Graham Greene,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Comedians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Three men meet on a ship bound for Haiti, a world in the grip of the corrupt "Papa Doc" and the Tontons Macoute, his sinister secret police. Brown the hotelier, Smith the innocent American and Jones the confidence man are the "Comedians" of Graham Greene's title.


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The Blue Prussian

By Eve Penrose,

Book cover of The Blue Prussian

Eve Penrose

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The Blue Prussian is a spellbinding story told by Blake O’Brien, a beautiful, young executive with a globetrotting career. Blake returns to her native Manhattan from San Francisco after escaping—or so she thinks—her marriage to a dashing man who turned out to be a prince of darkness. She had been hoping for a fresh start but learns that she has been poisoned with thallium—a deadly neurotoxin referred to as the poisoner’s poison.

Blake is treated with the only known antidote—Prussian blue—the same synthetic pigment with the deeply saturated hue used in dazzling masterpieces like The Starry Night and The Great…

The Blue Prussian

By Eve Penrose,

What is this book about?

"A modern-day Gaslight"

The Blue Prussian is a spellbinding story told by Blake O'Brien, a beautiful, young executive with a globetrotting career. Blake returns to her native Manhattan from San Francisco after escaping—or so she thinks—her marriage to a dashing man who turned out to be a prince of darkness. She had been hoping for a fresh start but learns that she has been poisoned with thallium—a deadly neurotoxin referred to as the poisoner's poison.

Blake is treated with the only known antidote—Prussian blue—the same synthetic pigment with the deeply saturated hue used in dazzling masterpieces like The Starry Night…


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Interested in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and Cuba?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.

The Caribbean Explore 199 books about the Caribbean
Puerto Rico Explore 23 books about Puerto Rico
Cuba Explore 86 books about Cuba