100 books like Pleasure Island

By Rosalie Schwartz,

Here are 100 books that Pleasure Island fans have personally recommended if you like Pleasure Island. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Cuba in the American Imagination: Metaphor and the Imperial Ethos

Van Gosse Author Of Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War and the Making of a New Left

From my list on Cuba and the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

Van Gosse, Professor of History at Franklin & Marshall College, is the author of Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America, and the Making of a New Left, published in 1993 and still in print, a classic account of how "Yankees" engaged with the Cuban Revolution in its early years. Since then he has published widely on solidarity with Latin America and the New Left; for the past ten years he has also taught a popular course, "Cuba and the United States: The Closest of Strangers."

Van's book list on Cuba and the United States

Van Gosse Why did Van love this book?

Perez is a commanding figure in this scholarship, deeply learned. I like teaching this concise book of his, full of powerful illustrations (cartoons over many decades), because it really gets at how North Americans have projected their racialized and sexualized fantasies and obsessions onto this island, unable to perceive Cubans as real people, let alone historical actors.

By Louis A. Pérez,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This title presents the images of beneficence, acts of aggression.For more than two hundred often turbulent years, Americans have imagined and described Cuba and its relationship to the United States by conjuring up a variety of striking images - Cuba as a woman, a neighbor, a ripe fruit, a child learning to ride a bicycle. One of the foremost historians of Cuba, Louis A. Perez Jr. offers a revealing history of these metaphorical and depictive motifs and uncovers the powerful motives behind such characterizations of the island.Perez analyzes the dominant images and their political effectiveness as they have persisted and…


Book cover of Guantánamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution

Van Gosse Author Of Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War and the Making of a New Left

From my list on Cuba and the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

Van Gosse, Professor of History at Franklin & Marshall College, is the author of Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America, and the Making of a New Left, published in 1993 and still in print, a classic account of how "Yankees" engaged with the Cuban Revolution in its early years. Since then he has published widely on solidarity with Latin America and the New Left; for the past ten years he has also taught a popular course, "Cuba and the United States: The Closest of Strangers."

Van's book list on Cuba and the United States

Van Gosse Why did Van love this book?

“Gitmo” is where the relationship between these nations gets concrete, through the protectorate (1902-1934), republican (1934-1959), and revolutionary eras (1959-present). This fine study gets down into the nitty-gritty of who labors for whom (Cubans for the U.S. military), who controls the physical space in and around a foreign military base (and the foreign military based in it), and the steadily growing class conflict in this flashpoint of empire leading up to the Revolution, followed by an odd stasis since then.

By Jana K. Lipman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Guantanamo has become a symbol of what has gone wrong in the War on Terror. Yet Guantanamo is more than a U.S. naval base and prison in Cuba, it is a town, and our military occupation there has required more than soldiers and sailors - it has required workers. This revealing history of the women and men who worked on the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay tells the story of U.S.-Cuban relations from a new perspective, and at the same time, shows how neocolonialism, empire, and revolution transformed the lives of everyday people.Drawing from rich oral histories and little-explored…


Book cover of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana

Van Gosse Author Of Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War and the Making of a New Left

From my list on Cuba and the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

Van Gosse, Professor of History at Franklin & Marshall College, is the author of Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America, and the Making of a New Left, published in 1993 and still in print, a classic account of how "Yankees" engaged with the Cuban Revolution in its early years. Since then he has published widely on solidarity with Latin America and the New Left; for the past ten years he has also taught a popular course, "Cuba and the United States: The Closest of Strangers."

Van's book list on Cuba and the United States

Van Gosse Why did Van love this book?

Utterly engrossing, this behind-the-scenes narrative over many decades demonstrates that the Cuban diplomats were almost always willing to move towards normalizing relations, but were repeatedly stymied by non-negotiable demands from the U.S. side. Besides that, it’s full of piquant details, involving the many non-official actors and secret meetings in New York, on the island, or in other countries. Diplomatic history rarely gets this exciting!

By William M. LeoGrande, Peter Kornbluh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Challenging the conventional wisdom of perpetual hostility between the United States and Cuba--beyond invasions, covert operations, assassination plots using poison pens and exploding seashells, and a grinding economic embargo--this fascinating book chronicles a surprising, untold history of bilateral efforts toward rapprochement and reconciliation. Since 1959, conflict and aggression have dominated the story of U.S.-Cuban relations. Now, William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh present a new and increasingly more relevant account. From John F. Kennedy's offering of an olive branch to Fidel Castro after the missile crisis, to Henry Kissinger's top secret quest for normalization, to Barack Obama's promise of a…


Book cover of Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976

Van Gosse Author Of Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War and the Making of a New Left

From my list on Cuba and the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

Van Gosse, Professor of History at Franklin & Marshall College, is the author of Where the Boys Are: Cuba, Cold War America, and the Making of a New Left, published in 1993 and still in print, a classic account of how "Yankees" engaged with the Cuban Revolution in its early years. Since then he has published widely on solidarity with Latin America and the New Left; for the past ten years he has also taught a popular course, "Cuba and the United States: The Closest of Strangers."

Van's book list on Cuba and the United States

Van Gosse Why did Van love this book?

A watershed work in the new history of “the global Cold War” in the Third World, where Cuba’s revolutionary government acted with remarkable audacity to offer material, human, and military support to African revolutionaries (with the Soviet Union often a minor player). Gleijeses performed archival feats in Cuba, Africa, and the U.S. to bring together this many-sided portrait of skullduggery, intimate solidarity, and Cuban revolutionary agency.  

By Piero Gleijeses,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on unprecedented research in Cuban, American and European archives, this is an account of Cuban policy in Africa from 1959 to 1976 and of its escalating clash with US policy towards the continent. Piero Gleijeses aims to shed new light on US foreign policy and CIA covert operations, revolutionize the view of Cuba's international role and provide the first look from the inside at Cuba's foreign policy during the Cold War.


Book cover of Fulgencio Batista: From Revolutionary to Strongman

Ilan Ehrlich Author Of Eduardo Chibás: The Incorrigible Man of Cuban Politics

From my list on biographies peeking into the lives of Cuban people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was weaned on Cuban stories by my Havana-born mother and first visited the island in 1998. Since then, I earned a PhD in history from the Graduate Center, City University of New York–where I studied twentieth-century Cuban politics. While conducting research in Havana and Miami, I confirmed that legends were imbibed with the same fervor as café cubano. All histories are marked by tall tales, but Cubans are governed by theirs, inside and out, more than most. 

Ilan's book list on biographies peeking into the lives of Cuban people

Ilan Ehrlich Why did Ilan love this book?

Fulgencio Batista is an all-purpose villain in post-1959 Cuba. On the island, he is portrayed as a corrupt and bloody despot who ignored prostitution in towns, desperation in the countryside, and gave free reign to U.S. companies, American tourists, and the mafia. Cuban exiles, many of whom prospered during his rule, see things differently. Cuba counted a large middle class, access to American cars and radios, and one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America. Argote-Freyre’s biography adds much-needed complexity. Batista was a self-made man, born in poverty, and racially mixed. He rose to a  position of power via smarts, cunning, and ruthlessness but also preserved legal gains for workers, and used the military to provide educational and medical services for poor Cubans. 

By Frank Argote-Freyre,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Pawn of the U.S. government. Right-hand man to the mob. Iron-fisted dictator. For decades, public understanding of the pre-Revolutionary Cuban dictator ""Fulgencio Batista"" has been limited to these stereotypes. While on some level they all contain an element of truth, these superficial characterizations barely scratch the surface of the complex and compelling career of this important political figure. Second only to Fidel Castro, Batista is the most controversial leader in modern Cuban history. And yet, until now, there has been no objective biography written about him. Existing biographical literature is predominantly polemical and either borders on hero worship or launches…


Book cover of Fidel: A Critical Portrait

John Thorndike Author Of A Hundred Fires in Cuba

From my list on Cuba, the Revolution, and Cuban exiles.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

John's book list on Cuba, the Revolution, and Cuban exiles

John Thorndike Why did John love 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.

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.


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

John Thorndike Author Of A Hundred Fires in Cuba

From my list on Cuba, the Revolution, and Cuban exiles.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

John's book list on Cuba, the Revolution, and Cuban exiles

John Thorndike Why did John love 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.

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…


Book cover of The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis: Castro, Mikoyan, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Missiles of November

Sheldon M. Stern Author Of The Week the World Stood Still: Inside the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis

From my list on Cuban Missile Crisis.

Why am I passionate about this?

In early 1981, the JFK Library began the process of declassifying the Cuban missile crisis ExComm tapes; as the Library’s Historian, the responsibility for reviewing these recordings was mine—and it changed my life. I spent most of the next two years listening to the tapes from the legendary 13 Days (and subsequently from the November “post-crisis”). I was the first non-ExComm participant and professional historian to hear and evaluate these unique and definitive historical recordings. After the tapes were declassified in the late 1990s, I wrote three books (published by Stanford University Press) about their historical importance.

Sheldon's book list on Cuban Missile Crisis

Sheldon M. Stern Why did Sheldon love this book?

The books discussed above concentrate on the missile crisis in the US, but there was also a crisis in Moscow and Havana. Americans called this event “the Cuban missile crisis,” the Soviets called it “the Caribbean Crisis,” and the Cubans “the October crisis”—because conflict with the US had become a recurring fact of life in Cuba. The Kennedy administration had also been sponsoring sabotage and political assassination in Cuba kept secret from the American people but well known to the Russians and the Cubans. The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis opens a window into Castro’s fury at not being informed or consulted about the secret October 27 Kennedy-Khrushchev deal to remove the missiles from both Cuba and Turkey; only the masterful November diplomacy by Khrushchev’s personal envoy in Cuba, Anastas Mikoyan, kept the deal on track. 

By Sergo Mikoyan, Svetlana Savranskaya (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on secret transcripts of top-level diplomacy undertaken by the number-two Soviet leader, Anastas Mikoyan, to settle the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, this book rewrites conventional history. The "missiles of October" and "13 days" were only half the story: the nuclear crisis actually stretched well into November 1962 as the Soviets secretly planned to leave behind in Cuba over 100 tactical nuclear weapons, then reversed themselves because of obstreperous behavior by Fidel Castro. The highly-charged negotiations with the Cuban leadership, who bitterly felt sold out by Soviet concessions to the United States, were led by Mikoyan.

Adding personal crisis,…


Book cover of José Martí: A Revolutionary Life

Ilan Ehrlich Author Of Eduardo Chibás: The Incorrigible Man of Cuban Politics

From my list on biographies peeking into the lives of Cuban people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was weaned on Cuban stories by my Havana-born mother and first visited the island in 1998. Since then, I earned a PhD in history from the Graduate Center, City University of New York–where I studied twentieth-century Cuban politics. While conducting research in Havana and Miami, I confirmed that legends were imbibed with the same fervor as café cubano. All histories are marked by tall tales, but Cubans are governed by theirs, inside and out, more than most. 

Ilan's book list on biographies peeking into the lives of Cuban people

Ilan Ehrlich Why did Ilan love this book?

José Martí is Cuba’s secular saint who represents all things to all Cubans. He was the idol of Cuba’s first generation to come of age in independent Cuba, during the 1920s, who were taught he was a Christ-like figure who sacrificed himself for Cuban independence. Fulgencio Batista adored him, Fidel Castro revered him, and anti-communist Cuban exiles worshiped him. Even so, Martí was largely unknown on the island during his lifetime and at the time of his death in 1895. This biography of Martí depicts him as a human as well as a hero. 

By Alfred J. López,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Jose Marti (1853-1895) was the founding hero of Cuban independence. In all of modern Latin American history, arguably only the "Great Liberator" Simon Bolivar rivals Marti in stature and legacy. Beyond his accomplishments as a revolutionary and political thinker, Marti was a giant of Latin American letters, whose poetry, essays, and journalism still rank among the most important works of the region. Today he is revered by both the Castro regime and the Cuban exile community, whose shared veneration of the "apostle" of freedom has led to his virtual apotheosis as a national saint.

In Jose Marti: A Revolutionary Life,…


Book cover of Telex from Cuba

John Thorndike Author Of A Hundred Fires in Cuba

From my list on Cuba, the Revolution, and Cuban exiles.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

John's book list on Cuba, the Revolution, and Cuban exiles

John Thorndike Why did John love 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.

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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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