The best books about the Americas

1 authors have picked their favorite books about the Americas and why they recommend each book. Soon, you will be able to filter this list by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books.

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Book cover of Amerzonia: A Savage Journey Through The Americas

Amerzonia: A Savage Journey Through The Americas

By Mark Walters,

Why this book?

Tijuana, Batopilas, Tegucigalpa, Medellin, Iquitos: just some of the exotic, strange—and at times downright dangerous—destinations passed through on this riotous overland odyssey through Americas central and south. It’s a savage journey that takes Mark from Los Angeles to the Amazon—through Mexico and Guatemala and Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica and Panama, Colombia and Ecuador and Peru. On his ride into the dark south of the Americas: a failed revolution, a spewing volcano, a drawer of cocaine; and a surreal succession of encounters with an assortment of characters normally avoided—Scientologists, shamans, narcos. He risks his freedom, his sanity, his life. By…

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Book cover of Jose Marti Reader: Writings on the Americas

Jose Marti Reader: Writings on the Americas

By Jose Marti,

Why this book?

José Martí was a poet and writer who became the leader of Cuba’s final independence movement from Spain. He died in battle in 1895 and is the island’s best-known hero – images and statues of him can be found in almost every town in Cuba. He spent much of his life in exile, including in the United States. He was a prolific journalist, and his essay ‘Nuestra América’ (Our America, 1881) is one of his most-cited works. His observations about the US and the rest of the Americas were astute, and his work continues to offer insights that are applicable…

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Book cover of Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years

Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years

By Jared Diamond,

Why this book?

Guns. Germs and Steel is an absolutely thrilling ride through world history in pursuit of the deepest answers to the question: why was it that European powers came to dominate those of the Americas from the sixteenth century, and not vice versa. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and is a cracking example of what has come to be known as ‘Big History’.

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Book cover of History in the Making

History in the Making

By J.H. Elliott,

Why this book?

John Elliott is a world-class historian of Spain and its Empire, his reflections on how to write history without becoming immersed in jargon or obscure theories are beautifully woven into the story of how he himself learned the craft of writing clear, accessible, and original works of history, taking the reader from Cambridge to Franco’s Spain. This is a charming book with a valuable message.

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Book cover of The Great Explorers: The European Discovery of America

The Great Explorers: The European Discovery of America

By Samuel Eliot Morison,

Why this book?

Morison is an old-school historian, and I wanted a person-centered narrative in a grand manner to complement Parry’s concentrated matrix of information. Morison delivers.

The Great Explorers recounts the early exploration of the Americas, focusing on key figures (Morison had previously written a 2-volume biography of Columbus). The book boils down his somewhat windy and digressive two volumes on the exploration of North and South America. He’s a proud sailor and works information on ships, tides, currents, shoals, and the like into the text and judges explorers – all of them on ships – by their seamanship. His older style…

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Book cover of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

By Charles C. Mann,

Why this book?

Charles Mann's book was an eye-opener to many people, pointing out that much of the history we learned as children in school was wrong. The realization that the pre-Columbian cultures in the Americas were rich, vibrant, and advanced has taken time to be accepted broadly, but Mann's book pushes that understanding to a new level. The book combines history with science and archaeology to present a full picture of the American history we never learned.

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

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

By David McCullough,

Why 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.

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Book cover of Finding Faeries: Discovering Sprites, Pixies, Redcaps, and Other Fantastical Creatures in an Urban Environment

Finding Faeries: Discovering Sprites, Pixies, Redcaps, and Other Fantastical Creatures in an Urban Environment

By Alexander Rowland,

Why this book?

Have you ever had a book actively try to stop you from reading it? This non-fiction book was guarded like all doorways into Fairie. Every time I sat down to read it the kettle would come to a boil, or the phone would ring! I read it cover to cover though. Even finding it again to tell you about it was a challenge.

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Book cover of Slave and Citizen: The Classic Comparative Study of Race Relations in the Americas

Slave and Citizen: The Classic Comparative Study of Race Relations in the Americas

By Frank Tannenbaum,

Why this book?

This is a comparative short study of slave societies in the Americas with an emphasis on how the Brazilian system was more legally and morally fluid than the more rigid North American system. The importance of this book lies in its originality and influence as a model for generations of historians.  Tannenbaum’s legalistic themes have been superseded by enriched data sources and social science theories and models. An additional characteristic of this comparative model was the introduction of the work of controversial Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre, his thesis of miscegenation and its role in defining Brazilian national character. Tannenbaum’s optimistic…

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