The best books about Bolivia

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Bolivia and why they recommend each book.

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The Bolivian Diary

By Ernesto Che Guevara,

Book cover of The Bolivian Diary

I have given this the top spot, not because of the political ideals of the author, but the intimate portrayal of his passion for justice that this classic book portrays with such vivid humanity. Che Guevara was a gifted writer and in this book all the revolutionary idealism that fed into his life-long battle merge into a powerful narrative that is so symptomatic for the romanticism of a bygone era. The Cuban revolution firmly rooted the idea of independence in the political lexicon of resistance movements all over the world, as independence from outside interference, is a necessary step towards a progressive democracy. I read Guevara's books as a Junior Research Fellow at Oxford University in order to train my mind in the various methods of critique.

The Bolivian Diary

By Ernesto Che Guevara,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Guevara was a figure of epic proportions. These diaries, stark and moving, will be his most enduring monument' Observer

The final diaries of Che Guevara begin in 1966, when he travelled to Bolivia to foment a revolution, and end just two days before his death in October 1967. They form an unvarnished account of his guerrilla campaign against CIA-backed Bolivian troops, fighting in the jungle and keeping his men's spirits up - even as the struggle started to fail. Found in Guevara's backpack and smuggled to Cuba after his execution, The Bolivian Diary is an inspiring record of, and a…


Who am I?

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is a world-renowned scholar and author. A double graduate of Cambridge University, he received his Professorship in Global Thought at SOAS as one of the youngest academics in his field. Since then he has been elected to several honorary positions all over the world, some of them with the royal seal and including at Harvard University and Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences in Kunming, China.


I wrote...

What is Iran?

By Arshin Adib-Moghaddam,

Book cover of What is Iran?

What is my book about?

What is Iran is the first book of its kind, as it comes with a playlist to read by. Likened to the “School of Love”, that Adib-Moghaddam adopted from Persian poetry, the book sheds fresh light on everything there is to know about Iran, the region that it is embedded in and the global politics affecting it. Adib-Moghaddam uses musical pieces as a way to offer a holistic understanding of the full spectrum of Iranian affairs. As a result, even the general reader is invited to traverse a wide array of topics in an interactive format which merges approaches from the social sciences with philosophy, poetry, and art.

These topics include a variety of themes, issues, and personalities: from Trump, Khomeini, the Shah, Saddam Hussein, and Qasem Soleimani, to Israel, Syria, Latin America, China, and the Gulf monarchies. Ultimately, this book demonstrates in clear and accessible prose the impact of Iranian politics on a global scale, and offers solutions to the various crises enveloping the country in the region and beyond.

Book cover of Gender, Migration and Social Transformation: Intersectionality in Bolivian Itinerant Migrations

This book gets at questions near and dear to my own ethnographic explorations, namely how migration changes gender roles in households. Women don’t leave home without figuring out care for young children and frail elders. Tanja Bastia looks at how Bolivian families handle the challenge of transnational parenting. Grandmothers often fill in for their migrant daughters (there’s the aging connection!), and migrant women struggle to balance their financial opportunities with the social stigma of having ‘abandoned’ their children in search of wealth.  

Gender, Migration and Social Transformation

By Tanja Bastia,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gender, Migration and Social Transformation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Intersectionality can be used to analyse whether migration leads to changes in gender relations. This book finds out how migrants from a peri-urban neighbourhood on the outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia, make sense of the migration journeys they have undertaken.

Migration is intrinsically related to social transformation. Through life stories and community surveys, the author explores how gender, class, and ethnicity intersect in people's attempts to make the most of the opportunities presented to them in distant labour markets. While aiming to improve their economic and material conditions, migrants have created a new transnational community that has undergone significant changes in…


Who am I?

My mom was an anthropologist, and when I was two, she took me to Sri Lanka, the island off the tip of India. After years of insisting that I wanted nothing to do with any social science, let alone anthropology, I ended up in graduate school studying… anthropology. Long story. Having taken up the family mantel, I returned to the village where I lived as a child and asked what had changed in the intervening years. Since then, my Sri Lankan interlocutors have suggested book topics that include labor migration, the use and abuse of alcohol, the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, and the challenges of aging. 


I wrote...

Linked Lives: Elder Care, Migration, and Kinship in Sri Lanka

By Michele Ruth Gamburd,

Book cover of Linked Lives: Elder Care, Migration, and Kinship in Sri Lanka

What is my book about?

When loved ones spend years away from home, what happens to the family members left behind? In this book, I draw readers into intimate family life in a coastal village in Sri Lanka. I began researching this village 30 years ago, studying what happened when mothers left the country to work as housemaids in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. Over the years, the village has changed, my friends have aged, and their children have migrated. I try to capture their triumphs and sorrows and the challenges that their trans-local families face in caring for children and elders.  

Negotiated Learning

By Irene Guijt (editor),

Book cover of Negotiated Learning: Collaborative Monitoring for Forest Resource Management

The collection focuses on communities in the tropics – specifically in Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Indonesia, Malawi, Nepal, Philippines, and Zimbabwe where the Adaptive Collaborative Management approach discussed in my own book was first used, in the early 2000s. The examples in this book focus on the centrality of learning in the ACM process. When we developed our version of ACM (at the Center for International Forestry Research), we imagined the monitoring would build on the literature on criteria and indicators in sustainable forest management (C&I). It did that, and more. This book shows the many ways that the program itself ‘walked the talk,’ using its emphasis on learning to expand our own approach beyond its beginnings—just as our own new book does.

Negotiated Learning

By Irene Guijt (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first book to critically examine how monitoring can be an effective tool in participatory resource management, Negotiated Learning draws on the first-hand experiences of researchers and development professionals in eleven countries in Africa, Asia, and South America. Collective monitoring shifts the emphasis of development and conservation professionals from externally defined programs to a locally relevant process. It focuses on community participation in the selection of the indicators to be monitored as well as community participation in the learning and application of knowledge from the data that is collected. As with other aspects of collaborative management, collaborative monitoring emphasizes building…

Who am I?

This topic, adaptive collaborative management, has been dear to my heart for nearly a quarter of a century (indeed longer if one includes my involvement in farming systems research and development, a similar agricultural concept with less emphasis on the environment). I have long felt that deep involvement with local communities is crucial if we want to avoid ‘the sins of the past’ in conservation and development. My hope and that of my colleagues has been that by involving local people in a respectful, iterative, inclusive, learning, collaborative process, together we can steer policies and actions in a benign direction that may in fact endure (unlike most such projects). 


I wrote...

Adaptive Collaborative Management in Forest Landscapes: Villagers, Bureaucrats and Civil Society

By Carol J. Pierce Colfer (editor), Ravi Prabhu (editor), Anne M. Larson (editor)

Book cover of Adaptive Collaborative Management in Forest Landscapes: Villagers, Bureaucrats and Civil Society

What is my book about?

Here we build on two decades of experience using the adaptive collaborative management (ACM) approach in tropical forest landscapes. This book emphasizes lessons learned during and after such experiences that seek to empower forest communities to sustainably manage their environments. Global in scope, we begin with a chapter that makes a solid conceptual case for participatory and learning approaches like ACM. Subsequent chapters take us to Latin America, Africa, and Asia, as authors address issues of transdisciplinary collaboration, gender equity, capacity building at all levels, dealing with power both conceptually and practically, and the variety of ways that ACM has been used globally. The concluding chapter focuses on expanding the approach upwards and outwards, while maintaining its community-level ‘center.’

Llama Drama

By Anna McNuff,

Book cover of Llama Drama

A vivid, amusing account of the author and her friend cycling and sleeping in the wild from Bolivia to Argentina. It is a story of determination and endurance as they push themselves to the extreme, always taking the hardest, highest route. Exhaustion, frustration, and sickness put their friendship to the test. 

As somebody who is the polar opposite, always seeking the easiest way, I was fascinated by this couple’s approach to adventure, and awed by their achievements.  

Llama Drama

By Anna McNuff,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Llama Drama as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**WINNER of the 2020 Amazon Kindle Storyteller Literary Award**

"Llama Drama is simply hilarious. If anyone wants something witty and moving at the same time. Also, something empowering, then this is the one for them. I literally inhaled it." -  Claudia Winkleman, TV Presenter and Author

What Amazon readers are saying about Llama Drama:

★★★★★ “Loved every minute of it!”

★★★★★ “An antidote for the madness of 2020”

★★★★★ “Truly inspiring”

★★★★★ “A brilliant book for anyone interested in travel, conquering their fears, cycling, adventure, South America”

★★★★★ “I couldn't put it down!”

★★★★★ “Buy the damn thing. It’s awesome!”…


Who am I?

I’m a writer, living in southwest France since 1995, and previously in Kenya for 20 years. Travel has always been my passion. I’ve written about hiking across France in Best Foot Forward, touring the perimeter by camping car in Travels with Tinkerbelle, cycling through the Marne Valley in The Valley of Heaven and Hell, and a Kenyan safari in Safari Ants, Baggy Pants and ElephantsRecently, due to COVID and with an elderly dog that suffers from separation anxiety, I couldn't leave for any length of time; I satisfy my wanderlust by reading other people’s adventures. My taste is for tales that include plenty of humour, and I’ve selected five which I have particularly enjoyed.


I wrote...

The Valley of Heaven and Hell: Cycling in the Shadow of Marie Antoinette

By Susie Kelly,

Book cover of The Valley of Heaven and Hell: Cycling in the Shadow of Marie Antoinette

What is my book about?

As a nervous cyclist, I don’t think anybody who hasn’t wobbled round the Arc de Triomphe at rush hour has truly known fear. This is my fourth and possibly favourite memoir, combining travel and history. On an electric bike, I cycle with my husband 500 kilometres through France’s idyllic Marne Valley, in parallel with the route taken by Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI in their failed attempt to escape the guillotine. It’s their story, and our story. There’s champagne, too.

Potosí

By Kris Lane,

Book cover of Potosí: The Silver City That Changed the World

Kris Lane’s new work on Potosí does in words what Barragán does in images. Lane manages to tell a story that is at once global and comprehensive yet still rooted in local details of mineral extraction, assay, and coining. This book takes us from underground tunnels, adits, and galleys into refineries and, especially, the mint of Potosí. Readers seeking a big-picture view of the importance of Latin American mining and metallurgy to the story of the Spanish empire, and one told in vivid detail and readable prose, will find a lot to like here.


Potosí

By Kris Lane,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"For anyone who wants to learn about the rise and decline of Potosi as a city . . . Lane's book is the ideal place to begin."-The New York Review of Books

In 1545, a native Andean prospector hit pay dirt on a desolate red mountain in highland Bolivia. There followed the world's greatest silver bonanza, making the Cerro Rico or "Rich Hill" and the Imperial Villa of Potosi instant legends, famous from Istanbul to Beijing. The Cerro Rico alone provided over half of the world's silver for a century, and even in decline, it remained the single richest source…

Who am I?

I became fascinated by the science, technology, and social landscape of mining during my time teaching English in the Cerro Colorado copper mine in the north of Chile. Listening to miners and their families speak to each other gave me a small sense of the knowledge embedded in the language of mining communities. The experience showed me just how little I knew about metals and how much they shape our world, from the copper wiring in phone chargers to expressions like “mina” (mine/woman). That curiosity led me to a PhD program and to write my first book, Mining Language.


I wrote...

Mining Language: Racial Thinking, Indigenous Knowledge, and Colonial Metallurgy in the Early Modern Iberian World

By Allison Bigelow,

Book cover of Mining Language: Racial Thinking, Indigenous Knowledge, and Colonial Metallurgy in the Early Modern Iberian World

What is my book about?

Mineral wealth from the Americas underwrote and undergirded European colonization of the New World; American gold and silver enriched Spain, funded the slave trade, and spurred Spain's northern European competitors to become Atlantic powers.

Building upon economic, labor, and environmental histories, Mining Language is the first book-length study of the technical and scientific vocabularies, ideas, and practices that Indigenous and African miners developed in one of the largest and most lucrative industries of the colonial Americas. Mining Language develops methods of linguistic and visual analysis to convert colonial archives from spaces that justify settler colonial ideologies into sources of Indigenous and African knowledge production.

Book cover of A History of Mining in Latin America: From the Colonial Era to the Present

Although mining in the colonial period has lasting implications for contemporary public policy, extractive industries, and science and technology, few books can tell this 500-year history in the detail it requires. Kendall Brown’s History of Mining in Latin America is one of those few. In vivid prose, Brown explains key aspects of economic, technological, and labor history that shaped mining and metallurgical industries in the major mining zones of Mexico, Brazil, and the Andes, as well as less-studied regions like the Caribbean and Nueva Granada. Readers looking for a comprehensive regional synthesis that shows change over time will learn a lot from Brown’s book.

A History of Mining in Latin America

By Kendall W. Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of Mining in Latin America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For twenty-five years, Kendall Brown studied Potosi, Spanish America's greatest silver producer and perhaps the world's most famous mining district. He read about the flood of silver that flowed from its Cerro Rico and learned of the toil of its miners. Potosi symbolised fabulous wealth and unbelievable suffering. New World bullion stimulated the formation of the first world economy but at the same time it had profound consequences for labor, as mine operators and refiners resorted to extreme forms of coercion to secure workers. In many cases the environment also suffered devastating harm.

All of this occurred in the name…


Who am I?

I became fascinated by the science, technology, and social landscape of mining during my time teaching English in the Cerro Colorado copper mine in the north of Chile. Listening to miners and their families speak to each other gave me a small sense of the knowledge embedded in the language of mining communities. The experience showed me just how little I knew about metals and how much they shape our world, from the copper wiring in phone chargers to expressions like “mina” (mine/woman). That curiosity led me to a PhD program and to write my first book, Mining Language.


I wrote...

Mining Language: Racial Thinking, Indigenous Knowledge, and Colonial Metallurgy in the Early Modern Iberian World

By Allison Bigelow,

Book cover of Mining Language: Racial Thinking, Indigenous Knowledge, and Colonial Metallurgy in the Early Modern Iberian World

What is my book about?

Mineral wealth from the Americas underwrote and undergirded European colonization of the New World; American gold and silver enriched Spain, funded the slave trade, and spurred Spain's northern European competitors to become Atlantic powers.

Building upon economic, labor, and environmental histories, Mining Language is the first book-length study of the technical and scientific vocabularies, ideas, and practices that Indigenous and African miners developed in one of the largest and most lucrative industries of the colonial Americas. Mining Language develops methods of linguistic and visual analysis to convert colonial archives from spaces that justify settler colonial ideologies into sources of Indigenous and African knowledge production.

Exile Music

By Jennifer Steil,

Book cover of Exile Music: A Novel

A well-written novel about a Jewish family from Vienna who escapes the Nazi regime and finds refuge in Bolivia. In a world so different from their own, the parents long for the music and culture they left behind, while their young daughter finds joy in the differences and in the people she meets. A lesson for all of us who face life-changing changes.

Exile Music

By Jennifer Steil,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on an unexplored slice of World War II history, Exile Music is the captivating story of a young Jewish girl whose family flees refined and urbane Vienna for safe harbor in the mountains of Bolivia

As a young girl growing up in Vienna in the 1930s, Orly has an idyllic childhood filled with music. Her father plays the viola in the Philharmonic, her mother is a well-regarded opera singer, her beloved and charismatic older brother holds the neighborhood in his thrall, and most of her eccentric and wonderful extended family live nearby. Only vaguely aware of Hitler's rise or…

Who am I?

World War II has been the background of my life. My Viennese family fled the Nazi regime. My childhood was peopled with Holocaust survivors and other people displaced by war. My uncle was a refugee and was trained as a Ritchie Boy and sent to war. I have been inspired by how people can survive traumatic times and come out stronger and kinder.


I wrote...

All That Lingers

By Irene Wittig,

Book cover of All That Lingers

What is my book about?

A sweeping, powerful saga of love, friendship, loss, and betrayal that spans three decades of pre-war, wartime, and post World War 2 Vienna. Ultimately, it is the resilience of the human spirit that will linger in the reader’s mind long after the last page is turned.

The Puma Years

By Laura Coleman,

Book cover of The Puma Years: A Memoir

After running into 5 mountain lions while hiking alone in the ancient redwood forests near my home, I was really blown away reading The Puma Years about Laura Coleman's relationships with the big cats. I cannot imagine getting as close to one of them as she does in her memoir about spending time in the middle of the jungle in Bolivia taking care of wild pumas. Set against a background of logging destruction of habitat and illegal wild animal poaching, the author valiantly tries to rehabilitate damaged pumas. The relationships she and her volunteer colleagues have with the big cats are astonishing. They take them out for walks! The author is so candid about how broken she feels in our environmentally and often socially broken world, and yet in the end still manages to leave me with hope and belief in the human spirit.

The Puma Years

By Laura Coleman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Puma Years as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this rapturous memoir, writer and activist Laura Coleman shares the story of her liberating journey in the Amazon jungle, where she fell in love with a magnificent cat who changed her life.

Laura was in her early twenties and directionless when she quit her job to backpack in Bolivia. Fate landed her at a wildlife sanctuary on the edge of the Amazon jungle where she was assigned to a beautiful and complex puma named Wayra. Wide-eyed, inexperienced, and comically terrified, Laura made the scrappy, make-do camp her home. And in Wayra, she made a friend for life.

They weren't…

Who am I?

As a woman, I am passionate about valuing the voices of women equally with those of men. When we listen to each other, we will be able to come into a better balance that will help us restore ourselves and our Earth. We need the visions of women to help guide us through these challenging times! I’m also passionate about the wild beauty of nature, especially trees, and spend lots of time hiking and meditating in the ancient redwood forests near my home. This has helped me heal and expanded my perception. In a way, being in the forest has brought me home to myself. 


I wrote...

Wild Path to the Sacred Heart

By Ellen Dee Davidson,

Book cover of Wild Path to the Sacred Heart

What is my book about?

When author, Ellen Dee Davidson, finds herself with unusual free time, and a Lama in the Tibetan tradition suggests she “follow the juice,” Ellen realizes that her heart’s desire is to go to the ancient redwood forest near her home and hike and meditate with the old trees nearly every day. Over the course of 9 years of averaging 3 days a week, mostly alone, in the forest, Ellen has all sorts of wild experiences, encountering mountain lions, rutting elk, bears, and having mystical experiences as she slowly discovers the profound healing effects the forest is having upon her. Written in a style of magic realism, the latest science about forest bathing is woven into the mystery of her delightful experiences in the magical realm of a forest. 

Trials of Nation Making

By Brooke Larson,

Book cover of Trials of Nation Making: Liberalism, Race, and Ethnicity in the Andes, 1810–1910

Few scholars possess the ability to take complex historical situations and present them in a manner that is equal parts educational, palatable, and engaging. Brooke Larson is one of those rare talents. When I was in graduate school, I devoured Larson’s Cochabamba, and soon found myself looking to get my hands on anything authored by her. Needless to say, I was eager to read Trials of Nation Making when it was released. I was not disappointed. This wonderfully engaging history examines the role that race and ethnicity played in the framing, founding, and forming of Andean republics, where Creole elites sought to solve the so-called “Indian Problem.” But this is no top-down history. As Larson masterfully illustrates, Indigenous historical actors employed a range of strategies—from legal action to open rebellion—to demand participation in nation-making processes.  

Trials of Nation Making

By Brooke Larson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book offers the first interpretive synthesis of the history of Andean peasants and the challenges of nation-making in the four republics of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia during the turbulent nineteenth century. Nowhere in Latin America were postcolonial transitions more vexed or violent than in the Andes, where communal indigenous roots grew deep and where the 'Indian problem' seemed so daunting to liberalizing states. Brooke Larson paints vivid portraits of Creole ruling elites and native peasantries engaged in ongoing political and moral battles over the rightful place of the Indian majorities in these emerging nation-states. In this story, indigenous…

Who am I?

I am a professor of Latin American history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My teaching and research focus on Andean history, and I have written several books on the period of political violence that pitted guerrillas of the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) against Peruvian security forces and peasant militias during the 1980s and 1990s. I have been researching in Peru for twenty years, from Lima’s shantytowns, to the Andes mountains, to the Amazon jungle. A Peruvian-American, I maintain strong family ties to the region and am a proud, yet frequently heartbroken, supporter of the national soccer team.


I wrote...

With Masses and Arms: Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement

By Miguel La Serna,

Book cover of With Masses and Arms: Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement

What is my book about?

My gripping history of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) provides vital insight into both the history of modern Peru and the link between political violence and the culture of communications in Latin America. Smaller than the well-known Shining Path but just as remarkable, the MRTA emerged in the early 1980s at the beginning of a long and bloody civil war. Taking a close look at the daily experiences of women and men who fought on both sides of the conflict, this fast-paced narrative explores the intricacies of armed action from the ground up.

In this sense, the history of the MRTA is the story of the euphoric draw of armed action and the devastating consequences that result when a political movement succumbs to the whims of its most militant followers.

Tschiffely's Ride

By Aimé Tschiffely,

Book cover of Tschiffely's Ride: Ten Thousand Miles in the Saddle from Southern Cross to Pole Star

It’s an extraordinary journey, people said it was absurd and impossible. I read it as a teenager, and even then it struck a chord with me. And it showed that what people call impossible is merely a sign of challenge. It also shows what deep reserves of stamina we all have in us, only found if we dig deep enough. It stayed with me as an inspiration, and as a dream of adventure

Tschiffely's Ride

By Aimé Tschiffely,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Tschiffely's Ride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the southeast coast of South America through an expanse of Peruvian sands en route to the West Coast, then onward through Central American jungles and rainforest, and finally to New York, Tschiffely’s journey was considered impossible and absurd by many newspaper writers in 1925. However, after two and a half years on horseback with two of his trusty and tough steeds, this daring trekker lived to tell his best-selling tale.

Tschiffely’s 10,000-mile journey was filled with adventure and triumph, but it also forced the traveler to deal with tremendous natural and man-made obstacles, as many countries in Central America…

Who am I?

If I needed an excuse to be an explorer, I’d say it was inherited wanderlust. My grandparents moved to China in the 1920s and my grandmother became an unconventional traveller by mule in the wilds. My mother spent her childhood there. And much of her married life in West Africa, where I was born and raised. The wildest places fill me with curiosity.


I wrote...

Madagascar Travels

By Christina Dodwell,

Book cover of Madagascar Travels

What is my book about?

Madagascar is an island of secrets, where new species of wildlife continue to be discovered and rumors of mysterious aboriginals and natural phenomena persist in the forest. Christina Dodwell explores its least accessible corners and makes friends with its people. Her four-month journey began in the highlands where, travelling by horse-drawn stagecoach, she encounters a healer, a village poet, and families who perform bone-turning rites for their ancestors. Taboos, fetishes, and astrology weave through her travels among wood-carvers and lead to a royal meeting. Christina’s great courage, open mind, and unbounded curiosity enable her to go to places few would dare visit, and she almost invariably finds kindness and hospitality wherever she travels.

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