The best Caribbean books

14 authors have picked their favorite books about the Caribbean and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Praisesong for the Widow

Praisesong for the Widow

By Paule Marshall,

Why this book?

A cruise ship is, perhaps, the least likely of all possible venues for the beginning of a spiritual breakthrough. But this is where spiritual transformation starts for Avey Johnson, the 64-year-old African American woman who is the central character in this Marshall novel. Breakthroughs are often set in motion deep down inside us, below the surface of our ordinary awareness. In fact, a real breakthrough can’t happen unless it goes all the way down in us. I know of no book that conveys this truth more effectively.

From the list:

The best books on spiritual breakthrough

Book cover of Britain's Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide

Britain's Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide

By Hilary McD Beckles,

Why this book?

The best book on the legal basis for reparations from the Caribbean’s foremost historian. It offers a historical examination of the justification for reparations for the cost and lost labor the British gained during enslavement and brings together African and indigenous people's rights.

From the list:

The best books on Caribbean reparative justice

Book cover of Luminous Isle

Luminous Isle

By Eliot Bliss,

Why this book?

Eliot Bliss was a Jamaican born Anglo-Irish woman; she was also gay. Her stance as a Creole gay writer interests me. I also think she’s largely forgotten and should be read more. I related to her return to Jamaica (depicted in this novel) and her search for her sort of childhood home—that brings the realization that she both does and doesn’t fit in. She is white, she is gay so she doesn’t fit in British society where she feels out of place because of her Creole childhood and her sexuality, and she can’t fit in Jamaica because she is white…

From the list:

The best books by African American and Caribbean female writers

Book cover of No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories

No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories

By Gabriel Garcia Marquez,

Why this book?

Set in a fictional town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast during the 1950’s “violencia,” this novella portrays the seemingly mundane life of an anonymous retired military officer and his wife. The aging couple struggles against poverty, government corruption, and an overwhelming feeling of insignificance. As the colonel’s life loses meaning, he eventually realizes that he has nothing left but the rooster that he is readying for a cockfight. I read this novella after training with the Colombian Navy in Cartagena, and it took me only a few pages to realize that García Márquez is a genius.

From the list:

The best novels set in the Caribbean

Book cover of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails

And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails

By Wayne Curtis,

Why this book?

Curtis reaches to bestselling author Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883) for the song identified with sailors and pirates:

Fifteen men on the dead man's chest—
...Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest—
...Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

Whiskey and gin are sidelined as rum takes first prize in this chronicle of Caribbean and South Seas pirates and privateers, sugar barons, and rum drinks from grog to the daiquiri and Cuba Libre (my Key West favorite).

This ten-cocktail capsule of New World history reshuffles history classroom categories to join recent accounts…

From the list:

The best books on America’s cocktail culture

Book cover of Children of the Spider

Children of the Spider

By Imam Baksh,

Why this book?

Each book listed – including mine – was a top-three finalist for the Burt Award for teen/young adult Caribbean fiction. Children of the Spider stands apart as a blend of fantasy adventure and Caribbean folklore, its teen protagonists on their world-saving mission. It moves from the jungles of Guyana to the city, which is another kind of jungle, and has a fresh take on the legendary West African demi-god Anansi. These kids (a girl who makes a desperate leap between worlds, a boy not slowed by his handicap, and a boy from the streets) have nothing but each other and…

From the list:

The best teen/YA Caribbean novels for readers everywhere

Book cover of All Over Again

All Over Again

By A-dziko Simba Gegele,

Why this book?

This has often been recommended for boys (including by me) but, since there is no such thing as exclusively boy books and girl books, I’m calling this a good book period – with a highly entertaining and deeply endearing adolescent-ish boy, surrounded by a robust cast of supporting characters, at its center. More vignettes than plot, it is rooted in character and voice – in this case, the rare and highly effective use of the second voice. Tonally, it’s a callback to the adventures of boyhood captured in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and the mostly harmless incorrigibility of the boy…

From the list:

The best teen/YA Caribbean novels for readers everywhere

Book cover of Home Home

Home Home

By Lisa Allen-Agostini,

Why this book?

The interiority of a depressed, perpetually anxious, and possibly suicidal teen girl recently relocated from Trinidad to Canada is captured with detail and sensitivity. Her trusted circle consists of a single friend from home, her aunt and aunt’s partner with whom she lives in Edmonton, and a new boy, who stirs other complicated feelings in her. The fractures in her relationship with her mother, back home, remain unhealed. It is a deeply melancholic book but it can also potentially make any young person struggling with the same issues feel a little less alone. All of Burt's books are published by…

From the list:

The best teen/YA Caribbean novels for readers everywhere

Book cover of Beachbum Berry's Potions of the Caribbean

Beachbum Berry's Potions of the Caribbean

By Jeff Berry,

Why this book?

I’m a loud and proud proponent of the magical nature of tiki drinks. In my opinion, it is utterly impossible to be sad or angry or frustrated when you are served a drink with an umbrella – and sometimes an orchid, a pineapple spear, and a swizzle stick – in it. Jeff Berry, aka  ‘Beachbumb Berry’, is one of the undisputed experts in the world of tiki culture, and Potions of the Caribbean is a vividly-designed, detail-packed adventure of a book. With Berry’s always thorough research and reflections, the book traces the origins of tropical drinks back 500 years eventually…

From the list:

The best books to chronicle the history of cocktails

Book cover of The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730

The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730

By Benerson Little,

Why this book?

Although I captain my own lake boat, I knew very little about ancient nautical sailing and warfare when I began writing Fire on Dark Water. Benerson Little’s book, The Sea Rover’s Practice, taught me about different types of crafts, weapons, battle tactics, sea villains, ship routines, sailor superstitions, methods of stealth attack, treatment of prisoners, and even the types of food eaten on board ship throughout 1630 – 1730. It was a very valuable resource.

From the list:

The best books on the real Pirates of the Caribbean

Or, view all 73 books about the Caribbean

New book lists related to the Caribbean

All book lists related to the Caribbean

Bookshelves related to the Caribbean