The most recommended books about Cuba

Who picked these books? Meet our 70 experts.

70 authors created a book list connected to Cuba, and here are their favorite Cuba books.
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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.

Who am I?

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.


Book cover of One Hundred Bottles

Marina Karides Author Of Sappho's Legacy: Convivial Economics on a Greek Isle

From my list on to get stranded with on an island.

Who am I?

Iʻve been travelling to islands before realizing I was seeking them. It was my political convictions that brought me to Haiti and Cuba, and later to Indonesia and Thai Islands due to my philosophical interests. When I headed to Greece for the first time it was to Corfu and the Peloponnese, my lineage, but also to Ithaca, Crete, the Cyclades, and eventually to Lesvos. Now I live in Hawaiʻi. I was attracted to the poetics of island landscapes, but as a scholar of space, society, and justice, I also understood that islands hold distinct sets of constraints and opportunities that require further study with intersectional and decolonial perspectives.

Marina's book list on to get stranded with on an island

Marina Karides Why did Marina love this book?

This novel is both sexy and chilling. It is the journey of a young woman, about her lovers, the intimacy of friendship, and her alluring social life in Havana, Cuba. With each page you sip the intensity of youth and political drama on the island. After traveling to Cuba to protest the US embargo in the 1990s and living for so many years in Miami with friends in the Cuban diaspora, Cuban's transnational socio-cultural complex frames how I think about islands. I relish how Portela writes, she is the friend who coaxes you out, keeps you up all night, with the promises of thrill, excitement, and a bit of danger. 

By Ena Lucía Portela, Achy Obejas (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One Hundred Bottles, with its intersecting characters and unresolved whodunits, can be read as a murder mystery. But it's really a survivor's story. In a voice that blends gossip, storytelling, and literature, Z-the vivacious heroine of Portela's award-winning novel-relates her rum-soaked encounters with the lesbian underground, the characters carving up her home, and the terrifying-but-irresistible Moises. As entertaining as any detective drama, One Hundred Bottles is ultimately made real by very rough love, intense friendship, and something small that decides to live.


Book cover of The Art of White Roses

Joanne C. Hillhouse Author Of Musical Youth

From my list on Caribbean teen and YA for readers everywhere.

Who am I?

I am an Antiguan-Barbudan writer. When I was a teen, there weren’t a lot of books from my world. So, I was excited when the Burt Award for teen/young adult Caribbean literature was announced. While that prize ran its course after five years, it left a library of great books in this genre, including my own Musical Youth which placed second in the inaugural year of the prize. I have since served as a judge of the Caribbean prize and mentor for the Africa-leg. I love that this series of books tap into different genres and styles in demonstrating the dynamism of modern Caribbean literature. For more on me, my books, and my take on books, visit my website.

Joanne's book list on Caribbean teen and YA for readers everywhere

Joanne C. Hillhouse Why did Joanne love this book?

The Puerto Rican author draws on her grandmother’s experience to tell the story of a girl in Cuba on the cusp of revolution. While the historical fiction follows the day-to-day of the girl emerging to teen-hood and her family – brother, mother, father, and abuelo – it also feels dangerous as bombs go off, people are disappeared, and shadows of a more personal kind encroach on her familial bliss. Through this prism, the reader gets a sense of the class and power dynamics at play, from school where sadistic nuns are the law to the Law which acts with cruel impunity, and the resentment, heartache, and violence simmering underneath the alluring resort island. It’s the pressure cooker on the verge of blowing its lid for me!

By Viviana Prado-Núñez,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is 1957 in Marianao, a suburb of Havana. Adela Santiago is 13 years old and lives in a small blue house with her mother, father, brother, and grandfather. And yet something is amiss. The students on her street are disappearing. Not only that but her parents' marriage seems to be disintegrating and her cousin is caught up in a bombing at the Hotel Nacional. Welcome to a world where a revolution is brewing. Welcome to Cuba.


Book cover of Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban

Tace Hedrick Author Of Chica Lit: Popular Latina Fiction and Americanization in the Twenty-First Century

From my list on the writing and marketing of chica lit.

Who am I?

As a university professor, I often teach popular women’s writing, and I realized that I needed to teach Latinx popular fiction as well. Women’s popular writing in the United States reflects but also shapes the way women see themselves in a global neoliberal world. After I had written an article on class and Chicanx and Latinx fiction, I also realized that class and race are key to thinking about how Latinas/Chicanas both create and follow market trends in an effort to “better” themselves in addition to showing how various Latinas/Chicanas see each other in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender.  

Tace's book list on the writing and marketing of chica lit

Tace Hedrick Why did Tace love this book?

I also write about this book in my work. I again have problems with it, but it gives a kind of slice-of-life snapshot of Cuban life at that moment (around 2005), and especially about jineteras, or “jockeys,” women who supplement their income by going out with wealthy foreigners. Doing research on that book gave me a look at Cuba that was invaluable. And it is sometimes funny. It serves as a kind of coda to my book in that it reproduces many of the rhetorical moves of other chica lit but in a completely different setting. 

By Lisa Wixon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on the wildly popular, semi-autobiographical "Havana Honey" series published by Salon.com, Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban is a gritty portrait of one woman's determination to infiltrate modern Cuba and find the father she has never known.

While on her search, privileged American Alysia Briggs ends up broke and alone in Havana. She's then forced to adopt the life of the jineteras -- educated Cuban women who supplement a desperate income by accommodating sex tourists.

With an eye for detail and a razor wit, Lisa Wixon relates Alysia's journey and creates a love song to Cuba, a heartfelt tribute to a…


Book cover of Monkey Hunting

Julia Schiavone Camacho Author Of Chinese Mexicans: Transpacific Migration and the Search for a Homeland, 1910-1960

From my list on Asian diasporas in the Americas with personal stories.

Who am I?

Raised in a Mexican-Italian family, I grew up traveling across the Arizona-Sonora borderlands to visit my extended family. As a kid, I took for granted movement across boundaries and cultural and racial mixture, but eventually, I came to see it framed my experience and outlook. In researching the Chinese in northern Mexico, I learned that Mexican women and Chinese-Mexican children followed their expelled men, whether by force or choice, and I became enthralled. I had to find out how these families fared after crossing not just borders but oceans. My passion for reading about how the long presence of Asians in the Americas complicates our understanding of history has only deepened.

Julia's book list on Asian diasporas in the Americas with personal stories

Julia Schiavone Camacho Why did Julia love this book?

I have read this book more than once and each time have found myself pulled into the life of the main character, a Chinese contract laborer, and his story, which spans several generations, set across the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The novel features an Afro-Chino Cuban family and shows how they become deeply part of Cuba. It also shows how the descendants of the mixed-race couple face trials in New York City and Vietnam, depicting complexities of race, gender, family, and heritage with beautiful, painful detail and emotion.

By Cristina García,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this deeply stirring novel, acclaimed author Cristina García follows one extraordinary family through four generations, from China to Cuba to America. Wonderfully evocative of time and place, rendered in the lyrical prose that is García’s hallmark, Monkey Hunting is an emotionally resonant tale of immigration, assimilation, and the prevailing integrity of self.


Book cover of Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause

David Carey Jr. Author Of Distilling the Influence of Alcohol: Aguardiente in Guatemalan History

From my list on alcohol in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Who am I?

Raised on happy hours on Cape Cod, MA patios with my Irish-American relatives, I long have been fascinated by how alcohol can bring people together and facilitate bonds that traverse both hardship and joy. During my travels and research in Mexico, Chile, Peru, Guatemala, and Ecuador, I observed how alcohol could both render families asunder and unite communities. As addiction makes clear, alcohol could hold tremendous power over individuals. But it also marked the identities of even the most casual drinkers. Throughout my research on other topics—crime, gender, medicine—alcohol consistently emerges as a crucial avenue of inquiry. The books listed below offer innovative and insightful ways of centering alcohol in scholarly narratives. 

David's book list on alcohol in Latin America and the Caribbean

David Carey Jr. Why did David love this book?

I love how Gjelten made me reconsider the ways histories of alcohol and nations were intertwined.

With his study of a rum company that survived the transition from capitalism to communism, the journalist Tom Gjelten observes that Bacardi rum executives advanced legislation designed to undermine their competitors and ultimately forged a brand that shaped Cubans’ and foreigners’ perceptions of the island.

This political and cultural history of Bacardi reveals alcohol’s integral role in forging newly independent nations. More specifically, Gjelten demonstrates how alcohol companies shaped nations.

This study made me think about how types of alcohol—like rum in Cuba, tequila in Mexico, pisco in Chile—were often at the heart of national movements and identities, and could become symbols of national pride. 

By Tom Gjelten,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this widely hailed book, NPR correspondent Tom Gjelten fuses the story of the Bacardi family and their famous rum business with Cuba's tumultuous experience over the last 150 years to produce a deeply entertaining historical narrative. The company Facundo Bacardi launched in Cuba in 1862 brought worldwide fame to the island, and in the decades that followed his Bacardi descendants participated in every aspect of Cuban life. With his intimate account of their struggles and adventures across five generations, Gjelten brings to life the larger story of Cuba's fight for freedom, its tortured relationship with America, the rise of…


Book cover of One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War

FX Holden Author Of Aggressor

From my list on war stories you probably haven’t read yet.

Who am I?

I’m a former journalist and intelligence officer turned writer, so I seek out authenticity in my reading, especially when it comes to war stories. I look for fiction from people who have been there or know how to listen to those who have, and be their voice. When I write, I always put together a team of veterans and specialists in their fields to challenge my work and make sure I get it right, too!

FX's book list on war stories you probably haven’t read yet

FX Holden Why did FX love this book?

I was researching a novel and wanted to know more about the Cuban Missile Crisis. This non-fiction book reads like an action thriller, going hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute.

I finished this one in a single weekend and felt almost physically sick at the thought of how close the world had come to Armageddon in those few tense days and how lucky we were the leaders of the time were so determined to avoid it.

Would our leaders today be as level-headed? You judge!

By Michael Dobbs,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked One Minute to Midnight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

October 27, 1962, a day dubbed Black Saturday in the Kennedy White House. The Cuban missile crisis is at its height, and the world is drawing ever closer to nuclear apocalypse.

As the opposing Cold War leaders, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, mobilize their forces to fight a nuclear war on land, sea and air, the world watches in terror. In Bobby Kennedy's words, 'There was a feeling that the noose was tightening on all of us, on Americans, on mankind, and that the bridges to escape were crumbling.'

In One Minute to Midnight Michael Dobbs brings a fresh…


Book cover of The Revolution Is for the Children: The Politics of Childhood in Havana and Miami, 1959-1962

Rachel Hynson Author Of Laboring for the State: Women, Family, and Work in Revolutionary Cuba, 1959–1971

From my list on defying the narrative of early revolutionary Cuba.

Who am I?

As the eldest daughter raised in an Evangelical home in rural Pennsylvania, I was immersed in normative, Anglo notions of gender and the family. I built on this embodied experience to cultivate expertise in discourse about the family and labor in early revolutionary Cuba. Perhaps surprisingly, the celebration of patriarchy, monogamy, and heterosexuality that bracketed my youth was also an important element of Cuban revolutionary discourse of the 1960s—albeit within a very different context. I received my PhD in Latin American and Caribbean History from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Dartmouth College. I am now an independent scholar.

Rachel's book list on defying the narrative of early revolutionary Cuba

Rachel Hynson Why did Rachel love this book?

In her book, Casavantes Bradford reveals the centrality of children to Cuban national projects during the first four years of the Revolution. The book chronicles how the exile community and the revolutionary government both harnessed the discourse of childhood and actual children in service to divergent political goals. The Revolution Is for the Children is provocative not just because it is the first to identify children as historical actors in twentieth-century Cuba but also because it lays the foundation for future scholarship on family and migration in Cuban history.  

By Anita Casavantes Bradford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Revolution Is for the Children as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since 1959, the Cuban revolutionary government has proudly proclaimed that ""the revolution is for the children."" Many Cuban Americans reject this claim, asserting that they chose exile in the United States to protect their children from the evils of ""Castro-communism."" Anita Casavantes Bradford's analysis of the pivotal years between the Revolution's triumph and the 1962 Missile Crisis uncovers how and when children were first pressed into political service by ideologically opposed Cuban communities on both sides of the Florida Straits.

Casavantes Bradford argues that, in Havana, the Castro government deployed a morally charged ""politics of childhood"" to steer a nationalist…


Book cover of King of Cuba

John Thorndike Author Of A Hundred Fires in Cuba

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

Who am I?

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?

Cristina Garcia has become the definitive chronicler of both Cuba and Cuban exiles. King of Cuba tells the story of two men: El Comandante (also called the despot, the tyrant, or El Líder—clearly this is Fidel) and a Miami exile, Goyo Herrera, who is as old and infirm as Castro himself. Garcia’s portrait of the desperation and ignominies these two old guys suffer, and of their hopeless attempts to cleave to past glories, transcends Cuban history and brings us two men I found cantankerous and self-inflating, but irresistible.

By Cristina García,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A “darkly hilarious” (Elle) novel about a fictionalized Fidel Castro and an octogenarian Cuban exile obsessed with seeking revenge by the National Book Award finalist Cristina García, this “clever, well-conceived dual portrait shows what connects and divides Cubans inside and outside of the island” (Kirkus Reviews).

Vivid and teeming with life, King of Cuba transports readers to Cuba and Miami, and into the heads of two larger-than-life men: a fictionalized Fidel Castro and an octogenarian Cuban exile obsessed with seeking revenge against the dictator. García’s masterful twinning of these characters combines with a rabble of other Cuban voices to portray…


Book cover of Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886-1912

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

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

Who am I?

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?

This is only a biography in the loosest sense, one of Afro-Cubans from the year slavery was abolished until an ugly racial massacre that claimed thousands of innocent victims. In 1892, José Martí famously declared that “There is no racial hatred because there are no races.” The following year he wrongly predicted that “In Cuba, there will never be a racial war.” Cuba’s independence myth was founded on the idea that there would be no white or black Cubans, only Cubans. Yet in 1912, two Afro-Cuban politicians, Pedro Ivonet and Evaristo Estenoz, both veterans of Cuba’s independence struggle, some of their followers, and thousands of Afro-Cubans in the wrong place at the wrong time, were massacred in a frenzy of racial hatred.

By Aline Helg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Our Rightful Share , Aline Helg examines the issue of race in Cuban society, politics, and ideology during the island's transition from a Spanish colony to an independent state. She challenges Cuba's well-established myth of racial equality and shows that racism is deeply rooted in Cuban creole society. Helg argues that despite Cuba's abolition of slavery in 1886 and its winning of independence in 1902, Afro-Cubans remained marginalized in all aspects of society. After the wars for independence, in which they fought en masse, Afro-Cubans demanded change politically by forming the first national black party in the Western Hemisphere.…