The most recommended exile books

Who picked these books? Meet our 27 experts.

27 authors created a book list connected to exile, and here are their favorite exile books.
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What type of exile book?


A Long Petal of the Sea

By Isabel Allende, Nick Caistor (translator), Amanda Hopkinson (translator)

Book cover of A Long Petal of the Sea

Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon Author Of A Place in the World

From the list on multicultural stories set in exotic lands.

Who am I?

I grew up in Latin America (& briefly in Europe) and my connections and regard for the people, culture, and natural setting resulted in my novel, A Place in the World. I have lived in six countries and appreciate the experiences. I love languages and history and like to travel, at least vicariously with a good book. I hope you enjoy my book picks as much as I have! I am a writer, former university lecturer, and environmental scientist, with an MS in geology and a passion for botany. This background enabled me to weave aspects of natural science, as well as Latino culture, into my writing.

Cinda's book list on multicultural stories set in exotic lands

Why did Cinda love this book?

This story starts in Spain’s Civil War but immigrates to Chile. I have two reasons to be attracted to this book. First I grew up in South America and so am drawn to this setting, but second I had a writing mentor who was a small boy during the Franco regime. (I published his story in my blog.)

An exodus of thousands of Spaniards escaped into France and Cristian Zozaya was separated from his parents for years until they were able to immigrate to South America. His story echoes the beginning of Allende’s, except hers is about adult refugees in a marriage of convenience. The protagonists face trials in Chile with yet another dictatorship, but the ending is pleasing.

By Isabel Allende, Nick Caistor (translator), Amanda Hopkinson (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Long Petal of the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_______________ THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER _______________ 'A powerful love story spanning generations... Full of ambition and humanity' - Sunday Times 'One of the strongest and most affecting works in Allende's long career' - New York Times Book Review _______________ On September 3, 1939, the day of the Spanish exiles' splendid arrival in Chile, the Second World War broke out in Europe. Victor Dalmau is a young doctor when he is caught up in the Spanish Civil War, a tragedy that leaves his life - and the fate of his country - forever changed. Together with…

The Disoriented

By Amin Maalouf, Frank Wynne (translator),

Book cover of The Disoriented

Diane Lemieux Author Of Culture Smart! Canada

From the list on understanding the locals.

Who am I?

I was born in Quebec, have lived in eleven countries, and speak four languages. In my 20+ years as an author and journalist, my goal has always been to create bridges between cultures and to tell stories that enable individuals to better understand each other. For me, a trip to a new country, no matter how short or long, is incomplete unless I’ve had the chance to meet locals.

Diane's book list on understanding the locals

Why did Diane love this book?

I wish I’d read this book before visiting Lebanese friends there.

The story of a man who returns to his native Lebanon years after the civil war, it portrays the complexity of their society through the impact the war had on a group of university friends.

It gives a wonderfully accurate feel of the sights, sounds, and tastes of the country, and an astute description of the psyche of the Lebanese people from the point of view of a returnee.

By Amin Maalouf, Frank Wynne (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A thoughtful, philosophically rich story that probes a still-open wound.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Maalouf is a thoughtful, humane and passionate interlocutor.” ―The New York Times Book Review One night, a phone rings in Paris. Adam learns that Mourad, once his closest friend, is dying. He quickly throws some clothes in a suitcase and takes the first flight out, to the homeland he fled twenty-five years ago. Exiled in France, Adam has been leading a peaceful life as a respected historian, but back among the milk-white mountains of the East his past soon catches up with him. His childhood friends have all…

Stalin's Nemesis

By Bertrand M. Patenaude,

Book cover of Stalin's Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky

Donald Rayfield Author Of Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him

From the list on Russia and the USSR.

Who am I?

Since adolescence, I have been fascinated by Slavonic languages, literature, cultures, and history, and by what can be retrieved from archives all over Eastern Europe. And because so much has been suppressed or distorted in everything from biographies of writers to atrocities by totalitarian governments, there has been much to expose and write about. Studying at Cambridge in the 1960s gave me an opportunity to learn everything from Lithuanian to Slovak: I have been able to write histories of Stalin and of Georgia, biographies of Russians such as Chekhov, Suvorin, and Przhevalsky, and the field is still fresh and open for future work.

Donald's book list on Russia and the USSR

Why did Donald love this book?

Patenaude focuses just on the Mexican period, from January 1937 to August 1940, of Trotsky’s exile, although the previous stages of his exile — Kazakhstan in 1928, then Turkey for four years, France for another three, followed by interment in Norway — are dealt with in a series of flashbacks. In fact, the whole book is written as if Trotsky in Coyoacán were recalling his past, from his prosperous farmer’s boyhood to his underground militancy, his Civil War military brilliance, and his blundering incompetence as a Bolshevik power-broker. The danger that Patenaude flirts with is to let Trotsky’s charisma and undoubted genius charm him into overlooking his subject’s monstrous indifference to the suffering and deaths of others, sometimes even of those close to him, as well as his overweening conceit.

By dealing with the last phase of the tragedy, nemesis, Trotsky is seen to pay in fear, resignation, failure, and…

By Bertrand M. Patenaude,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stalin's Nemesis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Leon Trotsky was the charismatic intellectual of the Russian Revolution, a brilliant writer and orator who was also an authoritarian organizer. He might have succeeded Lenin and become the ruler of the Soviet Union. But by the time the Second World War broke out he was in exile, living in Mexico in a villa borrowed from the great artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, guarded only by several naive young Americans in awe of the great theoretician. The household was awash with emotional turmoil - tensions grew between Trotsky and Rivera, as questions arose over his relations with Frida Kahlo.…

Being Palestinian

By Yasir Suleiman (editor),

Book cover of Being Palestinian: Personal Reflections on Palestinian Identity in the Diaspora

Anne Irfan Author Of Refuge and Resistance: Palestinians and the International Refugee System

From the list on Palestinian refugees.

Who am I?

I am a historian at University College London, where I examine Palestinian refugee history in both my writing and my teaching. I first visited a Palestinian refugee camp 15 years ago, and I’ve spent much of my life since then researching the subject’s history and politics. As I see it, this topic is really the key to understanding the political dynamics of Israel-Palestine today. While a huge amount has been written on Israel-Palestine, I have always found that the most striking and informative works focus on refugees’ own experiences – and that’s the common thread running through the books I’ve chosen here.

Anne's book list on Palestinian refugees

Why did Anne love this book?

Being Palestinian is a collection of essays by Palestinians reflecting on their identity and experiences living outside of their homeland.

I’ve chosen it here because few works are so effective in conveying both the commonalities and the diversity of the Palestinian refugee experience. The contributors range from Ivy League professors to activists campaigning for justice in the Middle East today; they include figures who grew up in refugee camps and those raised in some of the wealthiest cities in the world.

In many ways Being Palestinian is the perfect introduction to learning more about the subject, because it is accessible and highly personal without being simplistic. 

By Yasir Suleiman (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What does it means to be Palestinian in the diaspora? This collection of 100 personal reflections on being Palestinian is the first book of its kind. Reflecting on Palestinian identity as it is experienced at the individual level, issues of identity, exile, refugee status, nostalgia, belonging and alienation are at the heart of the book. The contributors speak in many voices, exploring the richness and diversity of identity construction among Palestinians in the diaspora. Included are contributions from Palestinians living in the Anglo-Saxon diaspora, mainly the UK and North America. They come from a variety of professional backgrounds: business people,…

Beatriz Allende

By Tanya Harmer,

Book cover of Beatriz Allende: A Revolutionary Life in Cold War Latin America

Eric Zolov Author Of The Walls of Santiago: Social Revolution and Political Aesthetics in Contemporary Chile

From the list on Latin American culture and politics in the 1960s-70s.

Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by the political aesthetics and political ferment of the 1960s. As someone born in the 1960s but not of the 1960’s generation, this has allowed for a certain “critical distance” in the ways I approach this period. I'm especially fascinated by the global circulation of cultural protest forms from the 1960s, what the historian Jeremy Suri called a “language of dissent.” The term Global Sixties is now used to explore this evident simultaneity of “like responses across disparate contexts,” such as finding jipis in Chile. In our book, The Walls of Santiago, we locate various examples of what we term the “afterlives” of Global Sixties protest signage. 

Eric's book list on Latin American culture and politics in the 1960s-70s

Why did Eric love this book?

Tanya Harmer is a noted diplomatic historian who focuses on the left-wing presidency of Salvador Allende in Chile during the early 1970s. Allende, as most people know, was violently overthrown in a CIA-backed coup d’etat in 1973. That event ushered in 15 years of brutal dictatorship and transformed Chile’s experiment with democratic socialism into the first example of neoliberalism in Latin America and the world. Harmer’s biography of Allende’s youngest daughter, Beatriz, is a brilliant, intimate portrait of a young activist torn between loyalty to her Socialist (and non-violent) father and the appeal of Cuba’s revolutionary fervor, with its emphasis on violent insurrection against the old order. It is a tragedy, much like the 1960s itself.

By Tanya Harmer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This biography of Beatriz Allende (1942-1977) - revolutionary doctor and daughter of Chile's socialist president, Salvador Allende - portrays what it means to live, love, and fight for change. Inspired by the Cuban Revolution, Beatriz and her generation drove political campaigns, university reform, public health programs, internationalist guerrilla insurgencies, and government strategies. Centering Beatriz's life within the global contours of the Cold War era, Tanya Harmer exposes the promises and paradoxes of the revolutionary wave that swept through Latin America in the long 1960s.

Drawing on exclusive access to Beatriz's private papers, as well as firsthand interviews, Harmer connects the…

The Postcard

By Anne Berest, Tina Kover (translator),

Book cover of The Postcard

Melinda Lewis Author Of Social Policy for Effective Practice: A Strengths Approach

From Melinda's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Educator Advocate Learner Truth-teller Mother

Melinda's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Melinda love this book?

I have been wanting to read more books in translation because I speak and read Spanish as well as English (and I’m fascinated by language and the various meanings it can convey), but I truly would not have expected a Holocaust novel to be as captivating and almost breathless a reading experience as this was.

The mystery element was legitimately suspenseful, the relationships among family members sincere and enduring, and the portrayal of complex characters and their moral decisions and failings nuanced and thought-provoking.

When I realized (halfway through!) that the novel is based on a thoroughly researched story of the author’s own family’s story, I knew it would stay with me for a long time.

By Anne Berest, Tina Kover (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Choix Goncourt Prize, Anne Berest’s The Postcard is a vivid portrait of twentieth-century Parisian intellectual and artistic life, an enthralling investigation into family secrets, and poignant tale of a Jewish family devastated by the Holocaust and partly restored through the power of storytelling.

January, 2003. Together with the usual holiday cards, an anonymous postcard is delivered to the Berest family home. On the front, a photo of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. On the back, the names of Anne Berest’s maternal great-grandparents, Ephraïm and Emma, and their children, Noémie and Jacques—all killed at Auschwitz.

Fifteen years after…

The Emigrants

By W.G. Sebald, Michael Hulse (translator),

Book cover of The Emigrants

Edward Dusinberre Author Of Distant Melodies: Music in Search of Home

From the list on loss and discovery.

Who am I?

For three decades I have been the first violinist of the Takács Quartet, performing concerts worldwide and based at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I love the ways in which books, like music, offer new and surprising elements at different stages of life, providing companionship alongside joys and sorrows. 

Edward's book list on loss and discovery

Why did Edward love this book?

One of the most original books I have ever read, and as such impossible to classify by genrea dizzying mix of memoir, history, and travel writing. As the separate stories of four apparently unrelated individuals unfold, Sebald exposes a common theme: the loss of identity through trauma and displacement. The stories are devastating and yet there is something hopeful in Sebald’s melancholic and vivid writing, the powerful case he makes for these stories being heard.

By W.G. Sebald, Michael Hulse (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The four long narratives in The Emigrants appear at first to be the straightforward biographies of four Germans in exile. Sebald reconstructs the lives of a painter, a doctor, an elementary-school teacher, and Great Uncle Ambrose. Following (literally) in their footsteps, the narrator retraces routes of exile which lead from Lithuania to London, from Munich to Manchester, from the South German provinces to Switzerland, France, New York, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. Along with memories, documents, and diaries of the Holocaust, he collects photographs-the enigmatic snapshots which stud The Emigrants and bring to mind family photo albums. Sebald combines precise documentary with…

Book cover of Irish Nationalists in America: The Politics of Exile, 1798-1998

Kevin Kenny Author Of Making Sense of the Molly Maguires

From the list on Irish immigration to the United States.

Who am I?

I am interested in immigration for both personal and professional reasons. A native of Dublin, Ireland, I did my undergraduate work in Edinburgh, Scotland, completed my graduate degree in New York City, moved to Austin, Texas for my first academic job and to Boston for my second job, and then returned to New City York to take up my current position at NYU, where I teach US immigration history and run Glucksman Ireland House, an interdisciplinary center devoted to the study of Irish history and culture. The key themes in my work—migration and diaspora—have been as central to my life journey as to my research and teaching.

Kevin's book list on Irish immigration to the United States

Why did Kevin love this book?

Irish men and women in the United States launched a movement to liberate their homeland from British rule.

David Brundage’s Irish Nationalists in America, the first history of this movement as a whole, ranges across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, covering the full range of ideological positions—from peaceful constitutional change to an Irish republic achieved through violent means—and exploring how Irish-American nationalism intersected with movements for labor reform, racial equality, and women’s rights in the United States.

A skilled social and political historian, Brundage tells a vivid story about how ordinary immigrants built an extraordinary movement.

By David Brundage,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Irish Nationalists in America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this important work of deep learning and insight, David Brundage gives us the first full-scale history of Irish nationalists in the United States. Beginning with the brief exile of Theobald Wolfe Tone, founder of Irish republican nationalism, in Philadelphia on the eve of the bloody 1798 Irish rebellion, and concluding with the role of Bill Clinton's White House in the historic 1998 Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, Brundage tells a story of more than two
hundred years of Irish American (and American) activism in the cause of Ireland.

The book, though, is far more than a narrative history…

King of Cuba

By Cristina García,

Book cover of King of Cuba

John Thorndike Author Of A Hundred Fires in Cuba

From the 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

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…

Lenin on the Train

By Catherine Merridale,

Book cover of Lenin on the Train

Susanne Schattenberg Author Of Brezhnev: The Making of a Statesman

From the list on Pre-Putin’s Soviet Russia.

Who am I?

When I had to choose another elective subject at school, my grandmother advised me: "Take Russian. We will have to deal with the Russians – for better or for worse.” So I chose Russian as my third foreign language and my grandmother was right – first it came good: perestroika and glasnost, then it came bad: Putinism. So I studied Russian and history, did my doctorate and habilitation in Russian-Soviet history, and today I am a professor of contemporary history and culture of Eastern Europe and head of the Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen. 

Susanne's book list on Pre-Putin’s Soviet Russia

Why did Susanne love this book?

This book made me a traveling companion of Lenin. Together with him we go on an incredible journey: from Switzerland across Europe via Finland to Petrograd. This journey changed the world, because it brought Lenin back to Russia, Russia the October coup, and the century of a Soviet regime. Merridale depicts the unique moment of the dawn of a new age as banally and grotesquely as if she had really been there. The best part: just before he left, Lenin called the American embassy because he would have preferred to be transported by the Americans rather than the Germans. But it was Easter Sunday and no one could be reached at the embassy, and so the story took its course....

By Catherine Merridale,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lenin on the Train as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The superb, funny, fascinating story of Lenin's trans-European rail journey and how it shook the world' Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard, Books of the Year

'Splendid ... a jewel among histories, taking a single episode from the penultimate year of the Great War, illuminating a continent, a revolution and a series of psychologies in a moment of cataclysm and doing it with wit, judgment and an eye for telling detail' David Aaronovitch, The Times

By 1917 the European war seemed to be endless. Both sides in the fighting looked to new weapons, tactics and ideas to break a stalemate that…