The best books about Guatemala 📚

Browse the best books on Guatemala as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Disappeared: A Journalist Silenced

Disappeared: A Journalist Silenced

By June Carolyn Erlick

Why this book?

June Carolyn Erlick, editor-in-chief for ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America, casts a seasoned journalist’s eye on the 1980 abduction of  Guatemalan journalist Irma Flaquer. Returning home, Flaquer was pulled from her car and was never seen again. Flaquer, a popular and respected journalist with an influential column, Lo Que Otros Callan or "What Others Don't Dare Write",  was also the founder of the first Guatemalan Human Rights Commission. Throughout her career, Flaquer survived beatings, car bombs, and drive-by assassination attempts that did not daunt her from doing her job as a reporter to expose Guatemalan suffering at…

From the list:

The best books on women journalists working in dangerous places

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Book cover of Rural Guatemala, 1760-1940

Rural Guatemala, 1760-1940

By David McCreery

Why this book?

When McCreery’s book was published the literature on the region was overwhelmingly dominated by books on politics, with the great majority written from a left-wing perspective. Even long after the fighting has ceased, many in the global North had an unnuanced vision of rural society in which oligarchic landlords exercised feudal control over an undifferentiated ‘peasantry.’ This book shows that for decades an element of that vision was borne out in everyday life, but the volume also shows on the basis of outstanding research that rural Guatemala was dynamic, riven with class competition and negotiation, far from binary in its…

From the list:

The best books on Central American history and politics

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Book cover of Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico

Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico

By Ronald Wright

Why this book?

Far from being an extinct people swallowed by the jungle-like their famous temples, the Maya make up a significant percentage of the population of southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize, with vibrant ancient languages that are still spoken today. This beautifully written account of contemporary Maya culture will help you understand a remarkable people who explored the world through arithmetic and time.

From the list:

The best books on Central America

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Book cover of I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala

I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala

By Rigoberta Menchú

Why this book?

When this title first appeared in English shortly after the original Spanish edition it caused a real furor. One US anthropologist, David Stoll, raised doubts about the factual aspects of this biography of a poor Guatemalan peasant woman, and he was even more energetic in casting aspersions on its ‘editor’ Elizabeth Burgos-Debray, a Venezuelan writer of high profile because of her marriage to the radical thinker Regis Debray. Stoll’s motives were widely discussed and often decried, but some of his points proved to be factually accurate, and he certainly raised the profile of Menchú, who became a Nobel Laureate. There…

From the list:

The best books on Central American history and politics

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Book cover of Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala

Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala

By Stephen Schlesinger, Stephen Kinzer

Why this book?

This riveting account of the CIA’s first large-scale covert operation in Latin America opened my eyes to what can happen when business interests outweigh political ideals. In 1954 the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Árbenz, proposed agrarian land reforms to benefit the poor indigenous population of the country. United Fruit Company, which owned most of the land under threat of expropriation, used its influence with the Eisenhower administration to raise a red flag. Literally. Grossly exaggerating the specter of Soviet meddling, CIA Director Allen Dulles authorized a false-flag operation to remove Árbenz. Read this book to see how things…

From the list:

The best books about covert ops in Latin America

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Book cover of Whose Heaven, Whose Earth?

Whose Heaven, Whose Earth?

By Thomas Melville, Marjorie Melville

Why this book?

How did a U.S. priest and nun who went to Guatemala to convert the poor to “proper” Catholicism and to fight communism join a revolutionary movement?

The married couple Thomas and Marjorie Melville explain how they shared the anti-communist views of the U.S. government and the Catholic Church but living among the poor led them to question both institutions’ roles in supporting inequality in Guatemala. At the time of the book’s publication, 1970, the two were in jail as part of the Catonsville Nine. They, along with other Catholics, broke into a Maryland draft board and poured homemade napalm on…

From the list:

The best books by or about Catholics who joined revolutionary movements in Central America

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