The most recommended books about Latin America

Who picked these books? Meet our 96 experts.

96 authors created a book list connected to Latin America, and here are their favorite Latin America books.
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Book cover of Potosí: The Silver City That Changed the World

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

From my list on mining in colonial Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Allison's book list on mining in colonial Latin America

Allison Bigelow Why did Allison love this book?

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.


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…


Book cover of The True History of Chocolate

Deborah Toner Author Of Alcohol and Nationhood in Nineteenth-Century Mexico

From my list on the history of food in Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a social and cultural historian of North America and Latin America, specializing in the history of alcohol, food, and identity. When I’m not researching, writing, or teaching about food history, I’m generally cooking, eating or thinking about food, perusing recipe books, or watching cookery programs on TV. I have been especially fascinated by all things Mexico since I read Bernal Díaz’s A True History of the Conquest of New Spain as a teenager, and I think Mexican cuisine is the best in the world. 

Deborah's book list on the history of food in Latin America

Deborah Toner Why did Deborah love this book?

Chocolate is one of hundreds of foods that originated in the Americas and became globally important following the onset of European colonization in the sixteenth century. One of the best things about this book is that it devotes as much space to the story of chocolate’s importance in Maya, Aztec, and other Indigenous societies before colonization as to the global transformations that happened subsequently. As an avid cook, I loved the vivid reconstruction of varied historical recipes for preparing beverage chocolate. Plus, the story of how the book was written – I won’t spoil that – that you’ll find in the preface, is a beautiful testament to scholarly labors of love, and to love itself. 

By Sophie D. Coe, Michael D. Coe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Chocolate - 'the food of the Gods' - has had a long and eventful history. Its story is expertly told here by the doyen of Maya studies, Michael Coe, and his late wife, Sophie. The book begins 3,000 years ago in the Mexican jungles and goes on to draw on aspects of archaeology, botany and socio-economics. Used as currency and traded by the Aztecs, chocolate arrived in Europe via the conquistadors, and was soon a favourite drink with aristocrats. By the 19th century and industrialization, chocolate became a food for the masses - until its revival in our own time…


Book cover of Urban Centres in Asia and Latin America: Heritage and Identities in Changing Urban Landscapes

Matthias Ripp Author Of A Metamodel for Heritage-based Urban Development: Enabling Sustainable Growth Through Urban Cultural Heritage

From my list on understanding that cultural heritage can be part of the solution to climate change.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started my career in tourism but soon discovered my passion for urban heritage. Working as a site manager for a world heritage site, I gathered extensive insights on various levels of heritage management and urban governance from many colleagues around the world. Today there is no single project or meeting that does not address the challenges of climate change. Obtaining my Ph.D. late in life, in Heritage-Based Urban Development, I quickly became convinced that the traditional ideas of what cultural heritage is do not reflect the situation today and hinder giving cultural heritage a role in climate change prevention and adaption, beyond the narrative that it has to be preserved. 

Matthias' book list on understanding that cultural heritage can be part of the solution to climate change

Matthias Ripp Why did Matthias love this book?

Climate change and urban transformation are global phenomena. It is, therefore, always great to broaden your horizons and learn from other regions of the world.

This book from Simone Sandholz offers great insights into the situation in Asia and Latin America, both regions with a strong dynamic of urbanization and urban centers where high density with correlating high diversity of sometimes conflicting urban functions meet urban cultural heritage. She embraces a holistic understanding of this heritage and focuses on the integration of heritage in urban planning and development.

I highly recommend this book not only for scholars and students who are working on urban issues in Asia and Latin America but also for any urban planner, urban analyst, urban geographer, or heritage scientist who wants to learn from experiences in these parts of the world.

For me, this book opened my eyes to the challenges that urban centers in Asia…

By Simone Sandholz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Urban Centres in Asia and Latin America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book presents an overview of the challenges that cities in Latin America and Asia are facing regarding the preservation of their tangible and intangible heritage. It argues that urban heritage has a value that transcends the mere object's value, constituting a crucial source of identity for urban inhabitants. The same is true for the urban intangible values and practices that are often associated with places or buildings. The empirical research is based on case studies of Kathmandu in Nepal, Yogyakarta in Indonesia and Recife in Brazil; three cities that still comprise core areas with a high percentage of historic…


Book cover of Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States

Gillian McGillivray Author Of Blazing Cane: Sugar Communities, Class, and State Formation in Cuba, 1868-1959

From my list on workers, populism, and revolution in Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became curious about US imperialism and Latin American history after reading Gabriel García Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. While pursuing a BA in History and Spanish at Dalhousie and an MA and PhD in Latin American Studies and History at Georgetown, I learned that Marquez's fictional banana worker massacre really happened in 1928 Colombia. What made me focus on sugar, rather than bananas, is the fact that sugar’s not really food... it often takes over land where food was planted, and the lack of food leads to a potentially revolutionary situation. I've used the following books in my classes about Revolution, Populism, and Commodities in Latin America at York University's Glendon College.

Gillian's book list on workers, populism, and revolution in Latin America

Gillian McGillivray Why did Gillian love this book?

How could you not love a book that explores the at times hilarious, at times tragic, but always fascinating impact of the banana in the United States and Latin America?

From the changing faces of Chiquita Banana to cookbooks and popular jingles like, “Yes, we have no bananas!” Soluri shows us how the banana became one of the most common fruits in the US diet. At the same time, he shows how US importers and marketers took control over, manipulated, and expanded, much of the production in tropical areas like Honduras.

On the production side, Soluri explores ironies like the fact that the United Fruit Company created the perfect breeding ground for pathogens by shrinking banana gene pools and shoving the same type of banana trees all in a row... or the tragic fact that “macho” banana workers became sterile after refusing to wear protective clothing.

John Soluri’s book is…

By John Soluri,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Bananas, the most frequently consumed fresh fruit in the United States, have been linked to Miss Chiquita and Carmen Miranda, "banana republics," and Banana Republic clothing stores-everything from exotic kitsch, to Third World dictatorships, to middle-class fashion. But how did the rise in banana consumption in the United States affect the banana-growing regions of Central America? In this lively, interdisciplinary study, John Soluri integrates agroecology, anthropology, political economy, and history to trace the symbiotic growth of the export banana industry in Honduras and the consumer mass market in the United States.

Beginning in the 1870s, when bananas first appeared in…


Book cover of Soccer in Sun and Shadow

Stephen Amidon Author Of Something like the Gods: A Cultural History of the Athlete from Achilles to LeBron

From my list on sports that are about more than wins & losses.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a novelist (Human Capital, The New City, and Security) with a lifelong passion for sports, from my boyhood days as a Yankees fan during their woebegone late Sixties years, to my career as the father of an All-ACC wide receiver.  In my youth, I was a workmanlike catcher, mediocre quarterback, and hard-working 800-meter runner who came this close to breaking two minutes.  These days, I mainly enjoy watching great moments in sports history on YouTube.  Through it all, I have always believed that sports are about much more than wins, losses, records, and titles.

Stephen's book list on sports that are about more than wins & losses

Stephen Amidon Why did Stephen love this book?

Galeano was no ordinary sportswriter. He was also a radical journalist, revisionist historian, and clear-eyed social critic whose work redefined modern Latin America in the minds of readers worldwide. In Soccer in Sun and Shadow, the Uruguayan author explores the meaning of soccer far beyond yellow cards and defensive strategies. In a series of short chapters, some no more than a page, Galeano illuminates the Beautiful Game’s legends, known and forgotten, from Maradona and Pele to the match that ended with 44 penalty kicks but whose results no one can quite remember. He is at his best when writing about how players of color from the favelas of Latin American added flare and rhythm to a hitherto stodgy old European game. Lyrical and learned, loving and elegiac, Soccer in Sun and Shadow stands as perhaps the greatest book on sports ever written.  

By Eduardo Galeano,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Soccer in Sun and Shadow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this witty and rebellious history of world soccer, award-winning writer Eduardo Galeano searches for the styles of play, players, and goals that express the unique personality of certain times and places. In Soccer in Sun and Shadow , Galeano takes us to ancient China, where engravings from the Ming period show a ball that could have been designed by Adidas to Victorian England, where gentlemen codified the rules that we still play by today and to Latin America, where the crazy English" spread the game only to find it creolized by the locals.All the greats,Pele, Di Stefano, Cruyff, Eusebio,…


Book cover of Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America

Dorothy Sue Cobble Author Of For the Many: American Feminists and the Global Fight for Democratic Equality

From my list on how working women changed the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in a blue-collar union family in the 1950s South I learned about the depth of racial and class injustice and the power of collective organizing. The many jobs I held in my twenties before fleeing to graduate school at Stanford University left me acutely aware of workplace sexism and disrespect. I became fascinated by how work shapes our sense of self and especially curious about the distinctive feminisms, labor movements, and politics of working-class women. These questions animate all my writing and teaching. Thirty years and seven books later, I believe reimagining work and labor movements is more necessary – and possible – than ever before.

Dorothy's book list on how working women changed the world

Dorothy Sue Cobble Why did Dorothy love this book?

You think academics don’t have guts? You haven’t met Dana Frank.

She left her perfect little Santa Cruz campus behind to travel into the violent world of labor organizing in Central America. The fearless women she follows never give up as they take on American global corporations, corrupt politicians, ruthless landowners and bosses, and male chauvinism at home, on the job, and in the union.

Against great odds, the banana women forge a region-wide union of men and women committed to gender justice, economic fairness, and political democracy. Thank you Dana Frank for knowing this story had to be told – and for telling it with such flair and wisdom.

By Dana Frank,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Women banana workers in Latin America have organised themselves and gained increasing control over their unions, their workplaces and their lives. Highly accessible and narrative in style, Bananeras recounts the history and growth of this vital movement and shows how Latin American women workers are shaping and broadly reimagining the possibilities of international labour solidarity.


Book cover of The Feast of the Goat

Nicholas Shakespeare Author Of Ian Fleming: The Complete Man

From my list on post-war Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a British novelist and biographer who lived on and off in Latin America from the 1960s to the late 1980s. I was a boy in Brazil during the Death Squads; an adolescent in Argentina during the Dirty War; and a young journalist in Peru during the Shining Path insurgency, publishing a reportage for Granta on my search for Abimael Guzman. I gave the 2010 Borges Lecture and have written two novels set in Peru, the second of which, The Dancer Upstairs, was chosen as the best novel of 1995 by the American Libraries Association and turned into a film by John Malkovich.

Nicholas' book list on post-war Latin America

Nicholas Shakespeare Why did Nicholas love this book?

I lived in Lima during the worst excesses of “the Sendero years” when I came to know the Peruvian Nobel laureate and quondam presidential candidate.

This story about the assassination of the Dominican dictator Trujillo is an exhilarating portrait of corruption, violence, and power. Trujillo stands in a long and grubby line of post-Pizarro tyrants like Melgarejo of Bolivia, Rosas of Argentina, Stroessner of Paraguay, and Pinochet of Chile, who deformed their countries.

By Mario Vargas Llosa, Edith Grossman (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Feast of the Goat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The Feast of the Goat will stand out as the great emblematic novel of Latin America's twentieth century and removes One Hundred Years of Solitude of that title.' Times Literary Supplement

Urania Cabral, a New York lawyer, returns to the Dominican Republic after a lifelong self-imposed exile. Once she is back in her homeland, the elusive feeling of terror that has overshadowed her whole life suddenly takes shape. Urania's own story alternates with the powerful climax of dictator Rafael Trujillo's reign.

In 1961, Trujillo's decadent inner circle (which includes Urania's soon-to-be disgraced father) enjoys the luxuries of privilege while the…


Book cover of The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America, 1492–1700

Deborah Toner Author Of Alcohol and Nationhood in Nineteenth-Century Mexico

From my list on the history of food in Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a social and cultural historian of North America and Latin America, specializing in the history of alcohol, food, and identity. When I’m not researching, writing, or teaching about food history, I’m generally cooking, eating or thinking about food, perusing recipe books, or watching cookery programs on TV. I have been especially fascinated by all things Mexico since I read Bernal Díaz’s A True History of the Conquest of New Spain as a teenager, and I think Mexican cuisine is the best in the world. 

Deborah's book list on the history of food in Latin America

Deborah Toner Why did Deborah love this book?

As an undergraduate student I was lucky enough to take Professor Earle’s class on the history of food in Latin America and this book encapsulates the expansive outlook and conceptual complexity that made that class so mind-bogglingly brilliant and enjoyable. By examining the systems of thought through which European colonizers and Indigenous peoples of the Americas understood different foods, ways of cooking and eating, and the influence of diet on people’s bodies, The Body of the Conquistador helped me to think about the axiom “you are what you eat” in a whole new way. 

By Rebecca Earle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This fascinating history explores the dynamic relationship between overseas colonisation and the bodily experience of eating. It reveals the importance of food to the colonial project in Spanish America and reconceptualises the role of European colonial expansion in shaping the emergence of ideas of race during the Age of Discovery. Rebecca Earle shows that anxieties about food were fundamental to Spanish understandings of the new environment they inhabited and their interactions with the native populations of the New World. Settlers wondered whether Europeans could eat New World food, whether Indians could eat European food and what would happen to each…


Book cover of Desired States: Sex, Gender, and Political Culture in Chile

Natalia Milanesio Author Of Destape: Sex, Democracy, and Freedom in Postdictatorial Argentina

From my list on the history of sexuality in modern Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of twentieth-century Argentina and a professor of modern Latin American history currently teaching at the University of Houston. Born and raised in Argentina, I completed my undergraduate studies at the National University of Rosario and moved to the United States in 2000 to continue my education. I received my M.A. in history from New York University and my Ph.D. in history from Indiana University, Bloomington. I have written extensively about gender, working-class history, consumer culture, and sexuality in Argentina. I am the author of Workers Go Shopping in Argentina: The Rise of Popular Consumer Culture and Destape! Sex, Democracy, and Freedom in Postdictatorial Argentina.

Natalia's book list on the history of sexuality in modern Latin America

Natalia Milanesio Why did Natalia love this book?

Using a truly interdisciplinary approach anchored in queer studies and affect theory, Frazier subverts the common approach to sex as privatized and located in individual subjectivity by looking at desire as a central component of political culture and power. The book explores a variety of Chilean political projects and actors throughout the twentieth century including feminists, the revolutionary left, and the military dictatorship to understand the ways in which both sexual and non-sexual practices and ideologies were intrinsically connected to emotions and ideas of pleasure and to sexualized and gendered discourses and experiences.

By Lessie Jo Frazier,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Desired States challenges the notion that in some cultures, sex and sexuality have become privatized and located in individual subjectivity rather than in public political practices and institutions. Instead, the book contends that desire is a central aspect of political culture. Based on fieldwork and archival research, Frazier explores the gendered and sexualized dynamics of political culture in Chile, an imperialist context, asking how people connect with and become mobilized in political projects in some cases or, in others, become disaffected or are excluded to varying degrees. The book situates the state in a rich and changing context of transnational…


Book cover of Cobra and Maitreya

Laura Raicovich Author Of At the Lightning Field

From my list on reimagining the present.

Why am I passionate about this?

How might we live and write otherwise? I am preoccupied by this question, and am fairly certain that at minimum we have to start by imagining it. As a culture worker and writer I hope my projects and experiments do just this. There is so much to reinvent, and so much that interconnects us. I am inspired by the ways the authors of these books take on their times and passions, and tell stories in ways I find unexpected. Their abilities to integrate divergent avenues of thought, deep research, and truly weird characters and circumstances has lit my imagination and I hope it does yours as well!

Laura's book list on reimagining the present

Laura Raicovich Why did Laura love this book?

Two of Sarduy’s most extraordinary writings from the 1970s, these twin works chart a territory of radical transformation. In the first part of the book, Cobra makes their gender transition with the support of a slew of unusual characters who also shape-shift via the mysterious and violent rites of a motorcycle gang and a group of Tantric Buddhist lamas. Metamorphosis continues in the second half of the book, wherein a Cuban-Chinese cook reincarnates as the Buddha, in the midst of the Cuban revolution. The wild tales create a distinctive space for being otherwise.

By Severo Sarduy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The late Severo Sarduy was one of the most outrageous and baroque of the Latin American Boom writers of the sixties and seventies, and here bound back to back are his two finest creations. Cobra (1972) recounts the tale of a transvestite named Cobra, star of the Lyrical Theater of the Dolls, whose obsession is to transform his/her body. She is assisted in her metamorphosis by the Madam and Pup, Cobra's dwarfish double. They too change shape, through the violent ceremonies of a motorcycle gang, into a sect of Tibetan lamas seeking to revive Tantric Buddhism.

Maitreya (1978) continues the…