8 books directly related to Mexico City 📚

All 8 Mexico City books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Sidewalks

By Valeria Luiselli, Christina Macsweeney (translator),

Book cover of Sidewalks

Why this book?

Valeria Luiselli dissects the odd systems and networks of our world’s cities and reveals in their hidden corners and corridors strange and magical identities. Luiselli’s essays further interrogate a city’s relationship to the bodies, cultures, artifacts, and languages that inhabit its spaces. In the essay, “Flying Home,” Luiselli journeys to Mexico City, the place of her birth, and, staring out of her airplane window, considers the city’s layout from this great height. This act of “mapping” according to her extraordinary vantage (suspended in flight), allows for a greater, incantatory meditation on our various perceptions of “home,” and how said perceptions depend as much on the imagination and on ephemeral memories as they do on reality.   


The Savage Detectives

By Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer (translator),

Book cover of The Savage Detectives

Why this book?

Bolaño’s masterpiece follows two fictional poets (one of whom is closely modelled on the author himself) from their youthful heyday in 1970s Mexico through twenty years of wandering the globe. Narrated in a polyphonic array of voices, the novel is a funny, sexy, playful, surreal and deeply moving vision of the wasting away of youthful potential and the joys and agonies of devoting one’s life entirely to literature.

The Mexicans: A Personal Portrait of a People

By Patrick Oster,

Book cover of The Mexicans: A Personal Portrait of a People

Why this book?

I think that we should all make an effort to understand people who are not from our cultural stew; people who seem different, but wind up being like us; once we get to know them.

Patrick Oster is not a sociologist, a psychologist, or an ugly American. He could be Joe Blow from down the block who decides to go to Mexico, to get to know the Mexican people. He does not make an effort to know all the people, he simply makes friends with those who are friendly, and leaves the others alone; just the way he would do in America.

I feel that this book is a wonderful example of what can come from an honest exploration and a warm writing style.


Nothing, Nobody: The Voices of the Mexico City Earthquake

By Elena Poniatowska,

Book cover of Nothing, Nobody: The Voices of the Mexico City Earthquake

Why this book?

This book showcases the extraordinary writing of the novelist and journalist Elena Poniatowska. She weaves together the voices of multiple journalists, her own reflections, and above all the testimonies of dozens of survivors of the two earthquakes that battered Mexico City and surrounding areas on September 19 and 20, 1985. It is both a moving report of people's suffering as well as a stirring portrait of how common people stepped in and created search and rescue teams and offered relief when government efforts failed. Poniatowska masterfully captures what many historians consider a key before and after moment in modern Mexican history.

Certain Dark Things

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia,

Book cover of Certain Dark Things

Why this book?

Atl, the “wild child” daughter of a matriarch in a vampire clan that was old when the Aztecs ruled Mexico, is on the run from the slaughter of her family. She risks hiding out in Mexico City, off-limits to her kind, setting off a clash between warring vampire narco gangs, the beleaguered police, and the mortal crime families.  Atl needs to grow up and figure out how to survive before any or all of the above find her.  Forget everything you think you know about vampires. Moreno-Garcia throws all the pieces into the air and creates a new world of modern vampire noir. 


McSweeney's Issue 58: 2040 Ad

By Claire Boyle (editor), Dave Eggers (editor), Wesley Allsbrook (illustrator)

Book cover of McSweeney's Issue 58: 2040 Ad

Why this book?

McSweeney’s is a singular publisher of beautifully designed, smart, and unusual books. This one is a collection of writers devoted to imagining the effects of climate change in the near future. Sad, wistful, compelling stories, written from myriad global perspectives and based on climate science. One that has stuck with me is a story called “1740” by Asja Bakic, a Croatian writer. But if you prefer a big, classic novel in the “cli fi” literature, look to the works of Kim Stanley Robinson. 


When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History

By Matthew Restall,

Book cover of When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History

Why this book?

For a couple of decades, Restall has been at the vanguard of a group of historians developing what is known as the New Conquest History, an effort to balance the Eurocentrism of earlier histories of the Aztec-Spanish War and its aftermath. I’ve used an earlier book of his, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, in my teaching, as it is succinctly argued and provokes students to think critically about the early history of Latin America. This book builds on that and narrows the focus to how the historic encounter between Moctezuma, the Great Speaker of Tenochtitlan and the most powerful individual in Mesoamerica, and Cortés (on November 8, 1519) has been reinterpreted in the years since.  It ranges across five centuries of history, art, and aesthetics, and pop culture to poke holes in narratives that center Cortés’ presumed military brilliance and problematize notions that Moctezuma considered the Spaniards gods or behaved cowardly in “surrendering” his city and empire. It is the latest must-read book for readers looking for a more nuanced understanding of this historic encounter and how to reflect on it five centuries later.


The Seduction of Place: The History and Future of Cities

By Joseph Rykwert,

Book cover of The Seduction of Place: The History and Future of Cities

Why this book?

I recommend Joseph Rykwert’s The Seduction of Place for Rykwert’s wonderful reflections on the relation between people and their cities, and on the essential questions of why cities succeed – or why they fail to work successfully for their inhabitants.