The best books about Nicaragua

3 authors have picked their favorite books about Nicaragua and why they recommend each book.

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The War in Nicaragua

By William Walker,

Book cover of The War in Nicaragua

What could be better, if you wish to learn about the U.S. filibustering adventurers who invaded Latin America in the 1850s, than to read an account by the most famous of them—William Walker, who left Gold Rush California in 1855 to participate in a Nicaraguan Civil War and rose to the presidency there? The War in Nicaragua is Walker’s own autobiographical account of his campaigns and experiences in Nicaragua. Pay attention, particularly, to what he says about slavery and White supremacy towards the end of the book. And remember that Walker conquered Nicaragua over a half-century before the Panama Canal was built. Did his intervention there have anything to do with how Americans got from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean during the Gold Rush?


Who am I?

I discovered the “filibusters” during my very first weeks in graduate school and have been learning and writing books and articles about them ever since. I think that what initially intrigued me was that they had outsized importance in U.S. politics and diplomacy, and were often front-page news before the Civil War, and yet I had never heard about them growing up. I was also intrigued because these men were so unlike myself. I can’t in my wildest moments even imagine joining a tiny bunch of armed men in an illegal expedition to a foreign land, risking death in the field or jail if I ever made it back home!


I wrote...

Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America

By Robert E. May,

Book cover of Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America

What is my book about?

Manifest Destiny’s Underworld tells the colorful and unexpected story of adventuring Americans (mostly young males) known as “filibusters,” who before the Civil War joined private military companies to invade Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Central American countries, and other foreign lands. These expeditions were illegal under U.S. and international law and often had horrific outcomes, though one filibuster, William Walker, did conquer and rule Nicaragua for a year. The filibuster expeditions disrupted American diplomacy with foreign countries, helped stir up the slavery controversy and bring on the American Civil War, and left a legacy of anti-Americanism throughout Latin America.

The Book of Roast

By Roast Magazine,

Book cover of The Book of Roast: The Craft of Coffee Roasting from Bean to Business

Anyone who would like to understand how coffee flavors develop, which is key to raising your level of sophistication about coffee, should pick up this book. Roasting green coffee beans is an art and science for which people are always trying new methods. The Book of Roast provides a detailed look at the history of roasting, from stovetop to massive machines, and tells why the best roaster takes such meticulous care in handling the beans. The latest and best methods of roasting and preparing coffee beverages are covered. In places, the book becomes a bit technically challenging, but it remains quite readable. For me, it was a great exploration of science plus taste. As one coffee expert put it to me, you can reveal the flavors in good beans (and you can ruin them quickly while roasting), but you can never improve upon them.


Who am I?

I have found coffee, or in fact just about any aspect of it, from pour-over to espresso, to be endlessly challenging and rewarding. My first visit to coffee farms was in 2004, to Ethiopia and Kenya. Since then I’ve been to dozens of farms in nine or ten countries. There is something about coffee people; they are wondrously generous about sharing their expertise, if they think you care and if you know the right questions to ask. Before going deeply into coffee, I was a professor of history, and I've continued to publish on topics as diverse as Stalin, the witch hunts in Europe and North America, and the body in the Anglosphere, 1880-1920.


I wrote...

Coffee: From Bean to Barista

By Robert W. Thurston,

Book cover of Coffee: From Bean to Barista

What is my book about?

Taking the story of coffee from the ground up, the book covers cultivation, processing, roasting, brewing, the spread of coffee around the world, health and drinking coffee (good news!), and climate change. I cover the history of coffee as it spread from Ethiopia, including the social benefits and disruption that it helped facilitate. New research is featured on the plants, their main pests, and questions about how much and what kind of shade is best for the trees. Certification programs like Fair Trade get their share of praise and criticism, as does organic coffee farming. For the book, I draw on my own experience as a roaster and retailer as well as on my many visits to coffee farms around the world.

Coffee

By Jonathan Morris,

Book cover of Coffee: A Global History

Jonathan, with whom I worked on an earlier book on coffee with authors from around the world, presents the history of coffee in a wonderfully readable way. His book is filled with charming and informative photos and graphics. A professor at the University of Hertfordshire and a truly nice guy, Jonathan is an expert above all on Italian coffee. He is in demand, particularly for talks on coffee’s past and present in Europe.


Who am I?

I have found coffee, or in fact just about any aspect of it, from pour-over to espresso, to be endlessly challenging and rewarding. My first visit to coffee farms was in 2004, to Ethiopia and Kenya. Since then I’ve been to dozens of farms in nine or ten countries. There is something about coffee people; they are wondrously generous about sharing their expertise, if they think you care and if you know the right questions to ask. Before going deeply into coffee, I was a professor of history, and I've continued to publish on topics as diverse as Stalin, the witch hunts in Europe and North America, and the body in the Anglosphere, 1880-1920.


I wrote...

Coffee: From Bean to Barista

By Robert W. Thurston,

Book cover of Coffee: From Bean to Barista

What is my book about?

Taking the story of coffee from the ground up, the book covers cultivation, processing, roasting, brewing, the spread of coffee around the world, health and drinking coffee (good news!), and climate change. I cover the history of coffee as it spread from Ethiopia, including the social benefits and disruption that it helped facilitate. New research is featured on the plants, their main pests, and questions about how much and what kind of shade is best for the trees. Certification programs like Fair Trade get their share of praise and criticism, as does organic coffee farming. For the book, I draw on my own experience as a roaster and retailer as well as on my many visits to coffee farms around the world.

The Country Under My Skin

By Gioconda Belli,

Book cover of The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War

What prompted an upper-class, Catholic mother to become an armed revolutionary in Nicaragua?

The poet and writer Gioconda Belli shares her journey, including her time living in exile and her later break with the Sandinistas. She details how her experiences differed from her comrades because of her status as a woman and a mother and how they often underestimated and mistreated her because of her gender. Although Belli does not center faith as her primary motivation, she often references her Catholic upbringing and schooling.


Who am I?

I am fascinated by the relationship between people’s religious and political identities. As a kindergartner, I heard about the hunger strikers at our local Irish Center, I was taught anti-communist songs at my Catholic Ukrainian school, and I listened as my dad explained Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers as we passed by the grapes while grocery shopping. Catholicism was not something I saw as just happening inside the walls of a church. It was about how one related to the world and was part of a global community. Those early experiences inspired me to become a human rights lawyer and activist, and later, a U.S. foreign relations historian.


I wrote...

Reagan's Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict Over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America

By Theresa Keeley,

Book cover of Reagan's Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict Over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America

What is my book about?

Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns argues that debates among Central American and U.S. Catholics over the church’s direction influenced Ronald Reagan’s policies toward Central America. The flashpoint for these intra-Catholic disputes was the December 1980 rape and murder of four U.S. missionaries in El Salvador: Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline Dorothy Kazel, and lay missionary Jean Donovan. Once Reagan entered office, conservative, anticommunist Catholics played instrumental roles in crafting U.S. policy to fund the Salvadoran government and the Nicaraguan contras, while liberal Catholics protested against it.

Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns highlights religious actors as human rights advocates and decenters U.S. actors in international relations by showing the interplay between Central American and U.S. Catholics. The book won the 2020 Duke University Human Rights Center’s Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America.

Twilight Struggle

By Robert Kagan,

Book cover of Twilight Struggle: American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990

Penned by a conservative scholar who held a high-level Latin America foreign policy position in the Reagan administration, I don’t always agree with Kagan’s logic or evidence. But he is a fantastic writer and gives readers a riveting, albeit controversial, first-person account of the Reagan team’s adversarial relationship and interventions in Marxist revolutionary Nicaragua. 


Who am I?

I've been interested in U.S.-Latin American relations ever since my junior year in college when I studied abroad in Chile, a country that had only two years prior been run by dictator Augusto Pinochet. Often referred to as America’s “backyard,” Latin America has often been on the receiving end of U.S. machinations and expansions. In terms of the history of American foreign policy, it's never a dull moment in U.S. involvement in its own hemisphere. I have now had the privilege to work inside the executive branch of the U.S. government on Latin America policy, stints which have forced me to reconsider some of what I had assumed about U.S. abilities and outcomes. 


I wrote...

"Our Hemisphere"? The United States in Latin America, from 1776 to the Twenty-First Century

By Russell C. Crandall, Britta H. Crandall,

Book cover of "Our Hemisphere"? The United States in Latin America, from 1776 to the Twenty-First Century

What is my book about?

“Our Hemisphere”? uncovers the range, depth, and veracity of the United States’ relationship with the Americas. Using short historical vignettes, Britta and Russell Crandall chart the course of inter-American relations from 1776 to the present, highlighting the roles that individuals and groups of soldiers, intellectuals, private citizens, and politicians have had in shaping U.S. policy toward Latin America in the postcolonial, Cold War, and post–Cold War eras. The United States is usually and correctly seen as pursuing a monolithic, hegemonic agenda in Latin America, wielding political, economic, and military muscle to force Latin American countries to do its bidding, but the Crandalls reveal unexpected yet salient regional interactions where Latin Americans have exercised their own power with their northern and very powerful neighbor.

Coffee Is Not Forever

By Stuart McCook,

Book cover of Coffee Is Not Forever: A Global History of the Coffee Leaf Rust

McCook traces the global devastation of coffee trees around the world that began in 1869. His work is not just about coffee, but about the ways in which pathogens are spread by air, ships, birds, and even by humans tracking it into remote sites on their boots. So the book is about coffee but about much more:  why do certain pathogens explode all of a sudden; how have farmers tried to cope with the fungus, which destroys entire trees and whole farms; what is the genetic stock of coffee now; why has rust suddenly appeared in Latin America in recent years; and what experiments are going on to try to defeat rust? Stuart, by the way, is a wonderful guy to meet and talk to about coffee and its pests. His book is absolutely readable!


Who am I?

I have found coffee, or in fact just about any aspect of it, from pour-over to espresso, to be endlessly challenging and rewarding. My first visit to coffee farms was in 2004, to Ethiopia and Kenya. Since then I’ve been to dozens of farms in nine or ten countries. There is something about coffee people; they are wondrously generous about sharing their expertise, if they think you care and if you know the right questions to ask. Before going deeply into coffee, I was a professor of history, and I've continued to publish on topics as diverse as Stalin, the witch hunts in Europe and North America, and the body in the Anglosphere, 1880-1920.


I wrote...

Coffee: From Bean to Barista

By Robert W. Thurston,

Book cover of Coffee: From Bean to Barista

What is my book about?

Taking the story of coffee from the ground up, the book covers cultivation, processing, roasting, brewing, the spread of coffee around the world, health and drinking coffee (good news!), and climate change. I cover the history of coffee as it spread from Ethiopia, including the social benefits and disruption that it helped facilitate. New research is featured on the plants, their main pests, and questions about how much and what kind of shade is best for the trees. Certification programs like Fair Trade get their share of praise and criticism, as does organic coffee farming. For the book, I draw on my own experience as a roaster and retailer as well as on my many visits to coffee farms around the world.

Faith & Joy

By Fernando Cardenal,

Book cover of Faith & Joy: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Priest

What led a priest to join the Sandinista revolution?

In sharing his story, Nicaraguan Jesuit Fernando Cardenal details how his views regarding what it means to serve the poor and his understanding of sin as societal placed him on a collision course with both the government and many in the church. For a time, Cardenal was expelled from the Jesuits because he refused to resign his post in the Nicaraguan government. He also recounts what led him to later break with the Sandinista party.


Who am I?

I am fascinated by the relationship between people’s religious and political identities. As a kindergartner, I heard about the hunger strikers at our local Irish Center, I was taught anti-communist songs at my Catholic Ukrainian school, and I listened as my dad explained Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers as we passed by the grapes while grocery shopping. Catholicism was not something I saw as just happening inside the walls of a church. It was about how one related to the world and was part of a global community. Those early experiences inspired me to become a human rights lawyer and activist, and later, a U.S. foreign relations historian.


I wrote...

Reagan's Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict Over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America

By Theresa Keeley,

Book cover of Reagan's Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict Over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America

What is my book about?

Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns argues that debates among Central American and U.S. Catholics over the church’s direction influenced Ronald Reagan’s policies toward Central America. The flashpoint for these intra-Catholic disputes was the December 1980 rape and murder of four U.S. missionaries in El Salvador: Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline Dorothy Kazel, and lay missionary Jean Donovan. Once Reagan entered office, conservative, anticommunist Catholics played instrumental roles in crafting U.S. policy to fund the Salvadoran government and the Nicaraguan contras, while liberal Catholics protested against it.

Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns highlights religious actors as human rights advocates and decenters U.S. actors in international relations by showing the interplay between Central American and U.S. Catholics. The book won the 2020 Duke University Human Rights Center’s Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America.

Beat to Quarters

By C.S. Forester,

Book cover of Beat to Quarters

Forester is the perfect author for a young reader of Historical Fiction, pertaining to the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars in particular. The action is so riveting you’ll swear you can hear the crash of the broadsides, and the defiant growls of the salty tars as they weigh into the enemy with cold steel. However, his real gift is his knowledge of those stately old square-riggers in which Horatio Hornblower sailed. Indeed, I was so engrossed, that by the time I finished the series, I felt that I had a working knowledge of them from stem to stern.


Who am I?

When I was very young, in our tiny hamlet on the Canadian prairies, I recall riding with other children in the Dominion Day parade. Each child was given a little flag to wave, but even then I noticed that while half were given the old dominion flag, the other half were waving the Union Jack. I couldn’t put it into words then, naturally, but later I recognized it as a feeling of being part of something grand – something far larger than myself or even my own country. Those were the dying days of the Empire and the world has moved on, but a fascination for our history lingers to this day.


I wrote...

The Adventures of Charlie Smithers

By C.W. Lovatt,

Book cover of The Adventures of Charlie Smithers

What is my book about?

"Humorous and highly entertaining." ~ The Review - "Poetic prose and humorous undertones that are wildly entertaining." ~ Serious Reading

The time is the nineteenth century. The place, the Serengeti Plain, where one Charlie Smithers – faithful manservant to the arrogant bonehead, Lord Brampton (with five lines in Debrett, and a hopeless shot to boot) – becomes separated from his master during an unfortunate episode with an angry rhinoceros, thereby launching Charlie on an odyssey into Deepest Darkest Africa, and subsequently into the arms of the beautiful Loiyan…and that’s where the trouble really begins. Maasai warriors, xenophobic locals, or evil slavers, the two forbidden lovers encounter everything that the unforgiving jungle can throw at them.

Empire by Invitation

By Michel Gobat,

Book cover of Empire by Invitation: William Walker and Manifest Destiny in Central America

Though he’s hardly a household name, William Walker, the most significant of the American filibusters, has been the subject of a surprising number of biographies. What is special about Michel Gobat’s book is his in-depth look at the actual government Walker set up to rule Nicaragua in the mid-1850s, the people he enlisted to run it, and his government’s ambitions and programs. Gobat suggests, importantly, that prior historians have underestimated Walker’s popular support in Nicaragua and overstated his ties to White southerners’ plans to expand U.S. slavery. 


Who am I?

I discovered the “filibusters” during my very first weeks in graduate school and have been learning and writing books and articles about them ever since. I think that what initially intrigued me was that they had outsized importance in U.S. politics and diplomacy, and were often front-page news before the Civil War, and yet I had never heard about them growing up. I was also intrigued because these men were so unlike myself. I can’t in my wildest moments even imagine joining a tiny bunch of armed men in an illegal expedition to a foreign land, risking death in the field or jail if I ever made it back home!


I wrote...

Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America

By Robert E. May,

Book cover of Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America

What is my book about?

Manifest Destiny’s Underworld tells the colorful and unexpected story of adventuring Americans (mostly young males) known as “filibusters,” who before the Civil War joined private military companies to invade Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Central American countries, and other foreign lands. These expeditions were illegal under U.S. and international law and often had horrific outcomes, though one filibuster, William Walker, did conquer and rule Nicaragua for a year. The filibuster expeditions disrupted American diplomacy with foreign countries, helped stir up the slavery controversy and bring on the American Civil War, and left a legacy of anti-Americanism throughout Latin America.

God in a Cup

By Michaele Weissman,

Book cover of God in a Cup: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Coffee

The speciality coffee industry is now a mature global part of coffee culture, but this book captures the early excitement around it as it burst onto the global stage. How coffee companies sought out and bought coffee was completely rewritten during this time, and this book makes for a fascinating read.


Who am I?

I’ve been working in coffee for nearly 20 years, and teaching people about coffee for most of that. I love sharing how interesting, diverse, and fun the world of coffee is, and I want people to enjoy and value the coffee they drink a little more. It is a passion and a career that’s taken me around the world, and continues to reinforce the idea that just a little effort or interest in your morning coffee has surprisingly large rewards. The books on this list inspired my own passion for coffee and I hope they do the same for you.


I wrote...

How To Make The Best Coffee At Home

By James Hoffmann,

Book cover of How To Make The Best Coffee At Home

What is my book about?

More and more people are brewing coffee at home, and this book covers everything you need to know to make that coffee better. The goal is to understand the most important aspects of brewing, so it can be simpler and easier rather than more complicated.

Covering everything from how to buy coffee, how to better taste coffee, right through how to brew it in a wide array of different brewers, this is a concise but complete book that will make your mornings that bit more delightful.

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