The most recommended books about Panama

Who picked these books? Meet our 13 experts.

13 authors created a book list connected to Panama, and here are their favorite Panama books.
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Book cover of Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World

Mara Leveritt Author Of The Boys on the Tracks: Death, Denial, and a Mother's Crusade to Bring Her Son's Killers to Justice

From my list on true crime books about cover-ups.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a longtime reporter in a small state with big politics, I’ve become fascinated by how sly intrusions of power can distort what should be routine police investigations. One of my sources observed, “Sometimes the cover-up is more interesting than the crime.” With that in mind, I began writing books to examine cases whose outcomes didn’t seem to make sense. It’s become a genre I call “crime after crime.”

Mara's book list on true crime books about cover-ups

Mara Leveritt Why did Mara love this book?

Ever wonder why, from one end of the world to the other, people are taking to the streets to reclaim their governments from the expanding reach of kleptocrats? Bullough literally follows the money into a realm few of us ever imagine—the rarified, nationless atmosphere where laws written for most mortals do not apply. His picture of Moneyland is a heads-up for the rest of us, a warning that whenever moguls in that world shake hands with public officials we commoners had better take notice.

By Oliver Bullough,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From ruined towns on the edge of Siberia, to Bond-villain lairs in London and Manhattan, something has gone wrong. Kleptocracies, governments run by corrupt leaders that prosper at the expense of their people, are on the rise.

Once upon a time, if an official stole money, there wasn't much he could do with it. He could buy himself a new car or build himself a nice house or give it to his friends and family, but that was about it. If he kept stealing, the money would just pile up in his house until he had no rooms left to…


Book cover of The Tailor of Panama

Ann Hagedorn Author Of Sleeper Agent: The Atomic Spy in America Who Got Away

From my list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing narrative nonfiction books is, for me, quite an adventure. My quest is to discover remarkable stories of deep significance and find answers to long-lingering questions, such as why a spy was never caught. For my six books, I have travelled worldwide to interview key players, dig through archives, and see first-hand the stories’ settings. With master’s degrees in journalism (Columbia University) and library science (University of Michigan), I use the research skills of both professions. Designing the best story structure is my passion because that’s the bridge writers must construct to artfully deliver true stories to readers. And I am inspired by reading excellent books.

Ann's book list on bringing you close to what deeply drives people to become spies

Ann Hagedorn Why did Ann love this book?

I have read several John Le Carre novels, but I chose this one because of its ingenious depiction of the psychological traps of spydom.

It’s a satire, and as it moves through a mire of lies and deceit, it digs deeply into the twists and turns of the life of a tailor seemingly forced by bribery and blackmail to be a spy. His only freedom is to release his creativity into a vast new domain of endless deceit, in which, among other things, he drenches his handler with lies.

The story is brimming with surprises, including the fact that there’s no violence, which is one of the reasons I liked it so much. I read this one twice, years ago, and both times, I could barely take a break.

By John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A work of rare brilliance' The Times

Charmer, fabulist and tailor to Panama's rich and powerful, Harry Pendel loves to tell stories. But when the British spy Andrew Osnard - a man of large appetites, for women, information and above all money - walks into his shop, Harry's fantastical inventions take on a life of their own. Soon he finds himself out of his depth in an international game he can never hope to win.

Le Carre's savage satire on the espionage trade is set in a corrupt universe without heroes or honour, where the innocent are collateral damage and…


Book cover of Around the Edge: A Journey Amoung Pirates, Guerrillas, Former Cannibals And Turtle Fishermen Along the Miskito Coast

Ryan Murdock Author Of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America

From my list on Central America.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ryan Murdock is Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Outpost, Canada’s national travel magazine, and a weekly columnist for The Shift, an independent Maltese news portal. His feature articles have taken him across a remote stretch of Canada’s Northwest Territories on foot, into the Central Sahara in search of prehistoric rock art, and around Wales with a drug squad detective hunting for the real King Arthur.

Ryan's book list on Central America

Ryan Murdock Why did Ryan love this book?

A journey on foot and by sea from Belize to Panama along the Mosquito Coast. Few roads penetrate this land of thick jungle, home to native Miskito, Rama, and Garifuna peoples, and at the time of his trip, rife with drug smugglers, CIA-sponsored rebels fighting the Sandinistas, and normal people living ordinary lives. It’s an unusual travel book about a little-known region, and it made me want to go there.

By Peter Ford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An English journalist describes his travels along the Central American Caribbean coast from Belize to Panama


Book cover of The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730

Wendy K. Perriman Author Of Fire on Dark Water

From my list on the real Pirates of the Caribbean.

Why am I passionate about this?

My fascination with pirates began as a student in Bristol (UK) – the legendary hometown of Edward Teach a.k.a. Blackbeard. Later, I visited the Pirates of Nassau Museum in the Bahamas and was amazed to learn there had been women buccaneers too. I wanted to discover more about these daring females and find out what might have enticed them to brave a tenuous life on the account. As fate would have it, I now live in North Carolina near the Outer Banks where Blackbeard met his fate. These experiences inspired me to write a different kind of adventure story about the real pirates of the Caribbean featuring a strong, resilient, swashbuckling female.

Wendy's book list on the real Pirates of the Caribbean

Wendy K. Perriman Why did Wendy love this book?

Although I captain my own lake boat, I knew very little about ancient nautical sailing and warfare when I began writing Fire on Dark Water. Benerson Little’s book, The Sea Rover’s Practice, taught me about different types of crafts, weapons, battle tactics, sea villains, ship routines, sailor superstitions, methods of stealth attack, treatment of prisoners, and even the types of food eaten on board ship throughout 1630 – 1730. It was a very valuable resource.

By Benerson Little,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sea Rover's Practice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To read of sea roving's various incarnations - piracy, privateering, buccaneering, la flibuste, la course - is to bring forth romantic, and often violent, imagery. Indeed, much of this imagery has become a literary and cinematic cliche?. And what an image it is!

But its truth is by halves, and paradoxically it is the picaresque imagery of Pyle, Wyeth, Sabatini, and Hollywood that is often closer to the reality, while the historical details of arms, tactics, and language are often inaccurate or entirely anachronistic.

Successful sea rovers were careful practitioners of a complex profession that sought wealth by stratagem and…


Book cover of Travel Therapy: Around The World In Search Of Happiness

Kevin Hines Author Of The Art of Being Broken: How Storytelling Saves Lives

From my list on finding hope when battling with your mental health.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am immersed in the topic of brain and mental health every single day. I love devouring books on the topic because it helps me personally with my diagnosed bipolar depression. I know what it’s like to attempt suicide and to live with chronic thoughts that can be overwhelming. So, reading books like these helps me better balance my brain health, and they help me offer hope to others to whom I can recommend these kinds of books. As host of the Hinesights Podcast, where I interview folks in the field of mental health from all walks of life, being able to put a list like this together is a gift. 

Kevin's book list on finding hope when battling with your mental health

Kevin Hines Why did Kevin love this book?

I wholeheartedly loved the book of my good friend Stuart Katz because it is a tremendous literary achievement. The book is carefully put together from Stuart's perspective on his humanitarian and hopeful mental health efforts around the globe.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with Stuart in the past, and he is a phenomenal writer. I found it extremely hard to put this book down once I picked it up, I finished it in two days, and I am a slow reader.

This is a must-read for any world traveler, and I highly recommend you read it while on the road or in the air. It will enhance your traveling experiences and your mental health tenfold. 

By Stuart Katz, Ian William Gorman (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Kosher travel expert, Stuart Katz, discusses his experiences as a Panamanian American Israeli.

Born in Panama, Stuart Katz is the epitome of a global adventurer. With his infectious wit and insatiable wanderlust, he has become a prominent figure in the world of travel. Alongside his travels to over one hundred countries, he's become a vocal advocate for mental health - spreading education, advocacy, and acceptance wherever he goes. If you enjoyed this book, you might also enjoy Stuart's podcast, also called Travel Therapy, and available where podcasts are found.

Travel Therapy combines travel memoir with a mental health journey. It…


Book cover of The Last Days of the Incas

Andrew R. Thomas Author Of The Canal of Panama and Globalization: Growth and Challenges in the 21st Century

From my list on the Panama Canal and the Panama Railroad.

Why am I passionate about this?

My twenty-five books have explored topics around global trade, transportation networks, security, and development. Prior to becoming a writer, I had a moderately successful global business career; that came with the opportunity to travel to and conduct business in more than 120 countries on all seven continents. Being American (by birth) and Panamanian (by marriage), the role of Panama and both the Canal and the Railroad in the history of the world always fascinated me. My most recent book on the present and future of the Canal and Panama has been the fulfillment of much passion and interest over many years.

Andrew's book list on the Panama Canal and the Panama Railroad

Andrew R. Thomas Why did Andrew love this book?

Any understanding of transport networks across the Isthmus (road, river, railroad, and Canal) must consider the conquest of the Inca Empire.

MacQuarrie’s book illustrates how Panama was the staging ground for Pizarro’s small band of entrepreneurs who conquered the largest empire ever in the Americas. And, later, how the gold and silver from Peru was transported back to Spain across Panama.

Moreover, the book details how a bloody civil war between the conquerors almost cost them the fruits of their original victory. All of this set the stage for what would later come to much of Latin America.

By Kim MacQuarrie,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Last Days of the Incas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Last Days of the Incas is a popular epic history of the conquest of the powerful Inca Empire, the largest empire ever known in the New World, by 168 Spaniards, led by Francisco Pizarro, a one-eyed conquistador, and his four brothers. It describes the three-year conquest and the 37 year guerrilla war that followed as the Incas relocated from their capital, Cuzco, high in the Andes, to a new capital, Vilcabamba, deep in the Amazon jungle.

Because they brought with them two powerful weapons, horses and muskets, the Spaniards were able to conquer an Inca force that outnumbered them…


Book cover of Rails Across Panama: The Story of the Building of the Panama Railroad, 1849-1855

Andrew R. Thomas Author Of The Canal of Panama and Globalization: Growth and Challenges in the 21st Century

From my list on the Panama Canal and the Panama Railroad.

Why am I passionate about this?

My twenty-five books have explored topics around global trade, transportation networks, security, and development. Prior to becoming a writer, I had a moderately successful global business career; that came with the opportunity to travel to and conduct business in more than 120 countries on all seven continents. Being American (by birth) and Panamanian (by marriage), the role of Panama and both the Canal and the Railroad in the history of the world always fascinated me. My most recent book on the present and future of the Canal and Panama has been the fulfillment of much passion and interest over many years.

Andrew's book list on the Panama Canal and the Panama Railroad

Andrew R. Thomas Why did Andrew love this book?

While dozens of books have focused on the building of the Canal, woefully few have looked at the construction of the Panama Railroad.

In many ways, the completion of the Panama Railroad was an even greater accomplishment than the building of the Canal. And, simply stated, had there been no Railroad, there would have never been a Canal.

Unlike the U.S. government-funded Canal, the Railroad was a private venture that nearly went bankrupt. The story of the “Yankee Strip, as it was called, is one of great daring, monumental struggles, hard work, and some good old-fashioned luck.

By Joseph L. Schott,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the story of the Building of the Panama Railroad between 1849 and 1855. This railroad was built fifty years before the Panama Canal and carried half a billion dollars of gold, and much U.S. mail without a single loss. This, despite bandits and the loss of thousands of lives to illness and accidents. The railroad faded away as the U.S. transcontinental railroad made its way from coast to coast, but it was a marvel of its time. With map on end papers. 224 pages with index.


Book cover of Old Panama and Castilla del Oro: A Narrative History of the Discovery, Conquest, and Settlement by the Spaniards of Panama, Darien, Veragua, Santo Domingo, Santa Marta, Cartagena, Nicaragua, and Peru

Andrew R. Thomas Author Of The Canal of Panama and Globalization: Growth and Challenges in the 21st Century

From my list on the Panama Canal and the Panama Railroad.

Why am I passionate about this?

My twenty-five books have explored topics around global trade, transportation networks, security, and development. Prior to becoming a writer, I had a moderately successful global business career; that came with the opportunity to travel to and conduct business in more than 120 countries on all seven continents. Being American (by birth) and Panamanian (by marriage), the role of Panama and both the Canal and the Railroad in the history of the world always fascinated me. My most recent book on the present and future of the Canal and Panama has been the fulfillment of much passion and interest over many years.

Andrew's book list on the Panama Canal and the Panama Railroad

Andrew R. Thomas Why did Andrew love this book?

Anderson’s compelling work details the search for a strait connecting the Seas from the beginning of the discovery, conquest, and settlement by the Spaniards of Panama and the surrounding reaches.

Compelling narratives about Columbus’ four voyages to America, the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Vasco Nunez de Balboa, an account of the indigenous people of the Isthmus, the daring raids of Sir Francis Drake, and the sacking of Panama City by the pirate Henry Morgan are woven around the centuries-long quest to bring the two oceans together.

By Charles Loftus Grant Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Old Panama and Castilla del Oro as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Excerpt from Old Panama and Castilla Del Oro

I. The early period of Spanish activity, conquest, possession, and exploitation ending about the year 1700.


Book cover of Desperate Voyage

Harold Bergman Author Of When the Dream Becomes a Nightmare

From my list on the romance and reality of ocean sailing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Similar to many other men and women, when I was younger and more naïve, I had the romantic dream of sailing around the world, exploring and experiencing new times in exotic places. Like many others who turned that dream into reality, I quickly learned the new and exotic moments were far out-shadowed by the life-threatening, dream-ending, nightmare realities of ocean sailing. Fortunately, I ended the voyage before I killed myself. I wanted to share my dream and nightmare experiences with those who dream.

Harold's book list on the romance and reality of ocean sailing

Harold Bergman Why did Harold love this book?

I found this book a very exciting read about sailing alone on the ocean with little or no knowledge about sailing or the ocean. All problems he encountered were of his own making, and survival was largely due to good luck rather than good management.

Little did I realize he painted a more romanticized version of his misadventures.

By John Caldwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In May 1946 John Caldwell set out to sail from Panama to Sydney to reunite with his wife who he hadn't seen for more than a year. Eager to reach his destination and unable to secure any other form of transport, he had to resort to singlehanded seamanship.

After an ignominious scene in the harbor, where a tangled anchor led him to take an early dip, he spent ten days learning the rudiments of navigation and sailing from a book, before embarking on the 9,000 mile journey aboard the 20-foot Pagan. Ahead lay a mission that was to reveal in…


Book cover of Three Wishes

Staci Troilo Author Of Type and Cross

From my list on dysfunctional family drama to make you feel better.

Why am I passionate about this?

Misery loves company, right? While I never wish ill on someone, I find comfort in knowing I’m not the only one going through a loss, slight, or rejection. Family dysfunction novels remind me that the petty problems I get caught up in are nothing compared to what they could be. Sure, fiction frequently elevates these troubles from drama to melodrama, but I still experience relief—even though it may only be in the smallest way—focusing on someone else’s struggles. Sometimes I even find a solution to my own paltry issues. Who wouldn’t want that? And what writer wouldn’t want to help readers in that way?

Staci's book list on dysfunctional family drama to make you feel better

Staci Troilo Why did Staci love this book?

I love to explore all aspects of family drama and strife, but sometimes I prefer something with more light and hope rather than darkness and despair.

I thought this one would fit the bill. In many ways, it did. But that doesn’t mean there was a lack of tears and angst. Who wouldn’t want three wishes? And what would we do if we had them? This story explores that and more.

Moreover, it left an indelible stain on my heart while also proving all is not over after a loss. It’s an odd mix of sad and joyful… bittersweet, but elevated to another level. 

By Barbara Delinsky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When a surprise October blizzard hits Panama, Vermont, blanketing the sleepy little town with several feet of snow, it creates a scene so tranquil no one suspects the tragedy to come, least of all Bree Miller. Slipping and sliding as she walks home from the diner where she works, she barely has time to notice the runaway truck skidding toward her until it is too late. Sbe awakens in the hospital, remembering little of the accident or the hours thereafter, except for a very bright light, a beatific smile, and a mystical nonvoice granting her three wishes.
Tom Gates is…