The best books about Peru

6 authors have picked their favorite books about Peru and why they recommend each book.

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The Last Days of the Incas

By Kim MacQuarrie,

Book cover of The Last Days of the Incas

If you don’t know the story of the Spanish conquest of the Incas, read this book. For me, it is as good as Game of Thrones—except this is no fantasy. The events are real, the history meticulously researched. MacQuarrie’s narrative style is sweeping and engaging, giving readers a ground-level view of the dramatic final days of the Inca empire. Palace drama. Epic battles. Heroic resistance. How can you refuse?


Who am I?

I am a professor of Latin American history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My teaching and research focus on Andean history, and I have written several books on the period of political violence that pitted guerrillas of the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) against Peruvian security forces and peasant militias during the 1980s and 1990s. I have been researching in Peru for twenty years, from Lima’s shantytowns, to the Andes mountains, to the Amazon jungle. A Peruvian-American, I maintain strong family ties to the region and am a proud, yet frequently heartbroken, supporter of the national soccer team.


I wrote...

With Masses and Arms: Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement

By Miguel La Serna,

Book cover of With Masses and Arms: Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement

What is my book about?

My gripping history of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) provides vital insight into both the history of modern Peru and the link between political violence and the culture of communications in Latin America. Smaller than the well-known Shining Path but just as remarkable, the MRTA emerged in the early 1980s at the beginning of a long and bloody civil war. Taking a close look at the daily experiences of women and men who fought on both sides of the conflict, this fast-paced narrative explores the intricacies of armed action from the ground up.

In this sense, the history of the MRTA is the story of the euphoric draw of armed action and the devastating consequences that result when a political movement succumbs to the whims of its most militant followers.

The Copper Egg

By Catherine Friend,

Book cover of The Copper Egg

I love books that take me to other worlds, and The Copper Egg does not disappoint. Peru! As the heroine searches for a lost treasure, the readers get to learn all about ancient Peru. It’s a great adventure and so well researched. It had me Googling the web to learn more. There is also a fun romance and a dastardly villain. Think Indiana Jones goes LGBTQ2+. What’s not to like? 


Who am I?

Being an out lesbian isn't my sole identity. I'm a writer of five award-winning novels, an improv artist, and co-founder of an improv school—and I’m even more than that. I wake up in the morning, brush my teeth, make myself a cup of tea, like to cook, like to walk, and adore reading—especially fiction. And while I am madly in love with my partner of 30 years (wife of 5) it's just one aspect of my life. My point being, LGBTQ2+ people do more than “be gay”. I like books that reflect this. I love a writer who crafts beautiful sentences, constructs imaginative stories, and provides me with endings I didn’t see coming.


I wrote...

Perfect Little World

By Clifford Henderson,

Book cover of Perfect Little World

What is my book about?

Portland, Oregon, 1989: Lucy Mustin, living somewhat happily, pumping out wedding cakes for starry-eyed heterosexuals while she, a lesbian, can’t legally marry, is called upon to travel to Santa Cruz to help her autistic sister, Alice, care for their Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother. She knew the call was coming sooner or later. She’d just hoped it would be later. Mother issues. The possibility that resolution might be lost to dementia is a heartbreak she doesn’t feel like feeling. 

Santa Cruz, California, one week later: a trip to the family bakery collides with the Loma Prieta 7.1 Earthquake, and the sisters are trapped below ground. There, Alice reminds Lucy of an unthinkable promise she made to their mother many years ago, a promise she plans to keep.

The Autobiography of María Elena Moyano

By Diana M. Tupac (editor), Patricia Taylor Edmisten (translator),

Book cover of The Autobiography of María Elena Moyano: The Life and Death of a Peruvian Activist

María Elena Moyano is perhaps the most fascinating Latin American historical figure you haven’t heard of. A Black activist, feminist, and community organizer, Moyano led a brave and suicidal campaign for peace against the Shining Path, a fearsome guerrilla group that brought Peru to its knees in the 1980s and early 90s. Moyano describes, in her own beautiful prose, her meteoric rise as a champion of the urban poor, political leader, and women’s rights warrior. She speaks candidly of her repudiation of the “terror of the Shining Path,” and of the group’s obsession with smearing her good name. Diana Miloslavic’s illustrative annotations help further humanize Moyano and contextualize her sacrifice, offering a moving portrait of the woman popularly known as “Mother Courage.”


Who am I?

I am a professor of Latin American history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My teaching and research focus on Andean history, and I have written several books on the period of political violence that pitted guerrillas of the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) against Peruvian security forces and peasant militias during the 1980s and 1990s. I have been researching in Peru for twenty years, from Lima’s shantytowns, to the Andes mountains, to the Amazon jungle. A Peruvian-American, I maintain strong family ties to the region and am a proud, yet frequently heartbroken, supporter of the national soccer team.


I wrote...

With Masses and Arms: Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement

By Miguel La Serna,

Book cover of With Masses and Arms: Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement

What is my book about?

My gripping history of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) provides vital insight into both the history of modern Peru and the link between political violence and the culture of communications in Latin America. Smaller than the well-known Shining Path but just as remarkable, the MRTA emerged in the early 1980s at the beginning of a long and bloody civil war. Taking a close look at the daily experiences of women and men who fought on both sides of the conflict, this fast-paced narrative explores the intricacies of armed action from the ground up.

In this sense, the history of the MRTA is the story of the euphoric draw of armed action and the devastating consequences that result when a political movement succumbs to the whims of its most militant followers.

Trials of Nation Making

By Brooke Larson,

Book cover of Trials of Nation Making: Liberalism, Race, and Ethnicity in the Andes, 1810–1910

Few scholars possess the ability to take complex historical situations and present them in a manner that is equal parts educational, palatable, and engaging. Brooke Larson is one of those rare talents. When I was in graduate school, I devoured Larson’s Cochabamba, and soon found myself looking to get my hands on anything authored by her. Needless to say, I was eager to read Trials of Nation Making when it was released. I was not disappointed. This wonderfully engaging history examines the role that race and ethnicity played in the framing, founding, and forming of Andean republics, where Creole elites sought to solve the so-called “Indian Problem.” But this is no top-down history. As Larson masterfully illustrates, Indigenous historical actors employed a range of strategies—from legal action to open rebellion—to demand participation in nation-making processes.  


Who am I?

I am a professor of Latin American history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My teaching and research focus on Andean history, and I have written several books on the period of political violence that pitted guerrillas of the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) against Peruvian security forces and peasant militias during the 1980s and 1990s. I have been researching in Peru for twenty years, from Lima’s shantytowns, to the Andes mountains, to the Amazon jungle. A Peruvian-American, I maintain strong family ties to the region and am a proud, yet frequently heartbroken, supporter of the national soccer team.


I wrote...

With Masses and Arms: Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement

By Miguel La Serna,

Book cover of With Masses and Arms: Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement

What is my book about?

My gripping history of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) provides vital insight into both the history of modern Peru and the link between political violence and the culture of communications in Latin America. Smaller than the well-known Shining Path but just as remarkable, the MRTA emerged in the early 1980s at the beginning of a long and bloody civil war. Taking a close look at the daily experiences of women and men who fought on both sides of the conflict, this fast-paced narrative explores the intricacies of armed action from the ground up.

In this sense, the history of the MRTA is the story of the euphoric draw of armed action and the devastating consequences that result when a political movement succumbs to the whims of its most militant followers.

The Sexual Question

By Paulo Drinot,

Book cover of The Sexual Question: A History of Prostitution in Peru, 1850s-1950s

In this first book in English about the history of sexual commerce in Peru during the state regulation of brothels, Drinot tells a multilayered story of the complex interactions among sex workers, clients, the police, the government, feminists, and physicians. With a remarkable diversity of archival sources, Drinot explores topics that are frequently disregarded in the history of prostitution like the meanings of masculinity and the interaction between race and venereal diseases that, in the case of Lima, resulted in the stigmatization of Chinese migrants and indigenous men as infectious agents.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Destape: Sex, Democracy, and Freedom in Postdictatorial Argentina

By Natalia Milanesio,

Book cover of Destape: Sex, Democracy, and Freedom in Postdictatorial Argentina

What is my book about?

Under dictatorship in Argentina, sex and sexuality were regulated to the point where sex education, explicit images, and even suggestive material were prohibited. With the return to democracy in 1983, Argentines experienced new freedoms, including sexual freedoms. The new availability and ubiquity of sexual material became known as the destape, and it uncovered sexuality in provocative ways. This was a mass-media phenomenon, but it went beyond this. It was, in effect, a deeper process of change in sexual ideologies and practices.

By exploring the boom of sex therapy and sexology; the fight for the implementation of sex education in schools; the expansion of family planning services and of organizations dedicated to sexual health care; and the centrality of discussions on sexuality in feminist and gay organizations, my book shows that the destape was a profound transformation of the way Argentines talked, understood, and experienced sexuality, a change in manners, morals, and personal freedoms.

Cloud Road

By John Harrison,

Book cover of Cloud Road: A Journey Through the Inca Heartland

Like the Stevenson book, this is also about travelling with a donkey, but what makes this narrative special is the author’s hatred of his pack animal. This will sound instantly off-putting but John’s descriptions of Dapple’s transgressions are very, very funny and his fury is never translated into violence towards the animal. There are lyrical descriptions of the landscape in northern Peru, but it is for the humour that I return to this book from time to time. I’m a sucker for any book about Peru, the subject of my early adventures and very first guidebook, and this is one of the most enjoyable


Who am I?

Until I did my own animal-accompanied journey with Mollie and Peggy in 1984, my only association with animals on the trail was inadvertently with a collection of cockroaches in my backpack. It was when Bradt decided to add to their anthologies with a collection of stories about travelling with animals in 2018, Beastly Journeys, that I was able to read a wide variety of books on the topic. A delightful exercise!


I wrote...

A Connemara Journey: A Thousand Miles on Horseback Through Western Ireland

By Hilary Bradt,

Book cover of A Connemara Journey: A Thousand Miles on Horseback Through Western Ireland

What is my book about?

In 1984 I fulfilled a childhood ambition to do a long-distance ride. I chose the west of Ireland for this adventure, and equipped myself to be completely independent without any backup support. Set against the history, legends, landscape, and above all, the people of a now-vanished Ireland, this is a story of joy and tragedy, and particularly of the bond with my two Connemara ponies, Mollie and Peggy.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu

By Mark Adams,

Book cover of Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time

This is a fun, evocative account of the author retracing the steps of Hiram Bingham, the “discoverer” of the Inca citadel, Machu Picchu, published 100 years after its discovery. It’s also about the cast of characters that the author meets along the way. If you’ve ever wanted to take a long trek in the Andes in extremely rugged terrain, stumbling across Inca ruins all along the way--then this is the book for you.


Who am I?

I lived in Peru for five years, working as a writer, filmmaker, and anthropologist. For part of that time, I lived with a recently-contacted tribe in the Upper Amazon, visited Maoist Shining Path “liberated zones” and later made a number of documentaries on the Amazon as well as have written a number of books, most of which are on some aspect of Peru. Peru remains one of the most fascinating countries on Earth--a kind of dense amalgamation of ancient civilizations, archaeology, immense biodiversity, incredible beauty, and lots and lots of adventure. Although there’s no substitute for visiting Peru yourself--reading about it is a great way to begin your adventure!


I wrote...

The Last Days of the Incas

By Kim MacQuarrie,

Book cover of The Last Days of the Incas

What is my book about?

The Last Days of the Incas tells the epic story of the fall of the Inca Empire to the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the aftermath of the Incas’ bloody civil war. It also tells the story of the Incas’ 36-year-long rebellion after the conquest, during which they relocated their capital from the Andes to a hidden place in the Amazon jungle, learning to fight the Spaniards on horseback and nearly succeeding in pushing them back into the sea from whence they came.

The book also relates the more recent discovery by the American explorer Hiram Bingham of Machu Picchu, which he stumbled upon while searching for The Incas’ lost guerrilla capital, hidden in the upper reaches of the Amazon.

Delta of Venus

By Anaïs Nin,

Book cover of Delta of Venus

As a teenager this collection of short stories blew my mind; it’s one of the first to really explore sexual pleasure from a female perspective and I loved the way it wove psychology, power, culture, and erotic play up seamlessly and provocatively. It was most likely an unconscious template for my own collections of erotic short stories, the perfect format for the pillow book (to be read out loud to one’s lover/husband/guilty pleasure). Nin, a friend of Henry Miller and a number of Paris-based groundbreaking artists and intellectuals in the 1920s, is the perfect conduit for the louche erotic experimentation of the era, and yet this book is still timeless and still delivers in terms of fantasy.  


Who am I?

My first book was Quiver, a collection of erotic short stories. I wrote it to immortalize the hedonism of Sydney in the 1990s, wanting to show a nonjudgmental, joyful side. The fact that it touched a lot of people compelled me to write two more collections Tremble and Yearn – each exploring different themes: Tremble is an erotic re-imagining of various root myths, whilst Yearn has more historical and fantastical elements. I interweave all the characters in the stories throughout the whole collections. Humor is also important to me when it comes to the ironies and emotions around sex, the other aspect is gender power play and all the sublime reversals that can encapsulate. 


I wrote...

Quiver

By Tobsha Learner,

Book cover of Quiver

What is my book about?

In the flashes that blur the line between fantasy and reality, each steamy story in Quiver captures the spontaneous erotic experiences of a group of middle-class acquaintances—a dentist and his wife; an accountant and a beautician—as they audaciously unleash their deepest desires. Each story is interconnected to each other and whilst alternating between male and female perspectives, there are no holds barred in these interactions: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, exhibitionistic, and sadomasochistic relationships – all unabashedly on display in this provocative collection. 

The Conquest of the Incas

By John Hemming,

Book cover of The Conquest of the Incas

The classic account of this fascinating, historic, and tragic event, unfortunately little known by western readers, is here masterfully told by the former Director of the Royal Geographical Society in London.  His amazing story of the once-great Inca Empire and its destruction by Francisco Pizzaro's ruthless Spanish Coquistadores captured my imagination in 1982 and sent me on a 40-year Odyssey of travel, discovery, and adventure still as vivid today as it was back then. It will do no less for any reader with a curious mind and a love of history.


Who am I?

Vincent Lee is a professional architect and former Alpine climbing guide and instructor, US Marine Corps officer, Andean explorer, and author. Searching in the high Andes of Peru and the rain forests of the Upper Amazon for the remains of the long-lost final redoubt of the once-powerful Inca Empire not only appealed to his life-long interest in all of these disparate fields, but it called upon his many years of experience in each: wilderness trekking, mountain warfare, mapping and drawing the remains of the more than 500 ancient structures discovered.


I wrote...

Forgotten Vilcabamba: Final Stronghold of the Incas

By Vincent R. Lee,

Book cover of Forgotten Vilcabamba: Final Stronghold of the Incas

What is my book about?

A modern-day scientific adventure story set against a fascinating historical backdrop, Forgotten Vilcabamba is an important addition to the annals of archaeological exploration in the high Andes of Peru by an architect/explorer who set out to find and record the ruins of lost Vilcabamba, the once-powerful Inca Empire's mysterious redoubt in the jungles of the Upper Amazon.

Lost City of the Incas

By Hiram Bingham,

Book cover of Lost City of the Incas

The story of the "discovery" of the now-famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu by an obscure Yale professor in 1911. During his first exploring expedition in the jungles of Peru in 1909, the author learned of the final redoubt into which the Incas fled after the arrival of the Spaniards. Called "Vilcabamba," the city had since become lost in the rain forests of the eastern Andes and Bingham was determined to find it. He did but stumbled upon the much finer Machu Picchu, a world-class architectural wonder, in the process.


Who am I?

Vincent Lee is a professional architect and former Alpine climbing guide and instructor, US Marine Corps officer, Andean explorer, and author. Searching in the high Andes of Peru and the rain forests of the Upper Amazon for the remains of the long-lost final redoubt of the once-powerful Inca Empire not only appealed to his life-long interest in all of these disparate fields, but it called upon his many years of experience in each: wilderness trekking, mountain warfare, mapping and drawing the remains of the more than 500 ancient structures discovered.


I wrote...

Forgotten Vilcabamba: Final Stronghold of the Incas

By Vincent R. Lee,

Book cover of Forgotten Vilcabamba: Final Stronghold of the Incas

What is my book about?

A modern-day scientific adventure story set against a fascinating historical backdrop, Forgotten Vilcabamba is an important addition to the annals of archaeological exploration in the high Andes of Peru by an architect/explorer who set out to find and record the ruins of lost Vilcabamba, the once-powerful Inca Empire's mysterious redoubt in the jungles of the Upper Amazon.

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