10 books directly related to Puerto Rico 📚

All 10 Puerto Rico books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Family Installments: Memories of Growing Up Hispanic

By Edward Rivera,

Book cover of Family Installments: Memories of Growing Up Hispanic

Why this book?

Rivera’s only major work, Family Installments has influenced many Latinx writers, including Junot Diaz. Published in 1982, it was one of the earliest novels capturing the diasporican experience of the Great Migration in the 1950s. Rivera’s protagonist, Santos Malánguez, narrates his family’s journey from  Puerto Rico to New York in great detail, often with sharp insight and humor. As a young aspiring writer, I identified with Santos, especially as he found, in reading and books, solace from a dreary life of struggle. No other book depicts diasporican life so richly and comprehensively—from harsh rural life on the island to tenement living, abusive parochial school education, rip-off credit scams, exploitive working conditions, and the lingering desire to return to the homeland.


Conquistadora

By Esmeralda Santiago,

Book cover of Conquistadora

Why this book?

Esmeralda Santiago portrays the 19th-century journey of Ana Cubillas from imperial Spain to colonial outpost Puerto Rico. Cubillas has a complicated relationship with her family, slavery, and Puerto Rico, and the reader never knows quite what to think of her. Like Cubillas, Puerto Rico itself is complicated. I lived in San Juan for two years and grew to love the island, but I never felt like I quite understood it – any outsider who says they do is probably lying.


The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA

By Doug Mack,

Book cover of The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA

Why this book?

Our borderlines tell us a lot about who we are -- and who we are not. Many Americans know, for instance, that Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory and likely know why there is reluctance in Puerto Rico and Congress for it to become a state: language y cultura. These two factors may play some part in why the English-speaking Territories of Guam, Samoa, the Northern Marianas and the Virgin Islands are not states, but why are they U.S. possessions? Doug Mack’s book digs into these borders that are -- and simultaneously are not -- the United States.


The Taste of Sugar

By Marisel Vera,

Book cover of The Taste of Sugar

Why this book?

Through friendships with Borinqueñxs and interest in the island, I don’t consider myself wholly ignorant about Puerto Rico. Like the Philippines, Puerto Rico was claimed by the US following the Spanish American War, but once again, when I tried to learn more about that era, I ran into a brick wall. Marisel Vera recovers that history while offering all the pleasures of a traditional family saga. She brings the reader close to the daily lives and loves of a family of coffee farmers who struggle first under Spanish rule and then the system established by the US. Vera also taught me something I’d never heard of: the deceptive recruitment that carried newly impoverished but still hopeful Puerto Ricans off to Hawaii to labor in the sugar fields. 


Breakup from Hell

By Ann Davila Cardinal,

Book cover of Breakup from Hell

Why this book?

This one is a little bit of a cheeky pick, because, at the time of writing, it hasn’t been published yet. I was lucky enough to get an early read and I loved it. Miguela is frustrated by the tight reign her Puerto-Rican grandmother keeps on her. She is bored with going to church, going to school, being forbidden to date, or basically anything fun. So when Sam, a new gorgeous boy comes to her school and she feels an irresistible pull towards him, she doesn’t resist very hard. Until Sam learns of Sam’s family roots… and has to break up with him. But you don’t just break up with Sam without potentially apocalyptic consequences. This book reminded me of a YA Imaginary Friend by Chbosky, only funny. And why did I pick it for this creepy creature list? Well, the creatures in this one definitely freaked me out. Despite the fun of Breakup from Hell, it was definitely still shockingly devilish!  


Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Road Trips

By National Geographic,

Book cover of Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Road Trips

Why this book?

This guidebook broadens travelers’ perspective beyond the United States, unearthing a whole new world in a wide variety of countries. Written by National Geographic travel writers, they cover everything from the ancient Silk Road in Central Asia to the perimeter of Puerto Rico. There are plenty of scenic photos, colorful maps, and tips to help navigate the roads of foreign lands.


A Proposal They Can't Refuse

By Natalie Caña,

Book cover of A Proposal They Can't Refuse

Why this book?

New to the scene, I have no idea where Natalie has been my whole life. This is another rom-com that left strangers wondering if I was deranged, I was laughing so hard. 

Puerto Rican firecracker heroine Kamilah Vega just wants to save the family restaurant. 

Broody, artsy perfection, Scottish-American Liam Kane wants his grandpa to get the treatment he’s refusing and to take the family whiskey distillery in a new direction. 

When the two hilarious grandfathers, who own the building, blackmail Kamila and Liam to get married or they’ll sell the building housing the restaurant and distillery, the couple agrees to a fake relationship. 

Fake dating is my all-time favorite trope because it lends itself to hilarity and all the sexual tension. 


The Latin Deli: Telling the Lives of Barrio Women

By Judith Ortiz Cofer,

Book cover of The Latin Deli: Telling the Lives of Barrio Women

Why this book?

Nominated for a Pulitzer, Ortiz-Cofer’s book is an eclectic collection of poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction. She weaves these genres masterfully into a mosaic of diasporican life, especially from a woman’s perspective. Published in 1993, The Latin Deli breaks from the traditional, bleak picture of Puerto Rican urban life in the States. Growing up in Paterson, New Jersey, and then Georgia, Ortiz Cofer focuses on the more typical stories of growing up in a middle-class home and what she casts as the daily struggle “to consolidate my opposing cultural identities.” A subtextual element of the book is Ortiz Cofer’s developing identity as a Latina writer in a country that sees you as an “other.”  


Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

By Anika Aldamuy Denise, Paola Escobar (illustrator),

Book cover of Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Why this book?

In this story about Pura Belpre, the Puerto Rican librarian, we learn about her journey of planting story seeds throughout the country. It all starts when she moves to the United States. Working as a bilingual librarian assistant, she notices there are no Puerto Rican stories. So, she writes her own and plants also dream seeds. This is a sparse, lyrical book with vivid and sweet illustrations. 


Does My Body Offend You?

By Mayra Cuevas, Marie Marquardt,

Book cover of Does My Body Offend You?

Why this book?

This is a YA novel told from the perspectives of two very different strong women. It’s part coming-of-age, part coming-of-action as they learn the best ways to affect change in their communities and how to voice their frustrations with the patriarchy. And we loved how it dealt with these issues in a nuanced and complex way that didn’t offer easy answers.