The most recommended books on the USA Mexico border

Who picked these books? Meet our 40 experts.

40 authors created a book list connected to the USA Mexico border, and here are their favorite USA Mexico border books.
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Book cover of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security

Michael Blake Author Of Justice, Migration, and Mercy

From my list on understanding what’s happening at the border.

Who am I?

I’m a political philosopher who lives in Seattle. I teach and write about political ethics, and the ways in which moral concepts change when they get applied to the relationships between states—and to the complicated borders that define where states end. I tend to write about what puzzles me, and many of these puzzles come from my personal life; I’m a migrant myself, and the experience of migrating to the United States led me to write about what sorts of values a country can rightly pursue through migration policyand what sorts of things, more generally, it can and can’t do to migrants themselves.  

Michael's book list on understanding what’s happening at the border

Michael Blake Why did Michael love this book?

The insistence that migration is a ‘crisis’ has led to a greater willingness to take enforcement as more urgent than human rights. Todd Miller’s book is a moral argument about the costs of that bargain. He argues that the powers given to those who enforce borders have led to abusive and violent practices at the border—and, increasingly, within the United States itself. The book is sobering, but important—and it should worry all of us, citizen and migrant alike.

By Todd Miller,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Border Patrol Nation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"In his scathing and deeply reported examination of the U.S. Border Patrol, Todd Miller argues that the agency has gone rogue since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, trampling on the dignity and rights of the undocumented with military-style tactics...Miller's book arrives at a moment when it appears that part of the Homeland Security apparatus is backpedaling by promising to tone down its tactics, maybe prodded by investigative journalism, maybe by the revelations of NSA leaker Edward Snowden...Border Patrol is quite possibly the right book at the right time ..."--Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times "At the start of his unsettling and…


Book cover of Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

Richard L. Weissman Author Of Trade Like a Casino

From Richard's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Trader Risk Manager Author Spiritual seeker Poet

Richard's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Richard L. Weissman Why did Richard love this book?

Although this was not my first reading, I was happy that I decided to re-read Blood Meridian as the intensely graphic violence of the novel ruined my first read. Fortunately, I enjoy McCarthy’s prose and mythic writing so much that I decided to give Blood Meridian a second chance. 

This second time around, McCarthy’s artistry and wisdom overshadowed the violence and redeemed the novel for me.

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Blood Meridian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.


Book cover of Juarez: The Laboratory of Our Future

Marcus Sedgwick Author Of Saint Death

From my list on the USA / Mexico border, drug cartels, and misery.

Who am I?

I became passionate about the Mexico/US border question after meeting someone who is now a close friend, a Mexican academic who introduced me to some of the issues. She helped me write Saint Death as a way to explore the politics of ultra-capitalism, in the form of multinational business, and the action of drug cartels.

Marcus' book list on the USA / Mexico border, drug cartels, and misery

Marcus Sedgwick Why did Marcus love this book?

I could have picked almost any of Bowden’s books on the border, for example, the excellent Murder City, but I’m choosing Laboratory of the Future as it’s the first piece of his writing I came across. Bowden, who lived on both sides of the US/Mexican border for many years, was intimate with his subject, and the brutal power of his journalistic writing puts most novelists to shame. He is not afraid to question us or confront us, or hide his anger, but it is never unwarranted. In this book, he, and the thirteen Mexican photographers whose frequently shocking images accompany the text, paints a grim picture of the nature of ultra-capitalism when allowed to run free just south of the border – it is, he says, an experiment: it is the laboratory of our future.

By Charles Bowden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Investigates the myth and reality of the current relationship between the United States and Mexico, with a focus on the more intimate connection between El Paso and the border town of Juarez. The photographers take on issues of immigration, NAFTA, gangs, corruption, drug trafficking, and poverty, and uncover a different Mexico.


Book cover of Signs Preceding the End of the World

Steven Arntson Author Of The Wikkeling

From my list on short contemporary novels in translation.

Who am I?

My writing career has been in middle grade and YA, but as a reader I’m always trying to branch out. When I was a kid, literature opened the door to the whole world, and as an adult, I’m still exploring. When I read work in translation I can feel the literary connection to other writers and thinkers and simultaneously appreciate the differences that arise through geographic and cultural heritage. I hope my selections here might help readers like myself who enjoy reaching out to new voices and places.

Steven's book list on short contemporary novels in translation

Steven Arntson Why did Steven love this book?

Translated from Spanish and 128 pages in length, Herrera’s short novel is a beautiful evocation of one woman's journey from Latin America to the US. Evoked with the brushstrokes of a fairy tale and suffused with a luminous surreality, the book has stuck with me. This is Herrera’s first novel to be published in English, and it has made quite a splash, giving me hope that more will soon follow.

By Yuri Herrera, Lisa Dillman (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Signs Preceding the End of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Signs Preceding the End of the World is one of the most arresting novels to be published in Spanish in the last ten years. Yuri Herrera does not simply write about the border between Mexico and the United States and those who cross it. He explores the crossings and translations people make in their minds and language as they move from one country to another, especially when there's no going back. Traversing this lonely territory is Makina, a young woman who knows only too well how to survive in a violent, macho world. Leaving behind her life in Mexico to…


Book cover of And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border

Michael Blake Author Of Justice, Migration, and Mercy

From my list on understanding what’s happening at the border.

Who am I?

I’m a political philosopher who lives in Seattle. I teach and write about political ethics, and the ways in which moral concepts change when they get applied to the relationships between states—and to the complicated borders that define where states end. I tend to write about what puzzles me, and many of these puzzles come from my personal life; I’m a migrant myself, and the experience of migrating to the United States led me to write about what sorts of values a country can rightly pursue through migration policyand what sorts of things, more generally, it can and can’t do to migrants themselves.  

Michael's book list on understanding what’s happening at the border

Michael Blake Why did Michael love this book?

Neiwert’s book focuses on the horrifying case of Shawna Forde, an anti-migration activist who ended up murdering a child on the Arizona border in an attempt to steal money to fund her activism. It’s sometimes easier to understand the politics of the borderlands by focusing on particular people who inhabit and cross the borders; Neiwert let me see the complex politics of the Arizona border, and the ways in which those politics can curdle into a murderous rage.

By David Neiwert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked And Hell Followed With Her as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It began with a frantic 911 call from a woman in a dusty Arizona border town. A gang claiming to be affiliated with the Border Patrol had shot her husband and daughter. It was initially assumed that the murders were products of border drug wars ravaging the Southwest until the leader of one of the more prominent offshoots of the Minutemen movement was arrested for plotting the home invasion as part of a scheme to finance a violent antigovernment border militia. And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing to the Dark Side of the American Border is award-winning journalist David Neiwert's…


Book cover of My Boy Will Die of Sorrow: A Memoir of Immigration from the Front Lines

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Author Of Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants

From my list on turning immigration policies into human stories.

Who am I?

As an immigration legal scholar and lawyer, I read about immigration a lot. From laws that seem written to confuse to articles in academic journals written for an audience of experts, I’m lucky to love what I do—and so I enjoy most of what I read. But these books are special. They drew me in and wouldn’t let go until the last page. Whether fiction or non-fiction, they are written by storytellers who bring laws and policies to life.

César's book list on turning immigration policies into human stories

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Why did César love this book?

On the ground in courtrooms and jail cells when the Trump administration began separating migrant families, Efrén Olivares’s memoir is more than just the story of a lawyer fighting for his clients.

Olivares is also a migrant who knows what it’s like to have his family split apart by immigration laws. Read it for the play-by-play account of family separation in 2018 but enjoy it because in Olivares the future of migration breathes, walks, and fights back.

By Efrén C. Olivares,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Boy Will Die of Sorrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INTERNATIONAL LATINO BOOK AWARD WINNER - The Raul Yzaguirre Best Political/Current Affairs Book

This deeply personal perspective from a human rights lawyer—whose work on the front lines of the fight against family separations in South Texas intertwines with his own story of immigrating to the United States at thirteen—reframes the United States' history as a nation of immigrants but also a nation against immigrants.

In the summer of 2018, Efrén C. Olivares found himself representing hundreds of immigrant families when Zero Tolerance separated thousands of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Twenty-five years earlier, he had been separated…


Book cover of Against the Wall: My Journey from Border Patrol Agent to Immigrant Rights Activist

Reece Jones Author Of Nobody Is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States

From my list on US Border Patrol.

Who am I?

I first came face to face with the expansive and unchecked authority of the Border Patrol about a decade ago when I was stopped five times in less than an hour while driving on a Texas country road. Could the Border Patrol really stop any vehicle they want without any reason whatsoever deep inside the United States? That day set me off on a journey through the borderlands and into the history of the Supreme Court in order to tell the untold story of how the Border Patrol became the most dangerous police force in the United States.  

Reece's book list on US Border Patrol

Reece Jones Why did Reece love this book?

Jenn Budd’s account of her life as a Border Patrol agent is powerful because it comes from a place of self-reflection and growth. She faces up to her previous ignorance and accepts the criticism that goes along with it. This book inspired me because she sees the racism and violence that are endemic to the Border Patrol and then dedicates her life to changing it. 

By Jenn Budd,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Jenn Budd, the only former U.S. Border Patrol agent to continually blow the whistle on this federal agency's rampant corruption, challenges us-as individuals and as a nation-to face the consequences of our actions. Her journey offers a vital perspective on the unfolding moral crisis of our time. She also gives harrowing testimony about rape culture, white privilege, women in law enforcement, LGBTQ issues, mental illness, survival and forgiveness.


"An unflinching look at a Border Patrol riddled with corruption, racism, and misogyny. Raw and truthful, no one escapes judgement, not even Budd, who searches deep within herself to examine her own…


Book cover of The Power of the Dog

John Houle Author Of The Siberian Candidate

From my list on political thrillers that teach you about real world events.

Who am I?

I was a political consultant for much of the first half of my nearly 30-year career in communications. Having run statewide and local political campaigns, I experienced many of the personalities I write about today. What is behind the political decisions elected leaders make? Can you truly be a dedicated public servant in politics today? If you only play to win, how do you keep from becoming your own worst enemy? My writing and the works I gravitate towards explore these challenging issues, which are as prevalent today as they were analyzed by the Greeks, Shakespeare, and 20th-century writers.

John's book list on political thrillers that teach you about real world events

John Houle Why did John love this book?

I am fascinated with the application of power and its intersection with business and politics.

Winslow’s expose on the Mexican drug cartels provides a real-life description of the tragedies of America’s longest war and the unexpected consequences. It is thought provoking as well as entertaining, opening up my own world to new thoughts on the realities of American intervention in South America to prevent the spread of Communism.

By Don Winslow,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Power of the Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Breathtaking' JEREMY CLARKSON
'Winslow's masterpiece (so far) ... should have a place on every crime freak's bookshelf. Superb' INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY
_______________________
A brilliant page-turning thriller of power and revenge on the front lines of the drug war.

Drug lord Miguel Angel Barrera is head of the Mexican drug federacion, responsible for millions of dollars worth of cocaine traffic into the US and the torture and murder of those who stand in its way. His nephew, Adan Barrera, is his worthy successor.

Art Keller is a US government operative, so determined to obtain revenge for a murdered colleague that his…


Book cover of When I Wear My Alligator Boots: Narco-Culture in the U.S. Mexico Borderlands

Abigail Leslie Andrews Author Of Banished Men: How Migrants Endure the Violence of Deportation

From my list on the criminalization of immigrant men.

Who am I?

I’m a scholar of gender and state violence, and I live and work at the US-Mexico border. For the past several years, I’ve worked collaboratively with large teams of Latinx-identified students to study the impacts of US immigration policies on migrants from Mexico and Central America. We realized that even though about half of immigrants are women, around 95% of deportees are men. So, we started to think about how US policies criminalize immigrant men. I became especially interested in how immigration enforcement (at the border and beyond) intersects with mass incarceration. In the list, I pick up books that trace the multinational reach of the carceral apparatus that comes to treat migrants as criminals.

Abigail's book list on the criminalization of immigrant men

Abigail Leslie Andrews Why did Abigail love this book?

Muehlmann’s beautiful, gripping book reveals how cartels and drug violence are not separate from everyday life, but instead interwoven with almost all facets of life on the Mexican side of the US-Mexico border.

In a narrative style, she traces how everyday people unwittingly get into supporting the drug trade, or find themselves wrapped up in supporting traffickers without their knowledge. She also illustrates how the figure of the “narco” (drug trafficker) gets idealized in the borderlands. An incredible read for anyone interested in the complexity of the US-Mexico border.

By Shaylih Muehlmann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When I Wear My Alligator Boots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When I Wear My Alligator Boots examines how the lives of dispossessed men and women are affected by the rise of narcotrafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border. In particular, the book explores a crucial tension at the heart of the "war on drugs": despite the violence and suffering brought on by drug cartels, for the rural poor in Mexico's north, narcotrafficking offers one of the few paths to upward mobility and is a powerful source of cultural meanings and local prestige. In the borderlands, traces of the drug trade are everywhere: from gang violence in cities to drug addiction in rural…


Book cover of In the Rogue Blood

Alden Bell Author Of The Reapers Are the Angels

From my list on in the tradition of William Faulkner.

Who am I?

As a writer, I’ve been deeply influenced by Southern literature—especially the work of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. Even though I’m not from the South myself, I am drawn to Southern writers’ immodesty. I believe much of contemporary literature is too timid. It is about the mundane, the everyday.  It does not elevate; instead, it diminishes.  Much of the literature of the South is biblical in its sensibilities.  It is unafraid to deal with the big universal issues with language that is equally big and universal.  It does not pander to modesty or postmodern selfconsciousness. It is audacious. It’s the kind of writing that made me want to write.

Alden's book list on in the tradition of William Faulkner

Alden Bell Why did Alden love this book?

Mixing Faulkner’s gothic language with McCarthy’s sense of history, Blake writes a story of two brothers torn apart by circumstance and their experiences in the Mexican-American War.  Blake captures that sense of aimless wandering that echoes Faulkner’s stories—the rootless characters meandering across the country, not only unsure of their destinations but maybe even indifferent to them. To me, one of the most profound twists in the book is that the brothers don’t seem to care which side of the war they participate in. They are itinerants whose purpose in the world is simply circumstantial; they are instruments of universal forces that they neither question nor understand. 

By James Carlos Blake,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The offspring of a whore mother and a homicidal father, Edward and John Little are driven from their home in the Florida swamplands by a sching parent's treacheries, and by a shameful, horrific act that will haunt their dreams for the rest of their days. Joining the swelling ranks of the rootless--wandering across an almost surreal bloodland populated by the sorrowfully lost and defiantly damned--two brothers are separated by death and circumstance in the lawless "Dixie City" of New Orelans, and dispatched by destiny to opposing sides in a fierce and desperate territorial struggled between Mexico and the United States.…