Latin America Reading List

These resources are suggested to enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the history, unique culture, wilderness, and wildlife of Latin America:

Panama Canal

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panamá Canal, 1870-1914 - by David McCullough
The complex, epic construction is illuminated in this detailed history from world events that inspired the idea of a canal to the people who executed the plans and moved earth to build it.

Panamá Fever: The Epic Story of the Building of the Panamá Canal - by Matthew Parker
The construction of the Canal is brought to life through stories of the people involved, from the laborers in the field, to engineers and politicians who were instrumental in developing the project.

Global Passage: Transformation of Panamá and the Panamá Canal - by Robert R McMillan
First-hand experience and impressive research by a former Canal Commission Chairman provides depth into the history of the canal as well as insight into what’s to come.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica - by Les Beletsky
An in-depth natural guide, this book offers detailed information and photographs for help identifying flora and fauna, as well as informative and interesting descriptions of the country’s ecosystems.

Costa Rica Wildlife: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species - by James Kavanagh and Raymond Leung
A back-pocket companion covering many of Costa Rica’s creatures from basilisks and three-toed sloths to armadillos and roseate spoonbills. Color drawings of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and butterflies help with quick and easy identification.

Colombia

The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself - by David Bushnell
Diving into the country’s independence, economics, society, and politics, Bushnell examines modern Colombia and how it has defied stereotypes becoming a prosperous nation. If you want to embark on your trip informed of the country’s history and culture, start here. While published in the early 90s, this is considered by many to be the most digestible and comprehensive history of Colombia. 

Bolivar, American Liberator - by Marie Arana
An in-depth and novel-like read, this biography of Simon Bolivar, El Libertador, leaves no stone unturned. An epic story, Bolivar’s life is a sweeping tale of travels in the Amazon and Andes, personal heartbreaks and triumphs, the freeing of six countries from the Spanish.

Music, Race, and Nation: Musica Tropical in Colombia - by Peter Wade
Not your typical guidebook, discover Colombia through the rhythm of its music. Cumbia, porro, and vallenato—the music is irresistibly danceable. Wade’s book examines how the country’s people, and often the most marginalized groups within the population, express issues of race, economics, politics, sexuality, cultural history, and progress.

Panama Guides

The Birds of Panama: A Field Guild - by George R Angehr and Robert Dean
This portable illustrated guide is a thorough tool with 900 species of birds found in Panamá along with habits, habitats, and identification information.

Reef Fish Identification: Baja To Panamá - by Paul Humann and Ned Deloach
Photographs, descriptions of marine life, and notes on behavior illuminate the underwater world, including a special section on whales and dolphins.

The Darien Gap: Travels in the Rainforest of Panamá - by Martin Mitchinson
Modern day explorer and writer, Mitchinson arrived in Darien by sailboat and attempted to retrace the path of 16th century conquistador Vasco Balboa across the rough, rugged gap to the Pacific Ocean.

 

Tropical Plants of Costa Rica: A Guide to Native and Exotic Flora - by Willow Zuchowski
From coastal mangroves to high cloud forests, this guide details characteristics of individual plants, their uses, cultural or historical significance and role within the ecosystem. Color photos make identification easy.

Monkeys are made of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica - by Jack Ewing
Through his many experiences and keen observations, Ewing spins a captivating web of stories that highlight the close connections between all living creatures and plants in Costa Rica’s jungles. Magical storytelling puts these remarkable ecosystems in a new, fascinating light.

Colombia, a Comedy of Errors - by Victoria Kellaway and Sergio J Lievano
An anthropological analysis of Colombia in full color and full of humor with 160 illustrations from the high-profile the likes of Simon Bolivar, Shakira, and Alvaro Uribe, to everyday countrymen and countrywomen. In a country of contradictions, Kellawy and Lievano’s book helps define what it means to be Colombian.

Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the New Colombia - by Tom Feiling
Curious how Colombia transformed from a land described as paradise by conquistadors to a notorious “narcostate” and now a rising star and travel hotspot of Latin America, journalist and writer, Feiling takes to the country’s least traveled roads to find out why. Getting first-hand stories from Colombians—former guerrilla fighters to once-isolated nomadic tribes—he unravels the mystery painting a colorful and detailed picture of this complex place. 

Birding in Colombia - by Jurgen Beckers & Pablo Florez
Colombia is home to nearly 1,900 species birds. Beckers and Florez’s well-researched book is an incredibly helpful guide to what birds can be found where. Featuring 127 sites with 85 maps and 240 color photos of birds. 

The Panamá Hat Trail - by Tom Miller
Follow the audacious and unexpected journey of a single Panamá hat, from its initial weaving to the final marketing and selling of it. Its a unique, humorous, and captivating journey.

Getting to Know the General - by Graham Greene
Late in his life, Graham Greene wrote about his experiences of being invited to Panama by Omar Torrijos, who ruled the country from the mid-1960s to 1981. Greene’s multi-year experience with Torrijos and one of his most trusted guards, Chuchu, is full of rich character and intrigue.


Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion - by Barbara Ras and Oscar Arias
Twenty-six short stories written by some of Costa Rica’s most talented writers provide unique insight into the lives of Tico’s in all the regions of the country. While fictional, each vignette offers an insider’s perspective of the color and vibrancy of the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Hundred Years of Solitude - by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Originally published in 1967, this is arguably Marquez’s most popular piece, melding fact and fantasy in an extraordinary work of magical realism. A timeless Latin American classic, the story weaves through generations of the Buendia family. 

The Informers
The Sound of Things Falling

by Juan Gabriel Vasquez
One of the most celebrated, modern writers, Vasquez tells his stories in a more Robinson Crusoe-adventure-style than the classic magical realism Latin American literature is known for. In The Informers, a man, while writing a biography of a family friend who emigrated to Colombia in the 1930s, begins to uncover dark, deeply-hidden secrets in his own family history. In The Sound of Things Falling, follows a law professor through the early years of the drug wars to 1990s Bogota revealing how the drug trade impacted all lives in Colombia.