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Recently we did a great post on things to know before travelling to Mexico. If that inspired you and now you are on your way to Mexico, here are the best books to read before travelling to Mexico. Get inspiration and insights. Learn about Mexican history, food, traditions and way of life.
Reading about a country is a great way to be prepared, have more understanding, make the most of your visit.
Writing this blog post was not an easy thing to do. There are so many amazing books out there and to narrow them down is a difficult conquest! A large amount of books on Mayan history has been cut down to the very best and most modern. I have left a quick list down the bottom if you are interested in more books. I haven’t gotten around to reading or researching these like the ones recommended but feel free to check them out anyway.
All of these books are in English. Some of Mexico’s great writters are listed such as
Books to help you understand Mexicos drugs and gang problems
“You’re going to Mexico? But you are going to get kidnapped! Think of all the gangs, kidnapping and drugs!” I have no doubt that at least one person in your circle will say this. But as we know, Mexico is safe and an amazing country! However, if you have an interest in reading about the drugs and gangs and to understand it better, here are some great reads!
Down the Rabbit Hole: A Novel
Tochtli lives in a palace. He loves hats, samurai, guillotines, and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, prostitutes, dealers, servants, and the odd corrupt politician or two. Long-listed for The Guardian First Book Award, Down the Rabbit Hole, a masterful and darkly comic first novel, is the chronicle of a delirious journey to grant a child’s wish.
No Country For Old Men
The time is our own, when rustlers have given way to drug-runners and small towns have become free-fire zones. One day, a good old boy named Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a bodyguard of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law–in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell–can contain.As Moss tries to evade his pursuers–in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives–McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines
To understand Mexicos immigration problems
You would have to be living under a rock to not know about the immigration problems between Mexico and the USA. Now is as good a time as ever to read some of these books. Having an understanding of both sides of the stories can really help to get a better perspective. It will help you gain empathy and have a better outlook of the country. Put yourself in the shoes of those Mexican immigrants.
The Book of Unknown Americans
A boy and a girl who fall in love. Two families whose hopes collide with destiny. An extraordinary novel that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be American.
Arturo and Alma Rivera have lived their whole lives in Mexico. One day, their beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter, Maribel, sustains a terrible injury, one that casts doubt on whether she’ll ever be the same. And so, leaving all they have behind, the Riveras come to America with a single dream: that in this country of great opportunity and resources, Maribel can get better.
When Mayor Toro, whose family is from Panama, sees Maribel in a Dollar Tree store, it is love at first sight. It’s also the beginning of a friendship between the Rivera and Toro families, whose web of guilt and love and responsibility is at this novel’s core.
Woven into their stories are the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America. Their journeys and their voices will inspire you, surprise you, and break your heart.
The House on Mango Street
Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.
To understand the “real” Mexico
Mexico is more than just beaches, all-inclusive resorts and tacos! To understand a culture, you have to learn it from the elders in this said culture. You have to understand family connections and traditions. Religion and history, as well as politics. These are some great books to really start to understand the “real” Mexico.
What the Moon Saw
Fourteen-year-old Clara Luna’s name means “clear moon” in Spanish. But lately, her life has felt anything but clear. A letter has arrived from her grandparents in Mexico inviting her to stay with them for the summer. But Clara has never met her father’s parents. All she knows is that he snuck over the border from Mexico as a teenager.
When she arrives, she’s stunned by how different her grandparents’ life is from her own in the United States. They live in simple shacks in the mountains of southern Mexico, where most people speak not only Spanish, but an indigenous language, Mixteco. Their village of Yucuyoo holds other surprises, too—like the spirit waterfall, which is heard but never seen. And Pedro, a young goatherder who wants to help Clara find the waterfall. But as Clara discovers more about where she comes from, what will it mean for who she is now?
Written with an arresting immediacy and infused with an exhilarating joie de vivre, A Florence Diary is a bright, colourful evocation of a time long lost and a vibrant portrait of a city that will be deliciously familiar to any contemporary traveller.
A Visit to Don Otavio: A Traveller’s Tale from Mexico
This affectionate study of the Mexican temper is ”one of the most charming travel books ever written.” – The Atlantic Monthly Before returning to the Old World after World War II, Sybille Bedford resolved to see something more of the New. ”I had a great longing to move,” she said, ”to hear another language, eat new food, to be in a country with a long nasty history in the past and as little present history as possible.” And so she set out for Mexico – and, incidentally, to write what Bruce Chatwin called the best travel book of the twentieth century, ”a book of marvels, to be read again and again and again.”
To understand the Spanish conquest
You can’t understand Mexican history without learning about the Spanish conquest. Thankfully there are some amazing books and accounts of what really happened. Books from first hand accounts are not easy to come by so I highly recommend reading some of these whilst you still can.
The Conquest of New Spain
Bernal Díaz del Castillo(1495–1584) served under Cortés through the entire Mexican campaign, and his narrative, one of only four extant firsthand accounts, is both an invaluable hirstorical document and a spectacular epic. He was with Cortés when the latter sank the ships, thus committing the small band of conquistadors irrevocably to the Conquest; he was privy to the counsels of the leaders and was at hand when Montezuma was made a prisoner in his own palace. Bernal Díaz fought in over a hundred battles and skirmishes against an enemy who made living sacrifices of their prisoners. These things he saw and recorded in a bold blunt voice whose immediacy, in Maudslay’s classic translation, reaches across the centuries to invite readers to witness for themselves the horrors and wonders of the initial, apocalyptic clash between two great civilizations.
The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico
For hundreds of years, the history of the conquest of Mexico and the defeat of the Aztecs has been told in the words of the Spanish victors. Miguel León-Portilla has long been at the forefront of expanding that history to include the voices of indigenous peoples. In this new and updated edition of his classic The Broken Spears, León-Portilla has included accounts from native Aztec descendants across the centuries. These texts bear witness to the extraordinary vitality of an oral tradition that preserves the viewpoints of the vanquished instead of the victors. León-Portilla’s new Postscript reflects upon the critical importance of these unexpected historical accounts.
The Conquest of Mexico
Hugh Thomas’ account of the collapse of Montezuma’s great Aztec empire under the onslaughts of Cortes’ conquistadors is one of the great historical works of our times. A thrilling and sweeping narrative, it also bristles with moral and political issues. After setting out from Spain – against explicit instructions – in 1519, some 500 conquistadors destroyed their ships and fought their way towards the capital of the greatest empire of the New World. When they finally reached Tenochtitlan, the huge city on lake Texcoco, they were given a courtly welcome by Montezuma, who believed them to be gods. Their later abduction of the emperor, their withdrawl and the final destruction of the city make the Conquest one of the most enthralling and tragic episodes in world history.
Malinche: A Novel
This is an extraordinary retelling of the passionate and tragic love between the conquistador Cortez and the Indian woman Malinalli, his interpreter during his conquest of the Aztecs. Malinalli’s Indian tribe has been conquered by the warrior Aztecs. When her father is killed in battle, she is raised by her wisewoman grandmother who imparts to her the knowledge that their founding forefather god, Quetzalcoatl, had abandoned them after being made drunk by a trickster god and committing incest with his sister. But he was determined to return with the rising sun and save her tribe from their present captivity. When Malinalli meets Cortez she, like many, suspects that he is the returning Quetzalcoatl, and assumes her task is to welcome him and help him destroy the Aztec empire and free her people. The two fall passionately in love, but Malinalli gradually comes to realize that Cortez’s thirst for conquest is all too human, and that for gold and power, he is willing to destroy anyone, even his own men, even their own love.
To understand the struggles of Mexico living
The country of Mexico have more problems then drugs, immigration and their sad history…. Read about what it is like to be Mexican. To live in these towns, to see you town destroyed by gangs, to realise most people are moving away for a better life. Learn what your expectations are as a Mexican and what your life could look like.
Into the Beautiful North: A Novel
Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US to find work. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn’t the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village–they’ve all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men–her own “Siete Magníficos”–to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over.
Filled with unforgettable characters and prose as radiant as the Sinaloan sun, INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH is the story of an irresistible young woman’s quest to find herself on both sides of the fence.
To get Hungry for Mexican food
Keeping it light hearted, lets talk about FOOD!!!! Mexican food is amazing! Tacos, Burritos, Spicey, tortillas, beans and more! Get hungry, snack on some tacos and read up on Mexican food.
Like Water For Chocolate
A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies.
But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her.
For the next twenty-two years Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.
To learn about Maya History
Before going to see the maya ruins and feel a spritual sense of WOW, perhaps read up on the Maya history. Your travel buddies and everyone around will be impressed on your knowledge and you will get so much more out of your trip.
The Last Lords of Palenque: The Lacandon Mayas of the Mexican Rain Forest
And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.
The Last Lords of Lalenque is an extraordinary firsthand account of life among the Lacandon Indians of Nahá in southern Mexico. A community of 250 whose genealogy has been obscured by the absence of a written tradition, the Lacandones may nevertheless be traced back linguistically and culturally to the great Maya civilization. They are the sole inheritors of an oral tradition that preserves-more than 400 years after the Spanish Conquest-a cosmology, a morality and a psychology as sophisticated as our own. Journalist and novelist Victor Perera and linguist Robert Bruce have lived among the Lacandones, chronicling their imperiled Mayan culture.
To understand Mexicos Art Scene
Mexico is a vibrant and fun, creative and artistic place. Learn about some of Mexicans great artists
The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait
The intimate life of artist Frida Kahlo is wonderfully revealed in the illustrated journal she kept during her last 10 years. This passionate and at times surprising record contains the artist’s thoughts, poems, and dreams; many reflecting her stormy relationship with her husband, artist Diego Rivera, along with 70 mesmerising watercolour illustrations. The text entries in brightly coloured inks make the journal as captivating to look at as it is to read. Her writing reveals the artist’s political sensibilities, recollections of her childhood, and her enormous courage in the face of more than thirty-five operations to correct injuries she had sustained in an accident at the age of eighteen.