The Ultimate Cuba Reading List

With a country as complicated and dynamic as Cuba, an old saying holds true: “the more you learn, the less you know”. That said, whether you’re gearing up for a trip to the island or want to take a deep dive into Cuba’s history, culture, politics or food, our staff has put together a book list that will have you covered.

NON-FICTION

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  1. Cuba Libre!: Che, Fidel, and the Improbable Revolution that Changed World History, by Tony Perrotet

    Recommended by: Isabel

    An expansive and detailed story about the planning and execution of the Cuban Revolution through the eyes of the main figures themselves. The events read like they are a part of a fiction thriller.

  2. Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba, by Tom Gjelten

    Recommended by: Collin and Isabel

    Covering the Bacardi family from a rum stand in Santiago to Cuba through the Spanish American War, the Cuban Revolution, and the election of George Bush, this book illuminates and makes sense of the long of Cuban history through a single but important family. A dense historical read, but worth it if you’re into that stuff!

  3. Waiting for Snow in Havana, by Carlos Eire

    Recommended by: Gaby A

    A poignant autobiography of a Cuban American who left his homeland at age 11, among 14,000 Cuban children as a part of Operation Peter Pan.

  4. Cuban Revelations, by Marc Frank

    Recommended by: Collin

    Marc Frank is a veteran Havana-based journalist who explores everyday life in Cuba and its context, with historical and political references and explanations.

  5. Cuba Confidential, by Ann Louise Bardach

    Recommended by: Isabel

    An in-depth review of US-Cuba politics (and meddling) focusing on the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. It helps the reader understand the background of today’s relationship between the US and Cuba.

  6. Havana Nocturne, by TJ English

    Recommended by: Isabel

    An intense evaluation of pre-revolutionary Cuba, the mob, and the CIA. Another nonfiction book that reads like fiction.

  7. Backchannel to Cuba, by Peter Kornbluh and William LeoGrande

    Recommended by: Collin

    An in-depth look at the political dealings during the US-Cuba detente in 2016, and the secret negotiations that led up to restoration of diplomatic relations on December 17, 2014

  8. Che: A Revolutionary Life, by Jon Lee Anderson

    Recommended by: Adam

    A renown author and Cuba historian dives into the Argentinian hero’s life and his earth-shattering impact on a small island 90 miles from Florida.

  9. Havana: A Subtropical Delirium, by Mark Kurlansky

    Recommended by: Isabel

    Learn about the history of Havana from its colonial founding till today. Relevant for the 500th anniversary of Havana this November!

FICTION

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  1. In Cuba I Was A German Shephard, by Ana Mendez

    Recommended by: Gaby A

    A collection of short, fictional stories that speak to the larger phenomena of migration from Cuba and the diaspora’s experience in the United States. Based off of the author’s experiences as a Cuban American, the author also mixes magical realism into her story telling.

  2. Dreaming In Cuban, by Cristina Garcia

    Recommended by: Gaby A

    This book plays with the supernatural and magical realism as it follows three generations of Cuban women just before and during the revolution. It’s thought provoking because it shows different points of views from differing parts of Cuban society.

  3. El Rey de La Habana, by Pedro Juan Gutierrez

    Recommended by: Collin

    The author Pedro Juan Gutierrez takes readers to the streets and into the home of a Cuban teenager in the 90s, during Cuba’s “Special Period”.

  4. Revolution Sunday, by Wendy Guerra

    Recommended by: Collin

    A novel about family, trust, and surveillance in today’s Cuba.

  5. Mario Conde Book Series, by Leonardo Padura

    Recommended by: Collin

    A classic and gripping detective series based in Havana — you can’t go wrong.

THE CLASSICS

  1. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway

    Recommended by: The CET team

    Readers begin to understand Hemingway’s infatuation with the Caribbean island in this intense and descriptive novel.

  2. Our Man in Havana, by Graham Greene

    Recommended by: The CET team

    A classic comedic novel set during Fulgencio Batista’s reign over Cuba filled with informants, faulty reports, and confusing diplomacy.

PHOTO BOOKS

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  1. La Paloma y La Ley, by Lisette Poole

    Recommended by: Gaby O

    Cuban American photojournalist LIsette Poole follows two Cuban women on their harrowing journey through 10 countries to the US/Mexico border. Officially out in October 2019, available for pre-order now.

  2. Made in Cuba, by Molly Mandell and James Burke

    Recommended by: Isabel

    This photo book tells the story of 30 Cuban artists and entrepreneurs, including many friends of ours. With a focus on Cuba’s creative DIY culture, each individual’s story is as beautiful as the next.

  3. El Libro Supremo de La Suerte, by Rose Marie Cromwell

    Recommended by: Isabel

    Cromwell tells Cuban stories through beautiful everyday portraits and photos. The title refers to the covert lottery that takes place on Havana’s streets.

  4. The Dogs of Cuba, and The Cats of Cuba, by Emmy Park

    Recommended by: Collin

    Some of the best parts of Cuba are the four-legged ones. These books pay homage to many without homes.

COOKBOOKS

  1. Paladares, by Anya Von Bremzen and Megan Fawn Schlow

    Recommended by: Adam

    A journey through Cuban food via the modern day private restaurants that dominate the island’s culinary scene, many of which we work with!

  2. Comida Cubana, by Marcella Kreibel

    Recommended by: Gaby O

    A beautiful illustrated book with all the staples of Cuban cuisine.

  3. The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History, by Ana Sofia Palaez

    Recommended by: Isabel

    A familial history runs through this jam packed cookbook with Cuban flavors you’ve heard of, and a few you haven’t.

For a travel guide with recommendations and go-to spots in Havana, be sure to check out 300 Reasons to Love Havana, by Heidi Hollinger.

What did we miss?

Reach out on social media to let us know your favorite Cuba reads.

Isabel Albee