One of the greatest parts of blogging has been the fact that I read more today than at any other time in my life. Not only am I reading more but I am reading more types of literature. For many years, I only read non-fiction. More recently, I have been interested in the shared culture of literature. I want to read what a typical Mexican high school student reads. My Spanish is getting better and I want to push myself to attempt more difficult texts.
English Language Books About Mexico
Biography of Power by Enrique Krauze
I chose to list this book first because it has become something of a reference for me. As you are reading José Emilio Pacheco you will want to read more about President Miguel Aleman. As you are reading Nellie Campobello you will want to know more about Pancho Villa. This book will help you catch a lot of the references that other authors drop in their texts.
The Fabulous Life Of Diego Rivera by Bertram Wolfe
An honest look at the life of one of Mexico’s most polemic personalities. Diego Rivera had a critical yet optimistic vision of the world. His personal experiences and politics colored buildings far and near. Whether you agree with his politics or not (there is an interesting note by Bertram, a one time communist, on Diego’s brand of communism) you have to admit that Diego Rivera lived a Fabulous life.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
I really struggled with this one. The only reason that I bought it was because of all the controversy. It was written by a lady who read a lot of newspaper articles to inform her world view. It lacks the first-hand experience of someone who knows Acapulco, or the Mexican experience for that matter, intimately. Unless you are really into tragedy-porn, I’d skip this one.
Spain: The Centre of the World 1519-1682 by Robert Goodwin
The reason that Spain was the center of the world in 1519 was because of the wealth that was being expropriated by the Spanish conquistadors and shipped back to the mother land. It is important to know what was going on in Europe during the 16th and 17 centuries to understand how Spain treated the colonies. It was interesting to have a little background on the Hapsburg Dynasty while reading about the 19th century French intervention into Mexico. The whole idea of imposing another Hapsburg monarchy 300 years later is mind boggling.
El Norte by Carrie Gibson
You can think of El Norte as a collection of short stories that celebrate the shared history of Spanish America. In an era of increased border walls, Carrie Gibson wants to remind us how much shared culture there is on both sides of the border.
I listened to this audiobook while driving from Guadalajara to San Diego through Baja California. I was especially interested in the history of the Spanish missions in what is today the United States. California mision history starts at San Diego while El Norte talks of Cortes’ voyages to Baja California and the early Jesuit missions in Baja Sur.
If you happen to be traveling through Baja California I highly recommend listening to this audiobook.
Conquistador by Buddy Levy
It is hard to believe that these are true stories. Based in large part on the first hand accounts of Bernal Diaz del Castillo, Conquistador accounts for Cortes’ mutiny from governor of Cuba to establishing a settlement in Veracruz, and taking the Valley of Mexico by storm.
Most of us have heard bits and pieces of this story. You have to hear the whole thing. Recalling the naval battles on the Texcoco Lake, at 9,000 feet above sea level, between Aztec canoes and Spanish galleons is a highlight.
I particularly enjoyed listening to this audiobook after visiting Mexico City. Many of the municipalities of Mexico City are villages that have existed since pre-hispanic times.
An Open Book by John Huston
Not entirely about Mexico but the prolific film maker spent a good deal of time here and is kind of responsible for Puerto Vallarta becoming what it is today. The stories about his time in Mexico City in the post-revolutionary era are crazy. John Huston is a master story teller.
Recommended Reading In Spanish
If you are an intermediate Spanish learner than there is no better way to improve your vocabulary than by reading in Spanish. There are some of my favorite books.