There is relatively little written about Cuba and what has been written, has tended to come in the form of tourist books with only the most positive aspects of Cuban life and culture mentioned. There has been a limit to the literature and information which has freely come out of Cuba in recent decades but, because of globalisation and liquid modernity, Cuba is becoming a more widely written about country and there are some great books out there if you wish to learn more. Below I detail the best books I have read and can recommend. Please feel free though to to recommend me books on Cuba to review for this page!
This is not a purely positive book in terms of how it reflects on Cuba life and the daily life of the every day Cuban. but it comes across as being an honest attempt at representing the realities of life under the present Cuban government and the difficulties faced. If you are looking for a book about Cuban culture and the realities away from the touristic areas, then this is a great book. If you are a tourist looking for travel guide information, then the books below will be much more your cup of tea.
Cuba: The Land Of Miracles: A Journey Through Modern Cuba[/easyazon_link], is a book I really enjoyed reading and which gives a real in depth and personal insight into Cuba, from a non-touristic point of view. Travelling across Cuba in one of the old 1960s cars, which have become so iconic in pictures and photos of Cuba, the author Stephen Smith gives what for me is a quite accurate and fair account of life in Cuba away from the tourist areas and I loved his story of how he met Fidel.
Overall this is a great book if you are more interested in Cuban culture and understanding the way of life for locals, as opposed to knowing where the best beaches, attractions and tourist joints can be found. A great read!
Waiting for Snow in Havana[/easyazon_link] is a book which is quite different from the others listed on this page. This book by Carlos Eire is really a historical look at Cuba and gives a wonderful insight into how it used to be in the 1950s on this island.Carlos Eire’s story is a stunning one, which portrays how life changed overnight when Batista overthrew the Cuban government in the 1950s.
The book then goes on to explain about life under Fidel and the second half of the book is a particularly good read and includes a deep look into the difficulties, such as divided families, and the problems many faced in the 1950s and 1960s in Cuba.
The Island That Dared: Journeys in Cuba[/easyazon_link] is another excellent travelogue style book, this one by Dervla Murphy who travels with her daughter and grand daughters, makes a conscious effort on her travels around Cuba, to chat with as many locals as possible and to gain an understanding of the feelings of the Cuban people, in particular those who support Fidel.
Any of you who have read any of Dervla’s previous books (such as ‘Eight Feet in the Andes’ or ‘In Ethiopia with a Mule’) will already be aware of the depth of effort she goes into, to understand the cultures in which she travels. She also has a wonderfully poetic way of expressing and representing the places and the people she meets. This book on Cuba by Dervla is another one of her classics!
Lonely Planet Cuba (Travel Guide)[/easyazon_link] – Heading now into tourist and travel guides territory, I find that the Lonely Planet Guides are probably the best series of books on the market and I used the Cuba guide last year as I travelled the length and breadth of Cuba. The book was as accurate as one could expect given that accommodation, transportation and other travel facilities do change. I used to love the ‘Let’s Go’ books twenty years ago when I first started travelling (I think they were created by Hardvard), but these days I think the ‘Lonely Planet’ have nailed the market and this Cuba one I think reflected the country very well.
The Rough Guide to Cuba[/easyazon_link] is a very close match with Lonely Planet in that I find this book (and the series) to be solid. Well written, the information normally as up-to-date as is realistic (as long as you buy the latest version of course) and insightful and overall the book itself can save you the book’s own cost overnight, with the tips on where to stay. Maps, some brief information on the history, attractions, accommodation, bars, how to get there and a lot more.
Just like with any travel guide, make sure to buy the latest version because the travel information can become out of date, as any of you who has tried to use the Cuban train (rail) system in the last year will be aware. Routes in Cuba can easily get closed down or new services created. Things are changing fast here in Cuba ,so be warned. Overall though the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide are both great options for travelling Cuba.
And back to a good read rather than a travel guide. This book is a fascinating story which highlights the real life experiences of the Bacardi family and their tumultuous relationship and experiences with the Cuban government and the rise of their drinks empire.
One hundred and fifty years after starting and as an independent company, Bacardi are still going strong and this is a wonderful example of freedom and an alternative and unique story from within Cuba. During times when organised crime controlled parts of Havana and with the threat of interference from the Spanish and Cuban governments, the Bacardi company story, which is re-told with the help of some family members, is unlike any other business story you are likely to read.