5 Best Books About South America History You Should Add to Your Reading List

By | 21 August, 2019

Reading is one of the most delightful ways to satisfy your curiosity and travel in time and space without leaving your home. Historical books provide us with both fiction and non-fiction stories about past adventurers, conquerors, kings, and common citizens. They tell us about whole nations and their destinies.

Today, we want to invite you to the ancient history of South America — one of six continents on the Earth most known for its amazingly diverse culture, Amazon Rainforest, and world’s largest river — the Amazon.

There is plenty of books about South America. In this collection, we have handpicked the most interesting ones written in a narrative manner without boring lyrical digressions. Add these books in your “To read” list and take a trip to Latin America’s history!

Bruce Chatwin: In Patagonia

Chatwin’s look at the place of the still unknown exotic mystery of Patagonia captivates from the first page. This is the author’s vision of his adventure through this wonderful land. The story itself is fueled by the author’s enthusiasm for detailed storytelling and stubborn curiosity. You will enjoy Chatwin’s manner of narration — he often describes the place he arrives at with historical evidence, precise territory description, stories, and funny anecdotes.

In Patagonia was written in the 1970s, but the author explains the historical development of the land known from both the literature and local residents. You can find out why bandits were once welcomed here, how did the Welsh migrants appear in this land, and how the log cabin of infamous Butch Cassidy looks like. In Patagonia, undisputably, is a classic of the historical books and should be added to your to-read list if you are interested in the history of South America. The book can be ordered on Amazon.

Mark Adams: Turn Right at Machu Picchu

The second book in our collection complements the telling manner of the previous author. Mark Adams is an adventurer, highly interested in Inca civilization and the fascinating citadel of Machu Picchu. The author explains his trip to the said citadel with his Australian colleague Crocodile Dundee-esque Jon to help him discover the region and the castle. As well as Chatwin, Adams describes the very piece of the land he explores in a narrative manner, adding elements of history, funny moments, and his own thoughts.

Besides a historical background, the book is a perfect guide for those who are going to visit the Machu Picchu citadel. You can find the description of mystery places, and once you get there, you can read the chapters dedicated to those places. Turn Right at Machu Picchu is a must-read for adventurers or those just curious about South America and Inca civilization. The book is available on Amazon.

John Gimlette: At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig

Welcome to Paraguay — in former times the most developed and richest country in South America. Gimlette is considered as the author who has described Paraguayan history in the most credible and coherent manner.

Gimlette outlined the history of Paraguay since it’s appearance and early development. At some point, it was the most powerful country on the continent that was ruined and degraded due to the government’s greed and needless wars with neighbors. Recently, Paraguay has been riddled with corruption, resulting in it falling off the continent development rate charts.

The author describes his trip to this magnificent country and tells its story. In some places, he stops to tell you the history of dictators and tyrants that led the country to where it is now.

There are also love stories that influenced the destiny of the country. Special attention is paid to President Solano López — the person responsible for Paraguay’s economic retention and social degrade.

At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig is a must-read for those who love historical books with political references and personal stories — stories of the people who made both history and mistakes. You can buy the book on Amazon.

Eduardo Galeano: Open Veins of Latin America

Unlike previous authors, Galeano focuses on the economic and political history of Latin America. This is a crash course to the region development history and how the countries, step-by-step, got the conditions they are now in.

The author provides a brief historical background of all the countries available on the continent. If you want to discover Latin America’s history in a nutshell, avoid ordering an essay or buy powerpoint presentation — this book is a perfect guide to life there.

The book is interesting for those who are familiar with politics and history. Galeano explains how the countries that are rich in natural resources like minerals and metals still suffer from poverty. The colonial and invasive influences of Great Britain, Spain, and the United States are taken into account. Finally, the author gives you a short historical background on how the countries stay underdeveloped due to poor politics and vulnerability to external invaders. The book can be bought on Amazon.

Thomas McFadden and Rusty Young: Marching Powder

There are few prisons around the world that do not force prisoners to stay in their cells all the time. San Pedro prison in La Paz is the most attractive place in Bolivia because it does not operate in a common way. Instead, prisoners are encouraged to lead a normal civil life within in-prison infrastructure and socio-economic structure. Thus, prisoners run their shops, pay monthly house rent, and meet their children with spouses every day as they are welcomed at the prison.

The book was born from the friendship that Rusty Young, a law graduate, had struck with the prisoner of San Pedro, Thomas McFadden. The latter was imprisoned for trying to smuggle cocaine. Upon his incarceration, he started holding prison tours, which attracted Young’s interest. Following Young’s stay in San Pedro and his communication with McFadden, he released a book outlining McFadden’s life and experiences.

The book follows a fascinating true story about South America from a totally different perspective — from the prisoners’ point of view. You can order the book on Amazon.


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