Headed to Guatemala. What should I read?
August 2, 2009 8:44 AM   Subscribe

I leave for a week in Guatemala later this month. I have a pretty good handle on what to do/see and where to stay/eat, but I'm wondering what I should read.

Lonely Planet's literature recommendations are disappointingly spare, and a search for "Guatemala" isn't getting me very far on Amazon. So far Men of Maize and The Blood of Kings are on the list, but what am I missing? History, travel literature and fiction all welcome, and I'll be spending most of my time near Lake Atitlán, if that helps.
posted by rebekah to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could try Beyond the Mexique Bay by Aldous Huxley. It's not exclusively about Guatemala, but I believe he writes about Lake Atitlan in it.

I haven't read it, but I have been to Lake Atitlan...
posted by cabingirl at 9:31 AM on August 2, 2009

The book "I, Rigoberta Menchu" is fantastic. It's a first-person narrative of a Guatemalan peasant woman who went out to become a political activist and later won the Nobel Peace Prize. The book was transcribed and then translated into English. There's been some controversy around the book--but don't let that keep you from reading it, as (if my memory serves me correctly), it's a really great read.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:32 AM on August 2, 2009

Silence on the Mountain by Daniel Wilkinson
posted by greta simone at 10:27 AM on August 2, 2009

Definitely Silence on the Mountain (great book); I also recommend The Art of Political Murder, by Francisco Goldman. And Bitter Fruit, about the CIA-sponsored coup in the 50s.
posted by mixer at 11:16 AM on August 2, 2009

I went to Guatemala eleven years ago. I read A Beauty That Hurts by W. George Lovell which is a collection of essays that acknowledges Guatemala's deep beauty as well as its vicious history. If you look at some of the related titles on that page, you'll see some of the recommendations from here as well as some other good titles.
posted by jessamyn at 11:54 AM on August 2, 2009

Goldman's book, cited by mixer, is an excellent piece of nonfiction that explains the sometimes surreal nature of power in Guatemala. I can't recommend it enough.
posted by donpedro at 11:57 AM on August 2, 2009

I second the above recommendations for I, Rigoberto Menchu and A Beauty That Hurts (those are the only ones so far that I've read). I'm looking forward to reading the others.

Let me also recommend Jeremy Paxman's Through the Volcanos. Paxman was an Englishman who travelled through all of Central America in the late 80's, and there's a nice chapter on the then-current civil war in Guatemala. It's well worth a read.
posted by math at 5:17 PM on August 2, 2009

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