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I do get to go on some trips (Central America, Europe and India--and did some reading before the latter two trips) and next summer we are taking the whole family on an overland trip in which we will probably visit Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina and possibly Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile (though the latter is less likely). We begin our trip in Colombia.
What I am looking for are books about these countries, preferably non-fiction, that will help me understand the people and the why they think and act the way they do. I don't really want books that explain that, but books that tell of the history and background, culture and norms, written in a very readable style. I'm not looking for textbooks, but histories, biographies, autobiographies or insights from authors who have lived in or visited the countries and really studied them.
Any help you can give me would be much appreciated. I'm also willing to try to express my wants better if it's not clear! Thanks.
Anyway, The DMZ (which Touchstones can't seem to find for some reason) has a lot of information about life here if anyone wants to find it out, remembering that it was written 6 years ago at the height of the terrorist problems. They aren't gone, but things are much calmer now, relatively speaking.
(Mis)adventure on the Amazon river, both very good.
The mapmaker's wife : a true tale of love, murder, and survival in the Amazon Robert Whitaker
River of doubt : Theodore Roosevelt's darkest journey Candice Millard
I know the book is about 30 years old by as far as I know is a good way of understanding South American people views on liufe in the different countries.
12chrisharpe Ensimmäinen viesti
I see you have been recommended some novels and short stories by S. Am. authors. I actually do think that reading fiction is a good way to get an insight into the country - probably better than "factual" books written by non-natives. South American fiction is particularly rich and imaginative and broke much new ground in the 20th Century. Many works have a strong national flavour to them that I am sure would a helpful way to get at what you want. In addition to your factual reading, why not pick a couple of contemporary native authors for each country you visit? In addition to the suggestions made, for the first four countries you propose, you should not miss Peru's Mario Vargas Llosa (La ciudad y los perros; La casa verde; La guerra del fin del mundo, Historia de Mayta, El hablador, etc.), César Vallejo and Alfredo Bryce Echenique (the wonderful La vida exagerada de Martín Romaña, Permiso para vivir), or Argentina's Julio Cortázar (e.g. Todos los fuegos el fuego), Manuel Puig (especially El beso de la mujer araña), Adolfo Bioy Casares (La invención de Morel) and Juan Jose Saer (e.g. La pesquisa). All these give an insight into aspects of national and regional culture.
John Gimlette's At The Tomb Of The Inflatable Pig: Travels Through Paraguay is certain to transport and inform the reader.
BTW, as I read some of the books I've found I'm posting reviews for anyone interested. You can go through my library to find them. So far I've only read 3, but I'm working on it!
Hope you enjoy your reading and your travelling!
In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin (a personal favourite)
The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey by Salman Rushdie
Btw, in my biased opinion I think Chile should not be missed in your travels...
By a South American, I think a good start would be Memory of Fire by Eduardo Galeano. (I only have the first volume 'Genesis' which was excellent.)
p.s. I'm surprised the tags are not showing up for Chatwin as author or In Patagonia as a text. "In Patagonia" is truly superb and written by one of the best English travel writers of the 20th Century.
(hmm i just changed the tag for only "Patagonia" and now it does come up....)
Have a great trip!
While it is fictional, Isabel Allende's House of Spirits is a reasonably accurate view (from a particular political perspective) of Chilean history.
It's not what most people think of when thinking about South America, but Alexander Miles has written a very good book about the history of Devil's Island. (To be fair, I only bought the book because I went to high school with Alex and he was obsessed with the subject at least that far back. So I could be biased in recommending it.)
I really enjoyed it and was also looking for similar books as I love the setting of South America and the Amazon.
We hit 7 countries and had a wonderful time, even traveling with three teenagers! We were gone 7 weeks and did most of our travels by bus. We flew from Colombia to Chile and then to Buenos Aires, Argentina. From there we took buses all the way back up to Quito, Ecuador. (Colombia being the most dangerous part of the trip, we had to fly back into the country from there.) It was fascinating and the best family time we've ever had. The kids loved it too. We spent 7 nights on buses--most with semi-beds--but one, through the Chaco desert of Paraguay, was not much different from a U.S. school bus and we were in it for 22 hours! I read several books (listed in my library) that helped me understand the countries.
Thanks for all your ideas!