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alexander kunze 318344 - Cuba : What to Read Before You Go


Cuba has been at the centre of intrigue for centuries, from the late 1800s when the US flexed its colonial muscles to its iconic revolution in 1959. Years of isolation have reserved colonial architecture from destruction even as it crumbles, but change is well and truly afoot. Its raucous stew of African, Caribbean and Latin culture lures fans from around the globe as well as sunseekers. While no one can predict how the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between itself and the USA will affect the country, it’s inevitable that such a monumental change will forever alter this bizarre, beautiful and beguiling nation.  (Excerpted from Lonely Planet’s The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country of the World)

We stock a range of travel guides and maps for Cuba, as well as selected books based in the country including fiction, travel writing, biographies, history, food and more. Below you’ll find our recommended books to read before you go to Cuba.

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The Old Man and the Sea

It's been said that when it comes to the 1950s, to know Hemingway is to know Cuba, and to know Cuba is to know Hemingway. This is one of two Hemingway novels we recommend you read before visiting Cuba. Set in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Havana, Hemingway's magnificent fable is the tale of an old man, a young boy and a giant fish. This story of heroic endeavour won Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature. It stands as a unique and timeless vision of the beauty and grief of man's challenge to the elements.

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Our Man in Havana

Wormold is a vacuum cleaner salesman in a city of powercuts. His adolescent daughter spends his money with a skill that amazes him so when a mysterious Englishman offers him an extra income he's tempted. In return all he has to do is file a few reports. But when his fake reports start coming true things suddenly get more complicated and Havana becomes a threatening place.

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Last Dance in Havana

Cuba, 1958. Elisa is only sixteen years old when she meets Duardo and she knows he's the love of her life from the moment they first dance the rumba together in downtown Havana. But Duardo is a rebel, determined to fight in Castro's army, and Elisa is forced to leave behind her homeland and rebuild her life in distant England. But how can she stop longing for the warmth of Havana, when the music of the rumba still calls to her? England, 2012. Grace has a troubled relationship with her father, whom she blames for her beloved mother's untimely death. And this year more than ever she could do with a shoulder to cry on - Grace's career is in flux, she isn't sure she wants the baby her husband is so desperate to have and, worst of all, she's begun to develop feelings for their best friend Theo. Theo is a Cuban born magician but even he can't make Grace's problems disappear. Is the passion Grace feels for Theo enough to risk her family's happiness?

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The Island That Dared

Take a three-generation family holiday in Cuba in the company of Dervla Murphy, her daughter and three young granddaughters and you have a Swallows and Amazons-like adventure in the Caribbean as they trek into the hills and along the coast as a family, camping out on empty beaches beneath the stars and relishing the ubiquitous Cuban hospitality. But this is no more than the joyful start of a fully-fledged quest to understand the unique society created by the Cuban Revolution. Through her own research and through conversations with Fidelistas and their critics alike, The Island That Dared builds a complex picture of a people struggling to retain their identity in the face of insistent hostility of the government of the United States.

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Slow Train to Guantanamo

It is an island more than 1000 kilometres long and was the sixth in the world (before its colonial master Spain) to have a national rail network. Cuba today feels like a nation at the end of a long, hard war. Peter Millar jumps aboard a railway system that was once the pride of Latin America and is now a crippled casualty case to undertake a railway odyssey the length of Cuba in the dying days of the Castro regime. Starting in the ramshackle but romantic capital of Havana, he travels with ordinary Cubans, sharing anecdotes, life stories and political opinions, to the far end of the island where he meets a more modern blot of American history, the Guantanamo naval base and detention centre.

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Main image by Alexander Kunze on Unsplash