Friday Reads – books to read if you’re visiting Colombia

I still have so many travelling posts to come, but of course, life starts to get in the way… So in the meantime, here are some of the books I read for some armchair travelling… I would recommend these to learn a bit about the country and its history, to experience a bit of the country without having to go there, to get a little bit of the mindset of Colombian people.

And of course, there are many, many more Colombian books than I have written about here – feel free to suggest any more in the comments!

Non-fiction

More Terrible than Death: Drugs, Violence and America’s War in Colombia by Robin Kirk – my review here, but basically I think this would be a good place to start to learn a bit about Colombia’s history!

Short Walks from Bogota by Tom Feiling – a more up-to-date look at what Colombia is like now – or at least, was like in 2012. It is also a travel book, detailing Feiling’s travels around different parts of the country in 2012, describing beautifully the countryside and the attitude of young Colombians in Bogota’s bars and nightclubs. As a first introduction to Colombia, however, it doesn’t go into quite enough detail, and for that reason it actually ends up being quite hard to get your head around the various guerilla groups.

The Robber of Memories: a river journey through Colombia by Michael Jacobs – a lovely travel book, which I reviewed in more detail here.

Oblivion by Hector Abad – a memoir by a Colombian novelist and journalist about his childhood and the murder of his father by the Colombian army. It’s a love story to his father really, a story of family, and about sticking up for what you think is right, even when it’s dangerous.

News of a Kidnapping by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – I’m still reading this one, a true story told as fiction about the kidnapping of Colombian journalists and family members of Colombian politicians in the 1990s. The Colombian government wanted to be able to extradict drug traffickers to the US, the cartels obviously did not want this. So they began to kidnap journalists and political figures to hold the government to ransom. The book is quite incredible in its insights into the politics behind the scenes, the experiences of those kidnapped, and still with a few dry little glances of Marquez’s famous magical realism. 

Fiction

Anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I started with 100 Years of Solitude and would recommend that as a good place to start. It’s such a well-written and interesting book, taking the reader through centuries of Colombian history by involving them deeply in the lives of one family in a fictional Colombian village. I loved it.

  
Of Love and other Demons is set in Cartagena during Spanish colonial rule. As I wrote in my February recap, I didn’t really enjoy this one but think it might have been because I didn’t quite get it…..

Love in the time of Cholera grew on me slowly – love, sickness, faith, ageing, family…. great themes!

And then there is the slightly more modern Colombian fiction:

  

Delirium by Laura Restrepo – a wonderful modern Colombian novel covering love, personal insanity, and the madness of Colombia’s drugs situation. I read this before going to Colombia and am now quite keen to re-read it!

The sound of things falling by Juan Gabriel Vazquez – another wonderful book – I think these last two are in fact my favourites from the entire list above. Again, this brilliant book deals with the impact of Colombia’s drugs trade, in this way showing how its repercussions affected people so entirely removed from the actual drugs. The writing is beautiful and melancholy and moving and it reminded me a little of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron.

What else should I read? Let me know!

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