Cuba Libre: Understanding Cuba in 12 Books

Cuba is a place of tumultuous history, faded glory, and fields of cane. Many Latino families draw strength from their Cuban roots while at the same time struggle to make sense of has what happened in the years since the Cuban Revolution and rise of Fidel Castro.

No one book explains all, but both fiction and non-fiction can lead us to a better understanding of this troubled, but still magical place, and even give a glimpse of what may be in store for Cuba’s future.


Havana Bay by Martin Cruz Smith
The Arkady Renko series sends the Moscow-based detective to Cuba several years after the break with Russia in order to bring home the body of a Russian diplomat. But nothing is easy in Fidel’s Cuba and Arkady finds himself not only investigating the death but becoming embroiled in local political unrest. A powerful, haunting thriller.

The Mares of Lenin Park by Agustin D. Martinez
The Mares of Lenin Park address many themes; Cuban life, the Russia-Cuba relationship, drug culture, and coming-of-age issues as seen through the eyes of a young teen. The book recently won the Prize Americana. Author Martinez talked to L4LL readers last week. Read the interview here.

Cuba by Stephen Coonts
Jake Grafton, now an admiral, is the main character in many of Coonts’s books. In a bit of an homage to the Cuban Missile Crisis, a power struggle in Cuba leads to a powerful new weapon being trained on the US. Grafton must vault into the cockpit of a new type of aircraft to save the day. A blockbuster, just like all the Grafton books, and for good reason.


Take Me With You by Carlos Frías
Florida journalist Frias goes to Cuba for the first time as a reporter and discovers the land of his parents for the first time. A compelling and beautifully written homage to both his family and to his roots in Cuba.

Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire
This story of a boyhood in Havana as the revolution encroaches is full of disparate personalities, mystical dreams, and impending doom. Eire will ultimately be sent to the US as Cuba falls to Castro as one of the children airlifted without their parents to Miami. The New Yorker called the author’s style as “urgent and so vividly personal.”

Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth about Cuba Today by Yoani Sanchez
The amazon description says it all: “She’s been kidnapped and beaten, lives under surveillance, and can only get online—in disguise—at tourist hotspots. She’s a blogger, she’s a Cuban, and she’s a worldwide sensation. Yoani Sánchez is an unusual dissident: no street protests, no attacks on big politicos, no calls for revolution. Rather, she produces a simple diary about what it means to live under the Castro regime: the chronic hunger and the difficulty of shopping; the art of repairing ancient appliances; and the struggles of living under a propaganda machine that pushes deep into public and private life.”


Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten
NPR correspondent Gjelten follows the story of the Bacardi family’s rum empire and how it has been entwined with Cuba’s fate over the past 150 years. A different angle from which to view history and very entertaining. Salud!

Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis by Robert F. Kennedy and Arthur Meier Schlesinger
Perhaps the definitive account of the Cuban Missile Crisis by the late RFK, a major player in the event.

Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Lost it to the Revolution by T. J. English
The rumors have always run rife about the Mob’s links to pre-Revolution Cuba and English aims to write the definitive account of what really happened in all its “sexy, decadent, ugly glory.”

Without Fidel by Ann Louise Bardach
Award-winning reporter Bardach caps a decade of books about contemporary Cuba and Cubans in Miami and their lobbying power with this portrait of Fidel and Raúl Castro.


The Houses of Old Cuba by Llilian Llanes
Distinctive architecture of Cuba from the curator of the Museo Wilfredo Lam in Havana, complete with discussion of how the architecture is influenced by tropical climate and cultural heritage.

Estefan Kitchen by Emilio Estefan
Music and food! Who could ask for anything more? Emilio and Gloria Estefan offer up recipes from their Bongos Cuban Café as well as “personal accounts, culinary inspiration, and Cuban cuisine’s historical context.” A lovingly written and presented keepsake cookbook.

What titles would you recommend we add to this list?

HAT DANCE, Carmen Amato’s latest book in the Emilia Cruz series set in Acapulco, is FREE today for L4LL Kindle readers! Click here to get your free ebook and remember to leave a review when you finish the book.

HAT DANCE follows CLIFF DIVER, the first book in the Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco which was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “consistently exciting.”

In HAT DANCE, Detective Emilia Cruz will risk a dance with the devil in a desperate attempt to stop an arsonist and find a missing girl. But when the music stops, the consequences will be deadly.

Check out all Carmen’s books at and connect with her on Twitter @CarmenConnects or Her Pinterest boards illustrate her books and can be found at


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