Are you dreaming of a trip to Colombia in your near future? If so, one of the best ways to prepare for travel is to dive into a new book! In this post, I’ll be going over the 25 best books about Colombia. No matter your reading preferences, this list has a book for everyone! Categories will include novels set in Colombia, books about living in Colombia, historical fiction, history, and travel books. Hopefully, these works help you to understand a little more about Colombia before your vacation. Let me know in the comments if there are any books that I left out from this list!
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Table of Contents
Novels set in Colombia
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
“It’s enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment.”
It would be remiss of me to start this list with any author besides Gabriel García Márquez. Let’s begin with his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, which exemplifies the magical realism movement. In this story, the reader follows seven generations of the Buendía family in Macondo, a fictitious town in Colombia. Through the rise and fall of this isolated town, Márquez demonstrates that chaos and order are two sides of the same coin and that the past, present, and future are all connected.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez
“He always considered death an unavoidable professional hazard.”
Inspired by an actual incident in 1951 in Sucre, Colombia, Chronicle of a Death Foretold tells the story of a series of events leading up to the murder of Santiago Nasar. Thus, Márquez interviews people in the town 27 years after the event in an attempt to determine how the crime took place. In the end, he concludes that everyone knew what was going to happen; however, no one did anything to stop it. A short and easy read, this novel is a perfect example of how expertly Márquez can weave a story.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
Love in the Time of Cholera follows Florentino Ariza and his love, or even possibly obsession, with Fermina Daza. Much to Florentino’s disappointment, Fermina ends up marrying a successful doctor. Unfortunately, even after sleeping with hundreds of women, Florentino is never truly able to move on. Thus, he concludes that he will have to wait for Fermina’s husband to die patiently. At the doctor’s funeral, Florentino is finally able to make his move. I’ll leave it up to you to find out what happens next!
Oblivion by Héctor Abad Faciolince
If you decide to read this book, you’ll want to make sure to have tissues within reach. Oblivion is the heartbreaking tale of a boy and his love and idolization of his father. The author tells the story of his father, Héctor Abad Gómez, a doctor and left-wing activist in Colombia, who was murdered at the hands of paramilitaries in 1987. Abad draws a compelling portrait of his father’s strength and conviction. Additionally, he explains that this memoir serves as a way to stretch out his father’s memory before he is inevitably forgotten (ergo, “oblivion”).
The Armies by Evelio Rosero
The Armies is told from Ismael’s point of view, a retired schoolteacher who lives in a small Colombian town. While the book begins with descriptions of idyllic country days, all of this comes to an abrupt halt when army forces enter the village. During the subsequent descent into chaos, Ismael’s wife goes missing, and the second half of the book focuses on his search to find her.
Return to the Dark Valley by Santiago Gamboa
In this dark yet intriguing story, readers are introduced to a cast of a poet, a priest, and a diplomat as we follow their separate narratives. Later, they all come together to travel back to Colombia to right some of the wrongs experienced by Manuela. Although they return to a peaceful Colombia, each character is doubtful that this time of goodness will last. This novel is undoubtedly moving, but you may need a thick skin to get through some of the more heartbreaking moments.
Delirium by Laura Restrepo
Delirium tells the story of Agustina, a beautiful woman who suffers a breakdown. Her husband, who recently returned home to Bogotá, is determined to rescue her. Central characters in Agustina’s life, such as her husband, ex-lover, and grandfather, become narrators as we explore her madness and its cause.
Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
In Reputations, readers follow Javier Mallarino, a legendary political cartoonist in Bogotá. After many years with a successful career, we find Mallarino conscience-stricken over a decision he made years in the past. The novel explores the past, reputations of public personas, and the relationship between memory and truth.
Books about living in Colombia
Dancing Feat: One Man’s Mission to Dance Like a Colombian by Neil Bennion
In this charming story, Neil Bennion, an Englishman, is on a mission to learn to dance like a Colombian. So, he heads to Colombia, where he learns new dance moves on his adventure through the country. Finally, he makes a great decision to confront his biggest fear: dancing in public! If you’d like to learn a little more about Colombia and enjoy dry humor, this is the book for you.
Colombia a Comedy of Errors by Victoria Kellaway and Sergio J Lievano
This illustrated book brims with humor while exploring what it means to be Colombian. If you don’t know anything about Colombia, this is a great place to start your lessons. Moreover, at only 150 pages, you could quickly plow through this book on your flight to Colombia. Although it’s written from the perspective of anthropological analysis, it also provides quite the laugh!
Misspelled Paradise: A Year in a Reinvented Colombia by Bryanna Plog
Misspelled Paradise follows Bryanna Plog during a year spent teaching English just outside of Cartagena. She provides an honest perspective on teaching abroad as well as the ex-pat experience in contemporary Colombia. If you’re considering following in Plog’s footsteps, I would highly recommend giving this book a read!
Historical fiction about Colombia
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Fruit of the Drunken Tree tells the story of Chula Santiago, a young girl living in a gated community in Bogotá, and Petrona, the Santiago family’s live-in maid. Set in the 1990s, Chula and Petrona are growing up during a time of extreme violence in Colombia, when kidnappings and car bombs were frequent occurrences. Surprisingly, these two girls from different sides of the tracks forge an unlikely friendship. Both will have to make difficult decisions to protect their loved ones.
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Set in Bogotá, Colombia, Antonio Yammara becomes friends with an ex-pilot named Ricardo Laverde. After witnessing Ricardo’s death in a drive-by shooting, Antonio’s life is forever changed. During the height of the Colombian drug cartels and Pablo Escobar, the reader follows Antonio and how he carries the past with him as he deals with PTSD and grief.
Colombiano by Rusty Young
As a young teen, Pedro Gutiérrez witnesses his father’s execution at the hands of Guerrilla soldiers. His life changes course after swearing to find all of the individuals involved in his father’s death and to make them pay. Thus, Pedro and his best friend, Palillo, joining an illegal Paramilitary group as child soldiers. Readers will follow Pedro as he rises through the ranks with the Colombian conflict between the army, guerrilla groups, and drug lords set at the forefront. How far will he go on his quest for vengeance?
The Dark Bride by Laura Restrepo
In this intriguing love story, we meet Sayonara, a prostitute who lives and works in a city in the Colombian forest. After falling for a man she can’t have, Sayonara is left to deal with the consequences of her unrequited love. Written in the style of magical realism, Restrepo explores the exploitation of petroleum workers by American oil companies and the women who serviced these workers.
History of Colombia books
Bolívar: American Liberator by Marie Arana
For anyone wanting to learn more about general South American history, you’ll need to recognize the name Simon Bolívar. This great American liberator and hero is so famous on the continent that he even had a country named after him! Readers will follow the life of Bolívar and some of his most significant accomplishments, such as leading Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru to independence.
The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself by David Bushnell
Looking for a straightforward overview of the history and politics of Colombia? The Making of Modern Colombia is perfect for that! In this informative read, Bushnell will teach you that there’s a lot more to Colombia than what you saw on Narcos.
At the Devil’s Table: The Untold Story of the Insider Who Brought Down the Cali Cartel by William C. Rempel
Ever wonder what it takes to bring down a drug cartel? If so, you’ll enjoy the insider story of Jorge Salcedo, told through investigative journalist William C. Rempel. Salcedo was so crucial to the dismantling of the Cali cartel that he continues to live in hiding to this day.
Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden
Award-winning journalist Mark Bowden walks us through the sixteen-month mission that led to Pablo Escobar’s death. You may have seen this story on Narcos; however, this book provides even more detail, offering a broader picture of Escobar. Even though we already know how the ending, Bowden does a great job of capturing the reader’s attention throughout the book.
There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia by Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno
In There Are No Dead Here, an activist, a journalist, and an investigator are forced to confront Pablo Escobar’s legacy in late-1990s Colombia. Each character stands against the odds to fight for justice. A story of pure bravery, readers will be inspired by these real individuals who stood up for what they believed in– even knowing the consequences might be deadly.
Colombia: A Concise Contemporary History by Michael J. LaRosa
At only 288 pages, this comprehensive book makes an excellent option for an intro to Colombian history. If you’d like to understand how Colombia’s past connects to the present day, LaRosa’s history makes for an exciting and informative read.
Best Colombia travel books
In this dual biography, we follow two parallel explorations of the Amazon and South America. First, Richard Evans Schultes in the 1940s, and then Wade Davis, a student seeking to follow in Schultes’ footsteps in the 70s. This book is guaranteed to make you want to read more non-fiction!
Was Gabo an Irishman? Tales of Gabriel García Márquez’s Colombia edited by Ed Caroline Doherty de Novoa, Victoria Kellaway, and Richard McColl
This collection of personal essays is a must-read for anyone considering moving to Colombia! Each piece is written by a different author and focuses on the lasting effect of Gabriel García Márquez and magical realism. Even if you aren’t a fan of Márquez, you’ll enjoy the deep insight that each contributor provides on Colombia and its people.
Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the New Colombia by Tom Feiling
Follow writer and journalist Tom Feiling on his journey throughout Colombia as he attempts to help readers understand Colombia’s past and present. Feiling begins by explaining his attachment to the country and then moves on to exploring Colombia’s people. Readers will end the book with a deeper understanding of Colombia and the resilience of its people.
The Robber of Memories: A River Journey Through Colombia by Michael Jacobs
This travelogue covers Jacobs’ journey down the Magdalena River as well as his reflections on his family. As his adventure continues, he ties Colombian history in with topics of memory and oblivion. Although this book was much sadder than I expected it to be, it was a beautiful read.