5 Books I'm Excited to Read This Summer
1. One Day in December: Celia Sánchez and the Cuban Revolution by Nancy Stout (Monthly Review Press, 2013)
This book sparked my interest because Celia was my grandfather's cousin, and I grew up hearing her name a lot. I knew she was an important figure in the Cuban Revolution, but was never sure about her role or its significance. I had heard from family and friends that she was beloved by the Cuban people and an independent, charismatic lady, and also that she was Fidel Castro's "right hand" from the first days of the Revolution until her early death from cancer at age 59. When I saw that a biography had recently been written about her and it was chock full of details about her exciting life and how much she meant to so many people, I was eager to learn more.
2. Havana by Mark Kurlansky (Bloomsbury UK, 2018)
There isn't exactly a dearth of travel writing about Cuba, so why pick up this book by the author of Cod and Salt instead of another? I've just started delving into the first couple of chapters, which paint a vivid picture of Havana's early, exciting, tenuous, and unpleasant days as a target of numerous pirate raids. Part of me wants to see what aspects of current-day Cuba he chooses to focus on, but I'm also curious if Kurlansky examines Havana as if it were a species or a mineral.
3. Harbor of Spies: A Novel of Historic Havana by Robin Lloyd (Lyons Press, 2018)
I don’t think I’ve read a spy novel since I begrudgingly picked one by Robert Ludlum from my seventh grade summer reading list, but this novel falls into the historical fiction genre, which I do like. Lloyd uses narrative detail to accurately depict mid-19th century Havana and the mystery of the real-life murder of an English diplomat in 1855, with a backdrop of colonial-era dance halls, slave traders, blockade runners, and sugar plantations.
4. Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century by Alejandro de la Fuente (The University of North Carolina Press, 2008)
I picked up this book on a tip from someone I follow on Twitter, who pointed out that it's a good source of such interesting facts from Havana's early history as the original location being on the island's southern coast (!) and of details about the fate of the island's indigenous inhabitants, the Taino, under colonial rule. A few years ago, I read de la Fuente's excellent, award-winning book, A Nation for All, and recommend that as well if you'd like an eye-opener on race relations in Cuba. Even those intimidated or uninspired by the idea of cracking an academic tome will find de la Fuente a good read. You can easily open to any page and find a tidbit of historical information that will shed a historical light on modern-day Havana.
5. Cuba on the Verge by Leila Guerriero (HarperCollins Publishers, 2017)
A fitting title, as Cuba seems to be perpetually on the verge of something. Of what, depends on who you ask, and there are at least as many answers as there are Cubans. This compilation of essays on life in Cuba today and how it is transforming is divided into "Inside" and "Outside" perspectives from twelve well-known Cuban and foreign writers who live in Cuba and abroad.
Do you have a favorite book about Cuba? A new one you'd recommend? Or one you've always wanted to read? (I haven't gotten around to reading Our Man in Havana but always wanted to.) Let me know in the comments!