6 Novels for Caribbean Beaches and Beyond

This post has nothing to do with Life in Mexico, unless I mention my searches in Mexico City through overflowing used bookstores for novels in English. You may notice that three of these are translations. It can’t be helped. While I love American writers like Twain, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Thomas Wolfe, Kerouac, Jim Harrison, Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, and so many more, they are all pretty well known. It’s like putting the Beatles at the top of your list of favorite bands.

I get in great conversations with other travelers about books. If we – you and I – were having a conversation about our favorite novels, this is what I would say:

The Possessed

Force me to choose and I’ll tell you that this is my favorite book of all time. The Possessed (aka Devils, aka Demons) has intrigue, betrayal, and revolution from the top of Russian provincial society down to the lowest criminal. Skip Crime and Punishment (for now) – in The Possessed Dostoevsky explores human darkness with unforgettable, razor-sharp insight.

Cat’s Cradle

Vonnegut belongs on my list of American masters above. Great Vonnegut novels fly off the shelves of used bookstores in every corner of the US. From so many classics, including Breakfast of Champions, Mother Night, and acclaimed Slaughterhouse Five, I have to recommend his perhaps second most famous, Cat’s Cradle. Concepts of Ice-9, Bokononism, and Granfaloons will invade your consciousness permanently.

Cancer Ward

Better known for A Day in the Life of Ivan something-or-other, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s stark view of a cold world is fully realized in the story of an underfunded, out-of-the way cancer ward where doctors, patients and their families confront politics, work camps, and everything else unspeakable in the USSR, where the novel was banned in 1963.

The House of the Spirits

Three generations of women in turbulent, rapidly changing Chile. If you don’t get choked up on the last page, there is something wrong with you. The House of the Spirits made Isabel Allende famous, and everything else I’ve read by her is excellent.


Don’t let its 1,000+ pages intimidate you. You will rip through Shogun like a sword through the neck of a dishonored samurai.


Though it’s hugely popular in Mexico, I hadn’t heard of Gary Jennings’ Aztec until moving here. An adventure on the scale of Shogun, it’s also a history lesson and one of the most heart-wrenching tragedies I’ve yet read.

(This post contains paid Amazon Associate links.)

About Ted Campbell

U.S./Canadian writer, translator and professor in Mexico. Travel stories and practical tips on my blog No Hay Bronca: nohaybronca.wordpress.com // Twitter: @NoHayBroncaBlog // Contact: nohaybroncablog (at) gmail.com

Posted on August 26, 2012, in Reading material and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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