Whether you’re looking for historical books or fictional novels, here’s our latest, curated list of the best books about Mexico.
Rich in culture and history, Mexico is one of the countries with the most ethnic groups in the world, having 68 different languages, each with distinct idiosyncrasies surviving until today. In this post, we have compiled a list of the best books about Mexico where you can learn all about it.
Reading these books about Mexico can help you better understand Mexican culture and history, whether you’re visiting it for the first time or a foreigner living here (like me!). From poetry to novels and bibliographies, Mexican literature is vast and as diverse as its people.
Table of Contents
- Best Books about Mexico
- Books About Mexico History
- 1. Aztec by Gary Jennings
- 2. La Última Princesa Mexica by M. A. Fernanda Olivera Belmar
- 3. Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs by Michael D. Coe
- 4. Mexico: Biography of Power by Enrique Krauze
- 5. Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands by Kelly Lytle Hernández
- 6. Viewpoint of the Defeated by Miguel León Portilla
- Books about Mexico Culture
- Best Mexico Guidebooks
- Best Fiction Books about Mexico
- 11. Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo
- 12. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
- 13. The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz
- 14. Battles in the Desert by José Emilio Pacheco
- 15. Confabulario by Juan José Arreola
- 16. The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes
- 17. Devil Guardian by Javier Velazco
- 18. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
- 19. The Mongolian Conspiracy by Rafael Bernal
- 20. Profile by José Agustín
- 21. Recollections of Things to Come by Elena Garro
- 22. The Book of Lamentations by Rosario Castellanos
- 23. Tear This Heart Out by Ángeles Mastretta
- 24. The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera
- 25. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
- Best Kids Books about Mexico
- Mexico Photography Books
- Learn from the Best Books about Mexico
- What is your Favorite Book about Mexico?
- Books About Mexico History
Best Books about Mexico
If you want to understand how the people in Mexico see the universe, my best advice is to read some books on Mexico. Mexico is a beautiful country chocked full of history and culture, which translates into its literature, even creating a unique fiction genre.
I’ve divided my list of best books about Mexico into different categories: ranging from novels about Mexico to Mexico guidebooks and Mexican children’s books.
Books About Mexico History
To understand a country, the best thing you can do is learn about its history. Here’s my pick for the best books about Mexico’s history:
1. Aztec by Gary Jennings
One of the best historical books on Mexico, Aztec stands out as a dialogue between Fray Juan de Zumárraga (a Spanish priest from the colonial era) and an Aztec elder man, who tells in detail various aspects of his culture and customs before the Spanish conquistadores arrived.
Gary Jenkings spent 12 years in Mexico for his research. He based this book on a petition King Charles V from Spain made to the clerics to record the history of Mexican indigenous groups.
2. La Última Princesa Mexica by M. A. Fernanda Olivera Belmar
La Última Princesa Mexica tells the story of the last Aztec princess, Isabel Moctezuma, daughter of the last Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II. It’s a real-life novel about the transition between the old Mesoamerican way of life to the way the conquistadores changed Mexico.
The author is a descendant of Isabel Moctezuma, and her story is based on real documentation. This book is only available in Spanish on Amazon.
3. Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs by Michael D. Coe
From the mysterious Olmecs and their colossal stone heads to the mighty Aztecs and their jaw-dropping pyramids, this book is your ultimate time machine. Coe serves up details about epic battles and mind-blowing cultural marvels.
Renowned as the most comprehensive introduction to Mexico’s prehispanic culture, this book will help you uncover the secrets of sacrificial rituals, find hidden treasures, and get a clear perspective of Mexico’s oldest civilizations’s customs and history with this book, renowned as the most comprehensive introduction to Mexico’s prehispanic culture.
4. Mexico: Biography of Power by Enrique Krauze
Enrique Krauze’s book focuses on Mexican leaders from the 1810s to 1996, talking about the Aztec emperors, Hernan Cortez, the Spanish Crown, the Catholic Church, Mexican Revolution leader Porfirio Diaz who later became a dictator, and finally former President Zedillo from the 90s.
Mexico: Biography of Power discusses the mestizo cultures and explores how history has transformed Mexico’s way of life many times, and how it could keep transforming in the future.
5. Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands by Kelly Lytle Hernández
Bad Mexicans shares the tale of the magonistas, a group of activitists eager to remove Mexico’s dictator, Porfirio Díaz. These brave migrants, led by Ricardo Flores Magón, ignited the 1910 Mexican Revolution from the U.S. as Díaz was giving away Mexican assets to the top U.S. bidders.
Sheriffs, local cops, spies, and U.S. officials from the state, treasury, and justice departments pursued the magonistas. Nevertheless, they persisted, hiding and launching attacks in Mexico, ultimately sparking the world’s first 20th-century social revolution.
6. Viewpoint of the Defeated by Miguel León Portilla
Miguel León-Portilla, an expert in Nahuatl history, offers a fresh perspective on the conquest of Mexico. Viewpoint of the Defeated highlights indigenous viewpoints often overshadowed by Spanish narratives.
It includes texts like the “Forewarnings of the Spanish Arrival” from the Florentine Codex, Diego Muñoz Camargo’s “History of Tlaxcala,” and insights into Motezuma’s psyche. This groundbreaking work gives voice to the indigenous experience, covering events from the Spanish arrival to the defeat of the Tenochcas in 1521.
Books about Mexico Culture
7. Culture and Chronicle in Contemporary Mexico by Carlos Monsiváis
Culture and Chronicle in Contemporary Mexico takes you on a delightful journey through Mexico’s 20th-century history, but from a cultural angle.
It covers the modernist era, the Revolution, the mural movement, the Roaring Twenties, the fifties, and the rupture caused by the events of 1968. What did all of this mean for the Mexican mindset? You’ll learn all about it with this book by Carlos Monsiváis.
8. La otra historia de México by Armando Fuentes Aguirre “Catón”
Armando Fuentes Aguirre (AKA Catón) is a famous columnist for different journals in Mexico, and he created this book series where he tells the stories of four different sets of historical figures from Mexico, approaching them from a humane perspective.
My grandpa is a massive fan of Catón and his way of writing to make you see the people behind the facts in history. Sadly, you can only find them in Spanish.
Best Mexico Guidebooks
For your trip to Mexico, here are two great guidebooks:
9. Lonely Planet Mexico
Lonely Planet has always been my travel buddy since I started traveling in the 1990s. I’m biased, but I co-wrote the latest Mexico guidebook for Lonely Planet, covering the chapters of northern Mexico, Chiapas and Veracruz. Don’t forget to grab the Lonely Planet Mexican Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary for your Mexico trip.
10. DK Eyewitness Mexico
This travel guidebook brings Mexico to life, and includes detailed expert-led insights, trusted travel advice, detailed breakdowns of all the must-see sights. What I like about it is that there are photographs on practically every page, and hand-drawn illustrations which place you inside the country’s iconic buildings and neighbourhoods.
Best Fiction Books about Mexico
Fiction can reflect reality and tell a story, and that’s why this list includes 15 best novels about Mexico that showcase Mexico’s culture, history, and people:
11. Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo
Pedro Páramo might be the best-known Mexican novel in the world. It is renowned as one of the best books in Latin American literature and the greatest exponent of a unique genre of fiction called “realismo mágico” (magical realism).
This is a story about a man who returns to his hometown after his mother dies and finds a ghost town covered in mystery and haunted by voices of the past. It’s in the list of the top 100 Hispanic novels of the XX century. The main character’s hometown is based on Comala, a magical town in Mexico you should visit.
12. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Like Water for Chocolate is a story about love and food. Tita, the main character of this Mexican book, was born in the middle of a spice fest. Her mom’s onion-chopping frenzy sets the stage for a life infused with the magic of food.
Tita becomes a culinary wizard, whipping up dishes that speak louder than words. Along the way, she spills her secret recipes to anyone willing to taste her passionate journey. Love, drama, and a dash of spice. Each chapter begins with a recipe of a traditional Mexican dish.
13. The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz
Octavio Paz is widely known as Mexico’s top writer. This renowned book goes deep into Mexico’s soul, painting a vivid picture of its people and culture. The Labyrinth of Solitude is a heartfelt exploration of Mexico’s identity that uncovers the true essence of the nation.
It’s a compilation of insightful essays including “The Other Mexico,” “Return to the Labyrinth of Solitude,” “Mexico and the United States,” and “The Philanthropic Ogre,” expanding on the central themes and providing valuable commentary on the United States and Latin America.
14. Battles in the Desert by José Emilio Pacheco
Set in 1967, this book spans over two decades and tells a story through the voice of Carlos, a young boy from Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood. He mirrors the society of the time, which despite progressing and embracing modernization, still bears underlying divisions that would eventually come to light.
This is one of the finest books about Mexico, offering insight into the country’s recent history. This book is so good I highly recommend anyone who loves fiction to add this to their reading list.
15. Confabulario by Juan José Arreola
Arreola was among the most prolific writers of his time during the 1950s and ’60s. With his avant-garde style, he became one of the prominent voices of Mexico.
His book Confabulario, released in 1952, is a collection of tales that explore universal emotions like love, frustration, and the solitude of the modern man. This Mexican book also condenses various texts into fewer pages, showcasing his profound understanding of the human condition.
16. The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes
Even though he didn’t receive a Nobel Prize in Literature, Fuentes is a prominent figure in Hispanic-American literature. He has won other awards like the Príncipe de Asturias and the Rómulo Gallegos.
This book, The Death of Artemio Cruz, is a novel reflecting the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution on the people, especially Artemio Cruz, who recounts his life from his deathbed, showcasing Mexico’s transition from traditional to modern. Published in 1964, it has become a must-read to grasp Mexican psychology of the past, present, and future.
17. Devil Guardian by Javier Velazco
One of Mexican literature’s most talked-about modern novels is Devil Guardian, which won the Alfaguara Prize in 2003. The story revolves around Violetta, a fifteen-year-old girl who loves the finer things in life.
After stealing over a hundred thousand dollars from her parents, she embarks on a journey to cross the border to get to New York. The story beautifully captures the challenges of immigration and how Violetta’s indulgences and love affairs shape her new life in the city.
18. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Despite her father’s disapproval of her writing dream, Sandra Cisneros captured the hopes and struggles of a generation of Mexican immigrants in the US. The story’s protagonist, young Esperanza Cordero, embodies the promise of the American dream for a Latino population.
Accompanied by vivid illustrations, The House on Mango Street was published in 1984 and became a bestseller.
19. The Mongolian Conspiracy by Rafael Bernal
Mexican literature has its share of noir novels and this book is a great example. This gem kickstarted Mexico’s noir scene back in the 1960s.
This novel follows Filiberto, a shrewd private eye (with a hint of shadiness), as he gets roped into a mission by the cops to foil an assassination plot targeting the US President during his Mexico trip. This gripping tale packs a punch with its retro charm and suspenseful twists.
20. Profile by José Agustín
In this book, we meet Rodolfo Valembrando, a teenager from the 1960s on the brink of high school. He’s part of a middle-class family living in Narvarte. Profile paints a vivid picture of the struggles and joys of adolescence in 1960’s Mexico.
It follows Rodolfo as he navigates life, crafting his path alongside his friends through a series of shared adventures, some delightful, some challenging, and others a mix of sweet and sour moments.
21. Recollections of Things to Come by Elena Garro
Elena Garro tells the story of the Moncada siblings during the Cristero War in the remote Mexican town of Ixtepec. She paints a vivid picture of the town, its people, and the horrors inflicted by General Francisco Rosas.
The injustice faced by the townsfolk under military rule is a central theme. General Rosas, the town’s tyrant, spreads terror and bloodshed due to his obsession with Julia, who is forced to be with him. If you’re into literature, Recollections of Things to Come is a must-read. Expect a blend of drama, sadness, and romance.
22. The Book of Lamentations by Rosario Castellanos
Set in the beautiful mountains of Chiapas, The Book of Lamentations spins a tale of a Mayan revolt, echoing the past uprisings against colonial forces. This story intertwines various plots, viewpoints, and personalities.
Merging historical insights and intimate local knowledge, Castellanos delves into the intricate dynamics between the oppressed and the oppressor, revealing the complexities inherent in quests for dominance.
23. Tear This Heart Out by Ángeles Mastretta
Ángeles Maestretta, a Mexican writer born in Puebla, is celebrated for her elegant, expressive style focusing on feminism and Mexican history. Her novel stands out as one of Mexico’s best novels. It was later turned into one of the best Mexican movies of all time.
Tear This Heart Out follows Catalina Guzmán, who marries powerful General Andrés Ascencio, entering the world of politics. Set in 1930s’ Mexico, the book explores their relationship amidst the political and social landscape after Mexico’s Revolution, delving into themes of love, power, oppression, and freedom. A captivating read for those intrigued by Mexican culture and literature.
24. The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera
This novel tells about a terrible disease that struck the town in Mexico, causing many tragic deaths. Two rival gangs, both guilty of terrible crimes, seek the help of a tough, no-nonsense hero named The Redeemer, to make peace.
Yuri Herrera’s book retells stories of violence in Mexico, combining elements of classics like Romeo and Juliet or the work of other noir writers like Bolaño and Chandler. It’s a dark, tragic tale that honors all the people affected by violence.
25. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Even though a Colombian author wrote this book, it strongly influenced Mexican literature. One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the most famous books in history and it’s a must-read. This tale narrates the captivating journey of the fictional town of Macondo and the trials and triumphs of the Buendía family.
Filled with enchanting characters and powerful moments, the book effortlessly weaves magic into reality. It’s a must-read, brimming with heartfelt wisdom and a touch of lyrical brilliance, leaving an indelible mark on readers. A true masterpiece that continues to enchant and resonate with readers worldwide.
Best Kids Books about Mexico
26. Off We Go to Mexico by Laurie Krebs and Christopher Corr
If you’re taking your kids to Mexico, this book will help them understand and enjoy this country at maximum.
The text’s rhythmic charm and lyrical essence blend seamlessly with insightful snippets about the country’s history, national festivities, and a handy glossary of basic Spanish vocabulary.
27. Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Dreamers is a heartfelt celebration of resilience and hope, emphasizing the significance of home wherever life leads.
This beautifully illustrated memoir portrays the invaluable gifts migrants bring when starting anew. It highlights the power of family and the universal nature of human dreams.
Yuyi’s personal narrative, accompanied by intricate, symbolic illustrations, adds depth to the tale. The book includes her own experiences and insights into the creation process.
28. Mexico: Travel for Kids by Belinda Briggs
This book features two fun characters, Dinobibi and Gabriella, who are excited to be your buddies on this incredible adventure in Mexico. You’ll start exploring its fascinating history, breathtaking landscapes, cool flags, and amazing animals.
Whether you’re gearing up for a vacation or just curious about Mexico, Mexico: Travel for Kids has it all. It shares some excellent spots to check out, delicious treats to munch on, and even some fun quizzes to keep the kids on their toes.
Mexico Photography Books
A picture can say more than a thousand words. If you prefer photos over text, here are some picture books about Mexico:
29. A Photographic Journey Through MEXICO: The Best of MEXICO in photographs by Nicolas Fontaine
You can explore Mexico’s wonders in this captivating travel book – A Photographic Journey Through MEXICO: The Best of MEXICO in photographs. Enjoy vivid images capturing the essence of cities, the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, and natural parks.
With minimal text, each page is an inspiration for Mexico lovers. Let Explorama transport you to the streets of Mexico.
30. Arqueología Urbana by Ernesto Ramírez
This visual essay, Arqueología Urbana, focuses on gathering seemingly random items on dirty street corners and the chaos of big cities.
With simple images, Ramírez compels us to see the urban environment differently, urging us to reflect on how we contribute to an ongoing collective work. He prompts us to consider that any passerby could be a creator in the continuous evolution of our surroundings.
Learn from the Best Books about Mexico
Reading a book can help you travel to another world without leaving your seat. In that same sense, all these books on Mexico can let you experience the many wonders of this fantastic country: from the past to the present, from its culture to natural landscapes.
Even though nothing will top being here for yourself, all these books about Mexico will give you a taste of what you’ll see once you come to Mexico.
What is your Favorite Book about Mexico?
Thank you for reading this far! I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of the best books about Mexico!
Which of these books on Mexico have you read so far? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments field below. I’ll be more than happy to answer them!
For those who are planning to travel more in Mexico, check out some of these articles:
- 30 Best Mexican Movies
- 10 Spectacular Waterfalls in Mexico
- 5 Days in Mexico City Itinerary
- Is Mexico City Safe for Travel
- 10 Best Hot Springs in Mexico
- Grutas Tolantongo Hot Springs Guide
- Hierve el Agua: Oaxaca Waterfalls
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