There are quite a few very interesting and enlightening books for your Cuba cruise that will make your cruise even more enjoyable. We have found that since we were given so little information about our neighbor Cuba over the past 50 plus years, reading a few books in advance and while in transit to Cuba just opens our eyes and gives more understanding to the things we see.
I have put together a good reading list and each picture and title is clickable and will send you to Amazon, should you wish to purchase there. All of the books are in the $7 to $13 range with the one exception of Hemingway in Cuba which is about $20.00. We work with Amazon as an affiliate.You can also search for them at your local bookstore, library or elsewhere on the web.
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Cuban History Books For Your Cuba Cruise
“Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy” by Carlos Eire is a touching and moving memoir and a must read for anyone traveling to Cuba. Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba and exiled from his family and country in 1962. “An ode to paradise lost”, the abrupt change from Batista to Castro is vividly portrayed from a child to man perspective. Please read this book, you will gain a vast understanding of what Cuba was and now is.
If you are a political and history buff this next one is for you! “Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know” by Julia Sweig is uniquely written in a sort of Question and Answer format that gives great insight into the political and cultural changes that have taken place both in Cuba and how this has affected Cuba’s relationship with the rest of the world. The book begins with Cuba before 1959 (pre-Castro) and takes us up to present day with Raul Castro in charge. I had a discussion with a Cuban guide while in Havana who said to me when I asked some questions, “Things are very, very complex here, almost impossible to explain”. This book gives a glimpse inside Cuba that I would never have known.
“Travelers’ Tales of Old Cuba” edited by John Jenkins is a marvelous collection of 18 short stories of travel in Cuba from 1678 up to 1958. Authors include John Muir, William Cullen Bryant, Richard Henry Dana Jr., Anais Nin, Langston Hughes, Patrick Leigh Fermor. I actually bought this book from a seller in Santiago de Cuba while we were there. The varied subjects and styles in this compilation will give you a feel of what Cuba was like before the Revolution. If you get one book for your cruise, make it this one!!!
Present Day Cuba Books For Your Cuba Cruise
While “Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels through Castro’s Cuba” by Tom Miller was written some 20 years ago, one could propose that things haven’t changed much since then. Tom spent some 8 months traveling through Cuba and was given unprecedented access and provides us with vivid insights to Cuba in the 90’s. Written as more a travelogue, his interactions with give us a glimpse into the “Special Period” when Russian aid was cut off and Cuba was left to its own measures. Definitely a varied and entertaining read, you will surely enjoy this one.
While in Cuba, you will most likely see evidence of Bacardi Rum and the Bacardi family. With “Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause” you will garner a good introduction to the island’s history and contemporary present through the Bacardi family. At the very least when you drink your first Havana Club Rum, you will know more than anyone on the cruise about rum , the significance of the Bacardi family and how Castro’s revolution changed that company forever.
Christina Garcia’s first novel, “Dreaming in Cuban“, is a story of 3 generations of Cuban women and how leaving or staying in Fidel’s Cuba affects their lives. Her book received rave reviews from Michiko Kakutani for The New York Times calling it “a work that possesses both the intimacy of a Chekov story and the hallucinatory magic of a novel by Gabriel García Márquez”. Beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.
Ernest Hemingway Books For Your Cuba Cruise
My favorite novel by Hemingway about Cuba is “The Old Man and the Sea“. It tells the story of Santiago, an older Cuban fisherman and his struggle with a Marlin that he catches alone in his skiff. Hemingway used his experiences at sea and as a fisherman to bring so much soul to this short read. If you are planning to take the Hemingway Excursion in Havana, you will visit Cojimar the setting for this Pulitzer Prize winning book.
Next up is “Hemingway in Cuba“, written by his niece, Hilary Hemingway in 2003. I actually brought this book with me on my first Cruise to Cuba and read it on the plane trip to Miami. It is loaded with 160 historic photos of Hemingway and his time in Cuba. It gave me a more complete understanding of not only his love for the people of Cuba, but also many of the places I would visit while in Cuba. Cojimar, his home Finca Vigia, Hotel Ambos Mundos in Havana, San Francisco wharf where your ship docks, Old Havana and Floridita are all described in terms of Hemingway’s life and times in Cuba. It is a Treasure of a book and I highly recommend it.
“Islands in the Stream” was published some nine years after his death and provides a portrayal of a complex and adventurous character. The better part of the novel takes place in a Havana Bar (Floridita?). Rich in dialogue with vivid characters, this will give you a real feel for that period in Cuba. His writing is so clean and simple but at the same time gives each of us our own visualization of the scenes he describes through his characters’ dialogue. If you like Hemingway, get it!!
“Hemingway’s Boat” written by Paul Hendricks is truly a landmark work. He portray’s Hemingway’s yacht Pilar as a metaphor for Papa himself. A masterpiece that brings you deep inside Hemingway’s life with all the successes, hurdles and foibles that encompassed his grand life. As a sailor and lifelong reader of Hemingway, I love this book and all it brings to my understanding of Ernest Hemingway.
Enjoy your cruise to Cuba, you are so fortunate to be going. It is perhaps my favorite cruise destination and with any of these books, your experience will be richer….