Greene wrote two excellent books on Mexico after being sent there in the 1930s to investigate the effects of Plutarco Elías Calles’ crackdown on religion. The Lawless Road is his intriguing non-fiction account of his travels, while The Power and the Glory is the tale of a fictional priest, desperately trying to escape the government authorities.
The film was a huge hit, but Esquivel’s original novel is still a great read – the romantic tale of Tita, whose lover marries her sister, and who decides to use her cooking skills to win him back. Each episode is prefaced with a classic Mexican recipe.
Mexico’s best-known writer produced many highly-acclaimed novels but these are two of the best. In the haunting Death of Artemio Cruz, the corrupt hero reviews his life from his deathbed, while the Old Gringo is a fictional imagining of American writer Ambrose Bierce’s last days, as part of Pancho Villa’s army.
A very contemporary tale of Mexican migrants crossing the US-Mexican border from the popular US-based writer. The story focuses on Makina, a young woman who is smuggled into the USA to search for her brother but who is also carrying a package from a Mexican drug lord – the book is loaded with mythological imagery, from Ancient Greece to Mesoamerica.
A precursor of magical realism, Rulfo’s novel follows the journey of Juan Preciado to his mother’s home village, now a literal ghost town inhabited by spirits, thanks to the actions of Juan’s malevolent father, Pedro Páramo.
This hilarious first novel from Villalobos concerns the life of Tochtli, the son of a Mexican drug lord, growing up in a luxurious hideout inhabited by gangsters, prostitutes, drug dealers, and corrupt politicians. See also Quesadillas and I’ll Sell You a Dog.
Dominican priest Las Casas wrote his account of the Spanish Conquista of the Americas after being horrified at the atrocities suffered by the indigenous peoples, as well as the devastation caused by disease.
This former foreign minister writes perceptively about modern Mexican culture in a series of essays that cover everything from the poor performance of Mexico’s soccer team to Mexico’s troubled and complex relationship with the US.
Definitive biography of the celebrated Mexican artist, beginning with her childhood in Mexico City and covering her stormy marriage to Diego Rivera. The book includes numerous color reproductions of her artwork.
The best general introduction to the Maya civilization, regularly updated to include the latest scholarship. The late Michael Coe was one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Maya, and was Professor of Anthropology at Yale.
A history of the Maya kings from two foremost scholars of Maya glyphs, from the earliest pyramid builders to the coming of the Spanish.
The Quiché Maya book of creation makes for fascinating reading, with two main translations recommended: Dennis Tedlock’s classic version is the most readable, while Allen J Christenson’s approach is more faithful to the original language.
Handy guide that provides a shortcut to speaking everyday Spanish without having to study all the rules and tenses. The focus is on pronunciation and on learning the keywords and phrases you’ll need to actually get around and hold simple conversations.
Mexican Spanish has its own nuances, accents, and inevitably, slang words. This fun book by a Mexican Spanish teacher (based on his blog, mexislang.com) not only explains the history and use of Mexican slang, but also offers insights on Mexico’s culture and people.
Solid introduction to the Spanish spoken in Mexico by the global guidebook publisher, including every phrase you are ever likely to need traveling in the country (the food and dining section is especially useful).