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by Donneley McCann

Heading out to the beach this spring break? Here is a list of some books to take with you that will let you relax and learn more about Mexico and her rich culture all at the same time. (The books listed are in no particular order.)

#1 There’s a Word for It in Mexico (by Boyé Lafayette De Mente)

Have you ever wondered about certain words or phrase used all the time here? With There’s a Word for It in Mexico, you can stop wondering. Unlike a dictionary, this book not only gives you the Spanish word or phrase and the English translation, it also gives you usage and the cultural significance. For a better understanding of both the Spanish language and the Mexican culture, read this book.

#2 The People’s Guide to Mexico (by Carl Franz)

Although slightly outdated in places, this book is so popular it is in its seventh printing. A classic.

#3 Almost an Island (by Bruce Berger)

This collection of essays by award-winning author Bruce Berger is both informative and well written. The essays range from laugh-out-loud funny to poignant. The best all-around book on the Baja California peninsula.

#4 Baja Legends (by Greg Nieman)

Enjoy learning a little about the history of the peninsula: its indigenous people, its founding fathers, its pirates, and more!

#5 The Labyrinth of Solitude (by Octavio Paz)

Long acknowledged as one of Mexico’s foremost writers, Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude is a beautifully written series of essays on Mexico’s quest for identity. One of the most highly recommended books for a true look at Mexico and its culture.

#6 The Life and Times of Mexico (by Earl Shorris)

A pretty big book to stuff into your beach bag, but worth it. In this wonderful narrative, Mexico – with its 3,000 years of history – is spoken of as if it were a person and not a country.

#7 Mexico – Culture Smart! (by Guy Mavor)

With this guide to the manners, etiquette, and customs of Mexico, you can visit, travel, or live here with confidence. Perhaps it will help you avoid some of the truly embarrassing cultural faux pas so many of us have endured.

#8 A Brief History of Mexico (by Lynn V. Foster)

Knowing something about a country’s history goes a long way towards helping to understand its culture. For anyone who would like to know more about Mexico’s history – without carting around a 300-lb scholarly tome – this is the perfect book. It gives you enough information to have some knowledge of the country’s history without being dry or getting bogged down in minutiae.

#9 The Pearl (by John Steinbeck)

This is Steinbeck’s retelling of the Baja California legend of the pearl, a legend held in common by all the indigenous peoples of the peninsula. This narrative of a time when pearls were abundant in the Sea of Cortez is both stunning prose and a heart-wrenching story. If you haven’t yet read it, now’s the time!

#10 The Years with Laura Díaz (Carlos Fuentes)

Carlos Fuentes is considered to be one of Mexico’s greatest authors, and this novel will make you understand why. It follows the life of the heroine from 1905 to 1978, giving you a taste of Mexico’s history along the way.

I am certain there are other equally interesting and informative books, but consider this a start to understanding and appreciating this wonderful country. Several titles can be found at Allende Books on Independencia in La Paz. Happy reading!

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