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The Best Books to Read About Bolivia
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The Best Books to Read About Bolivia

Picture of Harry Stewart
Updated: 1 May 2018
Looking to do some research for your upcoming trip to Bolivia? Although our colossal selection of informative articles is undoubtedly essential reading, it’s nice to have a few paperbacks to peruse as well. Culture Trip has prepared a list of excellent books about Bolivia, best enjoyed while traversing the country on one of those numerous day-long bus rides.

Marching Powder – By Rusty Young and Thomas McFadden

A coveted backpacker classic, Marching Powder tells the tale of Australian traveler Rusty Young who becomes fascinated by the illegal prison tours of La Paz’ notorious San Pedro jail. After befriending tour guide and convicted drug smuggler Thomas McFadden, Young decides to live inside the prison for several months to pen this captivating story of drugs, corruption, and the farcical Bolivian judicial system.

Marching Powder
Marching Powder | Courtesy of Pan Macmillan

The Bolivian Times – By Tim Elliott

Written by fellow Australian Tim Elliot, the book details the journalist’s experience working for the now-defunct English language newspaper The Bolivian Times. Part travel diary, part memoir, it does a standup job of detailing the chaos and ridiculousness of Bolivian society from a rigid Western perspective. Through subtle humor and charming romance, Elliot delivers an enthralling story that offers ample insight into the country.

The Bolivian Times
The Bolivian Times | Courtesy of Random House Australia

Lost in the Jungle – By Yossi Ghinsberg

Inspired by a shady geologist’s promises of uncontacted Indian tribes and a long-lost city of gold, a group of newfound friends agrees to embark on a daring adventure deep into the Bolivian jungle. Before long, issues emerge, and the mismatched group decides to split up deep in the Amazon. Protagonist and author Yossi Ghinsberg details his harrowing real-life struggle for survival, which has since been turned into a Hollywood film.

Lost in the Jungle
Lost in the Jungle | Courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing

The Lost City of Z – By David Grann

Another tale of adventure deep in the jungle, this non-fiction account attempts to unravel the mystery of the legendary Lost City of Z, rumored to reside somewhere deep within the Bolivian Amazon. A fatal 1925 expedition by famed explorer Percy Fawcett is analyzed in detail, skillfully intertwined with author David Grann’s own daring attempts to locate the fabled legend.

The Lost City of Z
The Lost City of Z | Courtesy of Random House

The Fat Man from La Paz – Edited by Rosario Santos

This collection of 20 Bolivian short stories provides a unique opportunity for foreigners to delve into the heart and soul of the country by learning about its sociological and cultural norms. Each tale has been painstakingly translated, making it the most comprehensive collection of contemporary Bolivian literature in English to date.

The Fat Man from La Paz
The Fat Man from La Paz | Courtesy of Seven Stories Press

Open Veins of Latin America – By Eduardo Galeano

Arguably among the most important books to ever come out of Latin America, Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano expertly examines the sordid history of the entire continent, from Spanish colonization to modern times. The account is highly critical of economic exploitation and political meddling from outside forces, first Spain and later the United States. A section on Cerro Rico is particularly relevant to Bolivia and undeniably harrowing.

The Open Viens of Latin America
The Open Viens of Latin America | Courtesy of Monthly Review Press

The Motorcycle Diaries – By Ernesto Che Guevara

Fans of Che Guevara should take the time to read this standout novel, a captivating memoir that covers his 1952 motorcycle journey through South America. It was here he became radicalized by the poverty he saw, eventually becoming the infamous Marxist revolutionary guerilla for which he was best known. Despite Bolivia not actually appearing in the book, the story is important to the country due to Guevara’s historical significance in the region.

The Motorcycle Diaries
The Motorcycle Diaries | Courtesy of Verso Books