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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.