Background reading: The Caribbean

Palm trees under tropical sky
If you’re heading to the Caribbean, here’s a handy list of background reading:

And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails by Wayne Curtis
Here are sugar barons and their armies conquering the Caribbean, Paul Revere stopping for a nip during his famous ride, Prohibitionists marching against “demon rum,” Hemingway fattening his liver with Havana daiquiris, and today’s bartenders reviving old favorites like Planter’s Punch.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
With dazzling energy and insight, Junot Díaz immerses us in the uproarious lives of our hero Oscar, his runaway sister Lola, and their ferocious beauty-queen mother Belicia, and in the epic journey from Santo Domingo to Washington Heights to New Jersey’s Bergenline and back again. [Santo Domingo]

Cuba: A New History by Richard Gott
British journalist Richard Gott casts a fresh eye on the history of the Caribbean island from its pre-Columbian origins to the present day. He provides a European perspective on a country that is perhaps too frequently seen solely from the American point of view. [Cuba]

Cuba and its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo by Ned Sublette
It offers a behind-the-scenes examination of music from a Cuban point of view, unearthing surprising, provocative connections and making the case that Cuba was fundamental to the evolution of music in the New World.” [Cuba]

An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude by Ann Vanderhoof
Almost as good as making the journey itself, [this book] is an intimate account that conjures all the irresistible beauty and bounty from the Bahamas to Trinidad — and just may compel you to make a rash decision that will land you in paradise.

Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day by Carrie Gibson
“Traces the story of this coveted area from the northern rim of South America up to Cuba, and from discovery through colonialism to today, offering a vivid, panoramic view of this complex region and its rich, important history.”

From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean, 1492-1969 by Eric Williams
The history of the Caribbean is dominated by the history of sugar, which is inseparable from the history of slavery; which was inseparable, until recently, from the systematic degradation of labor in the region. Here, for the first time, is a definitive work about a profoundly important but neglected and misrepresented area of the world.

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn
From a much-heralded new writer, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise. [Jamaica]

Island Possessed by Katherine Dunham
Full of the flare and suspense of immersion in a strange and enchanting culture, Island Possessed is also a pioneering work in the anthropology of dance and a fascinating document on Haitian politics and voodoo. [Haiti]

Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti by Leah Gordon et al.
Light years away from the government- sponsored, tourist inspired carnival floats of so many other cultures, the Haitian carnival is particularly notable for its more sober political dimension, as a venue for Haitian peasants to discuss local politics, or older, nagging, historical problems dating back to the slave revolts. [Haiti]

The Tempest by William Shakespeare
“Embodies both seemingly timeless romance and the historically specific moment in which Europe begins to explore and conquer the New World.” [Bermuda]

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
The most popular pirate story ever written in English.”

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.[Jamaica, Dominica]