41 Best Books About Mexico to Read in 2024

If you are planning to travel to Mexico, or you simply have a keen interest in learning more about the country and its culture, you will love some of the best books about Mexico on this list. 

I have been living in Mexico for the last two years and during that time, I have made it my mission to explore and learn as much about my new home as possible. I really like immersing myself in Mexican history and culture as much as I can, and one of the main ways I have done that has been through reading. 

This guide is a summation of the most interesting books that I have found across various genres, both fiction and non fiction. 

I will break them down by category so that you can skip to the genre of books that you are most interested in reading. As I discover new interesting reads, I will add them to this list.

A gorgeous book store (MID Cultural Center) in Merida, Yucatan

Table of Contents

Best Books About Mexico to Read in 2023 

If you don’t fancy trawling through a long list of 40 books about Mexico, I get it. 

At a glance, I would say that if you want to read something light-hearted and fun, perhaps when you are relaxing by the pool or on your flight over to Mexico, you should check out “Down the Rabbit Hole” by Juan Pablo Villalobos, it is hilariously written from a child’s perspective and tells the story of being born into a narco family. 

“Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno Garcia is another cult favorite. However, if non-fiction and learning about Mexican history and culture is more your jam, I would recommend “The People’s Guide to Mexico” by Carl Franz, which takes a generalized look at Mexico through the decades, or “The Other Side”, also by Juan Pablo Villalobos, which takes a fresh, raw look at Immigration from Central America to the United States.

Best Fiction Books About Mexico

Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos

Down the Rabbit Hole provides a strange and unsettling glimpse into the life of a little boy whose father is a prominent figure within a Mexican drug cartel. It reads like a series of diary entries and there is little plot aside from the young narrator jotting down his thoughts and activities for each day.

However, the result is a book that is equal parts unsettling and massively thought-provoking. This is particularly true when you consider the fact that there are indeed Mexican children living in these kinds of realities.

The contrast between the narrator’s childlike dreams of new toys and funny hats, with his observations of the violence around him, is dark and disturbing. The book reads as though it has been written by an intelligent child and it is a truly unique piece of Mexican literature.

La Noche Boca Arriba by Julio Cortazar 

La Noche Boca Arriba is a wonderful short story set in Mexico and written by the late Julio Cortázar, a French-Argentine novelist that is well revered in Latin America. You can buy tome-like books featuring collections of short stories by Cortazar, which are well worth a read if you like short, thought-provoking yet moving literature in a similar style to Pauo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. (If a little less self help-y). 

The fictional story tells the tale of a motorcyclist who has an accident and in his unconcious state, he starts to dream that he is a participant in the Aztec Flower War (“xōchiyāōyōtl”). During this time, he reflects upon the westernised modern Mexican identity, his indigenous roots, and how he “truly” identifies. 

It is a beautiful story, deep in political and historical connections. Once you have read it once, you will still need to read it again, to pick up on the things you missed the first time around. 

There are essentially two ways of approaching the story – you can look at it as a piece of fiction, or from the political viewpoint. Because of the deep symbolism that runs through the story, La Noche Boca Arriba is often studied by literature/Latin American studies university students. 

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy 

All the Pretty Horses is a wonderful coming-of-age story that follows two young ranchers as they relocate from Texas to Coahuila, Mexico, where one of them falls in love with a young Mexican girl. Don’t let the book’s somewhat feminine and unassuming name confuse you. 

This book is somewhat violent and brutal in parts, and it explores deep themes such as life and death, the reality of moving overseas, and the naivety of moving from adolescence to adulthood.

The good news is that “All the Pretty Horses” is just part one of a three-book trilogy. If you enjoy it and become part of the McCarthy cult, you can continue onwards to read “The Crossing” and “Cities of the Plain”. 

The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela

The Underdogs is a fiction book set during the Mexican Revolution and written by the Mexican author Marian Azuela, who draws inspiration from his traumas and memories of witnessing many violent events during the Revolution firsthand.

TheJalisco-born writer is often referred to as being the first of the “novelists of the Revolution”. His book follows the story of two men who have been reluctantly dragged into the fighting, one of whom becomes a General in Pancho Villa’s rebel army.

The novel was originally written in Spanish but the translated English version is widely available. Despite the complexity of the topic, the book is written in very simple terms and is easy to follow.

Even with the short, simple prose, The Underdogs is filled with emotion. 

La Milagrosa (The Miracle Worker) by Carmen Boullosa

On the surface, “La Milagrosa” (the miracle worker) is a book about a woman in Mexico who is able to perform miracles. The story starts with the discovery of a body of a man found clutching a bundle of papers as well as a tape recorder with evidence that appears to discredit the miracle worker.

The book then goes back in time to tell the events that led up to this point. Today, Boullosa is one of the most-translated female Mexican writers.

The story, though simple on the surface, exists to explore more controversial and troubling themes that affect life in Mexico today. Notably, corruption in the country, religion, controversy, and sexism. 

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Like water for Chocolate (“Como agua para chocolate”) is one of the most beloved pieces of Mexican fiction. It tells the story of Tita De La Garza, a young Mexican woman who lived in Mexico at the turn of the 20th century.

One day, the love of her life, Pedro Muzquiz, comes to the family ranch to ask Tita to marry him. However, her mother forbids it, and instead, he marries her older sister, Rosaura.

Throughout their marriage, Pedro remains enamored with Tita and it becomes apparent that he only agreed to marry Rosaura in order to be close to the woman that he really loved. They encounter various challenges, stresses, and traumas over the years, and although all they want is to be together, there is always something keeping them apart.

You can think of the book as something of a Mexican version of Romeo & Juliet.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic is perhaps one of the best known books about Mexico on this list, and since its release in 2020, it has been met with huge international acclaim.

The period horror, written by Mexican Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia is both a New York Times bestseller and was named “book of the year” by various publications following its release in 2020.

The story follows a young woman named Noemí Taboada as she relocates from her affluent family home in Mexico City to the former British mining town of Real del Monte in the hills of Hidalgo as she investigates claims from her terrified cousin who is convinced that her husband is trying to murder her.

There are various twists in the book, and while it starts as a slow burn, it gradually gets darker and darker. The book is now being developed into a tv series in the US.

Mornings in Mexico by D.H. Lawrence 

The English Author D.H. Lawrence may be best known for writing “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” but Lawrence was also an avid traveler and the legacy of writing work he left behind goes far beyond just this classic book.

“Mornings in Mexico” is a collection of travel essays he wrote to document his experiences living in New Mexico and Mexico in the 1920s. The essays all focus on separate simple aspects of daily life in Mexico.

For instance, one focuses on his observations of seeing people shopping for groceries in a local market, another on how his neighbor’s parrot would imitate the owner, etc. It makes for a charming read for when you cannot physically be in Mexico, but you want a book that seemingly transports you elsewhere to your reality.

During his time in Mexico, Lawrence based himself near Lake Patzcuaro and in Oaxaca.

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

The book Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo makes for an interesting read. It tells the story of the small town of Comala, in the rural Mexican state of Colima.

Instead of following one character and timeline, it jumps back and forth in time, telling the stories of various people who lived in the village through the centuries and hops back and forth between the past (a prospering, charming village) to the present (a creepy, abandoned ghost town).

The different perspectives are written in different ways too. Parts of the book are written in the first person, while others are written in the third person.

Aside from the exploration of the town of Comala, one of the main themes of the book is family dynamics and identity. The book starts with one of the main protagonists, Juan Preciado heading to Colima after his mother’s death to find his estranged father, Pedro Páramo.

It provokes a lot of discussion about our ties and heritage with our families. 

The Old Gringo (Gringo Viejo) by Carlos Fuentes 

The Old Gringo (Gringo Viejo) is widely regarded as being one of Mexican Writer Carlos Fuentes’ greatest works. It was first published in Spanish in 1985 and an English-translated version was released later that same year.

The book was quickly met with success and record sales in the United States, helping it to become the very first US bestseller written by a Mexican author. The Old Gringo provides a fictional account of what may have happened to American short story writer Ambrose Bierce who disappeared in Chihuahua, Mexico around 1913/1914.

Bierce had announced that he was visiting the country so that he could see “first hand” what was happening amid the Revolution. 

In Fuentes’ book, Bierce lives among Pancho Villa’s soldiers. As well as being an interesting story that reignites a decades-long fascination with what really happened to Ambrose Bierce, the Old Gringo explores some complex, thought-provoking topics.

Most notably, the matter of cultural clashes between the US and Mexico. Fuentes has published several other works that were met with a positive response in the US. Most notably, Aura and The Death of Artemio Cruz. 

The Death of Artemio Cruzby Carlos Fuentes  

The death of Artemio Cruz, first published in 1962, is widely regarded as being one of the most important Latin American literary works in the world. In the book, Mexico is seen through the lens of Artemio Cruz, a young soldier living in the midst of the Mexican Revolution.

Cruz starts out being dedicated to the cause of redistributing land from the wealthy to the lower classes and his principal aim is to help the poorer people live better lives.

However as time goes on, Cruz realizes that he can use his power and influence to his advantage. He turns to greed and corruption and abuses his position to make himself wealthy.

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera 

In this award-winning novel about the US-Mexican border, Herrera’s book follows the journey of Makina, a young Mexican woman whose mother has sent her to cross the border into the United States so as to rescue her brother from delusions of “the American dream”. 

So, Makina goes on her way from their small village, to Mexico City, to the Rio Grande border, on a journey to reunite with her brother. Exploring topics of cultural and racial identity, and the reasons that motivate people to risk their lives for border crossings, Signs Preceding the End of the World is one of the most translated Spanish language books today. 

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas 

The Hacienda is an eerie gothic ghost story and one of the only horror books of its kind set in Mexico. It follows the life of Beatriz Hernández Valenzuela, a Mestiza woman who marries a rich heir and moves into his grandiose hacienda, as a means to escape her traumatic living conditions of living with her aunt and her abusive husband. 

In the haste of getting away from her dysfunctional family, she ignores red flags about her new partner, and reasons away his first wife’s mysterious and untimely death. When she arrives at Hacienda San Ysidro, she quickly realizes that everything isnt as perfect as it seems. 

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros 

Originally published in 1983, The House on Mango Street tells the story of a young girl named Esperanza who grows up in a Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. Cisneros herself bounced around multiple homes in Latino neighborhoods as a child, including N. Campbell Avenue in Chicago.

It is these experiences that formed the inspiration and material for her own book. This is a great read for anyone from a multicultural background and deals with the emotions of shame and embarrassment when coming from a POC or poor household, class issues in the United States, and racial identity. 

Carmelo by Sandra Cisneros

Carmelo, released in 2002, is a book by Mexican American writer Sandra Cisneros. It tells the story of a Mexican American family living in Chicago, who head to visit their grandparents in Mexico City every year.

If you are of Mexican descent, or indeed, you are of some other mixed cultural heritage, you will strongly identify with the topics of the book. Carmelo clearly draws on Cisneros’ own experiences growing up with different cultures (Mexican and American).

It also explores the theme of familial ties and the idea of how important it is to be a part of a family, regardless of the challenges and dramas. Carmelo is a bestseller in the US, and the author Sandra Cisneros had previously won the 2019 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature for her first book “The House on Mango Street”.

The Ruins by Scott Smith

If you enjoy thrillers and horrors that keep you on the edge of your seat, you will no doubt enjoy reading “The Ruins” by Scott Smith. The book is set in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and follows a group of American friends and a German tourist as their adventures in Mexico turn dark. 

One friend of the group disappears, and the others set out into the jungle to search for him. The book had such a positive response that it was made into a movie with the same name in 2008. 

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene 

The Power and the Glory is a 1940 novel by British Author Graham Greene. It follows the story of a Catholic Priest who was living in Tabasco during the 1930s, at a time when the Mexican Government was trying to suppress the Catholic church.

The characters in the story are fictional, although the story itself is based on true events and indeed, this kind of religious persecution was taking place across Mexico in the 1920s.

At that time, hundreds of priests were hunted down, rounded up, and killed. In the book, the main protagonist hurries from town to town, trying to escape the persecution of the police.

The Power and the Glory is an anxiety-inducing page-turner. It tells an aspect of Mexican history that few people are aware of on an international scale. 

The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia 

The Murmur of Bees, like several other books about Mexico on this list, is a piece of historic fiction that focuses on the events of the Mexican Revolution. It is set in a rural area outside the city of Linares, southeast of Monterrey.

It follows the story of a family who rescues a disfigured baby that they find abandoned under a bridge. He has a severe cleft lip and cleft palate. 

They name him Simonopio and despite his disfigurements, the boy grows up with the gift of being able to see things that nobody else is able to see.

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

Into the Beautiful North follows the story of a nineteen-year-old Mexican girl that works in a taco shop in her hometown in Sinaloa. Her father has long since left her and her family behind, after moving to the United States for work.

The main protagonist, Nayeli, reflects on the fact that so many men in her town have left Mexico in search of a better life north of the border. With few men around to protect its borders and cultural heritage, the town starts to see a crime wave and falls victim to banditos.

Nayeli, feeling inspired after watching the American movie “The Magnificent Seven” heads toward the United States. She plans to recruit her own “magnificent seven” to help her hometown.

The book does a great job of displaying the beauty and rich culture of Mexico. Its demonstration of a woman´s love for her country and hometown is a great alternative perspective to the stereotype that all Mexicans dream of living in the US. 

Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos 

As you might have noticed, I am a big fan of Juan Pablo Villalobos and his sense of humor. While I don’t like to recommend too many of the same kind of books, if you fall in love with his wit and writing style too (and I am sure you will), you will no doubt be looking for other reads of his that are equally great.

His book Quesadillas is a hilarious, deliciously written satirical masterpiece that discusses the problems of corruption and poverty in Mexico. Again, it is written from the perspective of a child. 

In this book, our main protagonist, Orestes, is one of thirteen children born into extreme poverty.  What looks like a short, funny book on the surface, also has many layers beneath it, and provides many interesting thoughts on the wealth disparity in Mexico, the government’s role in helping their people (or not), and so on. 

Hummingbirds Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

Urreas 2005 book, Hummingbird’s daughter, tells the story of a young woman named Teresita who, after being born into humble beginnings, gains the trust of the indigenous people of Mexico, discovers she has healing powers, and is revered as a Saint. 

The story is loosely based on the life of Urreas own aunt who was a respected healer born in Sinaloa in the late 19th century. Urrea spent more than 20 years researching her life before writing Hummingbirds daughter as a fictionalised version of her endeavors to pay homage to his inspiring relative. 

I’ll sell you a dog by Juan Pablo Villalobos 

Rounding up this section with one more book of comedic genius by Juan Pabloc Villalobos, “Ill sell you a dog” shows us life through the eyes of an old, bored man in a Mexico City retirement home who keeps himself occupied in between bedpan changes and recreation time by stirring up mischief in the home. 

He reflects on his life in CDMX, starting out as an artist whose creative dreams were never realised, before becoming a beloved taco seller whose unique creations made him the talk of the town. This is probably one of the most understated and witty things I have read for a long time, and the humor of the book stays with you long after you have finished reading. 

Non-Fiction Books About Mexico

The Other Side by Juan Pablo Villalobos 

The Other Side is an interesting change of pace from Juan Pablo Villalobos and his usual quick-witted comedy books, and tells the stories of ten Central American teenagers and their journeys of illegal immigration into the United States. The book was published in 2019, at a time when the Trump presidency was still in full swing in the US, Latin families were being separated in ICE detention centers, and a supposedly “great wall” was being built to separate the United States and Mexico. 

However, sadly it is still as relevant and timely as ever, almost five years later, when parts of Mexico are dealing with gentrification and soaring costs, as a result of gringos moving south of the border with ease, while Mexicans are still treated lesser than north of the border. This is a touching and moving read, whichever “side” of the United States/Latin America and Mexico border you were born on. 

Bad Karma: The True Story of a Mexico Trip from Hell by Paul Wilson 

If travel memoirs are your thing (what traveler doesnt love getting in the mood for a trip by reading about other people’s travels?), you will love Paul Wilsons account of his 1978 trip through Mexico. 

Wilson and his friends head to Baja California and Southwestern Mexico, pumped at the idea of surfing in new, international territory and blissfully unawares that they are heading straight into cartel territory and that a member of their travel party is in fact, a wanted murderer. During their trip, they even meet El Chapo (before his days as the Kingpin of the Sinaloa cartel), and Wilson even had to wait for a statute of limitations to expire before he could even speak or write publicly about his adventures. 

(Maybe steer clear of this if you are nervous about your first trip to Mexico, but take solace in the fact that the author and his companions made a series of unbelievably foolish decisions that are the only reason they found themselves in such situations.

The Lawless Roads by Graham Greene

The Lawless Roads follows the 1930s journey of the late British Journalist and Novelist Graham Greene across the UK, the United States and Mexico, at a time when Catholics in Mexico were facing persecution. As a devout Catholic himself, Greenes journey not only transcends international borders, but takes him on a journey of inward analysis as he looks at themes of religion, identity and how every global society has a dark side – including the UK. 

While the book does an excellent job of portraying what Mexico was like at a specific point in time, with Greene never shying away from detailing the extent of the violence and corruption he saw first hand, it also manages to be heart warming in places. Greene shares his encounters with friendly strangers he met on his travels. 

He includes, for example, meeting an elderly Mexican man in the southeast of Mexico who lived in poverty in a rundown shack and still offered Greene his bed and hospitality, wanting to help out a traveling Englishman far from home. Many people consider Greene to be one of the greatest novelists of all time and when you read The Lawless Roads, it isn’t difficult to see why. 

Mañana Forever? Mexico and the Mexicans by Jorge G. Castañeda 

Mañana Forever has been met with some controversy in Mexico and among the Mexican diaspora, with some people finding it offensive. There is merit to that stance but the book also offers some interesting perspectives on things like the Mexican identity, individualism, class differences, and the emergence of the Mexican middle class. 

The author, Jorge G. Castañeda is the former Secretary of Foreign Affairs in Mexico and his book attempts to explain to a world stage why Mexicans are the way they are. Despite being 20 years old, many of the discussions are still relevant today and Mañana Forever remains one of the only books about Mexico that presents a candid discussion about Mexican politics and corruption. 

The way he presents Mexicans as a hive-mind collective in order to express various points is undeniably, the reason that many people had a strong reaction to the book. (After all you cannot clump an entire demographic together as one). 

Still, the book is a great starting point for your exploration of modern Mexican history, and issues affecting Mexico today. It acts as a great springboard for wider discussions with your Mexican friends and the people that you know, 

My Art, My Life: An Autobiography by Diego Rivera 

Diego Rivera was undoubtedly one of the most famous Mexican artists that ever lived and his contributions to Mexican art and culture are undisputed. Rivera’s portly image is displayed on the 500 peso note and even if you do not have a strong interest in art, you will likely still find his story fascinating. 

Rivera was married to the Mexican icon Frida Kahlo with whom he cohabited in her famous “Casa Azul” in Coyoacan. Despite not being the most attractive man, Rivera was a ladies’ man with a constant string of women at his feet, and he constantly cheated on Kahlo.

Personal drama aside, Rivera was best known for his murals which went far beyond “just” being beautiful paintings and were used as a form of political expression, particularly related to the Mexican Revolution. His autobiography is an eye-opener, penned down by Journalist Gladys March after he opened up to her in a “tell all” interview in 1944. 

Frida in America by Celia Stahr 

First published in 2020, “Frida in America” is one of the newer books about Frida Kahlo and it follows a three year period when she and her partner Diego Rivera went traveling around the US in the 1980s. It doesnt go too much into detail about Fridas art and professional life, but shares her travels through San Francisco, New York and Detroit, her experiences in the US and her personal fights, trials and tribulations with Diego. 

Diego Rivera is not painted well in the book, though his adultery and poor treatment towards Frida are no big secrets to anyone. Basically, if you are a keen Frida fan, who cannot get enough of learning more about the national icon, this book could be the one that you never knew you needed. 

Books about Mexico
Books about Mexico

Historical Books About Mexico

Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera

Frida Kahlo is not only one of the most famous Mexican artists of all time. She is also one of the most famous symbols of Mexican culture. Even those who know very little about her artwork or her life, will immediately recognize her image and her signature unibrow.  

The Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera tells the fascinating story of Frida’s life. It looks at her childhood in the Casa Azul in Coyoacan and how a terrible accident left her crippled.

It goes on to discuss her marriage with Diego Riviera, and the various influential men that whom she had relationships and affairs. The book was made into a Mexican movie in 2002, with Salma Hayek starting as Frida. 

Mexican Revolution by Adolfo Gilly 

The Mexican Revolution by Adolfo Gilly provides a comprehensive look at the Mexican Revolution and the subsequent period of political unrest in Mexico which took place between 1910 and 1940. While it definitely isn’t a light and breezy read, the Mexican Revolution and Mexico’s eventual freedom from the Spanish colonizers, was a pivotal point in the country’s history. 

This book was published in 1971 but it is relevant today as it ever was and remains one of the most in-depth books about the Revolution. In it, you will learn everything about the Mexican war for independence, and all of the key players involved in this part of history – from Pancho Villa and his men to Father Hidalgo, and his shout (“grita”) in the Guanajuato village of Dolores Hidalgo. 

The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz 

Octavio Paz (1914-1998) was one of Mexico’s most revered poets and diplomats. He received numerous awards for his written works over the course of his lifetime, including the Nobel prize for literature. 

Arguably one of his most famous pieces is “The Labyrinth of Solitude” which he published in 1950. It is a nine-part book-length essay that discusses various aspects of the Mexican identity.

The original book was amended in 1975 to include further reflections on more recent, traumatic events in Mexico’s history.  Throughout the publication, Paz delves into an in-depth analysis of Mexican history – dating all the way back to the pre-Colombian era.

His essays offered an existentialist and psychoanalytic interpretation of Mexican culture. They were massively revered by intellectuals and thought leaders across the country and would go on to have a huge influence on Latin American essayists all over the Americas. 

The book makes for good intermediate reading for anyone who already has a vague understanding of Mexican history, culture, and traditions

Jungle of Stone by William Carlsen

William Carlsen is an experienced Journalist that has won various awards and accolades for his published works, including a Pulitzer Prize. His book “Jungle of Stone” is a New York Times bestseller.

It tells the story of American diplomat John Lloyd Stephens and British artist Frederick Catherwood who are recognized for discovering some of the most notable Mayan ruins in Mexico. In 1839, after hearing rumors of mysterious temples made of stone hidden deep in the jungle, they set out to uncover whether the rumors were true.

The book is an account of their adventures and discoveries. It also features a history and description of the major Mayan cities in the Yucatan.

Most notably, facts about Chichen Itza, Tulum, Palenque, Uxmal ruins, and Copan. It makes for nice reading before embarking on a trip to visit some of the best-known places in the Yucatan.

Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of the Mayan Book of Creation

Popol Vuh, the Quiché Mayan book of creation, is considered to be one of the most important books written in a native language created in all of the Americas. It was originally written in Mayan hieroglyphics but has been translated into English for all to read and appreciate.

The Popol Vuh is a sacred text, in some ways comparable to what the Bible or the Quran is today. It includes the Mayan creation myth, the exploits of the Hero Twins Hunahpú and Xbalanqué, stories about Mayan Gods, and a chronicle of the Kʼicheʼ people.

This edition by Dennis Tedlock is one of the world’s bestselling Mayan history books. Popol Vuh provides readers with a fascinating glimpse of what life as a person belonging to the Ancient Mayan civilization was like. 

This does not make for light reading so it is best recommended for those with a strong interest in Mayan history. The translator has added notes and commentary alongside all of the translated passages to aid a deeper understanding of the text. 

The Other Mexico, Critique of the Pyramid by Octavio Paz

The Other Mexico, Critique of the Pyramid was written by Octavio Paz in 1970 and provided some very interesting and thought-provoking suggestions to the Mexican society of that time. The book examines the historical development of the character and culture of modern Mexico.

It has a specific focus on political unrest in the 20th century. The book was originally written in Spanish but it has been translated into English and other languages.

It aids in getting a deeper understanding of more recent Mexican history.

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by Francisco Haghenbeck

Francisco Haghenbeck was widely regarded as being one of Mexico´s best ¨new¨ writers. Born in 1965, he sadly lost his life during the global pandemic in April 2021.

One of his most unique books is “The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo”. The book has been written based on notebooks and diaries that were found in Frida Kahlo’s house and focuses on Kahlo’s romantic relationships.

It reimagines the encounters that she may have had with her lovers and tells an exaggerated, fictional version of her life. One thing that was found in Frida’s home (Casa Azul) after her passing was a little black book now known as  “The Hierba Santa Book¨.

In it, Kahlo had scrawled down recipes, thoughts, and ideas. Some of the recipes have been shared in Haghenbeck’s book, while others act as the titles for each riveting chapter.

This is a must-read if you have an interest in Frida Kahlo. The book is simple, and a pleasure to read. 

Conquest: Montezuma, Cortes, and the Fall of Old Mexico by Hugh Thomas  

Conquest: Montezuma, Cortés, and the Fall of Old Mexico is a historical book about Mexico written by Hugh Thomas, Baron Thomas of Swynnerton. Thomas is widely regarded as being one of the world’s most gifted historians. 

When you read “Conquest”, it is very clear to see why. The book provides a narrative of the struggle between Spanish Conquistador Cortes and Montezuma and the Aztecs. 

It is written in such a riveting and gripping way that you almost forget that these events actually happened. “Conquest” is like reading a fast-paced fiction book set centuries ago.

As you read, it quickly becomes clear that Thomas has a substantial interest in this era. His writing is exciting without in any way being detrimental to historical facts. 

Hernan Cortés and about 500 conquistadors conquered a settled and established civilization in three short years, from 1519 to 1521.  Cortés had great confidence in what he set out to achieve in new Spain. 

Shortly after arriving in Veracruz, he had all of his boats burned so that nobody could leave even if they wanted to. He and his men were victorious in countless battles even when they were significantly outnumbered. 

The Spanish admired many aspects of the Aztec civilization with the exception of human sacrifices. This book gives an unabashed glimpse at the events of this particular era of Latin American history. 

The Maya by Michael D. Coe

Michael D. Coe is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Yale University. His Book “The Maya” is one of his most acclaimed published works.

Many consider this as being one of the most accessible introductions to Mayan history. It is written in a simple, easy-to-understand manner and is free from complex terminology.

The book is frequently updated to reflect new information and findings and it is currently in its ninth edition which was first published in 2015. (Although many new ruins have been discovered by archaeologists and excavated since then – including Xiol near Merida and Ocomtún, deep in the Southern Yucatan jungle so hopefully we are due an update soon!)

The book lays out the story of the rise and fall of the Mayans. It touches on matters of religion, warfare, gender roles, and day-to-day life. 

The Maya is beautifully illustrated, containing more than 200 drawings and photographs. There are also decipherments of fascinating Ancient Mayan hieroglyphics. 

The Great Book of Mexico by Bill O’Neil

The Great Book of Mexico by Bill O’Neil is a lighthearted and easy-to-read account of Mexico’s history through the centuries. It doesn’t focus specifically on the Ancient Maya or on one set period of history.

Instead, it discusses both the ancient history of Mexico (the Aztecs, the Maya, etc) and the more modern aspects. For instance, the politics, the identity struggles, things Mexico is famous for, and the issues with drug trafficking. 

There are also many fun facts about Mexico, interesting stories, and insights into the diverse culture of Mexico. For instance, famous Mexican telenovelas, Mexican pop culture, sports, celebrities, the development of various types of Mexican music, etc.

As you make your way through the book’s pages, you are also presented with light-hearted quizzes that help you test what you have learned. The intended audience for this book is young adults and teens. 

However, you are likely to enjoy it and learn something new, even if you consider yourself as being well informed on Mexican history and culture.  The Great Book of Mexico is a fun and easy read for your plane journey to Mexico. 

Warlords of Ancient Mexico by Pete Tsouras

The Warlords of Ancient Mexico by Pete Tsouras was first published in 2014. Instead of focusing on the Spanish conquest of Mexico, an overview of the Maya or their downfall, it focuses on some of the most notable figures in the warrior tribes of Ancient Mexico.

These figures have largely been missed from historical accounts of Ancient Mexico. In his book, Tsouras personifies them and provides detailed biographies.

They are accompanied by fascinating stories of conquest and warfare, and dozens of beautiful illustrations and photographs. Tsouras focuses mostly on Central Mexican history, the Aztecs, and the Mexicas.

The Ancient Maya is only touched upon briefly. The book is succinct and easy to read for someone who is relatively new to Ancient Mexican history. 

Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck

The log from the Sea of Cortez is an interesting read by American Author John Steinbeck. If that name sounds familiar, it is because Steinbeck is perhaps best known for being the author of “of Mice and Men” and “ The Grapes of Wrath”. 

First published in 1951, the book details Steinbeck’s 40-day expedition out at sea around Baja California with his friend Ed Ricketts. The main purpose of his trip was to document the various marine life that was living in these warm translucent waters.

During their 6 week study, they discovered several new species. Even if you have zero interest in marine biology or science, the book is a great read, purely because the book contains Steinbeck’s signature wit and humor.

He goes into great detail about what life was like on the boat, and he draws interesting cultural parallels between Americans and people from other cultures and backgrounds. 

The People’s Guide to Mexico by Carl Franz

The People’s Guide to Mexico by Carl Franz has been the definitive guide to visiting Mexico for the first time in several decades. It covers a broad range of topics in a fun, easy-to-read format.

Within its pages, you will find everything from Mexico travel tips, funny stories and anecdotes, and practical advice on topics such as driving in Mexico, renting a car in Mexico, and planning a trip. The book is currently in its 14th edition.

It was last updated in 2012. If you are not sure what to expect from your first trip to Mexico and want to understand more about Mexican traditions, celebrations, and culture, Franz’s book is deeper and more cultured than your typical Mexico guidebook.

It helps you learn what to appreciate and look for in Mexico beyond just seeing the sights. 

Where to Buy Books About Mexico 

If you live in the US, Canada, or the UK, it is easy enough to buy books about Mexico from local independent bookstores, large stores, and online platforms like Barnes & Noble (US/CA) and Waterstones (UK), or Amazon. In Mexico, it is a little trickier. 

There are often only one or two English bookstores in major cities and in remote areas or areas with very little tourist/expat presence, you won’t find any English books whatsoever. Mexican bookstore chains seldom (if ever) have English sections. 

In Merida, where I live, we have two great bookstores called “Between the Lines” (C. 62 450-Local 4, Parque Santa Lucia, Centro) and Centro Cultural Punto MID (Calle 47 479, Zona Paseo Montejo)

In Puerto Vallarta, you can check out The Living Room Bookstore & Cafe ()Av Paseo de la Marina 245-Local N, Marina Vallarta), A Page in the Sun (Lázaro Cárdenas 169, Zona Romántica, Emiliano Zapata)  and the House of Books (C. 31 de Octubre 159, Centro). 

Mexico City has a lot more options. The only “issue” I have found, is that imported English books are often much more expensive in Mexico and a medium-sized paperback can be as much as $20 USD. 

They often only really have “classics” like Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, etc, as well as whatever books are currently topping the international charts, rather than more obscure reads. While the weight and feel of a physical book can be much better, I bought a Kindle Paperwhite in Mexico and tend to just purchase Kindle books. 

It also works out much cheaper, especially since many are free on Kindle Unlimited.

Books about Mexico
Books about Mexico

Final thoughts on the best books about Mexico to read in 2024

Mexico is a country that is often misunderstood and is regularly a victim of an unfair portrayal in the media. However, Mexico is also a place with a rich, dense culture, and a fascinating history and while nothing compares to getting out and exploring the country firsthand by yourself, books are another way to discover and learn more about one of the worlds most understood countries.

I hope the books on this list are a good starting point for you to learn more about Mexican traditions and culture. I will continue to add more to this list as I read and discover more.

Do you have any other favorite books about Mexico that you would recommend to other travelers and Mexophiles? Feel free to drop a comment below if you have any suggestions or questions.

Until next time, safe travels, and enjoy Mexico! Buen Viaje! Melissa xo

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.

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