5 Books Inspired by the Americas

Although the spotlight is currently on Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games, there is a lot more to the Americas than Brazil’s dazzling capital.

August 2016 • Jules Verne

5 Books Inspired by the Americas

To celebrate this spectacular part of the world, we’ve created a perfect reading list inspired by Central and South America. So sit back, relax with one of our recommended reads, and be inspired!

Brazil by John Updike

This novel by one of America’s best loved writers transports the reader to Brazil. John Updike tells the story of Tristão Raposo and his ill-fated love for Isabel Leme, which leads our improbable heroes on a journey across the country from the tedium of urban banality to the depths of the rainforest. Taking his inspiration from the classic tale of Tristan and Isolde, as well as South American myths, Updike creates a bleak novel with lush descriptions that evoke the rainforest itself. While the story dives deep into the dark side of Brazil, it will leave you itching to travel and explore.

Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges is one of the best known and most influential authors writing in the Spanish language, famous for his translations, essays, and poetry. This collection of short stories shimmers with intelligence and a deep knowledge of the source material, which covers everything from Shakespeare to Chinese, Persian and Nordic folk tales. Throughout the book, despite a wide range of styles and subject matter, the stories stay profoundly Argentinian, filled with irony, scepticism and fantasy. Reading this book while visiting Argentina will reveal the truth in Borges’ statement “in my dreams, I never leave Buenos Aires”.

Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham

In 1911, the intrepid explorer and pre-historian Hiram Bingham set out for Peruand the legendary city of Vilcabamba. This autobiographical book is a first-hand account of the discovery of the lost city of Machu Picchu. It’s easy to see why this book was a best seller in 1950 when it was first published; Bingham’s relaxed and accessible style perfectly captures the sense of adventure and discovery. Although many of Bingham’s theories and discoveries were subsequently disproved, this is a fascinating look at both the history of the city and the fields of archaeology, history and anthropology.

Our Man in Havana by Graham Green

This classic novel by Graham Green was written in 1958. As the name suggests, it’s set in Havana against the backdrop of the Cold War. Green originally intended to set the novel in Estonia, but changed it to Cuba after several visits there. The novel follows the life of vacuum salesman turned spy, James Wormold, whose fabricated reports of weaponised vacuum technology become worryingly accurate. Filled with sharp humour and observations, this entertaining read captures the old school romance of Havana.

The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara

The Motorcycle Diaries is a coming of age story about travel, discovery and self-realisation. It tells the story of Che Guevara’s symbolic nine-month tour of South America via the titular motorcycle, but also by steamship, raft, horse and bus.  Guevara emerged from this journey with a dream of uniting Latin America and an undying loyalty to the cause of the poor. The book is infused with revolutionary passion and zeal, sharp criticisms, and an eye for social injustices, but also an unwavering love for the continent Guevara called home. It has inspired others to follow in his footsteps for generations.