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Books about Guatemala

Tales From the Land of Eternal Spring: Our Favorite Books About Guatemala

Our curated list of books about Guatemala cover the country’s history, culture, politics, and more. From CIA-sponsored coups to indigenous struggles, these books offer a fascinating glimpse into Guatemala’s past and present. This article contains links to Amazon, from which, as an Amazon Associate, this website will earn a small commission if you make any purchases. Visit our Affiliate Disclosure Page for more info. 

The next installment in our “Books About ____ ” series, where we recommend the best literary companions about each Central American country is Guatemala. I’ve been looking forward to this one because, as I may have mentioned, I’m a big fan of crazy political situations and intrigue and all that geopolitical stuff. And Guatemala has all that in spades. Civil wars, dictators, rigged elections, CIA meddling. All that juicy stuff that makes for fascinating reading. Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama might be more famous for all that intrigue stuff, but Guatemala is right up there with them.

Guatemala is country of contrasts and inequality. Perhaps more so than any other country in Central America. It has the biggest economy in Central America, with the highest GDP. Yet its GDP per capita is one of the lowest in the region. Guatemala has the largest indigenous population in Central America, with over 30% of people speaking an indigenous language. But home to colonial cities like Antigua, Guatemala can feel like the least Spanish country in the region, excluding Belize. Contrasts upon contrasts.

All this of course, should make for some great reading material. The below list offer readers an opportunity to learn about Guatemala and its people.

Let’s take a look at the best books about Guatemala you need to read:

The Tattooed Soldier” by Hector Tobar

Although set in the United States, this novel offers a fantastic perspective of the Guatemalan civil war in the ’80s. It revolves around the lives of two Guatemalans; a refugee and a former soldier. Their paths cross in Los Angeles, where they confront their pasts and discover that the war has traveled to the States with them.

I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala” by Rigoberta Menchú

An autobiography of Rigoberta Menchú, a Guatemalan indigenous woman, activist, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1992). This book provides deep insights into the struggles and injustices faced by Guatemala’s indigenous communities. A must read.

Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala” by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer

A detailed account of the 1954 CIA-sponsored coup that overthrew Guatemala’s democratically elected president, Jacobo Árbenz. It explores the long-lasting consequences of the coup and its impact on Guatemala’s political and social landscape. Another must-read for anyone seeking to understand the politics of Guatemala.

The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?” by Francisco Goldman

This book investigates the 1998 murder of Juan Gerardi, a Guatemalan human rights activist and Catholic bishop. It delves into Guatemala’s post-civil war period and the challenges faced by those seeking justice amid powerful forces trying to conceal the truth.

The Long Night of White Chickens” by Francisco Goldman

Also by Francisco Goldman, “The Long Night of White Chickens” is a suspenseful mystery that won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction. In 1980s Guatemala, Roger Graetz investigates the murder of Flor, an orphan with a hidden past.

Mr President” by Miguel Ángel Asturias

Nobel laureate Miguel Ángel Asturias wrote this novel in the 1930s. A ruthless dictator in an unnamed Latin American country (usually identified as Guatemala) schemes to get rid of a political adversary. The book is acclaimed for its portrayal of a totalitarian government and its damaging psychological effects.

Men of Maize” by Miguel Ángel Asturias

Another work by Asturias, “Men of Maize” is a magical realist novel that weaves together Mayan mythology and the struggles of Guatemalan indigenous communities in the early 20th century.

La Patria del Criollo: An Interpretation of Colonial Guatemala” by Severo Martínez Peláez

A classic work of Latin American history by Severo Martínez Peláez. He argues that Guatemala’s colonial legacy endures, with an elite criollo class thriving while the majority of Maya Indians and mixed-race Guatemalans suffer in poverty.

These are the books about Guatemala we recommend most

Admittedly, they present rather a heavy read, But Guatemala is a heavy country. If you’re moving to Guatemala to live colonial Antigua or on the shores of Atitlán, you should get to know the history of your new home to understand it more. And if you’re traveling around the country as a tourist, you’ll only enhance your trip with these books in your luggage. We hope you enjoy them.

James Dyde is the editor of He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.

James Dyde

James Dyde

James Dyde is a British immigrant to Costa Rica and the editor of this website. He has lived in Central America since 2000 and retains a deep love for the region. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.