Any project that involves traveling needs a good dosage of preparation. And that includes books. Lots of them! We made a list with some of the books we read before this trip. Almost all of them were bought through the Amazon website.
1. South America on a shoestring (Lonely Planet Travel Guide) - Lonely Planet travel guides are a classic for anyone travelling!. This book gives you an overview of all countries in South America, including some tips about journeys you can do, getting around, how to arrive there, places to stay, eat and things you should not miss at all. As I said, it has a good overview of South America, but does not have too detailed information. You will need more than this book to plan a trip across South America, specially if you are planning to stay in some cities for a while (like we are planning to do).
2. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent by Eduardo Galeano - Although I also believe that "underdevelopment in South America is a result of development elsewhere", I'm afraid I don't agree with other several comments made by the author in this book. Nevertheless, this is also a book about Latin America History, from the colonization to the actuality. This book describes the colonization process first by Spain and Portugal and then a different kind of colonization by other European countries (like UK) and US. This is also a book about the Latin America culture and people. If you are planning to visit South America like us, this is a mandatory reading to get a deeper understanding of these countries History and culture.
3. The Gringo Trail: A Darkly Comic Road Trip through South America by Mark Mann - This is a funny book about backpacking in South America, including countries like Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. But I've found this reading a little bit of everything: travel guide, comic stories, History, romance. Sometimes it seems it wants to please everyone which is not my idea of the perfect book! Anyway I specially enjoyed the descriptions about nature in Amazon and beach costal zones in Colombia.
4. Lonely Planet Brazil (Travel Guide) - We bought this book a few days before starting our trip. We had already the Lonely Planet South America guide but we needed a more specific guide about Brazil, our first country int his journey. What we liked most was the proposal itineraries and the suggestions about the best areas/places to visit and stay.
5. Great Journeys: Travel the World's Most Spectacular Routes (Lonely Planet) - Although this book is not about South America (we knew that before we bought it!), it is a great book to get into the concept of journeys across the Globe. The book is organized in types of journeys you can do, namely overland, rail, river, sea, road, walks and others. It is amazing how many different kind of journeys you can do around the world, and I specially liked the photos chosen for the book, the suggested essential experiences and the ideal time commitment. Regarding South America, this book includes the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Amazon River, the Argentina's Patagonian Highway, the Pan-American Highway and the Che Guevara's Motorcycle Diaries.
6. Rio das Flores by Miguel Sousa Tavares - This is an historical romance about Portugal, Spain and Brazil in the first half of the XX century. A time of war, dictatorship, social inequalities, adventures, love and dreams. This book is about pursuing your dreams, which sometimes make you to leave your own country (Portugal) and build another and completely different life in other place (Brazil). It is a book about people, cultures and decisions that change our life forever. It show us the difference between people that accept life the way it is (even if does not make them happy) and people that is constantly looking for things that make them happy.
7. The Postman by Antonio Skarmeta - This book is the history of Pablo Neruda, a Communist exiled from Chile into a small Italian island, and Mario, the son of a fisherman that converts himself into Neruda's postman. The book is about the maestro/student relationship between Pablo and Mario where, despite the consequences, neither of them hesitates to be honest with their ideas and views. This is a story about convictions, idealism, love and future. It also describes life and ideals of Chile during the 1970s.
8. Captains of the Sands ("Capitaes de Areia") by Jorge Amado - This is a must-read if you plan to visit Brazil, and specially if you plan to spend some days around the Brazilian state of Bahia. The book is about the daily life of a gang of several orphans and abandoned children that beg, gamble and steal in order to survive the Brazilian streets. But this book is more than that, it is a book about the innocence childhood and the hard life reality, freedom and fragility, protection and abandon. It is also a book about growing and social inequality. Loved the descriptions and the way the author explains simple routines and young people thoughts. If you speak Portuguese, I recommend to read the original book and not the translation.
If you've found this reviews helpful and are considering to buy any of this books, please do it through the links above (just click in the book image). This help us to maintain our website, its content and social work across South America!