Reading Cuba: Books for the Armchair Traveler


It’s less than one hundred miles from the United States but ever since John F. Kennedy blocked travel to Cuba in 1963, for most Americans Cuba might as well be on Mars.

Some determined travelers have skirted the travel block by flying from in from other countries. Others have managed to set foot on Cuban soil through organized cultural and education programs.

However, for the vast majority of American tourists, Cuba has been off limits. And it appears that despite President Obama’s recent announcement of plans to begin normalizing relations with Cuba, leisure travel to Cuba for Americans is still a long way from becoming a reality.

But while you wait, why not do some ‘armchair travel’ instead with these entertaining and informative travelogues.

Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels through Castro’s Cuba (1992) by Tom Miller.  A lively and colorful account of eight months of traveling around Cuba, gossiping with locals, riding the buses, and mixing with black marketers, cane cutters, and cigar rollers.

Mi Moto Fidel (2001) by Christopher Baker. An account of English travel writer Christopher Baker’s three month, 7000 miles journey around Cuba by motorcycle. His cherry-red 1000cc BMW Paris-Dakar bike took him up rugged mountain tracts, through old colonial posts and onto the streets of Havana.

Travellers’ Tales Cuba (2004) edited by Tom Miller. This collection of essays about Cuba from noted writers such as James Michener, Pico Iyers, Dave Eggars, and Christina Garcia, will take you from old Havana to the beaches of the north coast and everywhere in-between.

Looking for La Bomb: The Cuban Adventures of a Musical Oaf (2005) by Richard Neill. Englishman Richard Neill dreamed of playing double bass with a top Cuban Son band. So he heads for Cuba and spends a year searching for his ‘la bomba’.

The Handsomest Man in Cuba (2007) by Lynette Chiang. Australian Lynette Chiang eschewed tourist hotels and took an unpredictable day-to-day existence amongst locals during her three month journey around Cuba on a folding bicycle pulling a towable suitcase.

Slow Train to Guantanomo (2013) by Peter Millar. A slow ramble through Cuba by trains.

(image by Juriën Minke via flickr)

One Response

  1. Caleb December 22, 2014

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