Read Before You Travel: 6 Best Books About Cuba

Travel to Cuba is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before! If you’re looking for some inspiration or background knowledge about Cuba’s complex and fascinating history, culture, and people, I recommend reading books about Cuba (or watching a movie) before your trip to build a good point of reference.

This ultimate guide to the best books about Cuba will inspire you as you plan, prepare for, and embark on your travel adventure in Cuba! It covers a variety of books about Cuba, from Cuban history and the Cuban Revolution to culture, language, and much more.


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Before we dive in, most of these books are available on Audible, Amazon’s online audiobook and podcast platform. Once we discovered just how much is available on Audible and how easy it is to use, we were quick converts to the platform.

Use this link to get a free 30-day trial membership, which includes your first audiobook free, so you can start checking these books off your list!

Best Books About Cuba

The Motorcycle Diaries

Diarios de Motocicleta

This book isn’t about Cuba specifically, but it is so inextricably linked to the Cuban Revolution that it’s like a must-read prelude.

The Motorcycle Diaries is composed of the travel diaries of Ernesto “Che” Guevara on a motorcycle trip across Latin America – in them, you’ll see the roots of the philosophy that he carried with him only a short time later as a leader of the Cuban Revolution.

For travelers to Cuba, having read something written by Che before seeing his face and learning his history everywhere you go in Cuba will make your trip that much more meaningful.

This book is one of the all-time best road trip tales, and I found it to be extremely readable. I first read it while on my own road trip through the Southern Bolivian highlands in college, a place also closely linked to Che’s history.  I highly recommend the movie, too.

The Motorcycle Diaries is Available on Amazon

prices in cuba

¡Cuba Libre!

Cuba is so much more than the Revolution, but I wanted to include a book about it on this list because as a traveler you’ll hear about it constantly and see its imprints on Cuba.

It’s hard to find a book about the Cuban Revolution makes everyone, on both sides of the political spectrum, perfectly happy. I doubt one can be found anymore, really.

However, Cuba Libre makes my list because of its readability and comprehensiveness for those that are just starting to learn more. It weaves together some fascinating anecdotes of the making of the revolution with the larger history in a really nice way for readers.   

¡Cuba Libre! is Available on Amazon

What to Pack for Cuba

Check out our Ultimate Cuba Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Cuba and what we never travel without.

Back Channel to Cuba

This is the behind-the-scenes story of secret negotiations between the United States and Cuba that lasted for decades, leading up to President Obama’s December 2014 announcement of a “new approach” to Cuba.

It is extremely illustrative of U.S. policy towards Cuba, and will give you a taste of the way U.S. policy has shaped Cuba’s history in sometimes extreme ways – which you’ll witness firsthand as you travel through Cuba and speak with Cubans.

Back Channel to Cuba is Available on Amazon

havana cuba

La Paloma y La Ley

This beautiful work of photojournalism shares stories of Cuba, but from abroad, where so many Cubans remake their country.

It documents the perilous journey of two Cuban migrants from Guyana – the only country in the Americas that allows Cubans to visit without a visa – through South and Central America to the border of Mexico and the United States. Like those who chose to go by sea, many, many did not make the journey.

While the photos are taken outside of Cuba, they are intimately linked with recent Cuban history. This book will shed light on what you see on your trip, and how migration has become such an important part of Cuban history after the Revolution.

Bonus Tip: Follow the author, Lisette Poole on Instagram at @LisettePoole for a preview of the book and so much more. Her photography and the stories she shares with it are exceptional.

La Paloma y La Ley Available from Red Hook Editions in Print

The Dogs of Cuba and The Cats of Cuba

Do I even need to explain why these books are must-reads?!

A collection of photographs and commentary, this pair of books by Emmy Park captures the soul of Cuba through its animals. In reality, these books are just as much a portrait of Cuba as they are of it is of these animals.

They’d also make a great gift for a photography lover, animal lover, or anyone who has traveled to Cuba.

The Dogs of Cuba and The Cats of Cuba are Available on Amazon

varadero beach car

The Old Man and the Sea 

You may have read Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea in high school English class, but this book is definitely worth revisiting. It is the classic and enduring story of a Cuban fisherman overcoming loss.

Written in 1952, this book is essential, especially if you have any desire to visit Hemingway’s home, Finca Vigía, or any other spots on the so-called Hemingway Trail while in Cuba. 

The Old Man And The Sea is Available on Amazon

Carley Rojas Avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Home to Havana and Explorers Away. She is a serial expat and traveler, having visited 40+ countries and counting. Carley has written for publications like Travel + Leisure, MSN, Associated Press, Weather Channel, Wealth of Geeks, and more. Find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.