At the last minute I decided to take an e-reader with me to South America, and it turned out to be one of the most useful items on the trip. It really came into its own on those long bus journeys and rainy days when there was nothing to do. And it wasn’t just for the sudoku! You can download hundreds of free classics with an e-reader (Dickens, Bronte, Joyce, etc.), which is great, but in a lot of ways they don’t quite ‘fit’ with Latin America. For example it is a bit of a strange experience reading a Henry James novel set in rural England while trekking through the Amazon jungle.
So I have a recommendation for any one who might want to enhance their experience of South America with a book that gives you a bit of an insight to the continent. To be honest you really don’t need look any further than Eduardo Galeano’s definitive history, The Open Veins of Latin America.
It says something that I’m recommending a non-fiction book. I usually avoid them like the plague and stick to stories, but this is essential reading. The subtitle of the book is ‘five centuries of the pillage of a continent’, so as you might be able to guess, it isn’t an uplifting tome, but it’s eye-opening and possibly life-changing. I simply failed to comprehend the horrific affect the USA and Europe have had on the continent until I began reading this. The coups, the massacres, the slavery, the plantations, the mines, the oil magnates, the deception, the thievery and the exploitation. If you want any sort of background to this part of the world (central America included), you just have to read it!
If on the other hand you are craving a story to pass the time on those long journeys, then I would look no further than Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Great book, and it’s huge, so it’ll last a long time on a long trip.