The People's Guide To Mexico

For More Information
Favorite Mexico Books
The Best of Mexico
Copper Canyon
Live & Retire in Mexico

For More Information: Mexico Books

Book Reviews

page 6

Book Reviews of

Viva MexicoHistoryArmchair TravelNovels

Recommended Reading Bookshelves:

The Maya
Mexico City
Healthy Living in Mexico
Copper Canyon & Northern Mexico
Speaking Spanish
Gulf of Mexico
Live & Retire in Mexico
¡Viva Mexico!
Highlands: & Chapala
RV & Camping
For the armchair traveler
Natural Mexico
Introduction to Our Favorite Mexico Books
For Out-of-Print Books try Powell's in Portland
Click on 'Covers' and 'Order' links to Order Books from

¡Viva Mexico!

¡Gringo! by Nick Threndyle

Moments from ¡Gringo! are familiar to the serious Mextripper: a lone van nestles for the night at the foot of a desert mountain, a Mexican family arrives for a fully clothed swim in the river, a ‘ghost campground’ is recognized by....Comic book doesn’t quite capture ¡Gringo!, but it’s not a graphic novel either.... (more) Review by Felisa Rosa Rogers

Geo-Mexico: The Geography and Dynamics of Modern Mexico, by Richard Rhoda and Tony Burton, 2010 Canada: Sombrero Books

Growing up in a parochial school system, I was under the impression that the subject geography was limited to identifying countries by their shapes. Richard Rhoda and Tony Burton's Geo-Mexico drove the last nail in the coffin of my childhood misconception. Although it has its share of maps, the volume illustrates both the richness of geography as a field of study and the spectrum of cultural, economic, and environmental anomalies that make Mexico so eternally fascinating.... (more) Review by Felisa Churpa Rosa Rogers Order Geo-Mexico

A War Of Witches: A Journey into the Underworld of the Contemporary Aztecs

An incredibly readable account of how Dr.Timothy Knab started out to do a scientific sociological study of the political/social struggles of the curanderos (medicine men/women) of the area and ended up becoming the pupil of acurandero . As he slowly wins the trust of the locals, Knab is drawn into a generations-long feud among the "witches" of the area involving alleged poisonings and spells which have terrorized the community.... (Full Review by Flo Ariessohn) Order A War Of Witches

Indo-Hispanic Folk Art Traditions Vol. I & II

These oversized, abundantly illustrated books by Bobbi Salinas-Norman will make folk art come to life for both children and adults. Using two of the most important and colorful Indo-Hispanic holidays as examples, Bobbi Salinas-Norman clearly explains the cultural roots of Indo-Hispanic folk art and its importance in contemporary life. "The Day of the Dead offers us the opportunity to examine this universal experience in the context of a family tradition, illuminated by the hope of an afterlife. "In the pre-Hispanic cultures of Meso-America, especially the Nahua (Toltec, Aztec, Tlaxcaltec, Chichimec, Tecpanec and others from the Valley of Mexico), life was seen as a dream. Only in dying did a human being truly awake. For a people who lived with human suffering, death offered a release from daily living and the restrictions imposed by other cultures. Death was not feared because it was inevitable." (Excerpt) Order from Powell's in Portland

Bobbi Salinas is also the author of The Three Little Pigs.

•A Treasury of Mexican Folkways: The Customs, Myths, Folklore, Traditions, Beliefs, Fiestas, Dances, and Songs of the Mexican People

By Frances Toor, 1985, Bonanza Books. Order A Treasury of Mexican Folkways

•Distant Neighbors

By Alan Riding. A fascinating look at the inner workings of Mexico, from popular customs to its complex political systems. Highly praised, even by Mexicans. Order Distant Neighbors

•Beyond Culture

by Edward Hall, 1981, Anchor Books, Doubleday. The author examines the roots of culture and suggests why Mexicans are so uniquely... Mexican. Order Beyond Culture

•The Art of Crossing Cultures

By Craig Storti, 1990, Intercultural Press, Inc. If you’ve dreamed of living in Mexico but wondered how you’d adapt, this book analyzes the causes of culture shock and gives how-to-cope suggestions that really work. Storti avoids lecturing and tempers practical advice on dealing with foreign cultures with illuminating examples and wonderful, entertaining excerpts from an illustrious field of writers. Order The Art of Crossing Cultures

•Mexico South: The Isthmus of Tehuantepec

by Covarrubias, 1946, Alfred A. Knopf. Another classic work on Mexican culture and folkways. Order Mexico South from Powell's in Portland


The Life and Times of Pancho Villa

By Freidrich Katz, 1998. 100th Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution.

•Judas at the Jockey Club

If I hadn't found this book used, for just two bucks, the combination of the author's scholarly credentials and the odd title might well have deflected me from a most illuminating and delightful read.... (Full Review) Order Judas at the Jockey Club

•The Conquest of Mexico

By Hugh Thomas, 1993, Random House. Using previously unpublished material gleaned from ancient archives, the author has created the only history book I simply couldn't put down. His story of the Conquest is a fantastic accomplishment that outdoes fiction. Order The Conquest of Mexico

•Many Mexicos

By Lesly Byrd Simpson. The author untangles several confusing revolutions and throws in the strange-but-true story of Santa Anna’s missing leg for good measure. Order Many Mexicos

For the armchair traveler

•Quest For The Lost City

By Dana and Ginger Lamb, Santa Barbara Press. When I first began exploring Mexico I was strongly influenced by the Lamb's gutsy yet humorous approach to adventure. The Lambs set off for Mexico in 1937 with $10.16 in their pockets and an unerring, outrageous nose for adventure. Wear a pith helmet and sharpen your machete for this one. Order this out-of-print book from Powell's in Portland.

•Enchanted Vagabonds

By Lamb and Cleveland, 1938, Harper and Brothers Publishers.Order this out-of-print book from Powell's in Portland.

•A Vagabond in Mexico

By S. Guzmán-C. In 1975, S. Guzmán-C. left a “meaningless job and a rather insipid life” and headed for western Mexico. As a tourist Guzmán cannot legally work in Mexico, but nonetheless takes a succession of jobs with fishermen, chicken ranchers, janitors, farmers and leather workers. If finding work does not seem all that difficult in Mexico, the same can’t be said for a decent wage. Like millions of Mexicans, Guzmán’s initial hopes of a “good living” are gradually replaced by a life of poverty. The author eventually confronts the wrenching dilemma that so many hardworking, impoverished Mexicans face today -- that of leaving their friends and family behind and heading north, toward the elusive promise of a better life. A Vagabond In Mexico is an unusual, thought-provoking book. In particular, anyone who thinks that Mexican “illegals” are easily drawn over the border should find it instructive....(For a full review) Order A Vagabond in Mexico

•A Small Mexican World

By Spratling, 1932, Little, Brown and Company. (Originally entitled "Little Mexico".) Order this out-of-print book from Powell's in Portland.

•Viva Mexico! a Traveller’s Account of Life in Mexico

By Charles Flandrau, 1990, Eland & Hippocrene. First published in 1908, this humorous but compassionate account of five years on a remote coffee plantation is probably my favorite book on Mexico. Flandrau’s insights into the customs and character of rural Mexicans—and expatriate gringos—still apply today. Order this out-of-print book from Powell's in Portland.

•The Mexicans: A Personal Portrait of a People

By Patrick Oster, 1989, Harper and Row Publishers. Order The Mexicans

The Volcanoes from Puebla

By Kenneth Gangemi. From Acapulco and Bakery, through Cerveza... and Mangoes..., Gangemi’s attention shifts from Political Notes... to Street Snacks... and finally, Zocalo. “I considered it an achievement, for someone of my background, to be able to sit quietly in a plaza and do absolutely nothing. When I lived in Mexico I had the time for such a worthwhile activity. Sitting in the plaza I had the time to think about the really important things, such as the differences between the morning and afternoon sunshine.” Highly recommended! .... (Full Review) Order The Volcanoes from Puebla

Tarahumara: Where Night is the Day of the Moon,

By Bernard Fontana, 1997. The subtitle of the book derives from the Tarahumar's belief that the soul works at night while the body sleeps and that during this "day of the moon" both the spirits of the dead and the souls of the living move about in their mysterious ways.

God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre

By Richard Grant, 2008. A guy looking for adventure and trouble, and finding it.

The Apache Diaries: A Father-son Journey

By Goodwin & Goodwin, 2000. Apaches were in the Sierra Madre as late as the 1940's as documented by a kidnapping near Bacadehuachi. This book's investigation takes place primarily in the Sierra Las Espuelas, just west of Janos; but still the remote sierras.

Trail of Feathers: Searching for Phillip True

By Robert Rivard, 2003. A murder investigaion in the Sierra Huichol.

In the Sierra Madre

By Jeff Biggers, 2006. A tale of an American couple trying to fit in, and be accepted in a Tarahumaran village in the1980's.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

By Christopheer McDougall, 2009. On the New York Times bestseller book list for over 2 years. His book is a good read on several counts, and really made the running shoe industry take note- so they made those barefoot runners, instead. His book is interesting for (1)endurance, featuring the Tarahumara, (2) Caballo Blanco history, (3) The myth of running shoe, and that they basically created foot problems by trying to outdo nature's engineering of the foot.

•Travelers’ Tales: Mexico

By James O’Reilly and Larry Habegger, 1994, Travelers’ Tales Inc. An anthology of articles, stories and musings from a wide variety of authors. Order Travelers’ Tales: Mexico

Face to Face with the Mexicans

By Francis Gardiner Gooch, 1887, reprint by Southern Illinois University Press. Order this out-of-print book from Powell's in Portland.

•The Man Who Likes Mexico

By Wallace Gillpatrick, 1912, The Century Co. Order this out-of-print book from Powell's in Portland.

•The Three Pigs: Los Tres Cerdos

by Bobbi Salinas. An illustrated bilingual fable by the author of Indo Hispanic Folk Traditions, this is a delightful book that both adults and children will enjoy. Order Los Tres Cerdos

•Where the Strange Roads Go Down

By Mary Del Villar, Fred Del Villar, Mary Del Villar & Susan Hardy Aiken, 1953. (reprint 1991) Order Where the Strange Roads Go Down

•The Bakery of the Three Whores

By James, 1994, InkPot Press (poetry) Tales of 3 gringas who operate a bakery in a remote Yucatecan village. Order The Bakery of the Three Whores from Powell's in Portland.

•Old Mother Mexico

By Harry Carr, 1931, Houghton Mifflin Company. Order Old Mother Mexico from Powell's in Portland.


The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, by C. M. Mayo

The story has plenty to lure the reader: banditry, kidnapping, hubris, madness; but it is a fine attention to detail, on both the factual and visceral levels, that distinguishes C.M. Mayo's first novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. Drawing from original research and a nuanced understanding of Mexico, Mayo relates one of the country's more fantastic historical episodes: Maximilian, an idealistic Austrian prince who, with French backing, is crowned emperor of Mexico in 1864.

With his young wife, the Belgian princess Charlotte, Maximilian is thrust into a role that makes Obama's 2008 task list seem mild…. (more) Review by Felisa Churpa Rosa Rogers. Order The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire...

•Rain of Gold

"I've recently finished Victor Villasenor's family biography, Rain of Gold, a rich historical recounting of how both branches of his Mexican rooted family were forced by revolution to migrate to the north, to the United States. In it he tells the magnificent love story of his parents. Do loves like that truly happen? His father deceived his mother, kept secret his source of livelihood as boot-legger and gambler for the first several years of their marriage. Here was intentional deception, not the mere blindness of impassioned love. How could the lies not undermine, scar, cripple the relationship? Yet that marriage endured, more happily than not, according to his cuenta." Review by Tina Rosa from her story, "56". Order Rain of Gold

•Stones for Ibarra

By Harriet Doerr. A bright, moving account of Americans living in a small Mexican village. (fiction) Order Stones for Ibarra

•Under the Volcano

By Malcolm Lowry. A dark, introspective and powerfully written cantina-crawl that probably isn’t for everyone. (fiction) Reprinted April 2,000. Order Under the Volcano

Good Novels about Mexico are as rare as a blue-eyed Iguana. Many aspiring novelists feel compelled to exaggerate Mexico, which is unfortunate because the real Mexico and real Mexicans are far more fascinating than a Mexico depicted by a runaway imagination....Mr. Kira constructs an utterly believable saga about life in a remote Baja fish camp in the middle third of this century. The characters are complex and the dangers formidable as the pangueros and their families go about living solely at the whim of the elements.... (more) Review by David "El Codo" Eidell Order King of the Moon


By Charles Portis. The author of True Grit writes an entertaining saga of expatriate escapades among the Maya. Order Gringos

Also good by Charles Portis, The Dog of the South (fiction). Order The Dog of the South

•The Long Night of White Chickens

By Francisco Goldman, 1992, Atlantic Monthly Press (fiction). Order The Long Night of White Chickens


By Gary Jennings. A complete “hammock book,” this thick, sexy historical saga oozes blood and pre-Columbian details. (fiction) Order Aztec

•The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

By Bruno Traven. You've seen the movie, now try the book. (fiction) Order The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Index to Reviews of our Favorite Mexico Books

•1) Guides, People & Places: Mexico General • Mexico City • Copper CanyonBajaGulf of Mexico • Highlands • Oaxaca
•2) Guides, People & Places of the Mayan World • Yucatan • The Maya • Guatemala • Belize
•3) Live & RetireWomen
•4) Driving • RV & Camping • Adventures • Natural Mexico
•5) Food • Healthy Living • Shopping • Speaking Spanish
•6) Viva Mexico • History • Armchair Travelers • Novels

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he People's Guide to Mexico
13th edition
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©1972-2011 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens