Whether you’re traveling to Peru in the near future or just dreaming of a some-day visit, reading up on this location is a must before travel. Home to the ancient empire of the Incas, Peru also boasts swaths of Amazon rainforest, the highest sand dune in the world, and nearly 100 microclimates. The intertwining history of the Old World and the New over the past 500 years have shaped both cultures into what they are today, and these books give a glimpse into both the past and present of the epicenter of South America.
If you’re planning to hike the Inca trail, then this is the book for you. Author Mark Adams retraces the steps of Yale professor Hiram Bingham when he (re)discovered Machu Picchu in 1911. Rather than positioning him as the hero history teaches us, Adams casts Bingham in the role of a smuggler who plundered this fascinating archeological site. Adams offers detailed history of the experience of the trail, the harsh natural environment, and the significance of the incredible sites he encounters along the way.
One of our favorite authors, Tahir Shah, known for his works on Morocco and the Arab world, brings himself across the ocean to explore another ancient culture, the Inca. Follow him on his journey from high up in the Andes to deep in the Amazon as he hunts for the famous Incan birdmen that could supposedly fly. Shah combines his story telling literary prose with good doses of history and ethnobotony for a fascinating read.
Mario Vargas Llosa
Arguably Peru’s most celebrated, accomplished author, Mario Vargas Llosa takes us to Peru’s recent history and conflicts with the Maoist-inspired Shining Path movement that affected many rural, indigenous communities throughout the country. More than just a novel, this allegorical literary work highlights important socio-political conversations of both past and present while following its characters in a detective-style story.
Isabel Allende was born in Peru to Chilean parents, and was forced to flee to Venezuela in the 1970s before coming to the United States. Though The House of the Spirits isn’t explicitly about Peru, this renowned novel covers the lives of three generations in a saga of revolution and politics using the power of magical realism that defines Latin American literature.
With nearly two-thirds of Peru’s geography covered by the Amazon rainforest, it’s worth learning about the “lungs of the world” – and those who live in it. Wade Davis is an ethnobotanist who followed the footsteps of the legendary biologist Richard Evans Schultes to study the interconnectivity between plants and people and how that relationship shapes culture. In the 1970s, Davis was sent to South America to study coca, a plant sacred to the Inca and known as the Divine Leaf of Immortality. Though not solely set in Peru, this work offers a glimpse into the unique relationship between plants and humans among indigenous societies of South America as well as the extraordinary importance of rainforest ecology for both the local environment and the entire globe.
Thinking of a trip to Peru? Join us for our 8-day Classic Cusco & Machu Picchu itinerary!