30 Books Set in + About Colombia
Reading around the world doesn’t just mean that you get a variety of perspectives from different countries; it can also mean you get a variety of perspectives from within the same country. And with this list of books about Colombia you get a lot of different perspectives.
Sure, there are lots of stories of guerilla warfare and drug cartels, but we also have family memoirs, Colombia’s incredible natural world, and of course the magical realism made famous by Gabriel García Márquez.
Whether you are planning a trip to Colombia or just want to learn more about the South American country, I’m sure you can find a book on this list that sounds great to you!
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Fiction Set in Colombia
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, Translated by Gregory Rabassa
You can’t talk about books about Colombia with including their most well-known author, Gabriel García Márquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude is his best-known novel, about generations the Buendía family in the fictional town of Macondo. For fans of modern classics and magical realism.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, Translated by Edith Grossman
Love in the Time of Cholera is Márquez’s other best known work. In it, Florentino and Fermina fall in love. But when Fermina instead marries for money, Florentino is determined to eventually prove his love for her, no matter how long it takes. For fans of literary fiction and modern classics.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
Infinite Country is about one family split between two countries: Colombia and the United States. In it, Talia is trapped in a correctional facility in Colombia, desperate to get home to her family in the United States. As she tries to make her way there, we see how her family came to be split: her parent’s marriage, their move the US, the birth of her siblings, and more. For fans of contemporary fiction.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
As political violence escalates in Colombia, Chula’s family hires a new maid named Petrona from a guerilla-occupied slum. Chula is seven at the time and wants to understand Petrona, but the further she digs, the more secrets she finds. For fans of contemporary fiction and coming of age stories.
Missionaries by Phil Klay
In Colombia, four characters — a U.S. army medic, a foreign correspondent, a Colombian army officer, and a Colombian militia member — come together as special forces fight against drug cartels. This is a novel about the geopolitical aspects of violence, and how conflicts across the world can be connected by the people who experience them. For fans of political and war novels.
Delirium by Laura Restrepo, Translated by Natasha Wimmer
In this novel about instability, both mental and political, four characters struggle to keep going. There’s Augustina, who is having a mental breakdown; her husband; her husband’s former girlfriend who is a drug-trafficker; and Augustin’s grandfather. This book definitely sounds like a big metaphor for the political plights of Colombia while also reflecting the reality of what people living in Colombia have struggled with. For fans of literary fiction.
The Sounds of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vázquez, Translated by Anne McLean
When Antonio reads an article in the paper about an escaped hippo from what used to be Pablo Escobar’s zoo (yes! this is a real thing!), he recalls the violence of his country’s past and how it has shaped him. For fans of literary and political fiction.
Songs for the Flames: Stories by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Translated by Anne McLean
These short stories reflect on violence, as people are impacted, in both large and small ways, by the violence around them. For fans of short stories and literary fiction.
The Night Will Be Long by Santiago Gamboa, Translated by Andrea Rosenberg
After a young boy witnesses an act of violence in Colombia, the rest of the community claims to have seen and heard nothing. But then an accusation comes to light, and the dark side of the church is at the center of it. For fans of thrillers.
Colombiano by Rusty Young
Pedro is living a normal teenage life. But when his father is executed in front of him, he vows revenge and joins a paramilitary group. But what distinguishes him from the same group that killed his father? For fans of thrillers and long books (it’s almost 700 pages).
Non-Fiction Books About Colombia
Bolívar – American Liberator by Marie Arana
Simón Bolívar is perhaps the most famous figure in South American history, known for freeing six countries from the Spanish. This biography focuses on what made this man into a revolutionary and what his legacy is in South America. For fans of historical non-fiction and biographies.
The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself by David Bushnell
This non-fiction book tells the history of Colombia and explains what makes it so different from other South American countries. It was published in 1993, so it doesn’t have more recent history about the country. But if you are looking for a full history of Colombia, this book would be a good place to start. For fans of history books.
There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia by Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno
In the 1990s, after decades of violence, Colombia faced a new threat as paramilitary groups tied to the drug business terrorized communities. This book is about three brave individuals who exposed the links between these groups and the Colombian government. For fans of political non-fiction and true crime.
Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden
Pablo Escobar was once the world’s most notorious drug kingpin. Here, Bowden tells the story of the rise of Pablo Escobar to one of the most powerful drug lords, as well as the government’s mission to stop him. For fans of narrative non-fiction and true crime.
Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle by Ingrid Betancourt
In 2002, Betancourt was running for President of Colombia when she was kidnapped by FARC and held in the jungle until her rescue six years later. This is her memoir about that time, and is for fans of suspense, true crime, and survival stories.
Short Walks from Bogotá: Journeys in the New Colombia by Tom Feiling
For years, Colombia was known only for its dangers. But in recent years, it has become a popular tourist spot. In Short Walks from Bogotá (published in 2013), Feiling travels around Colombia, speaking to the people who have withstood (and maybe even participated in) the violent history to see the country Colombia is becoming. For fans of travel memoirs.
Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena by Jordan Salama
The Magdalena River flows from the Colombian mountains to the ocean, with mythical beginnings and a rich history. Here, Salama spends four weeks traveling down the river, sometimes on the river and sometimes by foot, learning about the history of the river, the people who live along it, and the way environmental changes may impact its future. For fans of non-fiction about nature and travel.
One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest by Wade Davis
This story is about two generations of explorers, a professor and his students (one of which is the author of this book) who explore the Amazon jungles of Colombia. For fans of adventure stories.
The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Earlier in this list, we featured Contreras fiction. But here is her memoir, about growing up with a mother and grandfather who could talk to spirits. When she suffers a head injury, her family tells her that this is how her mother gained “the secrets” and she gains access to the power as well. For fans of memoirs and complicated family stories.
Magical Realism for Non-Believers: A Memoir of Finding Family by Anika Fajardo
When Anika Fajardo is just a baby, her American mother moves from Colombia to the United States, keeping Anika there. But Anika’s father is Colombian, and as an adult she wants to meet him and understand the Colombian heritage and family she never knew. For fans for memoir.
The Book of Emma Reyes: A Memoir by Emma Reyes, Translated by Daniel Alarcón
This memoir is told in letters, as Emma Reyes recounts her life in poverty in Bogotá. Later, Reyes became a renowned artist (although I don’t think the book covers much of that). These letters were discovered after her death, and the book definitely comes with content warnings as her childhood was very difficult. For fans of memoirs and books told in letters.
Children’s Books Set in Colombia
Vámonos a Bogotá by Patty Rodriguez & Ariana Stein, Illustrated by Ana Gadinez
Introduce your child Bogotá with this bilingual book full of color illustrations, including popular sites in Bogotá, food, and traditions. Recommended ages: 0-5 years.
Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built by Angela Burke Kunkel, Illustrated by Paola Escobar
This picture book tells the story of two Josés: a little boy who can’t wait to go to the library, and a garbage collecter who started that library with books he found. This book is based on a true story, and is recommended for ages 4-8 years.
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, Illustrated by John Parra
In rural Colombia, Ana loves to read and anxiously awaits the arrival of the biblioburro, a library on a donkey. This is inspired by the real-life Luis Soriano, who began a biblioburro in Colombia to bring books to people in remote villages. Recommended ages: 5-8 years.
Biblioburro – A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter
Another story of the biblioburro in Colombia, this one focusing more on how Luis Soriano began the library that travels across rural Colombia on the backs of his donkeys. Recommended ages: 5-9 years.
Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina
In this adorable picture/chapter book combo, readers meet spunky Juana. She loves her home in Bogotá, Colombia and her dog/best friend, Lucas. But she doesn’t understand why she has to learn English in school this year, until she learns that it may actually pay off. This is a sweet story and introduces English readers to lots of Spanish words. Recommended ages: 6 and up.
My Name is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez by Monica Brown, Illustrated by Raúl Colón
This picture book tells the story of the life Gabriel García Márquez and how his big childhood imagination led him to write some of the most famous Colombian novels. Recommended ages: 6 and up.
Middle Grade & YA Books About Colombia
What If a Fish by Anika Fajardo
Eddie’s father is Colombian, but since his father died he’s never really felt Colombian. When he goes to Colombia to spend the summer with his half-brother, he has the opportunity to understand his roots and what makes him Colombian. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
First Descent by Pam Withers
Rex loves paddling challenging rivers, so he jumps at the chance to go on El Furioso in Colombia. There he meets Myriam, who lives along the river, along with adventure and danger he hadn’t expected. For fans of adventure stories and recommended for ages 12 and up.
100 Hours by Rachel Vincent
During a Spring Break beach trip to Colombia, cousins Maddie and Genesis, along with their friends, are kidnapped and held for ransom. This is for teens who love a thriller and is recommended for ages 14 and up.