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When you think of Mexico, you might think of a vacation destination and relaxing beaches. And while there is definitely that, there is SO much more to Mexico as a country. And this list of books about Mexico will help you learn about the history and culture of the country. Which is definitely not all sunshine and beaches.
I always find it interesting when I put book lists together how there are often certain themes that tie books together. And for Mexico, one of those major themes seems to be disappearance. Through corruption and the “war on drugs” thousands of Mexicans have gone missing, and you can see the country grappling with that violence through these books set in Mexico.
But you’re also going to get a lot of magical realism here! And horror! And gothic stories! And mythology! And art! So if those are themes you love, then I know you’ll find several books her that you will LOVE!
Top Picks for Books About Mexico
Want a quick pick? Here are our top picks for each category.
- Novel for Adults — Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia for a look at Mexico’s mythology and a dive into magical realism.
- Non-Fiction for Adults — Grieving – Dispatches From a Wounded Country by Cristina Rivera Garza, Translated by Sarah Booker for a look at how disappearances and violence have affected the country.
- Picture Book — Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales for a playful tale with a wide-age appeal.
- Middle Grade Book — Mexikid by Pedro Martín for a heartfelt family story and graphic novel.
- YA Book — Brighter Than the Sun by Daniel Aleman for a look at life on the border.
Novels Set in Mexico
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Silvia Moreno-Garcia has taken the literary world by storm since about 2020 . She has written several books about Mexico, and I’ll try not to make this whole list just books by her. While not her debut novel, Gods of Jade and Shadow made big waves when it came out in 2020. It’s set in 1920s Mexico, when a young girl dreaming of a different life opens a box and accidentally unleashes the spirit of the Mayan god of death who wants her help. For fans of historical fiction and stories rooted in mythology.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexican Gothic is another hugely successful novel for Silvia Moreno-Garcia. In this creepy story, Noemí heads to a countryside mansion to help her cousin, newly married and newly terrified of something. Noemí is going to figure out what’s going on, but both her cousin’s husband’s family and the house they live in bring all kinds of terrors. For fans of gothic horror.
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
In 1970s Mexico, Maite hasn’t really concerned herself with the ongoing violence and protests. But then her neighbor disappears and she’s drawn into the investigation to find out what happened along with a guy named Elvis. For fans of noir.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This historical novel isn’t a straightforward historical novel; it’s also a science fiction novel. In the Yucatan jungle, Carlota is the only child of Dr. Moreau, who has created a strange race of part-human part-animal creatures. Then the son of his patron shows up and makes a mistake that has unintended consequences. For fans of historical novels and science fiction.
Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros
In this novel, Lala Reyes’s family travels from Chicago to Mexico City to visit their grandfather and grandmother, who is known as Awful Grandmother. But how did she get to be so awful? And what’s true about their family story and what’s exaggeration? This is a multi-generational family story that explore the stories passed down from generation to generation from one of the most well-known Latina writers in recent decades. For fans of family stories.
The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia, Translated by Simon Bruni
When baby Simonopie is found abandoned and covered in a blanket of bees, most of the town is suspicious. But the Morales family adopts him. As he grows up though, they discover that he can see the future and wants to protect his family from the dangers he can see. For fans of historical fiction, literary fiction, and magical realism.
The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas
When Beatriz’s father is killed during the Mexican War of Independence, she jumps at the chance to marry Don Rodolfo Solórzano. But something isn’t right, and rumors are swirling about what happened to his first wife. (Hint: This definitely has some parallels to Rebecca.) For fans of supernatural horror and gothic novels.
Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas
Nena and Néstor are childhood sweethearts, but when he believes Nena to be dead, he runs away. Years later though, they find each other again (she wasn’t dead!). But she feels like he abandoned and they have to work through that. But all that drama is nothing compared to possible actual literal vampires lurking. For fans of gothic horror.
Lotería by Cynthia Pelayo
This book of short stories is based on the cards of the Mexican board game of Lotería. Here, each card gets its own story, steeped in Mexican folklore and mytholgy. Some stories include “The Little Devil,” “The Mermaid” and “The Scorpion” if that gives you an idea of what to expect. For fans of paranormal books and horror.
A Ballad of Love and Glory by Reyna Grande
Set during the Mexican-American War, here we have Ximena, a Mexican healer whose husband has been killed, and John, a US soldier who deserts the army to fight for Mexico. When they meet, they start to fall in love, but in the midst of war nothing is certain. For fans of historical fiction and love stories.
The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo by F.G. Haghenbeck, Translated by Archy Obejas
Frida Kahlo had a fascinating life. She spent months in bed, hardly able to move after a streetcar accident, and her imagination flourished. She then went on to become one of the most famous Mexican artists ever, and was married to one of the other most famous artists, Diego Rivera. Drawing from notebooks that were discovered after her death, Haghnebeck tells a fictionalized version of Kahlo’s life. Perfect for fans of historical fiction and biographies.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
I like to say this book is like a telenovela in book format. It’s a historical novel that takes place during the Mexican Revolution, and at its center are Tita who dream of marrying her true love, and her mother, Mama Elena, who forbids the marriage (because Tita has to take care of her) and offers another daughter instead. It’s a book full of drama and passion, and it also includes the recipes that define Tita’s life. For fans of historical fiction, modern classics, and books about food.
The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
Luis Alberto Urrea has written many great books (one of my favorites is The House of Broken Angels) but many consider this to be his masterpiece. He spent decades researching and writing it, and it’s based on his actual great-aunt Teresita who was a healer and recognized by many as a saint, which meant that lots of people in power also felt threatened by her. For fans of historical fiction and magical realism.
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, Translated by Sophie Hughes
Hurricane Season is a unique novel set in a small Mexican village, as residents discover a local woman’s body (the local witch) and then perspectives shift to many of them as they investigate what happened. There’s A LOT of darkness here, not just with the murder of the woman but with the residents themselves. So this novel isn’t for the faint of heart. For fans of literary, stylized fiction.
Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis
This is a book for adults about what it’s like to be a teen. Luisa is 17, and gets on a bus in Mexico City one afternoon with a boy she barely knows and is obsessed with finding a group of escaped Ukrainian circus performers. Meanwhile, her father is trying to track her down. Yes, this sounds bizarre, but was the winner of the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, so it’s perfect for fans of literary fiction.
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano, Translated by Natasha Wimmer
When Arturo and Ulises go on the hunt for a famous, mysterious poet, things go terribly wrong and they go on the run. While some of this book takes place in Mexico, a lot of it is about Arturo and Ulises as they move across the world and meet different people (in fact, there are a lot of different voices and perspectives here). But it still belongs on our list of books about Mexico because Bolano is a notable author from Mexico. For fans of literary fiction.
Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren are three estranged friends who decide to rectify their relationships with a girls’ trip to Tulum, Mexico. But once they are there, Ashley disappears and Natalie and Lauren are left to figure out what happened and if the secrets they are keeping from each other have anything to do with it. For fans of psychological suspense.
Tomorrow Their Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt
Jenna has planned the perfect vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to celebrate her husband’s 50th birthday. But when they arrive, things seem to be going wrong. Their teenage daughter is hanging out with a boy they’d rather her not. Her husband is making secret phone calls. And their best friends are acting weird. For fans of dysfunctional family stories and contemporary fiction.
Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo, Translated by Douglas J. Weatherford
In this modern classic, a man goes on a quest to find his father, Pedro Páramo. What he discovers though is an actual ghost town, filled with spirits who tell him about his father. For fans of modern classics, dark fiction, and ghost stories.
Read more about Latin America with these books set in Colombia.
Non-Fiction Books About Mexico
Grieving – Dispatches From a Wounded Country by Cristina Rivera Garza, Translated by Sarah Booker
This non-fiction book focuses on the collective violence Mexico has experienced as a result of the “War on Drugs” and the violence at the border. As a whole, the people of Mexico have faced so much grief, and it impacts not just their society but of course the individual lives of those who have lost someone. Here, Garza writes to both process that grief and put it in context of the political realities. For fans of political, yet reflective, non-fiction.
In the Mouth of the Wolf: A Murder, a Cover-up, and the True Cost of Silencing the Press by Katherine Corcoran
When notable Mexican journalist Regina Martínez is murdered in 2012, fellow-journalist Katherine Corcoran travels to Veracruz to try to get to the bottom of why she was killed. Martínez was known for publishing articles exposing local corruption, so did she have information that ultimately led someone to murder her? For fans of true crime.
Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire and Revolution in the Borderlands by Kelly Lytle Hernández
This books tells the little-known story of the magonistas in Mexico, who played a role in the beginning of the Mexican Revolution and the ousting of President Porfirio Díaz. But since Díaz was backed by the US, they were also evading the FBI (one of the FBI’s early cases!) and US officials. For fans of historical and political non-fiction.
Peter Heller gets a late start in the surfing life, but he’s determined to learn everything he can and not be a “kook” (beginner, clueless surfer) anymore. He and his partner Kim spend months traveling up and down the coast of Mexico’s Baja peninsula, catching waves and gleaning wisdom from all kinds of surfers. This is a great beach vacation book and pairs great with one of my favorite books ever, Barbarian Days. For fans of travel memoir and adventure.
Children’s Books About Mexico
Vámonos a Oaxaca by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein, Illustrated by Ana Godinez
This fun board book introduces young kids to the culture, food, people, and traditions of Oaxaca, Mexico. The illustrations are bright and adorable, and the text is written in both English and Spanish. Recommended ages: 0-5 years.
Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales
This book is perfect for little lucha libre fans! In this playful book, Niño takes on all kinds of adversaries in wrestling matches from the fictional (like La Llorona) to the real (like his sisters). Recommended ages: 2-6 years.
Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales
When Señor Calavera (translated: Mr. Skull…he’s actually a skeleton) shows up and take Grandma Beetle with him (I presume to death?), the grandmother tricks him to stay longer and eventually invites the skeleton to celebrate her birthday with her. And despite the darker undertones that adults might get (like, you know, death), children will find this playful and funny as Señor Calvara grows more dismayed at his inability to take Grandma Beetle. Recommended ages: 2-6 years.
Ancient Night by David Bowles, Illustrated by David Alvarez
This beautifully illustrated book draws on two ancient legends of the sun and moon. Rabbit must travel to keep the moon lit, while his rival, Opossum, thwarts his efforts, eventually leading to the creation of the sun. It’s such cute story (and for real! the illustrations are so pretty!) and it’s a great introduction myth for younger kids. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
Perfect for reading at Christmas time, this book retells the Mexican legend of the poinsettia as a girl named Lucida goes to church on Christmas and gives an unselfish gift. This is a book that is always in our Christmas book basket (yes, I have a special stack that comes out at Christmas) and I think it’s a sweet read for kids of all ages (even if there are recommended ages). Recommended ages: 5-10 years.
The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes by Duncan Tonatiuh
This picture book tells the legend of Mexico City’s two volcanoes, Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatle. In the story, Itza is a princess in love with the warrior Popoca, who her father does not want her to marry. But he strikes a deal that Popoca can marry her if he can defeat Jaguar Claw. Recommended ages: 6-9 years.
Middle Grade & YA Books Set in Mexico
The Story of Frida Kahlo by Susan B. Katz
We love this biography series in our house! This one tells the story of Frida Kahlo’s life from her devastating accident to her incredible life as an artist, always pushing boundaries and herself. Recommended ages: 6-9 years.
Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes
When Paloma travels to Mexico City, she hopes to find a connection with her deceased father and maybe remember more about him. Once she’s there though, she meets new friends who want her to help them find a special peacock ring that once belonged to Frida Kahlo, and the adventure begins! Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
Solimar – The Sword of the Monarchs by Pam Muñoz Ryan
When Solimar is about to turn 15, she is granted a power to protect the vulnerable butterflies she loves so much. But then her kingdom is overthrown, and she must embark on a journey not just to continue protecting the butterflies but also save her home. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau
Clara Luna has never met her father’s parents who live in Mexico. But then she is invited to spend the summer with them in rural southern Mexico. She makes new friends, learns about her family, and goes in search of a mysterious waterfall. And it all changes her understanding of herself. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera
When a criatura spirit captures Cece’s sister, Cece is determined to find her. But the only way to control criaturas is to be a bruja (witch), which is definitely illegal. But Cece is determined to become one anyway, hide it from everyone, and rescue her sister. And if kids love this one, it’s the first in a series. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
Lotería by Karla Arenas Valenti, Illustrated by Dana Sanmar
When Clara’s cousin disappears, she is determined to find him (which will definitely involve some magic and myth). But unbeknownst to her, her fate is in the hands of the Lotería cards. Will life or death win? Recommended ages: 8-12 years. old.
Mexikid by Pedro Martín
In this graphic memoir, Pedro Martín travels with his family to Mexico to get his grandfather, who is going to come live with them. He’s always heard stories about his grandfather, but he isn’t so sure about this whole abuelito-moving-in-with-them thing. But over the course of the trip, he connects with his grandfather and grows up too. Recommended ages: 10-15 years.
¡Ay Mija!: My Bilingual Summer in Mexico by Christine Suggs
In this graphic novel, Christine Suggs tells about their summer they spent in Mexico visiting family. At first, they didn’t feel like they fit in, and then they do. But when Christine’s mom shows up, they aren’t ready for their two worlds to collide. Recommended ages: 12 and up.
Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe García McCall
When Odilia and her sisters find a dead man, the go on a journey to return him to his home in Mexico. But what awaits them are spirits, witches, and creatures who will test them. This is a retelling of the Odyssey for YA readers. Recommended ages: 13 and up.
Brighter Than the Sun by Daniel Aleman
Sol lives a life in two countries. Her home is in Tijuana, but she crosses the border into the US every day to go to school. But then her family starts struggling even more than they already were, and she feels the burden of helping them out, which means she moves in with her friend in the US so she can work and make money to send home. But what does this mean for the future she dreamed about? And the family she’s missing? Recommended ages: 14 and up.
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