Puerto Rico: lush forests and tropical beaches. But also, Puerto Rico: land that has been colonized and people who have been left bereft in the wake of recent hurricanes. This list of books about Puerto Rico captures the history and culture of this US territory, from colonization, to the influx of Puerto Ricans moving to the US mainland, to more recent news about how Puerto Rico has been treated by the United States after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
I really learned so much about Puerto Rico by reading some of these books and putting this list together. And I definitely added some books about Puerto Rico to my to-be-read list. If you are thinking about a trip to Puerto Rico and want to travel responsibly by learning more about the country before you go, or if you are just interested in Puerto Rican culture and history, I hope you can find a great book on this list for you!
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Novels Set in Puerto Rico
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
Olga is a successful wedding planner in NYC. She hasn’t heard from her mother in years, and she’s just fine with that mostly. But when Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico, her revolutionary mother comes back into the life of Olga and her brother, seeking help. I listened to this on audio and it’s fantastic in that format! For fans of contemporary fiction.
Velorio by Xavier Navarro Aquino
So many recent books about Puerto Rico deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and how it has affected the people of the island. In this novel set after Hurricane Maria, a cult leader rises to create an attempted utopia: Memoria. But the people in his cult are maybe starting to see it for what it is. Meanwhile, a woman whose sister has died during the hurricane, seeks to travel to this supposed paradise. For fans of literary fiction and books with cults.
After the Hurricane by Leah Franqui
Elena’s relationship with her father is complicated. She has wanted so badly to know more about his past life, but before she can, he returns to Puerto Rico and they lose touch. Then, when Hurricane Maria strikes. he disappears and Elena travels to the island to search for him and maybe learn more about her family. For fans of contemporary fiction and family stories and novels with a bit of suspense.
The Taste of Sugar by Marisel Vera
As both the Spanish-American war and a hurricane approach the colony of Puerto Rico, a couple is trying to keep their coffee farm in the mountains afloat. In their desperation, they eventually move to Hawaii with the promise of sugar planation prosperity. For fans of historical and literary fiction.
A Woman of Endurance by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
In this novel about the slave trade in Puerto Rico, Pola is traumatized over and over again as she is purchased as a breeder to grow slavery. By all accounts, this is a brutal read, but it is still a story about hope and survival, as Pola finds support, love, and community. For fans of historical fiction who can deal with some trauma.
América’s Dream by Esmeralda Santiago
In Puerto Rico, América works as a hotel maid. She has an alcoholic mother, an abusive boyfriend, and a difficult teenage daughter. So when she get an offer to move to New York and become a live-in maid, it seems like her chance to escape. But can you ever truly escape? For fans of contemporary fiction.
The House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferré
In this novel set in Puerto Rico, a husband and wife recall the history of their nation through their family stories as the wife writes about them. This book was a finalist for the National Book Award and is for fans of literary fiction.
Simone by Eduardo Lalo, Translated by David Frye
A writer in San Juan, Puerto Rico discovers he has a stalker. The stalker turns out to be a Chinese immigrant, and they discover they may have more in common than they thought as they struggle to find belonging. For fans of literary fiction.
Mundo Cruel: Stories by Luis Negron, Translated by Suzanne Jill Levine
This short story collection is set in a gay community in Puerto Rico and explores what it means to survive in a world that seems against you. For fans of gay and queer literature and short story collections.
The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
If you want a read that truly encapsulates a wild time in Puerto Rico, here it is. Set in 1950s San Juan, this book is mostly about a journalist drinking, cavorting, and falling into schemes in Puerto Rico. For fans of books that just take you along for the wild ride.
The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico by Sarah McCoy
In the Puerto Rican mountains, Verdita is on the brink of becoming a young woman. But really she longs to be an American and also to not have her life change so drastically as she grows. This is for fans of women’s fiction and coming of age stories.
Non-Fiction Books About Puerto Rico
War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony by Nelson A. Denis
In 1950, the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico tried to mount an insurrection against the United States. It failed, and it resulted in violence across the island (including the first time the US government bombed its own citizens). This is for fans of history and books about lesser known historical events.
I think the subtitle of this book says it all. Puerto Rico has been used as a US colony but not supported, especially evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Here, Morales explores the history of Puerto Rico and US relations, the harm it has done to Puerto Rico, and what a decolonized future could look like. For fans of geopolitical non-fiction and history.
In the wake of Puerto Rico’s destructive hurricanes, disaster capitalists have been trying to make a profit off recovery. This book explores this situation and what it might mean to instead see a fair and just disaster recovery. This is also a very slim book (just 96 pages), making it a quick but important read. For fans of political and social justice related non-fiction.
Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz
In this coming of age memoir, Díaz tells about her life growing up in Puerto Rico and then later in Miami. Her mother was plagued with mental illness and her life saw plenty of trauma and violence. But she also found support in friendships and pride in her culture. For fans of memoirs (and definitely look up the content warnings here if you are a sensitive reader).
When I Was Puerto Rican: A Memoir by Esmeralda Santiago
Esmeralda Santiago grew up in Puerto Rico, but when her mother moves the family to New York she must learn a new way to be. She really lives the classic American dream, eventually ending up at Harvard. But her road to get there isn’t easy, and it is filled questions about her true identity as a Puerto Rican in America. For fans of memoirs.
Children’s Books Set in Puerto Rico
Coquí in the City by Nomar Perez
When Miguel’s family moves from Puerto Rico to New York City, he has to leave the life he loves behind, including Coquí, his pet frog. Soon though, he discovers that NYC can feel familiar too. Recommended ages: 3-7 years.
Across the Bay by Written and Illustrated by Carlos Aponte
Carlitos loves his home with his mother, grandmother, and cat. But he also feels like part of his identity is missing, and he goes across the bay to search for his father in Old San Juan. This book has imaginative illustrations that take you through San Juan. Recommended ages: 3-7 years.
Pura’s Cuentos: How Pura Belpré Reshaped Libraries with Her Stories by Annette Bay Pimentel, Illustrated by Magaly Morales
Pura Belpré grew up in Puerto Rico surrounded by her grandmother’s stories. When she moved to Harlem, she became the first Latina librarian in New York City. Missing her grandmother’s stories, she started offering story time in both English and Spanish, a new concept that welcomed a new community to the library. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise, Illustrated by Paola Escobar
Another story about famous Puerto Rican Pura Belpré, who became New York’s first Latina librarian and revolutionized storytime by promoting bilingual children’s stories. I think kids who love storytime at the library will especially love this book about other kids going to story time and a famous librarian who read to children and planted seeds of those stories throughout a community. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.
A New Kind of Wild by Zara Gonzalez Hoang
Ren loves his home near El Yunque in Puerto Rico, where he spends his days and nights surrounded by the wilds of the forest. But when he moves to New York, he feels lonely and lost…the perfect opportunity for a new friend to help. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.
Clemente! by Willie Perdomo, Illustrated by Bryan Collier
This picture book tells the story of famous Puerto Rican Robert Clemente, who became the first Latin American player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Perfect if your kids are looking for books on famous Latin Americans, plus it includes a timeline of Clemente’s life. Recommended ages: 6-10 years.
Middle Grade & YA Books About Puerto Rico
My Name is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada, Illustrated by K. Dyble Thompson
In María’s new school, her teacher wants to call her Mary instead because they already have two Marías. But her name is an important part of who she is, and of her Puerto Rican heritage, and she wants to find a way to help her teacher understand. Recommended ages: 7-10 years.
Silver Meadows Summer by Emma Otheguy
Carolina is 11 years old when her family moves from Puerto Rico to upstate New York. There, she attends summer camp with her cousin (who she doesn’t really like), but finds solace in her art and her new friend Jennifer as she remembers her life in Puerto Rico. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya
After a fight at school, Marcus’s mother decides they need a change and takes him and his brother to spend the week in Puerto Rico. But Marcus, who hasn’t seen his father in ten years, knows that his father is somewhere in Puerto Rico and goes in search for him. Recommended ages: 10-13 years.
Puerto Rico Strong Edited by Marco Lopez, Desiree Rodriguez, Hazel Newlevant, Derek Ruiz, and Neil Schwartz
Being Puerto Rican doesn’t just mean one thing. In this comic anthology, multiple Puerto Rican comic artists explore their Puerto Rican identity. Profits from this book go toward disaster relief programs that support Puerto Rico. Recommended ages: 13 and up.
A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry
Lucas spends the summers in Puerto Rico with his father, a hotel developer. There, he hears stories about a cursed girl, and when his own girlfriend disappears, he turns to this cursed girl to solve the mystery. Recommended ages: 13 and up.
The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
When protests from the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group, erupt on the street, Evelyn Serrano is dumped into the drama. And it just may change her outlook on both her Puerto Rican heritage and her Puerto Rican grandmother who has come to live with them. Recommended ages: 14 and up.