A vacation in Playa del Carmen would not be complete without lying at the beach and devouring a book. Your first choice might be to bring the latest New York Times bestseller. But why not read a novel set in Playa del Carmen or one about the Mexican culture? It will give you just that more appreciation about life here. From easy reads to historical fiction, here are our top picks for the best books on Mexico and the Riviera Maya.
1. Playa Punch – A Mayan Trilogy
By C. J. Sharky
This fun and fast-paced book takes you on a journey through familiar places in Playa del Carmen and its surroundings. Reading it while on vacation here, you will feel like you are in the middle of the action. It’s an easy read and the perfect lecture for lying at the beach. Besides of being entertaining, it’s filled with inside information and local customs.
2. Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies
By Laura Esquivel
This is probably the best known Mexican novel in the world – for a reason. The fact that it was made into a film in 1992 isn’t the only one. It’s a wonderful novel about love. About Tita’s love to Pedro and, more importantly, to the Mexican cuisine. It’s a must read if you want to truly understand Mexico’s obsession with food and the role it plays in its society.
By Laura Esquivel
Another amazing book by the Mexican author Laura Esquivel. It tells the love story of Malinche, an Aztec girl, and the conquistador Cortés. While Malinche was demonized as a traitor by the whole world, Esquivel changes this point of view, mixing great fiction with historical truths.
4. The Secret Books of Frida Kahlo – A Novel
By F. G. Haghenbeck
The acclaimed Mexican novelist Haghenbeck was inspired by recently discovered notebooks that belonged to Frida Kahlo. As a result, he created a beautifully written fictional account of Frida and her life and even added some authentic Mexican recipes. If you liked the book, you might want to visit Playa del Carmen’s Frida Kahlo museum too.
5. Terra Nostra
By Carlos Fuentes
This is perhaps the most ambitious novel from one of Mexico’s greatest writers. Covering not less than 20 centuries, it narrates the history of Spain and South America and the struggle between the conquistadors and the indigenous civilization.
6. The Ruins
By Scott Smith
This crime novel set in the Mexican jungle sure is a true page-turner. The set-up is simple. An American couple on vacation in Mexico goes somewhere they shouldn’t. What follows is a creeping horror, unlike anything they could have imagined.
7. The Labyrinth of Solitude
By Octavio Paz
The beautifully written discourse on Mexico’s quest for identity gives you a look at the country’s “behind the mask”. It’s one of the most enduring and powerful works on the country and its people, character, and culture.
By David Seth Michaels
The quirky and spiritual novel describes how an eccentric “gringo” with a shady past becomes friends with a Mayan curandero and his apprentice. It is also a love declaration to Tulum, where (as the title suggests) a big part of the book takes place.
9. A visit to Don Otavio – A Mexican Odyssey
By Sybille Bedford
Travel back in time to the 1950s Mexico. Written with wit and humor, the European author describes her journey through Mexico and the people she met. Her observations are personal, sometimes insightful, sometimes naïve. But she manages to make you see the colors, taste the food, and get immersed in Mexico’s rich history.