The Greatest Cuban Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. Three Trapped Tigers by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

    Three Trapped Tigers is a novel that explores the nightlife, culture, and history of Havana, Cuba, during the 1950s. The narrative is fragmented and experimental, employing a range of styles and techniques, including stream-of-consciousness, wordplay, and parody. The book presents a vivid and humorous depiction of the city and its inhabitants, while also offering a critical examination of the political and social conditions of the time.

  2. 2. The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier

    "The Kingdom of This World" is a historical novel that explores the tumultuous period of the Haitian Revolution and its aftermath through the eyes of a slave named Ti Noël. The narrative weaves together elements of magical realism and historical fact, highlighting the brutalities of slavery, the struggle for freedom, and the rise and fall of leaders. The novel also delves into the themes of power, corruption, and the cyclical nature of history, while showcasing the rich culture and folklore of Haiti.

  3. 3. The Lost Steps by Alejo Carpentier

    The novel tells the story of a disillusioned American musicologist who leaves his life in New York City to embark on a journey to an untouched, primitive part of the Amazon jungle in South America. He is in search of ancient musical instruments. Along the way, he experiences a spiritual and philosophical transformation as he reconnects with nature and the primal roots of humanity. He also falls in love with a native woman, further deepening his connection to the land and its people.

  4. 4. Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas

    "Before Night Falls" is an autobiographical work that chronicles the life of a young Cuban man growing up during the political turmoil of the Cuban Revolution. The protagonist, a rebellious writer and poet, grapples with his sexual identity in a society that is deeply homophobic. Despite facing persecution, imprisonment, and exile, he remains defiant and committed to his art and personal freedom. His story provides a candid and deeply personal perspective on the harsh realities of life under Fidel Castro's regime.

  5. 5. Paradiso by José Lezama Lima

    "Paradiso" is a dense and lyrical novel that delves into the life of a young Cuban man named José Cemí, exploring his intellectual and sensual coming-of-age against the backdrop of early 20th-century Havana. The narrative is rich with poetic language and complex imagery, weaving together themes of family, sexuality, and the search for identity. Through a series of vivid, dreamlike episodes, the protagonist's personal growth is paralleled with the cultural and historical evolution of Cuba itself, presenting a tapestry of philosophical reflections and a deep dive into the nature of reality, time, and existence.

  6. 6. Explosion In A Cathedral by Alejo Carpentier

    The novel is a historical narrative set in the Caribbean during the time of the French Revolution, following the lives of a family caught in the tumult of the era. It explores the impact of European political upheaval on the colonies, as the protagonist becomes involved with historical figures and events, including the revolutionary missions of Victor Hugues. The story delves into themes of power, freedom, and the complex interplay between history and the individuals who live through it, painting a vivid picture of the colonial world and its transformation under the forces of revolution and counterrevolution.

  7. 7. Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García

    "Dreaming in Cuban" is a multi-generational narrative that explores the lives of several women from a Cuban family, spanning from the 1930s to the 1980s. The story oscillates between Cuba and the United States, reflecting on the Cuban revolution, exile, and identity. Through the perspectives of each character, the novel delves into themes of political turmoil, family dynamics, and personal struggles amidst cultural shifts and geographical displacement.

  8. 8. Sóngoro cosongo by Nicolás Guillén

    "Sóngoro cosongo" is a collection of poems that celebrates Afro-Cuban culture. The author explores the richness of the Afro-Cuban experience, using the language and rhythms of son music and Afro-Cuban dialect to bring his subjects to life. Themes include racial identity, social inequality, and the cultural fusion of Spanish and African influences in Cuba. The author's use of humor and satire also serves to critique the racial prejudices and social injustices of his time.

  9. 9. Dirty Havana Trilogy by Pedro Juan Gutierrez

    This book is a raw and gritty portrayal of life in Havana, Cuba during the economic collapse of the 1990s. The story is narrated by a former journalist turned hustler who lives in the city's slums. The protagonist survives through a series of odd jobs and illegal activities, as he navigates through a world of poverty, violence, and corruption. The narrative is filled with graphic depictions of sex, drugs, and the struggle to survive, providing a stark contrast to the romanticized image of Havana.

  10. 10. Reasons Of State by Alejo Carpentier

    "Reasons of State" is a satirical novel that delves into the life of a Latin American dictator who clings to power through manipulation and the ruthless suppression of opposition. Set against the backdrop of early 20th-century political turmoil, the narrative explores themes of corruption, decadence, and the absurdity of authoritarian regimes. The protagonist, a caricature of the archetypal tyrant, navigates through a series of farcical and tragic events, revealing the hollow core of his regime's pomp and circumstance. The novel critiques the self-serving justifications of those in power, who often cloak their actions under the guise of state necessity and progress, while their personal and political decisions lead to the suffering and disenfranchisement of the people they rule.

  11. 11. View Of Dawn In The Tropics by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

    The book is a unique tapestry of Cuban history and culture, presented as a series of vignettes that blend fact with fiction, reality with surrealism. Through a mosaic of brief, often poetic narratives, the work captures the essence of life in the tropics, marked by the rise and fall of revolution, the ebb and flow of political tides, and the personal stories that define the human experience within this vibrant setting. The fragmented structure mirrors the tumultuous history of Cuba itself, offering glimpses into the island's colonial past, its struggle for independence, and the ongoing complexities of its social and political identity.

  12. 12. Poems Of Nicolás Guillén by Nicolás Guillén

    This collection of poetry delves into the rich tapestry of Afro-Cuban culture, exploring themes of social justice, racial identity, and political struggle. The poet employs a unique blend of lyricism and vernacular language, often incorporating the rhythms of son and Afro-Cuban music, to give voice to the marginalized and oppressed. Through vivid imagery and poignant commentary, the poems reflect on the complexities of Cuba's history and the poet's own experiences, offering a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

  13. 13. The Golden Age by José Martí

    "The Golden Age" is a heartfelt coming-of-age story set in the late 19th century, following the life of a young boy named José Martí. Through his eyes, readers witness the challenges and triumphs of growing up in a tumultuous time in Cuba's history. Martí's journey is marked by his unwavering passion for justice, his deep love for his homeland, and his relentless pursuit of freedom and equality. This poignant narrative explores themes of identity, patriotism, and the power of hope, leaving readers with a profound understanding of the human spirit and the enduring fight for liberty.

  14. 14. Maitreya by Severo Sarduy

    "Maitreya" is a novel that delves into the themes of transformation, identity, and transcendence, set against the backdrop of a tumultuous period in Cuba. The narrative follows the journey of a protagonist who is both a revolutionary and a seeker of spiritual enlightenment, intertwining political upheaval with mystical experiences. As the character navigates through a world of chaos and change, the story explores the convergence of Eastern philosophies and Western ideologies, ultimately questioning the nature of reality and the potential for rebirth in the midst of societal collapse. The novel's rich, poetic language and complex symbolism offer a multifaceted examination of the human condition and the search for meaning.

  15. 15. The Ill Fated Peregrinations Of Fray Servando by Reinaldo Arenas

    The book is a fictionalized account of the life of Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, a real-life Dominican friar from the 18th century. It follows his numerous escapes from colonial authorities across Latin America and Spain after he delivered a controversial sermon in Mexico City. The narrative, infused with magical realism, portrays Fray Servando's adventures and misfortunes as he becomes a symbol of freedom and resistance against oppressive regimes. His journey is marked by a series of bizarre and fantastical encounters, reflecting the author's critique of totalitarianism and exploration of the themes of liberty, identity, and the absurdity of political persecution.

  16. 16. Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle

    "Drum Dream Girl" is a captivating children's book that tells the inspiring true story of a young girl in 1930s Cuba who dreams of playing the drums. Despite societal expectations and cultural norms that prohibit girls from playing music, the determined protagonist follows her passion and breaks barriers, ultimately becoming the first female drummer in Cuba. Through vivid illustrations and poetic storytelling, the book celebrates the power of dreams, perseverance, and the importance of challenging societal limitations.

  17. 17. Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire

    The book is a memoir of a young boy's life in Havana, Cuba, during the 1950s, just before and during the Cuban Revolution. It vividly depicts the boy's privileged, idyllic childhood filled with joy and adventure, which is abruptly disrupted by the political upheaval that leads to his exile to the United States. The narrative is a poignant exploration of loss, identity, displacement, and the enduring emotional impact of childhood experiences.

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.