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Recommended Books and Maps

Note: You can buy books at discounted rates through Amazon.com by following the publisher links on our selected books, or you can access our page with book content information and our recommendations by clicking on the title. Books in Bold are Luke's picks.

Tourist and Specific Guidebooks

History Politics and Society

Title Author Publisher
Savage Shore : Life and Death With Nicaragua's Last Shark Hunters Edward Marriott  Metropolitan Books
The Jaguar Smile : A Nicaraguan Journey Salman Rushdie  Henry Holt
The Sandino Affair Neill MacAulay  Wacahoota Pr.
Life Is Hard : MacHismo, Danger, and the Intimacy of Power in Nicaragua Roger N. Lancaster Univ California Press
The Invisible Hunters : A Legend from the Miskito Unknown Childrens Book Pr.
The Real Contra War : Highlander Peasant Resistance in Nicaragua Timothy C. Brown Univ of Oklahoma Pr.
The Death of Ben Linder; The Story of a North American in Sandinista Nicaragua Joan Kruckewitt Seven Stories Press
To Die in This Way : Nicaraguan Indians and the Myth of the Mestizaje 1880-1965 Jeffrey L. Gould Duke Univ Pr.
Resistance and Contradiction : Miskitu Indians and the Nicaraguan State, 1894-1987 Charles R. Hale Stanford Univ Pr.
The Rise and Fall of the Nicaraguan Revolution Mary-Alice Waters (Contributor), Jack Barnes Pathfinder Press

Tourist and Specific Guidebooks

Nicaragua Guide : Spectacular and Unspoiled
by Paul Glassman

Most travel guides to the general reason lump Nicaragua with other countries and generally say very little about Nicaragua alone: this provides almost three hundred pages packed with practical traveladvice. Details on accommodations, outdoors activities, transportation, and all the other practicalities of independent travel within the country make for a practical travel planner.
Book Description
In a new era of peace, Nicaragua is being re-discovered for its world-class resorts, colonial cities where time stood still, its artisans, untouched rain forest, the world's most spectacular volcano park, and much more. Find out about all the attractions, along with accommodations, how to get around, where the bargains are, and how to get the most out of your trip. Hundreds of value-minded tips make this the premier practical guide to this little-known country, as well as a valuable reference...

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Nicaragua /in Focus : A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture
by Hazel Plunkett

Nicaragua in Focus is an authoritative and up-to-date guide to this fascinating country. It explores the land, history and politics (including the crucial and difficult relationship with the U.S.), economy, society and people, culture and environment, and includes tips on where to go and what to see. Color and b&w photos, maps.

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History Politics and Society

Savage Shore : Life and Death With Nicaragua's Last Shark Hunters
by Edward Marriott
***Luke's Pick

The great white gets all the press, but the shark most feared by people around the world is the bullshark, a fish of warm seas that even penetrates fresh water, swimming up rivers and into lakes. InNicaragua, fishermen still pursue these unusual predators by dangerous, traditional means. Acclaimed travel writer Edward Marriott takes us into the brackish realm of the bull shark and the men who tackle it with their dugouts and handlines. The coastal and river people hunted the shark for its fins and for its oil, feared and revered it; every village had had family taken in its jaws. It was shark where shark should not be--in fresh water, on human territory. Along the way we learn about Nicaragua's spicy cultural stew of indigenous Miskitos, Spanish conquerors, and Africans; about a country torn between Sandinistas and Contras; and about a creature that is quickly disappearing despite its fierce disposition. Readers with a scent for blood will not be disappointed--but the mythology of shark attacks on humans is perhaps even richer than the true-crime variety; indeed, Marriott infuses the country with a Marquez-like quality of magic that seems appropriate to a lake shark.

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The Jaguar Smile : A Nicaraguan Journey
by Salman Rushdie
***Luke's Pick

Salman Rushdie's extraordinary book ... is a masterpiece of sympathetic yet critical reporting graced with his marvelous wit, quietly assertive style, odd and yet always revealing experience.... To say of The Jaguar Smile that it is a work of art is to take full note of its literary allusions, its uncompromising sensitivity to death and destruction, its ready political eye for the funny and grotesque, and above all it its understated and gripping eloquence.

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The Sandino Affair
by Neill MacAulay

No mere rehash of an unsavory experience, this is a solid military and political history of a now-forgotten insurgency in Nicaragua that for six years involved the Marine Corps in frustrating jungle and guerrilla warfare. It points up our failure to learn to understand native peoples in our efforts to win them to allegiance to the lawful government, and that our conduct of this affair still rankles among peoples of the American Republics.
The best and most complete work ever written on this subject, April 22, 2000
Reviewer: zorroeast (see more about me) from United States
I understand this book was Maculay's doctoral thesis, and I think exceeds the purpose. Written with such a fine style, the reader is situated in the jungles of Nicaragua experiencing guerilla warfare at its best. It is a well documented work. In addition to reviewing previous titles on the subject, Macaulay did extensive research on Marine Corps archives to produce an unbiased and scientific study of the struggle. Also, the portrait of the character is highly accurate of this little man ( only 5'-4") born as illegitimate son in a Nicaraguan village, yet his nationalism and valor had monumental influence throughout generations of latin-americans. As of today his presence is still vivid and controversial.

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Life Is Hard : MacHismo, Danger, and the Intimacy of Power in Nicaragua
by Roger N. Lancaster

Times Literary Supplement
Life is Hard brings together two areas of enquiry which are seldom linked: intimacy and revolution. This is a study of a popular revolution based on the daily lives of the urban poor. . . . At the same time, it is a modern work of ethnography, incorporating the insights of Foucault and Derrida in posing some searching questions about sexuality, racism and gender identity in modern Latin American society.

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The Invisible Hunters : A Legend from the Miskito Indians of Nicaragua
by Unknown
***Luke's Pick

This Miskito Indian legend set in seventeenth-century Nicaragua illustrates the impact of the first European traders on traditional life.

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The Real Contra War : Highlander Peasant Resistance in Nicaragua
by Timothy C. Brown
***Luke's Pick

Book Description
The Contra War and the Iran-Contra affair that shook the Reagan presidency were center stage on the U.S. political scene for nearly a decade. According to most observers, the main Contra army, or the Fuerza Democrática Nicaragüense (FDN), was a mercenary force hired by the CIA to oppose the Sandinista socialist revolution.
The Real Contra War demonstrates that in reality the vast majority of the FDN's combatants were peasants who had the full support of a mass popular movement consisting of the tough, independent inhabitants of Nicaragua's central highlands. The movement was merely the most recent instance of this peasantry's one-thousand-year history of resistance to those they saw as would-be conquerors.
The real Contra War struck root in 1979, even before the Sandinistas took power and, during the next two years, grew swiftly as a reaction both to revolutionary expropriations of small farms and to the physical abuse of all who resisted. Only in 1982 did an offer of American arms persuade these highlanders to forge an alliance with former Guardia anti-Sandinista exiles--those the outside world called Contras.
Relying on original documents, interviews with veterans, and other primary sources, Brown contradicts conventional wisdom about the Contras, debunking most of what has been written about the movement's leaders, origins, aims, and foreign support

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The Death of Ben Linder; The Story of a North American in Sandinista Nicaragua
by Joan Kruckewitt
***Luke's Pick

Some deaths in war are unmistakably heroic, sacrifices for the greater good. Some are merely sacrifices, and whatever good comes from them happens years later, when the events surrounding them have been all but forgotten. Such was the case with the death of Ben Linder, a young American engineer who, fired by ideals of social justice, volunteered to aid the Sandinista revolution that overthrew the corrupt dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua in 1979.
Ben Linder arrived in Nicaragua four years later, where he worked to build a hydroelectric dam that would bring electrical power to the remote northern highlands. As journalist Joan Kruckewitt observes in The Death of Ben Linder, "Nicaragua was to leftists throughout the world in the 1980s what Spain was to progressive Americans in the 1930s," a place where a popular revolution might for once bring peace and even happiness to the downtrodden. Officials in the administration of President Ronald Reagan viewed the matter quite differently, however; Reagan once remarked, seriously, that Nicaraguan tanks were only three days' drive from the American border--yet another Communist threat that lay too close to be countenanced.
Linder was murdered by counterrevolutionaries--the Contras--in 1987, almost certainly with the foreknowledge and perhaps even tacit approval of American intelligence officials. Kruckewitt draws on recently declassified CIA documents and her own field reporting to discover why Linder--and why Sandinista Nicaragua--should have been perceived as being such a threat. She paints a sympathetic portrait of young Linder, too, who, even though idealistic, seems not to have been naive; he recognized that he was in danger, but he pressed on, anyway, to do his part for the revolution, helping build a dam that now provides electricity to former Sandinistas and Contras alike. --Gregory McNamee

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To Die in This Way : Nicaraguan Indians and the Myth of the Mestizaje 1880-1965
by Jeffrey L. Gould

Times Literary Supplement
The questions Gould's admirable work raises should spur in-depth scholarship in Nicaragua and elsewhere. The book has appeal, too, for a broad audience. . . . Gould illustrates how discourses of homogeneity and equal rights can be used as weapons, and thus touches on issues of assimilation such as bilingual education, religious freedom and nationalism, and on the thorny issues concerning reparations for intergroup oppression, such as affirmative action and rectification of borders.
Gould's outstanding analysis explores the conscious political construction of the national myth of ethnic homogeneity in Nicaragua. . . . It is indispensable reading for anyone wishing to understand Nicaragua and its Sandino revolution, as well as the wider history of Central America. Apart from providing an extremely enlightening background for the long history of armed conflict in the region, Gould demonstrates that in the process of conflict the definition of both Indian and community. . .

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Resistance and Contradiction : Miskitu Indians and the Nicaraguan State, 1894-1987
by Charles R. Hale

One of the few texts on the role of the indigenous Miskito peoples in the war. Definitely worth a read.

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The Rise and Fall of the Nicaraguan Revolution
by Mary-Alice Waters (Contributor), Jack Barnes

BEST BOOK ON THE RISE AND FALL OF THE NICARAGUAN REVOLUTION!, January 31, 2000
Reviewer: Johan Nilsson (see more about me) from Stockholm, Sweden The July 1979 triumph of the Nicaraguan revolution showed the way forward for fighting workers and farmers throughout the Americas and the world. It transformed the possibilities for revolutionary struggles in Central America and the Carribean...attracted a new generation of fighters in the United States to communism...interwined with the rising freedom fight in South Africa...and gave impetus to new advances by the socialist revolution in Cuba.
-Only the workers will go all the way -that battle cry of Augusto César Sandino, leader of the war against the U.S. marines' occupation of Nicaragua in the 1920s and '30s, once again became a line of march for millions.
This special issue of New International, based on ten years of working-class journalism from inside Nicaragua, traces the lessons fighters everywhere can learn from the rise and fall of the workers and farmers government in Nicaragua.
Nicaragua, Grenada, and Cuba are three giants rising up to defend their independence, sovereignty, and justice, on the very threshold of imperialism...One must have a sense of history to know what these revolutions mean. -- Cuban president Fidel Castro March 1980.

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Adventures in Nicaragua

La Moskitia, "Mosquito Coast" in English, is one of the wildest and most pristine jungles of Latin America.
Like its Honduran counterpart, this region is home to Garifuna, Pech and Miskito peoples. However, the political situation may be more of a question. Little information and infrastructure is available to tourists and outsiders.

Return to: Adventures in Nicaragua


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