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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

Title Author Publisher
A Guide to the Birds of Panama Robert S. Ridgely, John A. Gwynne Princeton Univ Pr.
The Panama Guide : A Cruising Guide to the Isthmus of Panama Nancy Schwalbe Zydler, Tom Zydler Robert Hale Dist.
Panama (Ulysses Travel Guides) Marc Rigole, Claude-Victor Langlois Ulysses Books & Maps Distribution
Getting to know Micháele Labrut Focus Publications

History Politics and Society

Title Author Publisher
Path Between the Seas : the Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 David McCullough Simon & Schuster
Panama : A Novel Bill Boyd Books International
A People Who Would Not Kneel : Panama, the United States and the San Blas Kuna James Howe Smithsonian Institution Press
The Building of the Panama Canal in Historic Photographs Ullrich Keller Dover Pubns
In Defiance : The Battle Against General Noriega Fought from Panama's Embassy in Washington Juan B. Sosa Francis Pr
The Art of Being Kuna : Layers of Meaning Among the Kuna of Panama Mari Lynn Salvador Univ of California Museum
In the Time of Tyrants : Panama : 1968-1990 Richard M. Koster, Guillermo Sanchez W.W. Norton & Company
Magnificent Molas: The Art of the Kuna Indians Michel Perrin, Deke Dusinbere Flammarion
Mola : Cuna Life Stories and Art Maricell E. Presilla Costa Rica Books.

Tourist and Specific Guidebooks

A Guide to the Birds of Panama
by Robert S. Ridgely, John A. Gwynne ***Luke's Pick

From Book News, Inc. , October 1, 1990 Revised and expanded edition of a marvelous field guide to some 1,000 species in this rich and varied (and threatened) region. About 850 of the species are illustrated, most on 48 color plates, of which 19 were newly prepared for their edition. Follows the sequence and taxonomy of the 1983 check-list of the American Ornithologists Union. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.

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The Panama Guide : A Cruising Guide to the Isthmus of Panama
by Nancy Schwalbe Zydler, Tom Zydler

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Panama (Ulysses Travel Guide)
by Marc Rigole, Claude-Victor Langlois

Reviewer: Ek22074@aol.com from United States
If you need a book on traveling in Panama this is the best one I have found. Overall if you are going to Panama and will be visiting the interior take this book, you will need it.

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Getting to know Panama
by Micháele Labrut ***Luke's Pick

Book Description
Getting to Know Panama fills a need for those who come to Panama as visitors or residents. Panamanians also, will find out how much they didn't know about their own country. Autor Michèle Labrut, a Frenchwoman, was particularly well-equipped to compile this treasure-trove of information. She is a long-time resident, a journalist, and correspondent for Time, Magazine, NBC News and other international publications. "Getting to Know Panama" reflects her deep fascination for the country's history, culture, modern vitality as a center of commerce, and the abiding beauty of its islands, beaches, mountains and jungles. She guides the reader on many a hinterland trek and caters to the seekers of adventure as well as the naturalists who are discovering the vastness and variety of Panama's unspoiled ecosystems.

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History Politics and Society

Path Between the Seas : the Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
by David McCullough
***Luke's Pick

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Truman, here is the national bestselling epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal. In The Path Between the Seas, acclaimed historian David McCullough delivers a first-rate drama of the sweeping human undertaking that led to the creation of this grand enterprise.
The Path Between the Seas tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of constructing an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic.

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Panama : A Novel
by Bill Boyd

Panama - The Canal, May 7, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from New York, USA
This book is full of a history of which I was not aware. It is most informative about the way the United States became the builder of the Panama Canal and of how, in the end, we had to give up this great engineering feat. Moreover, being a novel, it is very fast reading. It moves rapidly and intelligently and is, in my opinion, an easy way to learn history.

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A People Who Would Not Kneel : Panama, the United States and the San Blas Kuna
by James Howe
***Luke's Pick

Synopsis
As they expanded, most nations in the Western Hemisphere relegated indigenous peoples to the lowest social levels, stealing their land, diminishing their populations, exploiting their labor, and flattening their cultures. Few have gone quietly, but one group, the San Blas Kuna of Panama, set their own terms. Anthropologist James Howe tells their story. 39 photos.

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The Building of the Panama Canal in Historic Photographs
by Ullrich Keller

Reviewer: A reader from Los Angeles
After reading this I searched out and read the three other books by the same author. This was a really exciting narrative. David really knows how to tell a story, just enough detail to keep you in the real world, not so much as to slow down the story. In particular, I liked the history behind malaria and its cure, this could have been a book by itself. Did you know they used to place hospital bedposts in buckets of water to keep bugs off the patients? The buckets of clean water proved to be a perfect breeding place for mosquitoes. My next most favorite book by McCollough was on the Brooklyn Bridge. Try it also. These two books are on my most recommended list, great examples of how serious history can be fun and interesting.

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In Defiance : The Battle Against General Noriega Fought from Panama's Embassy in Washington
by Juan B. Sosa

As a record of US-Panamanian diplomacy during the final years of General Manuel Noriega's rule, the book provides rich detail for historians.
Memoir of Panama's ambassador to the United States who waged a two-year battle against General Noriega to maintain control of the embassy in the name of the constitutional government of his nation

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The Art of Being Kuna : Layers of Meaning Among the Kuna of Panama
by Mari Lynn Salvador
***Luke's Pick

Reviewer: from St. Petersburg, FL USA
I bought this book from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I have been fascinated with Native American tribes in South American for most of my life, particularly Panama and Colombia. This book is so thorough in expressing all aspects of life for the Kuna (or Cuna) that I would almost say this is the only book you would need to learn about the Kuna. It truly is incredible in its information as well as its photographs. It is VERY well done! Bravo Senorita Salvador! Espero ver mas libros de usted!

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In the Time of Tyrants : Panama : 1968-1990
by Richard M. Koster, Guillermo Sanchez
***Luke's Pick

The Tyrants, the USA and Panama, March 11, 2000
Reviewer: Michael King from Montreal, Canada
I found a copy of the Time for Tyrants in Panama in 1999, and read it in total fascination. I had my own background having visited the country periodically since the period of Torrijos in the 70s, and was a frequent visitor in the period 1986 to 1989, while my firm was trying to complete a contract there. The book provides a no holds barred detailed account of how the systematic corruption developed under Torrijos and how the torch or key to the cash box was passed to Norriega.
The book records the initial visits by Torrijos to Sweden in the 70s related to major power projects which started the cash flowing, and thereby established the rewards for those that controlled the government. Torrijos and then Norriega set up and maintained the system of total control by non elected individuals. An important element of this book by Koster and Sanchez is their description of how the US government supported the various tyrants as part of their Canal policy throughout this period until the last year of so of Norriega's reign.
During the last two years of Norriega up to the American invasion the book details the murder, torture, kidnapping and destruction of democracy that were directly orchestrated by Norriega, and the failure of the half hearted attempts by the US government to control or remove him. As the book recounts, the last two terrible years of Norriega were not necessary. The US government could have dealt with the problem earlier, and avoided the misery that fell on Panama. During my visits through 1988-1989 I was witness to the abuse of Norriega's "dobermans", and the resistance, especially from the white collar segment of the population. Panama was a seriously dangerous place for everyone at that time.
Koster and Sanchez also imply that there is a culture in Panama that made this saga posible. That Martin Torrijos (son of Omar) could be a credible and nearly successful candidate for President in the 1999 elections illustrates this message only too well.

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Magnificent Molas: The Art of the Kuna Indians
by Michel Perrin, Deke Dusinbere

Book Description
Other Details: 200 pages, 250 color illustrations 11 3/8 x 11 3/8" Published 2000
About the Author
Director of research at the CNRS (the National Center for Scientific Research), MICHEL PERRIN is a member of the Laboratoire d'Anthropologie Sociale at the Collège de France and has taught at the EHESS and the University of Paris. An American Indian specialist, Michel Perrin's research has focused on mythology, symbolism, traditional medicine and art

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Magnificent Molas: The Art of the Kuna Indians
by Maricell E. Presilla
***Luke's Pick

From Kirkus Reviews , August 15, 1996
In the San Blas Islands off the northern coast of Panama, Cuna women make a unique and beautiful form of art called molas, in which layers of fabric of various textures are sewn together, then snipped and stitched into pictures comprised of bold forms and bright colors. They wear these on special occasions. Presilla (with Gloria Soto, Life Around the Lake, p. 452, etc.) tells the history of the Cuna, and in the molas they have created, vibrantly presents their entire culture, from lullabies to. . .

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Adventures in Panama

The Canal may have made Panama world famous but the country is becoming renowned as a destination for eco-travelers. With 11,000 foot volcanic peaks, Caribbean archipelagos of Bocas del Toro and San Blas--the homeland of the Kuna people--and the Darien Gap Jungle and its Embera communities, Panama has incredible diversity. The Government’s policies on indigenous peoples are the most progressive in Central America. The isthmus is a corridor between North and South America for truly unique species of wildlife. Our documentaries, photos, and travel tips give you all you need to discover Panama by yourself.

Return to: Adventures in Panama


Photos of Panama

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Travel information

Countries currently covered:

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Honduras

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Coming Soon:

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South America  

Peru

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Kuna

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