This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Colombia guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.
A highly recommended personal account is More Terrible Than Death: Violence, Drugs, and America’s War in Colombia (2003) by Robin Kirk.
A similar book, Killing Peace: Colombia’s Conflict and the Failure of US Intervention (2002), by Garry Leech, offers a condensed analysis of the United States’ involvement in Colombia.
Another controversial book on the subject is America’s Other War: Terrorizing Colombia (2005) by Doug Stokes, a critical account of US policy in Colombia that gets its message across by using declassified documents. The reading is a little dry and academic, but the tone is unmistakably critical of US involvement.
For more left-wing reading, check out Mario Murillo’s Colombia and the United States: War, Terrorism, and Destabilization (2003).
For a history of Colombia’s recent troubles through the eyes of those affected, read The Heart of the War in Colombia (2002) by Constanza Ardila Galvis.
Colombia: A Brutal History (2004) by Geoff Simons is also worth a read.
Between Legitimacy and Violence: A History of Colombia, 1875–2002 (2006) by Marco Palacios offers the broad storyline of Colombia, covering the main social and economic trends in the country’s modern history.
Colombia has very little racial tension, but it wasn’t always that way. Nancy Appelbaum offers a critical look at the paísa myth of Antioquia and the history of race in Colombia in her 2003 book, Muddied Waters: Race, Region, and Local History in Colombia, 1846–1948.
Finally, no traveler will want to miss Charles Nicholl’s book The Fruit Palace (1994), a hilarious diary of his wanderings through the country in the 1980s. Think Hunter S Thompson meets Colombian drug barons. (Spoiler: he survives to tell the tale.)
More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found on lonelyplanet.com.