Books and Recommended Reading

Sustain Magazine executive editor Dr. John I. Gilderbloom contains an array of articles on Cuba concerning architecture, planning, preservation and sustainable development. The magazine also includes a reprint of Dr. Gilderbloom's recent Planning Magazine article along with photographic essays on Cuban art, architecture and planning.

There are two indispensable guides to Cuba:

Cuba: Travel Survival Kit by David Stanley. Oakland, California: Lonely Planet Publications. Available at most bookstores, call toll free 1-800-275-8555.. This book is very reliable. I consider it the Bible for Americans traveling in Cuba. This is one of the books most used by Americans. It includes useful maps of the cities and neighborhoods, self-guided walking tours, lists of non-government restaurants and other useful information. Marazul Tours recommends it! On the other hand, it gets only 3 1/2 stars from three Amazon readers. Too bad, it deserves better given all the junk travel books on Cuba.

Cuba: Handbook by Christopher Baker. Chico: California: Moon Travel. Books 1-800-345-5473 or look it up at Amazon books: http://amazon.com. It covers some of the same material but comes with numerous essays about life in Cuba. This book takes on more social issues. Amazon gives this book 5 stars. Buy both.

Warning: These are the only two travel books to buy! We have had great success and received the most accurate information from these two books! Our clients have been very disappointed with other typically reliable sources for travel guides on Cuba.

Other books you may want to get:

Latin-American Spanish Phrase Book and Dictionary by Berlitiz. Make sure you get the small thin one that fits easily into your shirt pocket! The bulkier Spanish phrase books are not good for the road. The phrase book is enough to get you out of any "lost or found" situation.

 

Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castor’s Cuba by Tom Miller. New York, New York: Basic Books. Wow! I could not put this book down. It provides a nice even-handed account of life in Cuba under Castro. A book that everyone seems to love and few hate. A very touching story akin to Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie: My Search for America. The book is highly recommended by the Marazul Tours, Inc. This is the book I wanted to write but Tom Miller beat me to the punch--so I will stick with architecture, preservation, planning and sustainable living!

La Habana Colonial: Guia De Arquitectura by Maria Ellena Martin Zequieira and Eduardo Luis Rodriguez Fernandez, published in Cuba and Spain. (ISBN: 84-8095-030-7) Very, very difficult to get in the United States but it will be available two blocks away from our Hotel at the National Union of Architects and Engineers (UNIACC). This book is in Espanol but it is still pretty easy to follow if your Spanish is limited. It provides good maps, statistics, names, and dates of buildings. Very useful and handy! UNIACC also has a large hardcover book that is nice but very expensive.

The Havana: Two faces of the Antillean Metropolis by Robert Segre, Mario Coyula (one of our tour guide leaders) and Joseph Scarpaci. New York, New York: John Wiley and Sons. 1-800-879-4539 or try http://amazon.com. The title might be a little stiff and academic but it is a neat collaboration between American, Brazilian and Cuban academics on planning a socialist city. Illustrated with maps, pictures and other data. Especially good for planners, architects, urban historians and geographers. The book is listed at $70, but heck one of the authors is a tour guide! But hopefully Amazon.com will come to its senses and give a discount.

Cuba: A Short History edited by Leslie Bethell. New York, New York: Cambridge Press. This is a good book written for an academic audience. Four different authors write about Cuba from when it was discovered up to 1994. So the contemporary history is a bit lacking. Unlike most history and political books on Cuba, this book seems even handed and fair.
 

Havana: Tales of the City featuring Graham Greene, Fidel Castro, Ernest Hemmingway, Mario Puzo Francis Ford Coppola, Henry Cabot Lodge and others edited by John Miller and Susannah Clark. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. I love this book! (ISBN 0- 8118-1058-5). It provides another point of view by writers on Cuba before and after Castro.

The Readers Companion to Cuba edited by Alan Ryan. New York, New York: Harcourt Brace and Company. (ISBN 0-15-600367-8) Another reader with contributions from a variety of writers: John Muir, Frank Mankiewicz, Martha Gellhorn, Pico Iyer and others. Not as good as the Chronicle collection, but deserves some note because of the different writers featured. The essays are more current than the Chronicle collection.

Havana Dreams: A Story of Cuba by Wendy Gimbal. New York, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. A story of four generations of Cuban women before and after the revolution...very moving. This book got a very good New York Times book review.

Revolution of Forms: Cuba's Forgotten Art Schools This book published by Princeton came out three months ago and the book has been given a lot of praise. It also explains in a case study of what happened to architecture under communism. For many, the Cuban Art Schools rank as among the best architecture in the world and at the very least the best modern architecture in Cuba. This was built several years after the revolution but the buildings were never completed because communist officials declared that all new building projects had to be done using mass production techniques similar to the Soviet Union. Thus much of the last 35 years out of the 40 years of Cuba under communism saw the demise of architecture and turned it into a faceless, cold mass production of five story concrete housing. Housing and places of work were done to maximize production of units. Playful, individualistic and human scale housing production became almost non-existent during during this era. In the recent conference on 50 years of Cuban Architecture, architects passed resolutions and demanded a greater say in how buildings were designed. Today, some new modern architecture is being developed that ranks as among the best in the world. Jose Choy's work on Hotel Santiago and Santiago train station are very interesting.

Cuba : 400 Years of Architectural Heritage Rachel Carley, Andrea Brizzi (Photographer) / Hardcover / Published 1997 When we were on the road for 11 days, all fifteen of us had a chance to look at this important and comprehensive book including our Cuban architectural experts; everyone seemed to agree that this was the best book on the subject. Nothing else comes close and the book is so engaging and easy to read! That's a tough trick when you are talking about architecture and especially 500 years of it in Cuba. After you get either David Stanley or the Christopher Baker books on how to travel in Cuba, this along with your Espanol book should be your next purchase. This is a fabulous book. The essays are erudite filled with well researched history of Cuban architecture and the photography is spectacular. The quality of the writing is also eye opening. It reads like literature laced with some facsinating antedotes about the architeture. It is surprising that this book has not made the Amazon.com list of best books on Cuba. Buy this book, you won't be disappointed. In terms of travel, it is about the size of three David Stanley's: Cuba Travel Survival Kit. So be forewarned it is big and bulky as an oversized book hitting 220 pages but it is a great reference guide! The price is also very reasonable given its depth. When we were on the road for 11 days everyone had a chance to look at this important and comprehensive book including our Cuban architectural experts and everyone seemed to agree that this was the best book.

Cars of Cuba by Cristina Garcia, et al / Paperback / Published 1995 I bought this book last November and it is still on our coffee table at home. A great book that is fun to look at over and over again. The cars in the context of Cuba tell a whole other story. Very good photography. Highly recommended if your coffee table is getting kind of boring.

Ay, Cuba!: A Socio-Erotic Journey by Andrei Codrescu, David Graham (Photographer) / Hardcover / Published 1999 This was featured in the New York Times Magazine based on ten days in Cuba. As the title suggests the travel revolves around sex that perhaps is not so sexy after you start thinking about it. Of interest to those who want to see a perspective from an outsider.

Cuba and the Night : A Novel This book found its way on the bus and participants thought it was a good read. It is the story of how a married Canadian visits Cuba and falls in love with the island and the women. I do not have much to say accept that folks seemed to like it a whole lot.

Cuba: The Special Period by Marcia Friedman Samuel Book Publishers 1998 isbn: 0-9657250-0-6 The title of the book seems neutral but after you get to the first page of text you know that Friedmand does not like Cuba under communism or Castro. The book includes one chapter called "voices from exiles" which would be interesting but it turns out to be rants from exiles who have done very well in Miami and no attempt is made to bring in the voices of non-elite Cuban exiles who generally have mixed feelings about American culture and Cuba. These non-elite exiles would make a more fascinating book of voices. The strength of this book, however, is in the photography which is spectacular and passionate. Friedman's essay which at times resembles poetry is very clever and sensitive. Although I don't agree with her, I think the book puts together the argument against Castro and it is interesting to hear what these elite exiles have to say. But the lack of balance hurts the book because of its right wing rant. So I don't think this ranks among my top five books on Cuba but I found it interesting. Yes, this too with its design and nice jacket could go on your coffee table but make sure you put it next to Cuba: 400 Years of Architectural Heritage