In November 2017 we headed off to Peru with these books in our pockets. Ok, not exactly – our Kindles were all loaded up. We would have to get larger pockets to carry all of these and that doesn’t exactly align with my core value of packing light. Anyway, it was a great reading list for us. I am still looking for more local authors. If you have some favorites let me know! As we noted in our post on keeping kids riveted, previewing before your Peru trip with the Peru reading list helps to create a meaningful and lasting impact. The book covers link directly to Amazon and we get a small amount if you purchase through the site, but you don’t pay any more than if you purchased directly.
So what follows is a reading list for:
- Little ones (0-7ish)
- Older ones (6-12ish)
- Parents and advanced readers (11 up)
That said, I’ve enjoyed reading the second category just for some cultural insights so maybe some older kids could tolerate it too.
Peru Reading List for Very Young Kids
Maria Had a Little Llama by Angela Dominguez is a very simple, bilingual, Peruvian take on Mary had a Little Lamb. The illustrations are adorable and would give a little one some idea of how being a child in Peru might be different from home. And llamas. More llamas in The Llama’s Secret. Argentina Palacios tells the Peruvian version of the great flood legend. Joong-Soon Jo’s Festival of the Sun details bright, lively preparations for a winter solstice festival in Cusco.
Peru Reading List for Older Kids
Ann Nolan Clark’s Secret of the Andes is a Newberry Award book that is powerful in its simplicity. I read it and really enjoyed the descriptions of the high Peruvian mountains, Cusi’s pet llamas, and the secrets of his Incan ancestors. From Beija: The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis is a story about a girl who lives in a village. She is different because she has a large scar on her face. The book tells you about her life as an outcast, her journey to healing, what beauty really is, and the Quechua culture.
Peru Reading List for Grownups (or Advanced Kids)
The two fiction books on this list At Play in the Field of the Lord and The Bridge of San Luis Rey are very different from one another. In the more modern At Play in the Field of the Lord, Peter Matthiessen creates a story in which I pretty much despised every character…and yet somehow cared about all of them. The descriptions of the indigenous people and their lives is delicious and painful as the missionaries and mercenaries work to destroy them both intentionally and unintentionally. A great read. In The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder works to uncover the reasons for God’s choices about who to take and who to spare after a bridge collapses and five people fall to their deaths in Peru. I wouldn’t call it “gripping,” but the old-fashioned language draws you in and the narrator’s explorations of the lives of the lost was fascinating.
The three “outsider experiences Peru” narratives on this list Turn Right at Machu Picchu, Touching the Void and The White Rock don’t do a lot to share the experience of Peruvians, but do delve deeply into the explorer and adventurer perspective with some history thrown in. In The White Rock, Hugh Thompson describes his exploration in the Peruvian wilderness that spanned more than twenty years. You can feel his adventure addiction in this well-written account of diving off the beaten path in search of little-known Inca ruins and history. In Turn Right at Machu Picchu Mark Adams describes his trek along the Inca trail. His journalistic writing brings us along for the ride-burning glutes, bug bites, and euphoria. Both of these books were wonderful touchstones for the views we had on our trip.
Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void is a great book if you love mountain climbing and near-death experiences. This is a true story of a climbing accident in the Cordilera Huayhuash. Even less description of local experiences here, but it was entertaining and suspenseful. Krakauer does it better, but it was a page turner. It also sparked my imagination as I looked into the towering mountains around the village where we stayed.
Finally, The Last days of the Incas was a painful read. Kim MacQuarrie describes in magnified detail the brutal Spanish conquest of Peru. And the violence that the Incas perpetuated on others in the region. Ouch, ouch, ouch. But compellingly written and exhaustively researched.
What were your favorite books and movies set in Peru?