There are a lot of books by Caribbean authors and several more based around the islands. My love of the Caribbean started in a middle school library reading The Cay. I think I might have stretched that book into 3 book reports. Since then I have discovered many other great stories based on the islands and their fantastic history. These are some of my favorite. I’ve tried to include a little something for everyone including young adult, historical fiction, nonfiction, and great novels. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
Set in Puerto Rico with trips to St Thomas Carnival. This chaotic dazzling comedic tail takes freelance journalist, Paul Kemp into a world of corruption that goes down a rabbit hole of crazy schemes all because of Kemp’s lust over a beautiful woman. In typical Thompson style, it’s erratic, funny and bizarre.
Caribbean, by James Michener
In this acclaimed classic novel, James A. Michener guides us through 700 years of Caribbean historical fiction. Starting with the Arawak Indians all the way through the rise of Fidel Castro he spins tails of romance and revolution. Michener himself spent 3 years traveling the Caribbean and read over 400 books to create this monster of a novel.
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
THE book of the British Virgin Islands. This coming of age book is the ultimate in pirate storytelling. It includes, treasure maps with X marks the spot, tropical islands, one-legged seaman, and pirates names like Long John Silver. The book is rumored to have been inspired by the BVI and you’ll find nods to it on Norman island where you swim in the caves where the buried treasure was hidden and hike to Spyglass Point. These days it’s hard to imagine a sole pirate ship anchored in the Bight but it’s fun to try.
Island Beneath the Sea, by Isabel Allende
Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarité — known as Tété — is the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. Though her childhood is one of brutality and fear, Tété finds solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in the voodoo loas she discovers through her fellow slaves.
When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, it’s with powdered wigs in his baggage and dreams of financial success in his mind. But running his father’s plantation, Saint-Lazare, is neither glamorous nor easy. It will be eight years before he brings home a bride — but marriage, too, proves more difficult than he imagined. And Valmorain remains dependent on the services of his teenaged slave.
Spanning four decades, Island Beneath the Sea is the moving story of the intertwined lives of Tété and Valmorain, and of one woman’s determination to find love amid loss, to offer humanity though her own has been battered, and to forge her own identity in the cruelest of circumstances.
An Embarrassment of Mangos, by Ann Vanderhouf
Ann and husband were two 40-something professionals’ living in Canada. Fed up with the rat race they quit their jobs rented out their house and moved onto a 42ft sailboat. They spent 2 years discovering the Caribbean islands. This book weaves whimsical stories with recipes from the local dishes they found along the way. A crewed charter yacht in the Caribbean will give you a sample of what the Vanderhouf’s got to experience. Contact us for more info!
The Cay, by Theodore Taylor
Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curaçao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed.
When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother’s warning about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.”
But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip’s head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy but not before Phillip has been able to share his wisdom of island survival. This is a touching story and I believe I gave 4 book reports on it as a kid.
Marriage of Opposites, by Alice Hoffman
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepersand The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a forbidden love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas about the extraordinary woman who gave birth to painter Camille Pissarro; the Father of Impressionism.
Growing up on idyllic St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel dreams of life in faraway Paris. Rachel’s mother, a pillar of their small refugee community of Jews who escaped the Inquisition, has never forgiven her daughter for being a difficult girl who refuses to live by the rules. Growing up, Rachel’s salvation is their maid Adelle’s belief in her strengths, and her deep, life-long friendship with Jestine, Adelle’s daughter. But Rachel’s life is not her own. She is married off to a widower with three children to save her father’s business. When her husband dies suddenly and his handsome, much younger nephew, Fréderick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family, including her favorite son, who will become one of the greatest artists of France.
Pirate Latitudes, by Michael Crichton
Jamaica in 1665 is a rough outpost of the English crown, a minor colony holding out against the vast supremacy of the Spanish empire. Port Royal, Jamaica′s capital, a cut-throat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses, is devoid of London′s luxuries; life here can end swiftly with dysentery or a dagger in your back. But for Captain Charles Hunter it is a life that can also lead to riches if he abides by the island′s code. In the name of His Majesty King Charles II of England, gold in Spanish hands is gold for the taking. And the law in the New World is made by those who take it into their hands.
Word in port is that the Spanish treasure galleon El Trinidad, fresh from New Spain, is stalled in nearby Matanceros harbor awaiting repairs. Heavily fortified, the impregnable Spanish outpost is guarded by the blood-swiller Cazalla, a favorite commander of King Philip IV himself. With the governor′s backing, Hunter assembles a roughneck crew to infiltrate the enemy island and commandeer the galleon, along with its fortune in Spanish gold. The raid is as perilous as the bloody legends of Matanceros suggest, and Hunter will lose more than one man before he finds himself on the island′s shores, where dense jungle and the firepower of Spanish infantry are all that stand between him and the treasure.
And A Bottle of Rum, by Wayne Curtis
One spirit, Ten cocktails, and Four Centuries of American History
“And a Bottle of Rum,” tells the raucously entertaining story of America as seen through the bottom of a drinking glass. With a chapter for each of ten cocktails–from the grog sailors drank on the high seas in the 1700s to the mojitos of modern club hoppers–Wayne Curtis reveals that the homely spirit once distilled from the industrial waste of the exploding sugar trade has managed to infiltrate every stratum of New World society.
Curtis takes us from the taverns of the American colonies, where rum delivered both a cheap wallop and cash for the Revolution, to the plundering pirate ships off the coast of Central America, to the watering holes of pre-Castro Cuba, and to the kitsch-laden tiki bars of 1950s America. Here are sugar barons and their armies conquering the Caribbean, Paul Revere stopping for a nip during his famous ride, Prohibitionists marching against “demon rum,” Hemingway fattening his liver with Havana daiquiris, and today’s bartenders reviving old favorites like Planter’s Punch. In an age of microbrewed beer and single-malt whiskeys, rum–once the swill of the common man–has found its way into the tasting rooms of the most discriminating drinkers.
Awash with local color and wry humor, “And a Bottle of Rum” is an affectionate toast to this most American of liquors, a chameleon spirit that has been constantly reinvented over the centuries by tavern keepers, bootleggers, lounge lizards, and marketing gurus. Complete with cocktail recipes for would-be epicurean time-travelers, this is history at its most intoxicating
A Trip to the Beach, by Melinda and Robert Blanchard
This is the true story of a trip to the beach that never ends. It’s about a husband and wife who escape the rat race and discover paradise is not as easy as it sounds. Melinda and Robert Blanchard decide to open a restaurant in Anguilla which comes along with pitfalls, culinary disasters, and triumphs. In the process of building and then watching their hard work being torn apart by hurricane Luis they realize their love of the island and the local spirit is worth rebuilding for.
The Republic of Pirates, by Colin Woodard
The inspiration for the NBC series Crossbones. In the early eighteenth century a number of the great pirate captains, including Edward “Blackbeard” Teach and “Black Sam” Bellamy, joined forces. This infamous “Flying Gang” was more than simply a thieving band of brothers. Many of its members had come to piracy as a revolt against conditions in the merchant fleet and in the cities and plantations in the Old and New Worlds. Inspired by notions of self-government, they established a crude but distinctive form of democracy in the Bahamas, carving out their own zone of freedom in which indentured servants were released and leaders are chosen or deposed by a vote. They were ultimately overcome by their archnemesis, Captain Woodes Rogers—a merchant fleet owner and former privateer—and the brief though glorious moments of the Republic of Pirates came to an end. In this unique and fascinating book, Colin Woodard brings to life this virtually unexplored chapter in the Golden Age of Piracy
Don’t Stop the Carnival, by Herman Wouk
Yet another book about leaving the rat race and living a life in lower latitudes among palm trees, sunny skies and rum. Drawing on his own experiences living in St Thomas Wouk, who also wrote The Caine Mutany, captures the comedy and tragedy of island life.
The novel was turned into a short-lived musical and later, album by Jimmy Buffett in 1997
Wind From the Carolinas, by Robert Wilder
Following the Camerons, a family fleeing the south after the American Revolution. This story spans over 3 generations as they try rebuilding their island plantations. It bounces between romance, violence and the wind-swept Bahamas.