There’s no reason studying and academic books have to stay in school – often, scholars are working on telling stories about fascinating intersections between art, culture, and politics that don’t have “mass-market appeal.” Unfortunately, smaller projected audiences often translate to higher prices, or more niche-academic language, but a good writer and a good scholar will write a text everyone can get into.
Here are some books that tell good stories, or can help you get an overview of topics you care a lot about. We’ve tried to get a little bit of everything: food, music, art, politics. Poke around, order books from your local library, use bibliographies to track down other writers you might also want to be in conversation with, and do a little studying outside of school!
Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture Ed Morales (Verso)
In Latinx, Morales argues for a growing portion of American culture – a gender-neutral term for a cross-national, multi-and-inter-racial group that has so far gone largely unrecognized on the stage of national culture. Latinx provides a history of Latinx people in the United States, and suggests that they might be a key to the future.
Pop América, 1965-1975, Esther Gabara (Duke University Press)
An academic book that doubles as a coffee table tome! A guide to accompany a traveling exhibit of Latin American pop art, this book comes with plenty of colorful images, as well as essays that trace the art movement’s origins across Latin America.
A Library for the Americas: The Nettie Lee Benson Latin America Collection, ed. Julianne Gilliand and Jose Montelongo (University of Texas Press)
UT Austin has one of the best collections of Latin American rare books and artifacts, and this tome will bring them into your home library. Showcasing the treasures of the library in full color, you’ll be able to page through treasures of Latin American history – codexes, paintings, and more.
A Massacre in Mexico: The True Story Behind the Missing Forty-Three Students, Anabel Hernandez, trans. John Washington (Verso)
Since 2014, the murder of 43 Mexican students from Ayotzinapa has been a dark and unsolved mystery that has come to symbolize everything wrong with Mexican politics and corruption. Here, journalist Anabel Hernandez does her best to unravel the mystery behind the massacre, and in the process, shines a harsh and unforgiving light on Mexican politics and government.
Latinx Literature Unbound: Undoing Ethnic Expectation, Ralph E. Rodriguez (Fordham University Press)
The last few years have seen an explosion of Latinx lit, and in this volume, Ralph E. Rodriguez attempts to figure out exactly what that means. What is Latinx lit? What does it mean to have a critical framework surrounding it? Read this for a more meta look at the books you already love.
Cuba: The Cookbook, Madelaine Vázquez Gálvez and Imogene Tondre (Phaidon)
If you’re looking for an absolutely beautiful showstopper of a book on everything to do with Cuban cuisine, this is it. Basically a food showroom (nice to look at and dream about, not always easy or practical to make), this is the kind of cookbook you might sit down and read, cover to cover.
Sounds of Crossing: Music, Migration, and the Aural Poetics of Huapango Arribeño, Alex E. Chavez
Chavez uses the songs of the borderlands to talk about immigration into the US and the culture that has sprung up around the border. He pulls in both history and current situations – and best of all, his own experiences as a Mexican academic and musician – to create a multidimensional, gorgeous book.