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Top 10 Must-Read Books in the Caribbean Region

An escapism into the unknown away from the obvious chaos of the world. Books are fascinating works of art, and the Caribbean is no exception in generating some of the best.

The region is known for producing some of the world’s most talented authors, who have written some of the most well-known and recognized novels in the hemisphere.

From well-known bestsellers to lesser-known gems, there’s something for everyone. Here are the Top 10 Must-Read Books in the Caribbean Region.

1. The Black Jacobins by C.L.R James

The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution published in 1938 is Trinidadian-born C.L.R James’ most noted book. It is also regarded as one of the Catibbean’s most influential body of work. It is an intense account of the first revolution in the Third World (Haitian Revolution 1791).

2. Beyond Belief by V.S Naipaul

Internationally best-selling book published in 1998, Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples,  a sequel to Naipaul’s Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, is a rich and emotional telling of one of the most important issues in history. Naipaul goes on a complex journey through the effects of Indonesia’s, Iran’s, Pakistan’s, and Malaysia’s conversion to Islam. It’s an unmatched introduction to Indonesia’s Islamic beliefs as the people’s economic miracle and the Suharto government’s disintegration. 

3. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Her most commercially successful novel explores the power of relationships between men and women and discusses the themes of race, Caribbean history, and assimilation. It was published in 1966 and is a prequel to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It was named by Time as one of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923. It was also the winner of the WH Smith Literary Award in 1967, which brought Rhys to public attention after decades of obscurity.

4. Omeros by Derek Walcott

An epic poem about St. Lucia and other post-colonial locations, divided into “seven” books. Critics view the Homeric epic poem Omeros as his best work and call it his “major achievement”.  Dr. Derek Walcott is  described as the “Caribbean Community’s greatest poet, playwright and theatrical director”.

5. A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

One of Kincaid’s most well-known books, published in 1988, is an expressive and mordant work of art. It is a novel-length essay about the author’s childhood in Antigua. It emphasizes the impact of European colonization and tourism.

6. The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy 

by Kamau Braithwaite

His best-known work covers the treacherous migration of Africans across the Atlantic to the New World and explores black existence in the modern New World. It’s a poetic remark regarding the Caribbean’s current state, natural beauty, and horrific history.

Braithwaite’s lyrical poetry wove together the history and imagery of his native Barbados, the Caribbean and the African diaspora. Each of his poems are typeset in Brathwaite’s trademark Sycorax video-print style. He has been praised by the American poet Adrienne Rich for his “dazzling inventive language, his tragic yet unquenchable vision, [which] made him one of the most compelling of late twentieth century poets”. 

7. The Dominica Story: A History of the Island

by Lennox Honychurch

His most notable work tells an in depth historical tale of the origins and developments of Dominica. Though Lennox Honychurch grew up during the times captured in this book, he keeps the subject matter very objective. To educate the reader about Dominica’s and Caribbean history in general, the author combines Dominica’s history with geography, environment, folklore, and social customs. The book is regarded as the best book on Dominica’s history.

8. Beyond a Boundary by C.L.R James

A memoir described by James as “neither cricket reminiscences nor autobiography”. Cricket was his first love, and he was devoted to it. The book examines both the sport and the culture surrounding it. It describes his experiences as a player, spectator, and sports writer. He tells us about the players he knew and loved, delves into the psychology and aesthetics of the game, and discusses the class, race, and political issues surrounding it.

9. A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul

Widely regarded as one of Naipaul’s masterpieces, A Bend in the River, was also his most divisive books. Set following the end of British colonialism, it tells a story of an Indian man who settles and establishes himself in an African country.

10. Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

Annie John is a fundamental coming-of-age story, an eerie and heartbreaking narrative of a young girl growing up on the island of Antigua. It is one of Jamaica Kincaid’s most recognized novels.

The plot revolves around the loss of childhood, which is a ubiquitous, tragic, and sometimes humorous. The audience is captivated by Annie’s forceful voice.

Author:

Francesca Wilson

Trinidad-born Researcher, Francesca Wilson is a passionate and detail-oriented individual. She is an honour graduate of the University of the West Indies.

As a former Trinidad and Tobago Youth Ambassador and a UNITE 2030 Youth Delegate, Francesca is impassioned by the notion of Caribbean exceptionalism. This is why Caribbean development is always a focal point for her.

She is a true believer in the Caribbean aesthetic and that natural beauty is the way to go.

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