For me, there is little in life I like better than travel, but books come damn close. If you combine the two the world becomes your oyster. How wonderful is it to escape to faraway countries, meet foreign people, and walk paths you have never walked before? Whether in reality or through a story?

I don’t think I am the only one because otherwise books like Shantaram, The Beach, and On the Road wouldn’t have gotten so famous. With that said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my trip preparation usually involves a lot more reading materials than a Lonely Planet. Don’t get me wrong, I love my LP Travel Book dearly, but there is so much more to get into the mood for a country.

As we are now featuring a special destination each month I would like to introduce you to some books to go with each destination. And without further ado, I give you books of Ecuador and Galapagos!

Books to Read before you go to Ecuador and Galapagos

The Latin Road Home
by Jose Garces

While this memoir and cookbook, The Latin Road Home by Jose Garces, travels through Cuba, Spain, Mexico and Peru as well, his culinary journey starts in Ecuador. He shares recipes and memories from his childhood home, giving an inside of his upbringing and the culture of Ecuador. Home cooking and street food are featured and recipes are shared in both, English and Spanish, for more authenticity. Perfect to get excited about ceviche or to recreate your favorite dishes after the trip!

Floreana: A Woman’s Pilgrimage to the Galápagos
by Margaret Wittmer

This autobiography of German-born Margaret Wittmer describes her pilgrimage to Floreana, a small island in the Galapagos. Here she makes a new life with her husband and step-son, raises two babies and gets chocolate from Franklin D. Roosevelt. Her account about an impossible life is humorous and despite a crazy baroness, volcanos, and wild bulls in the neighborhood does her love for this little lost paradise shine through in every word.

The Galapagos Affair
by John Treherne

If the life of the Wittmer family isn’t curious enough for you how about eccentric Dr. Ritter? He and his friend Dora Strauch were actually the first settlers on Floreana. Or Baroness Wagner-Bosquet who not only ruled over her two younger lovers with a leather crop but also terrorized her neighbors? Her mysterious disappearance was soon known as The Galapagos Affair and gave the island an air of scandal and danger.
Want more gossip from this island that wasn’t always so paradisical? Check out Dora Strauch’s book Satan Came to Eden: A Survivor’s Account of the “Galapagos Affair”.


Fire from the Andes: Short Fiction by Women from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru

This book is a contemporary collection of 24 female writers from the Andean countries. They give an inside into women’s lives which are usually hard and often even quite haunting, especially for a reader from a very different world. Stories about love, life, and loss are told from local heroines that are strong and wise despite the hardship life sometimes brings.

Living Poor
by Moritz Thomsen

With almost 50 Moritz Thomsen sells his pig farm to join the Peace Corps in Ecuador. For four years he tries to make a little Ecuadorian village a better place and fails. Living Poor is an account of his own experience with the Peace Corps, his new life and the people of Ecuador, equally heartbreaking and inspirational.

The Boy on the Back of the Turtle: Seeking God, Quince Marmalade, and the Fabled Albatross on Darwin’s Islands
by Paul Quarrington

If the title doesn’t already make you fall in love with this book Paul Quarrington’s writing surely will. The Boy on the Back of the Turtle is equal parts travelogue and memoir as he retells his travels to the Galapagos with his daughter and his father. With wit and humour, he describes his journey to the islands, speaks about science versus God and of course, about quince marmalade.

The Old Man Who Read Love Stories
by Luis Sepulveda

Antonio José Bolívar Proaño’s wife has died and he is left alone in a El Idilio, an Amazonian village in Ecuador. Jungle expert that he is, he now spends his time with reading romance novels, that the traveling dentist brings him. His simple reading days get interrupted when an ocelot is endangering the village and it falls to him to catch the beast.
The Old Man Who Read Love Stories is both a sad love story and a simple fable, but it is also an account of civilization versus nature in our modern day lives.

Books to Read before you go to Ecuador and Galapagos

The Queen of Water
by Laura Resau

Based on a true story, we meet Virginia, an indígena from an Andean village in Ecuador. While her life is hard, working on the fields like an adult, it takes a turn to the worse when she is taken as a servant to a mestizo couple. Only seven years old at the time, she is basically working as a slave for them.
The Queen of Water recounts the horrors, but also her survival – this book was written in cooperation with her.

The Panama Hat Trail: A Journey from South America
by Tom Miller

The Panama Hat is without a doubt South America’s most famous piece of closing. How the name came along when it originates from Ecuador and its rise to international fame is only part of this story. The Panama Hat Trail is more a fascinating account into the culture and people of Ecuador and the urgent question of what guinea pig really tastes like.


Do you have any other recommendations to get into the mood for Ecuador? Please share them in the comments!

This post was written by Annika Ziehen who was a Travelette until 2019. Originally from Germany, Annika has lived in New York and Cape Town and now travels the world full time. She considers herself a very hungry mermaid and writes about her adventures, scuba diving and food on her blog The Midnight Blue Elephant. You can also find her on Instagram here!