Here is an annotated bibliography of books that you may find interesting

 Books About Panama and The Panama Canal

Detrich, Richard – PANAMA CANAL DAY: AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO CRUISING THE PANAMA CANALEverything you need to know before and during you cruise of the Panama Canal: history, the country of Panama, the transit itself including what to expect and what to look for, and shore excursions.  Order Direct or on Amazon or Kindle or your local bookstore.


Detrich, Richard – THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMAEverything you need to know if you’ve ever thought about picking up and moving. Order Direct or Kindle or your local bookstore

Dinges, John. – OUR MAN IN PANAMÁ: HOW GENERAL NORIEGA USED THE US AND MADE MILLIONS IN DRUGS AND ARMS. New York, Random House, 1990. This and the US experience with Sadam Hussein makes one think the CIA needs to reassess its hiring policies.

Doggert, Scott -LONELY PLANET PANAMA Melbourne, Lonely Planet Publications. . I’m not sure why he’s so negative on Puerto Amuerlles: maybe he was just having a bad day when he visited.

Friar, William – ADVENTURES IN NATURE: PANAMÁ. Emeryville, CA, Avalon Travel Publishing. Panamá from an ecotourism perspective.

Friar, William – MOON PANAMA (Moon Handbooks) Emeryville, CA, Avalon Travel Publishing, 2008

Galbraith, Douglas – THE RISING SUN. New York, Atlantic Monthly, 2001. This is a fantastic historical novel about a disastrous and short-lived attempt in 1668 to settle Panamá and claim the bridge between the seas for Scotland. [Yes, Scotland!]

Green, Julie – THE CANAL BUILDERS. New York, Penguin Press, 2009 – About the people and life in the Canal Zone.

Heidke, Dianne – THE BOQUETE HANDBOOK: The Insider’s Guide to Surviving Life in Boquete


Howard, Christopher – LIVING AND INVESTING IN PANAMÁ Costa Rica Books. Promises a lot, but delivers very little. Interesting, seemingly knowledgeable, couple of pages on prostitution and finding women, if that’s your thing. Disappointing.

Indepenent Commission of Inquiry on the US Invasion of Panamá, THE US INVASION OF PANAMÁ: THE TRUTH BEHIND OPERATION JUST CAUSE Boston, South End Press, 1991. Promising title, but poorly assemble collection of testimony of Panamanians, and some interesting material that gives a much different slant on the Invasion that was presented in the US press.

Kempe, Frederick – DIVORCING THE DICTATOR: AMERICA’S BUNGLE AFFAIR WITH NORIEGA. New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1990. Joel McCleary, former political advisor to Noriega, says, “Everyone was sleeping with Noriega. Noriega was a lovely hooker. But then he grew old and got a wrinkled ass. He grew more corrupt, he started selling drugs. He wasn’t fun to take to parties anymore. So you had to get rid of him.”

Koster, R.M. & Sanchez, Guillermo – IN THE TIME OF TYRANTS: PANAMÁ 1968-1990. From the viewpoint of two Panamanian journalists who lived through the “Dictatorship”.

Labrut, Michele – GETTING TO KNOW PANAMÁ. El Dorado, Panamá. Labrut, former Press attaché to the French embassy and writer takes you on her personal tour.

Lindsay-Poland, John – EMPERORS IN THE JUNGLE: THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF THE US IN PANAMÁ. Durham, Duke University Press, 2003. Post-US Invasion analysis: those who fail to read and understand history are condemned to repeat it.

Mc Cullough, David –THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS: THE CREATION OF THE PANAMÁ CANAL 1870-1914. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1977 – The definitive history of the building of the Panamá Canal. Lengthy, filled with footnotes, at times tedious, but if you get past the first 150 pages you will be hooked.

Noriega, Manuel and Eisner, Peter – AMERICA’S PRISONER: THE MEMOIRS OF MANUEL NORIEGA: AMERICA’S PRISONER. New York, Random House, 1997. Two-thirds of the book is Noriega’s “as told to” memoirs surprisingly not the ravings you might expect, but the measured, self-serving type memoir typical of any ex-president or secretary of state. One-third of the book is Eisner’s excellent analysis.

Parker, David – PANAMÁ FEVER New York, Doubleday, 2007 – More about the French effort and more insight into the lives and struggles of those who actually did the work and built the Canal.

Perkins, John – CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MANSan Francisco, Berrett-Koehler Publishers. “Economic hit men are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex and murder.” Perkins, a former economic hit man, numbered among his clients General Omar Torrijos, former President of Panamá, who died in a plane crash Perkins believes was not accidental.

Ridgely, Robert and Gwynne, John A. Jr.- A GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF PANAMÁ. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press. Pricey, but if you like bird watching this book is a must.

Vipond, Anne – PANAMÁ CANAL BY CRUISE SHIP Vancouver, Ocean Cruise Guides, 1957. Less than one third of the book is about Panamá, and ten percent of that is general information about cruise ships – “The Purser’s Office/Front Desk is the pleasure center of the ship.” [I must tell this to my friends who work at the Front Desk! I’m sure they never thought of themselves being at the “pleasure center of the ship”!] Two thirds of the book is about other ports which Panamá Canal itineraries may visit.


Good maps are essential but hard to find in local bookstores. The National Geographic Panama map map is well-worth it and if you’re thinking about moving to Panama or just visiting it is a good investment. The other good map, more just a good map without all the facts, is International Travel Maps: PANAMA. The scale of this map makes it easy to read and to use.


We grow it: you drink it. Of course you have no idea of all the work that goes into producing your morning cup, particularly if you are drinking the really good stuff from Boquete, Panama! And you may have no idea about the fascinating history of this drink we all take forgranted. Antony Wild’s COFFEE; A DARK HISTORYtells the fascinating story.

Books For Other Cruise Itineraries

*Are “required” reading! Others are “extra credit.”


*Ken Follett, THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH – Historically based novel that will give an appreciation of how cities developed, the importance and building of city walls and cathedrals, even Oprah liked it.


*Janet Dailey, THE GREAT ALONE – Historically based novel set across the ages in Alaska: gives a good sweep of “the great land”.


*James A Michener, CARIBBEAN: A NOVEL – An epic historically based novel that will help you appreciate the complex and interwoven history of the islands.

Herman Wouk, DON’T STOP THE CARNIVAL – A fun read set in pre-“Little Switzerland” St. Thomas, in the days before 10 cruise ships and 20,000 passengers descended each and every day. The most memorable characters, including the Governor and his mistress, were based on real St. Thomians! Will help you appreciate the complex interactions of life in the Caribbean.


*James Michener, MEXICO – More than just tequila, beaches and condos . . . another epic Michener book that will help you understand Mexico.

Amazon (The jungle, not the online bookstore!)

Mark J. Plotkin TALES OF A SHAMAN’S APPRENTICE – A classic about the rich pharmacopia of rain forest jungle plants and their use by Indigenous peoples of the Amazonian rain forest.

Candice Millard, THE RIVER OF DOUBT – After he left the White House, Theodore Roosevelt would set out to explore an unmapped tributary of the Amazon, almost loosing his life in the process.

Adrian Forsyth and Ken Miyata, TROPICAL NATURE: LIFE AND DEATH IN THE RAIN FORESTS OF CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA – A collection of fascinating essays about “life and eath in the rain forests of Central and South America.” When I read this I gained a great deal of insight into what was going on in the rain forests all around me in Panama.


Edward Bulwer-Lytton, THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII – A classic, and a “must read” if you are visiting Naples and Pompeii, told from the perspective of the Roman aqueduct engineer.

African Slave Trade

These books were suggested by Dr. Latifah Chinnery, a former professor at City College in New York, who sailed with us on the ROTTERDAM following the path of Middle Passage from Portugal to Senegal to Brazil.


Walter Rodney, HOW EUROPE UNDERDEVELOPED AFRICA – According to Rodney t much of the “Third World” is a product of European Imperialism in the 19th and 20th centuries.


Stephan Talty, EMPIRE OF BLUE WATER – Captain Morgan’s Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaw’s Bloody Reign. Of particular interest because Morgan was very active against the Spanish in Panama.

South Pacific

Some of these are oldies, but goodies! One of the things about cruising these areas is that it has given me the excuse to reread some of these classics.

Charles Norhoff and James Norman Hall, BOTANY BAY – The used copy I was able to find on Amazon was a paperback issued in the ’60s with a “romance-novel-type” illustration of a bare-chested guy in chains clinging to a scantily clad blonde with a big bosom and the subtitle “A lusty adventure of strong men and their women by the authors of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY”. I had this book sent to my daughter in San Francisco so she could bring it with her to Panama, and she opened the package and thought “What? Has my dad gone off the deep end?” Anyway, the book is good! The ’60s cover and illustration not withstanding. We all know Australia was settled by convicts, but most of us have no idea what it was like to be on the “First Fleet.”

I’d read MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY years ago, but never had opportunity to read the entire trilogy. It’s fantastic stuff, especially now having been to Tahiti and Morea several times, and now going to Pitcairn Island. Another old treasure!

Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY is the story of the mutiny itself and life on the BOUNTY afterward by a crew member. The movie follows the book somewhat, but, as often happens, the book is far better than the movie.

Nordoff and Hall’s MEN AGAINST THE SEA is the riveting story of what happens to Captain Bligh and the men who were set adrift in the ocean after the mutiny, fully expected to die at sea, and managed, incredibly and against all odds to make their way back to London.

From a different viewpoint of the same event, Nordoff and Hall’s PITCAIRN’S ISLAND follows what happens to Fletcher Christian and the mutineers.

It is all great stuff and sometimes can be found with the three books packaged together in THE BOUNTY TRILOGY.

Richard Hough, CAPTAIN JAMES COOK: A BIOGRAPHY. Cook really launched the age of exploration and his approach became the prototype for future explorations. Unlike most Royal Navy men, Cook was the son of a farmer, who managed to become the greatest navigator and explorer, perhaps of all time, especially when you consider what he had to work with. Must reading if you are heading into the Southern Hemisphere.

Thor Heyerdahl,KON-TIKI:ACROSS THE PACIFIC BY RAFT I can’t remember how many years ago I read this, but now, following these routes in the Pacific, it is amazing what a great read these old books are!

Cruising & Ships

John Maxtone-Graham, THE ONLY WAY TO CROSS – Maxtone-Graham is “the” ship historian and THE ONLY WAY TO CROSS is a nostalgic look at the days of the great transatlantic liners. Out of print

John Maxtone-Graham, LINERS TO THE SUN – Maxtone-Graham traces the transition from transatlantic ocean transportation to today’s cruise vacation ships.

Bob Dickinson and Andy Vladimir, SELLING THE SEA: AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE CRUISE INDUSTRY – If you’ve ever wondered how the industry works . . . Bob Dickinson, former CEO of Carnival, basically created the cruise industry as we know it.