Get in the Mood! 7 Books to Read Before Your Trip to Jamaica

Travel and books. It’s no secret that I love books and that I love travelling.  Luckily, reading and travelling are two loves that don’t only make you super smart and cool, but also go really well together!  Reading is also an absolutely excellent way to get you excited about any country you are going to visit! Fiction and nonfiction books alike can really help prepare you to understand the country and the culture, actually far better than any guidebook can!  

Before Kyrgyzstan, I had to do some serious studying! Starting with “What is Kyrgyzstan?”  For Jamaica, I was definitely more aware, but had little concept of the true culture or history beyond the ideas of reggae, rasta, and reefer.

I suspect this may be true for other travellers to this wonderful country too…

So here is a list of 9 books that are set in Jamaica for you to check out before you touch down pon di rock! 

Read these 7 books before your trip to Jamaica to not only get you excited about your trip, but to get your feet wet in Jamaican history, life, and culture!

How Stella Got Her Groove Back – Terry McMillan

Yes, it was a book before it was an awesome and super sexy movie! Stella is a 40-something divorcee mother with a full fledged power career, but when she goes to Jamaica for a week of relaxation, she meets Taye Diggs, I mean Winston, a much younger man.  She ends up questioning everything about her life during what can only be considered a beautiful man induced mid-life crisis. I can state from my experience in Jamaica, this storyline is undeniably fictional, but a single gal can always dream. 

Buy a copy of How Stella Got Her Groove Back

*Note, this is the second Taye Diggs reference on this blog.  

How-Stella-Got-Her-Groove-Back books to read about Jamaica

The Mother of Us All: A History of Queen Nanny, Leader of the Windward Jamaican Maroons –  Karla Gottlieb

Queen Nanny was the Nasty Woman OG of Jamaica.  Born in Ghana in 1686 and brought to Jamaica as a slave, Queen Nanny and her brothers escaped from the harsh conditions of plantation life and settled in the Blue Mountains.  Afterwards, each sibling set up their own Maroon communities throughout the hilly interior of Jamaica thereby creating settlements for thousands of escaped slaves.  Throughout her life, Nanny is credited with helping over 1000 people escape slavery to set up free lives, making her a true Jamaican hero (and earning her a spot on the Jamaican $500 note!). This account of her life and the surrounding history of the Windward Maroons will not just interest the history buff, but anyone who digs a tale of resilience, power, determination, and fearless gusto!

Buy a copy of The Mother of Us All A History of Queen Nanny Leader of the Windward Jamaican Maroons

the mother of us all best books to read about jamaica

Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Ryhs

Perhaps one of the more famous books on the list,  Wide Sargasso Sea takes place in colonial Jamaica, back when the British Empire was still king. Not overly uplifting, this novel acts as a prequel to Jane Eyre, and introduces us to a Creole heiress Antoinette who falls in love with a rather young but equally tyrannical Mr. Rochester. The story of Antoinette descending into his clutches is largely heralded as one of Ryhs’s finest works for it’s prose and drama. 

Buy a copy of Wide Sargasso Sea

wide sargasso sea books set in Jamaica

The Rastafarians – Leonard E. Barrett Sr.

The Rasta culture is of major importance in both the history and modern life of Jamaica.  I must admit, I’m embarrassingly ill-versed on it.  Luckily, this piece by Barrett will shed all kinds of light on the religion and subsequent culture of the West African diaspora that follows the Rasta way. Tying in the Maroon heritage and the history of escaped slaves, you will find out that Rasta is more than just dreadlocks. 

Buy a copy of The Rastafarians

The Rastafarians books to read about jamaican culture and history

No Woman No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley – Rita Marley

Everyone knows Bob Marley, but perhaps no one knew him so well as his wife Rita.  This emotional memoir gives a unique perspective into the life of the King of Reggae up to and beyond his untimely bout with cancer. Refreshingly honest, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses, and Rita doesn’t shy away from the trials and tribulations of life with Bob. Whatever it was about the man that made the world fall in love with him, this book will make you fall a little bit in love with his amazingly strong wife. 

Buy a copy of No Woman No Cry My Life With Bob Marley

No Woman No Cry book about bob marley set in Jamaica jamaica memoirs

Doctor No – Ian Fleming

It is moderately known that Jamaica was where Ian Fleming dreamt up the character of the world’s most famous spy, James Bond. What may not be as widely known is that quite a few of the books took place in Jamaica at some point or another.  Doctor No was set primarily in Jamaica, and the ensuing movie was filmed on the island as well (I actually just visited that beach where Honey Ryder emerges from the ocean with her seashells… I was just as attractive don’t worry!). Despite the blatant sexism, dim witted female characters, and far fetched plot lines, who doesn’t love a good James Bond on the beach book?!

Buy a copy of Doctor No

Doctor No books to read before visiting Jamaica books set in Jamaica books about jamaica

The Other Side of Paradise – Staceyann Chin

This stirring memoir gives the reader an actual look at the other side of paradise, meaning no, life Jamaica is not always easy.  Staceyann was abandoned by her parents early on and initially raised by her Grandmother through various levels of poverty.  Shedding light on the fact that Jamaica is a developing country with many social issues, Staceyann manages to mix her literary artistry with the harsh realities of growing up poor in Jamaica. 

Buy a copy of The Other Side of Paradise

the other side of paradise memoir about life in jamaica books to read about jamaican life

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Read these 7 books before your trip to Jamaica to not only get you excited about your trip, but to get your feet wet in Jamaican history, life, and culture!



4 thoughts on “Get in the Mood! 7 Books to Read Before Your Trip to Jamaica

  1. Hi Emily,

    Queen Nanny sounds inspires! A true OG no doubt.

    I feed off of these folks. Whether they are with us on this plane or have moved on, seeing largely fearless folks inspire me to do more things with love so I do less with fear. Like today; after publishing 3 posts between my blog and 2 guest spots I had – writing all 3 today – I am at it at 8:30 PM on a Saturday night. No big deal to me really but I did feel a little urge to go to bed soon, to get my reading in before retiring for the evening. A little fear crept in; gotta get offline. But reading of Queen Nanny’s story inspired me to feel the fear, to relax, to comment on a few more blogs and to spread love. Even if I get 20 minutes less sleep tonight.

    Cool 411 on Dr. No. Gotta love those films of the 60’s and 70’s though, just seeing them for what they are 😉


    Signing off from Doha, Qatar.


    1. Hey Ryan,

      Queen Nanny does sound like one boss ass lady! I am definitely going to do more research on her and a whole post hopefully. I love collecting empowering female heroines in my heart and mind, gives me that kind of inspiration to do more and move forward! I too have some things I have been putting off, maybe it’s time I got on them before watching my shows from last week!
      Hope you’re having an amazing time in Qatar, loving the pictures! What a great housesitting gig that one is!


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