Here at Caracas Chronicles we pride ourselves in fostering a sense of community.

We don’t just tell our readers what we think, we also learn from your reactions. More often than not, comments end up teaching us something about the topic being discussed. Uniquely for a Venezuelan public affairs site, the comments section is consistently mentioned as one of the best things about the blog.

It is in the spirit of fostering this sense of community that we are excited to announce a new regular feature on the blog: the Caracas Chronicles Book Club.

Every month, I will announce the title of the book we will be discussing. Sometimes the title will be in English, other times in Spanish, but every book will be Venezuela-centered.

There will be three posts about the book. The first post will announce the selection and explain why we are going to be reading it together. Fifteen days later, I will write another post – by that day, everyone who participates must promise to have read the first half of the book. Finally, we wrap up the book with our final impressions. Occasionally, if we’re lucky, we might add a hangout session with the author.

The important thing is that people who participate promise to read the book, and that if you purchase it, you do so via our website. (This will become clear when I announce our first pick.)

Book clubs have a long and storied history in the world. In the US and the UK, in particular, they are a common part of the social scene. And online book clubs have taken off in recent years, not surprisingly given how the Internet is practically tailor-made for the sort of passionate discussions books can help germinate.

Venezuela doesn’t really have a tradition of book clubs because, well, in part we don’t have a tradition of reading.

But changing the culture is not the real reason for this.

Many of us come to this blog because we have been forced to emigrate, and the blog helps feed the monster that lives under our bed: nostalgia. Yet our frenetic lifestyles don’t really allow us to ponder our country and read about it – about the issues, about the reasons, about the histories. Too many times we play off our nostalgia by commenting on the latest news article or insane Maduro cadena. The times when we talk about our country on the basis of actual books – well, those are slim to none.

The goal of this feature is to fill that gap. Much in the same way that personal trainers help you commit to the goal of exercising, this book club will be here to help steer you to read about Venezuela and think about her a bit differently – to learn from one another as we learn from a published author.

In a few days, I’ll be announcing the first selection for the book club. Feel free to offer suggestions for future editions in the Comments section.

I’m excited about this idea, and I hope you guys are too. Oh, and while we’re on the topic of books, don’t forget that Caracas Chronicles has its own book, published a few years ago when Chávez was still alive (barely).

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  1. So apparently there is a glitch with the comments on the new Caracas Chronicles, but the editors (jeje, that would certainly *not* be me) are working to fix it.

  2. My suggestion:

    “La frontera caliente entre Colombia y Venezuela” edición de Ariel Fernando Avila

    The subtitle of the book suggests that it covers drug-trafficking, gasoline cartels, corruption, paramilitarism and guerrilla safe havens. It’s a lengthy book (600 pages), multiple authors, published in 2013 by a think-tank based in Bogotá.

  3. This is amazing! Definitely joining. My suggestion is: El petróleo como instrumento de progreso: una nueva relación Ciudadano-Estado-Petróleo by Pedro Luis Rodríguez and Luis Roberto Rodríguez.

  4. Nice! And a little sugestion, that I’m aware it’s kind of hard, but try to make the book club people-still-living-in-Venezuela friendly, aka books that can be bought in bolívares or downlo**** for fr** on the internet.

  5. I’d like to nominate, in due time, Armando Scannone’s Mi Cocina, (the red one, not the blue one). The book is readily available ( I bet a few readers have it already), and still available in Venezuela.

    We could discuss the recipes, most of which date as far back as the early 20th century and onwards.

    After nominating one we have an online cooking hangout and have dinner together.

    I made an earlier comment on this thread about it but it seemed to have got lost. If it appears, pardon the duplicate.

    • Yupiii, I have it (the red covered one)! Also ‘La Cocina criolla de Venezuela’ (Publicaciones Revilibros, CA, 8a Edición), in which one finds recipes such as Cuajado Oriental and Chanfaina de Barlovento (entre los ingredientes: 1 riñón grande de res, 1 lengua de medio kilo….Los riñones Deben dejarse en vinagre y limón durante más de 12 horas, a fin de quitarles ese olor característico…).

      This is a great idea, Roberto, and I’d like to nominate you to lead the cooking hangout, if the CC gods permit it.

      I have recently discovered this joyful experience in my own neighbourhood, over 3500 Km away from Caracas. It started with the observation that Jamaican pumpkins were at a great price, and remembering ‘la sopa de auyama que se hacía en casa’ from long ago, a neighbour of mine have shared and split a few of the big beasts, while working on our individual creations, resulting in the perfect antidote to the cold weather, now in full swing.

      • p.d. Para aquellos que no tengan fácil acceso a los productos lácteos, digamos, en Venezuela, o tienen dificultades en digerir los mismos, la crema de auyama se puede hacer con agua de coco. Y la sopa que resulta es sabrosísima.

      • I think the cooking idea would be worth exploring. One of my recent frustrations was finding dried ají dulce that I thought I could bring back to Chile, but it was taken away by customs…

      • That little red book is almost a bible of Venezuelan cooking, especially from Caracas!

        I am ready willing and able to lead the hangout!

        Save up your pumpkins though, after Thanksgiving in the US the Pumpkin supply is going kaput due to too much rain in Illinois and not enough rain in California. Talk about irony. They’ve already packed and canned the “strategic reserve” so when it’s gone it’s gone until next harvest.

        Juan: You didn’t miss much with those dried Ajies. I tried them and there is ZERO flavor no matter if you hydrate them or bloom them in oil or pray to Maria Lionza AND her Tapir.

        Whoever manages to grow them in temperate climates is going to make a killing.

    • There is “Blue Book” that Education Ministry gave while I was pleasantly “invited” to one of their workshops… I only read a few pages, it wasn’t wrote by Chavez himself, but had a great part of his “though”.

  6. Thanks for all the suggestions! I don’t know yet what the list will be, but all of these will be given serious consideration. Keep them coming! The first pick will be announced in a couple of days.

  7. I would like to second what another commenter said: for this book club, if possible, think on those who are still living in Venezuela. I lived abroad for three years but I just recently moved back to Caracas (…). I would not want the book club to restrict itself only to books I can afford but I would love to be part of the book club whenever possible, that is, when you discuss books that can either be paid for in Bs. or can be downloaded for free online.

    Suggestions (only if you accept novels): “El Pasajero de Truman” by Francisco Suniaga and when its published, “Patria o Muerte” by Alberto Barrera Tyszka, it just earned the Tusquets award. Non fiction: “La Cultura del barrio” by Pedro Trigo S.J, I am not sure if this one can be found abroad, but if not, a few articles published on SIC about the same topic might do the trick.

  8. Juan, this is simply brilliant.

    Great suggestions folks!

    I would add “El caso Venezuela: una ilusión de armonía” by Naím and Piñango.
    “Venezuela before Chavez: anatomy of a collapse” by Haussman and Rodríguez.
    The books of Carlos Rangel, specially the “Manual del perfecto idiota..”
    A selection of Mariano Picón Salas’s complete works.

    Classics: starting with Teresa de la Parra, Gallegos, Uslar, etc.

    Very soon I will publish the ebook version of “Diáspora del Talento”, let´s see whether it makes the grades!

    P.S: The new CC is really good, the new contributors are delivering quality posts, congratulations to all the team.


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