What’s on Your Bequia Bookshelf?

The Caribbean CookDon’t you love to browse a friend’s bookshelf? You can skim and find books worth buying, while learning lots about the other person. Discussing what you find prolongs the pleasure. In that spirit, I reveal below some favorites on Caribbean homes and living from my Bequia home library. Readers, won’t you please suggest some of your favorites in the comment space below? (Email subscribers: To comment, click on the title above to go to this post on our website, then scroll down to the bottom of the page.)

For your convenience, I’ve included links to Amazon’s listings for each book. (What do you think of this?) For those of you on Bequia, some are available at the Bequia Bookshop and Noah’s Arcade.

Caribbean Literature

Ruler in Hiroona, Novel on Caribbean PoliticsDon’t Stop the Carnival: The hilarious adventures of a New Yorker who buys a hotel on an island much like Bequia; it seems like farce until you make the move yourself, then you realize it’s understated.

Ruler in Hiroona: A novel about Caribbean politics in the 50s and 60s, when islands gradually won independence from Britain, written by a Vincentian political consultant of the era; a must-read to understand politics in St. Vincent today.

A Small Place: A brutal, sometimes shocking and inevitably surprising look at tourists from the point of view of someone who grew up in Antigua; expats should read this to understand what their neighbors may think of them.

“If you come by aeroplane…, you may be the sort of tourist who would wonder why a Prime Minister would want an airport named after him—why not a school, why not a hospital, why not some great public monument? You are a tourist and you have not yet seen a school in Antigua, you have not yet seen the hospital in Antigua, you have not yet seen a public monument in Antigua.” from A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

Caribbean Cuisine

The Caribbean Cook: World-class contemporary versions of classic dishes, as well as new dishes using local Caribbean ingredients (Anyone know of a cookbook with more of the latter?)

Caribbean Home Design

Mustique Home DesignMustique: History and design of early homes on Bequia’s neighboring island; I value it primarily for photographs of Oliver Messel-designed homes (See my blog on Messel.)

Caribbean Style: Overview of regional home design with especially good pictures of vernacular (what Bequia architect Mike Connell calls ‘Caribbean Cottage Style’).

Tropical Houses: Sensuous photos of indoor-outdoor living, with plenty of copyable ideas from Bali to Sri Lanka to Jamaica.

British West Indies Style: Erudite essay, lots of pictures, by the leading expert on British colonial era furniture.

Caribbean Gardens

The Subtropical Garden: Examples of the dense, layered tropical landscape I favor over the colonial gardens more prevalent in Bequia. (For local examples, have lunch at Firefly Mustique and tour the gardens around the pool.)

Questions or Suggestions?