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2016 has struck once more as it ends — and this time, it’s taken ‘El Comandante’, the Commander himself: Fidel Castro, who was at the helm of Cuba from 1961 till 2008, a principal antagonist of the United States, and a man who almost brought the world to a war by allowing Soviets to install nuclear missile bases on Cuba in 1962. For those on the left, he was a symbol of revolution, a towering giant who stood up to the US’s ‘imperial’ ambitions. For his enemies, he was a dictator who cracked down on dissent and free speech. Yet no one doubted his charisma, his charm, and the iconic cigar that always hung from his lips.

Here, we choose the 5 best books to read about Fidel, his life and Cuba:

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My Life: A Spoken Autobiography
Fidel Castro with Ignacio Ramonet

Look no further than the autobiography by the man himself. Drawing on more than 100 hours of interviews, Fidel reveals his childhood, the early failures of his revolution, the Cuban missile crisis, his thoughts on the US — pretty much everything you’d expect in a leader’s autobiography. This is the definitive book to start from if you want to know more about Fidel.

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Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

Who better to tell the story of the revolution that brought Fidel to power than Che Guevara himself? Che joined Fidel as a medical doctor, and went on to become a military commander, eventually becoming governor of the Cuban central bank under Fidel. While Che’s politics are questionable, what is not is this classic eyewitness account of a revolution and the transformation of a country.

When Michelle and Alice B. asked (Fidel Castro) about literature in Cuba and to name his favorite books, he spoke of The Old Man and the Sea (because of the inner conversation the old man has with himself), Don Quixote, Kafka short stories, all books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Romeo and Juliet, among others.’

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The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba, and Herbert L. Matthews of The New York Times
Anthony De Palma

In 1957, Herbert L. Matthews of the New York Times returned with the scoop of the century: he tracked down Fidel in Cuba’s Sierra Maestra mountains, and his heroic portrayal of Fidel, who was then believed dead, changed the way the US looked at Cuba — and had a perceptible difference in the way the Batista regime was seen. And when Fidel declared himself to be a Communist, Matthews was accused of betraying his country. This fascinating book by the man who wrote Fidel’s NYT obituary is not just the story of a newspaper scoop, but also how far popular perceptions go in determining foreign policies.

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Fidel Castro Reader

Fidel was a master-orator, perhaps one of the best the world has ever seen. This book is a collection of his speeches over 5 decades, beginning with his famous four-hour-long ‘History will Absolve Me’ speech which he made in court in 1953 in his own defence against charges brought to him by the government. This collection also includes his speech on learning of Che Guevara’s death, on the collapse of the Soviet Union, and his response to 9/11.

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The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Lider Maximo
Juan Reinaldo Sanchez with Axel Gyldén

Sanchez was bodyguard to Fidel for more than 17 years, and broke his silence after his imprisonment and escape from Cuba. From Fidel’s private life to his torture chambers, from his immense personal fortune to his nine children from five different partners, this tell-all forces us to do a relook at Fidel’s legacy, and what revolution really brought to Cuba.

 

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