Hundreds of books have been written about the Maya calendar and the end of the Long Count. Here are just a few suggested titles that offer an overview of the 2012 phenomenon from a few different perspectives.
González, Gaspar Pedro. 13 B’aktun: Mayan Visions of 2012 and Beyond. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2010. Unlike any other book you’ll read about 2012, this one was written in Spanish by a Maya novelist and philosopher from Guatemala then translated to English. The book is comprised of a lyrical dialogue, poetry, explanations of Maya concepts, messages to the West, and more. The author writes, “if on Earth we haven’t been able to become conscientious about nature, our mission, and our relationship with the other beings that exist here, we won’t be able to attain cosmic, more distant, and more spiritual consciousness as humans.”
Jenkins, John Major. The 2012 Story: The Myths, Fallacies, and Truth Behind the Most Intriguing Date in History. New York: Tarcher/Penguin, 2009. If you are only going to read one book on 2012—or if you are looking for a far-reaching portal to the greater 2012 world, this is the book. Jenkins is one of the most prolific and passionate 2012ologists out there. His 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 is regarded as a groundbreaking work in the field, “easily one of the best researched of the popular books that focus on the 2012 date,” writes one colleague. In The 2012 Story, Jenkins covers everything from the ancients’ forward-reaching stone inscriptions to 2012 as a modern global meme. He writes, “2012 has gained the status of an icon, a cultural symbol, to be used and often abused for purposes that have nothing to do with its origins and the intentions of its creators.” The book sums up Jenkins’s galactic alignment theory and others’ work as well.
Sitler, Robert, PhD. The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2010. This book begins with the Yucatec Maya greeting, “Bix a bel?,” which means, “How is your road?” And that’s right where the author puts us—on the road in the Guatemalan highlands and southern Mexico, traveling with him in the forest. Some of his anecdotes and encounters happened long before he became a professor at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida; others are based on his three decades of working with the Maya. The book weaves these narratives with cultural explanations and lessons we can learn from the Maya of today.
Stuart, David. The Order of Days: The Maya World and the Truth About Maya Time. New York: Random House, 2011. Esteemed epigrapher and author of half a dozen books on Maya hieroglyphics and archaeology, Dr. David Stuart is one of the world’s most preeminent Mayanists. In his newest book, he explains the science behind the 2012 speculations.
Van Stone, Mark. 2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya. San Diego: Tlacaélel Press, 2010. This book is a science-based skeptic’s guide to the subject, written by a respected Mayanist, epigrapher, and professional art historian. This remarkable book is overflowing with color illustrations, glyph descriptions, date breakdowns, and a very thorough investigation of the various 2012 theories.
Arvigo, Rosita. Sastun: One Woman’s Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer and Their Efforts to Save the Vani. San Francisco: Harper, 1995. Sastun tells the story of the American-born author’s training with 87-year-old Elijio Panti, the best-known Maya medicine man in Central America. It takes place in the remote, roadless expanse of Cayo District in western Belize.
Coe, Michael D. The Maya (8th ed.). New York: Thames & Hudson, 2011. Coe, an archaeologist, anthropologist, epigrapher, and author, is a forefather of Maya studies, and this book is mandatory reading for both amateur Mayanists and pros. He attempts to understand the “most intellectually sophisticated and aesthetically refined pre-Columbian culture,” as Coe calls the Maya. The Maya has been in print for nearly 50 years and is a classic, easy-to-read text, for consumption either at home before you go, or packed along as a field guide. The eighth edition has information on recent discoveries, including the polychrome murals of Calakmul, and increased evidence of Preclassic sophistication.
De Landa, Friar Diego. Yucatán: Before and After the Conquest. New York: Dover Publications, 1978 (translation of original manuscript written in 1566). The same man who provided some of the best, most lasting descriptions of ancient Maya also single-handedly destroyed more Maya artifacts and writings than anyone in history. Yet this book has provided crucial clues to modern understanding of the Maya and their calendar and writing.
Tedlock, Barbara, PhD. Time and the Highland Maya. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982, 1992. This is the classic primer on understanding the complex system of Maya calendars and their meaning to the Maya of Guatemala’s western highlands. A professor of anthropology at the University of Buffalo, Tedlock is an expert in Maya calendrical divination and was trained with her husband as a daykeeper and spiritual diviner by shamans in Momostenango, Guatemala.
Fry, Joan. How to Cook a Tapir: A Memoir of Belize. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009. The story of a young teacher’s year abroad, living among the Maya in southern Belize nearly 50 years ago. The author offers an intimate glimpse at Maya village life in this heartfelt, oftentimes funny story of how she “painstakingly baked and boiled her way up the food chain” to gain acceptance among her neighbors and students.
Kelsey, Nola Lee. 700 Places to Volunteer Before You Die: A Traveler’s Guide. Hot Springs, SD: Dog’s Eye View Media, 2010. A fine collection of alternative travel opportunities in the Mundo Maya countries and beyond.
McConahay, Mary Jo. Maya Roads: One Woman’s Journey Among the People of the Rainforest. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2011. After three decades traveling and working in some of the remotest corners of the Mundo Maya, the author, an award-winning television producer, has written a wonderful, lyrical travelogue. While moving through thick forests and down wide rivers, McConahay gives the reader a front row seat to archaeological discoveries, the transformation of the Lacandón people, the Zapatista indigenous uprising in Chiapas, and uncovering a war crime in Guatemala.
Stephens, John Lloyd. Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatán. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1969 (New York: originally Harper & Bros., 1841). A smashing 19th-century travelogue, Stephens’s writing is wonderfully pompous, amusing, and astute—with historical and archaeological observations that still stand today. If you can, find a copy with the original set of illustrations by Stephens’s expedition partner and artist, Frederick Catherwood.
Wright, Ronald. Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. New York: Grove Press, 2000. This narrative carries the reader through the Mundo Maya countries on a series of encounters and visits during some of the tenser recent decades. Wright paints vivid scenes and does not shy away from difficult subjects. “Tourism exploits the Indian, but the Indian suffers when tourism is withdrawn. The dilemma is one of control, and it will remain unresolved until the larger question of Indian rights in Guatemala is addressed,” he writes.
Argueta, Al. Moon Guatemala . Berkeley, CA: Avalon Travel, 2010.
Berman, Joshua. Moon Belize . Berkeley, CA: Avalon Travel, 2011.
Robertson, Amy E., and Christopher Humphrey. Moon Honduras & the Bay Islands . Berkeley, CA: Avalon Travel, 2009.