Some of the books listed are out of print or most readily available in Panama , but even these can generally be special-ordered through bookstores or the Internet.
Espriella III, Ricardo de la. Panamá: Resumen Histórico Illustrado del Istmo, 1501–1994. Colombia: Antigua Films, 1994. A slender coffee-table book with historic photos and brief summaries of major events in Panama’s history. In Spanish.
Friar, William. Portrait of the Panama Canal: From Construction to the Twenty-First Century. Portland, Oregon: Graphic Arts Center Publishing, 2003. A photo-essay book by the author of this travel guide.
Navarro Q., Juan Carlos. Panama National Parks. Panama: Ediciones Balboa. A beautiful coffee-table book depicting Panama’s national parks. In English and Spanish.
Salvador, Mari Lyn (ed.). The Art of Being Kuna: Layers of Meaning Among the Kuna of Panama. University of Washington Press: October 1997. A hefty coffee-table book with fascinating photos and scholarly essays on Kuna life, culture, art, beliefs, and history. The best introduction to the Kunas and their molas  (handcrafted blouses).
Anderson, Dr. C. L. G. Old Panama and Castilla del Oro. New York: North River Press, 1911. A fascinating, in-depth account of the Spanish conquest and pirate history of Panama, written by a medical doctor who worked for the Panama Canal  during its construction.
Buckley, Kevin. Panama: The Whole Story. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991. Solidly reported and well written, this is the most reliable account of the U.S. invasion that removed Noriega from power in 1989.
Díaz Espino, Ovidio. How Wall Street Created a Nation: J. P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Panama Canal. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2001. An impassioned polemic about behind-the-scenes dealings leading to Panama’s separation from Colombia and the 1903 Panama Canal treaties.
Dyke, Tom Hart, and Paul Winder. The Cloud Garden: A True Story of Adventure, Survival, and Extreme Horticulture. Guilford, Connecticut: Lyons Press, 2004. An alternately funny and horrifying account of two backpackers kidnapped by guerrillas in the Darién  jungle in 2000.
Howarth, David. The Golden Isthmus. London: Collins, 1966. Also published as Panama: Four Hundred Years of Dreams and Cruelty. Contains fascinating tidbits on the exploits of Spanish conquistadors, Elizabethan adventurers, and bloody buccaneers. Becomes unreliable as it enters the modern era.
Howe, James. A People Who Would Not Kneel: Panama, the United States, and the San Blas Kuna. Washington: Smithsonian, 1998. Gives interesting insights into the history and culture of the Kuna.
Lindsay-Poland, John. Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of the U.S. in Panama. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2003. Investigative journalism examining the history of U.S. military involvement in Panama.
McCullough, David. The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870–1914. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977. The definitive history of the Panama Canal. An astonishing book that reads like a thriller.
Prebble, John. The Darien Disaster: A Scots Colony in the New World, 1698–1700. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1968. A readable account of the doomed Scottish attempt to establish a colony in the Darién jungle.
Spanish-speakers interested in learning more about Panama City ’s history will have their best chance of finding locally written books at local bookstores. However, these generally are academic works produced on a minimal budget and containing far more minute detail than the average reader will have much use for.
Castillero Reyes, Ernesto J. Leyendas e Historias de Panamá la Vieja. Panama City: Producciones Erlizca, 2nd edition 1998. The history and legends of Old Panama from its founding to its sacking by Henry Morgan, with crude illustrations and a blurry map of the city during its heyday.
Díaz Szmirnov, Damaris. Génesis de la Ciudad Republicana. Panama City: Agenda del Centenario, 2001. A detailed account of the emergence of modern Panama City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Though likely to be of most interest to residents, it fills in many gaps in Panama’s recent history, something that has not been well documented, especially from a Panamanian perspective. It contains some small but interesting historical photos.
de La Espriella III, Ricardo. Panamá: Resumen Histórico Ilustrado del Istmo, 1501–1994. Bogotá: Antigua Films, 1994. A slender coffee-table book with historic photos and brief summaries of major events in Panama’s history.
Forsyth, Adrian, and Ken Miyata. Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995. An introduction to tropical ecology.
Kircher, John. A Neotropical Companion: An Introduction to the Animals, Plants, & Ecosystems of the New World Tropics. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1999. A detailed explanation of just about anything you’d like to know about the New World tropics. Reading it will deepen hikers’ experience of the forest.
Ventocilla, Jorge, Heraclio Herrera, and Valerio Nunez. Elisabeth King, trans. Plants & Animals in the Life of the Kuna. Austin, Texas: University of Texas, 1995. This book is notable for describing flora and fauna, forest life, and environmental destruction in Kuna Yala  from the point of view of the Kuna themselves, often in their own words.
Wong, Marina and Ventocilla, Jorge. A Day on Barro Colorado Island. Panama: Smithsonian, 1995. A slim volume that contains an overview of the flora and fauna of the island and a detailed trail map.
Reid, Fiona A. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Comprehensive illustrated guide to mammals found in Panama, including aquatic ones. Includes range maps, descriptions, habitats, and habits. The English and Spanish names, nicknames, and regional names of species are included, which is a nice touch.
Ridgely, Robert S., and John A. Gwynne Jr. A Guide to the Birds of Panama. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1989. Though overdue for an update, this is still the bible of Panama bird-watching. Also contains information on birds found in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras.
Pritchard, Raymond, and Audrey Pritchard. Driving the Pan-American Highway to Mexico and Central America. Costa Rica: Costa Rica Books, 1997. Quite out of date, but at the time of writing the only guidebook on driving to Panama from North America.
Zydler, Nancy Schwalbe, and Tom Zydler. The Panama Guide: A Cruising Guide to the Isthmus of Panama. Port Washington, Wisconsin: Seaworthy Publications, 2001. A guide to yachting destinations along both sides of the isthmus, with detailed tips and 187 charts.
Henderson, Malcolm. Don’t Kill the Cow Too Quick: An Englishman’s Adventures Homesteading in Panama. Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, 2004. Homespun account of an expatriate couple’s adventures building their retirement dream in Bocas del Toro .
Henríquez, Cristina. Come Together, Fall Apart: A Novella and Stories. New York: Riverhead Books, 2006. Though fiction, this well-written and widely praised collection of short stories will give English-language readers some insight into modern Panamanian life. Henríquez, who has a Panamanian father and gringa mother, grew up in the United States. The best stories explore how it feels to be an expat Panamanian trying to reconnect with one’s roots. But some basic facts and flavors of Panamanian life are slightly off.
Knapp, Herbert, and Mary Knapp. Red, White, and Blue Paradise: The American Canal Zone in Panama. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984. An account of life in the old Canal Zone from a couple who lived it.
Snyder, Sandra. Living in Panama. Panama: Tantoes, S.A., 2007 (2nd ed.). A thorough guide for expatriates moving to Panama, covering everything from dinner-party etiquette to registering cars. Widely available in Panama or through www.livinginpanam.net .