Panama Library

Biblioteca De Panamá


Bourgois, Philippe I. Ethnicity at Work: Divided Labor on a Central America Banana Plantation. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1989. Hardcover, 311 pages.

** (Two Stars). Bourgois is an anthropologist and is writing to other anthropologists. I am rating this book at two stars in its appeal to the general public, not in regards to its scientific value. His field of study was the Bocas del Toro region of Panama and the adjoining part of Costa Rica, and the work on the Chiquita Brands banana plantations. I found Bourgois's discussion of the relationships between the ethnic groups on the banana plantations interesting as it explained a lot I observed growing up in Chiquita Brands other Panama plantation, the Armuelles district in Chiriqui. The period of local history covered is from about 1900 to 1983. Scarce.

Greene, Eleanor D. Panama Sketches. Boston: Bruce Humphries, 1940. Hardcover, 60 pages.

*** (Three Stars). Greene's book consists of 8 brief written "sketches" containing her remembrances of the 2-3 years she lived in Panama with her husband, an army doctor and her son, about 10 years of age at the time. The topics include orchids sold by the orchid man, Howler monkey and sloth pets, the ants, the exotic foods and others. The book is dedicated to Philip (her son). Philip is still living and resides in North Carolina. Scarce or rare.

Gunther, John. Inside Latin America. Harper & Brothers, 1940. Hardcover, 498 pages.

* (One Star). Gunther's book is mostly a waste of time and money for the Panama specialist. Only nine pages are officially about "Panama", and those are about preparing the Panama Canal Zone for the expected war with Japan and Germany. There is some doubt that Gunther stepped outside the Canal Zone physically, and he definitely never saw Panama from an "inside" point of view. He expresses the opinion that the Canal Zone is as much a part of the United State as Omaha, Nebraska, and expresses indignation that Panamanian authorities would want to be consulted before the United States built new installations in non-Canal Zone territory. Moderately scarce.

Hampel, John. Viva Panama: A New Sea-Level Canal. Published privately, 1996. Softcover, 266 pages.

**** (Four Stars). Hampel gives a brief summary of Panama's history which I had some small disagreements with. He then tells the story of his life in the Canal Zone in the 1940's and 1950's, and his experiences on visits, and more recent information about Panama. The writing expertise is below average, but the subject matter raised it to a "Four Star" in my opinion. The title is misleading, as Hampel devotes less than a chapter of the book to discussing a sea level canal. Somewhat difficult to find. Lists around $16.00.

Heald, Jean Sadler. Picturesque Panama: The Panama Railroad; The Panama Canal. Chicago: Curt Teich and Company, 1928. Hardcover, 126 pages.

**** (Four Stars). This is a pleasing little book with lots of illustrations (about 112). Heald describes and illustrates Colon, Panama City and the Canal Zone as they were in 1928 and gives brief summaries of many historical events. Easy to read. I got my copy on ebay for $16 with shipping; they usually run a little higher than that.

McGovern, Terrance. The American Defences of the Panama Canal. McClean, Virginia: Redoubt Press, 1999. Softcover, 120 pages.

*** (Three Stars). McGovern presents a detailed look at the American fortifications built to defend the Panama Canal. His emphasis is on the guns, and there is minimal mention of other aspects (air bases, army bases, etc.) The book is well-written, but technical in nature and gets somewhat dry at times. It is profusely illustrated with about 130 photos, maps and schematics. The photos range in date from time of construction and use to the year the book was published (1999). Scarce. My copy (new) cost me $30.00.

Monroe, Lieutenant William G. It Was Fun While It Lasted: The Memories and Musings of a Real American "Old-Timer". New York: Greenwich Book Publishers, 1959. Hardcover, 153 pages.

** (Two Stars). A rambling and disorganized collection of memories and thoughts by Lieutenant Monroe. Monroe enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent 11 years in the Canal Zone before World War II. After the war Monroe returned to Panama and was Security Commander at Miraflores Locks at the time he is writing in 1959. Much of his writing is about his life in Panama and is interesting if you can handle the disjointed writing style. Rare, I've only ever seen the one I purchased. It cost me around $10.00.

Padelford, Norman J. The Panama Canal in Peace and War. New York: Macmillan & Company, 1943. Hardcover.

(Review Pending). Scarce or rare.

Pearcy, Thomas L. We Answer Only to God: Politics and the Military in Panama, 1903-1947. University of New Mexico Press, 1998. Hardcover, 248 pages.

(Review Pending). On sale new at Amazon.Com. Available.

Pinzón, Milagros Sánchez. Boquete: Rasgos de su Historia. David, Panama: Talleres de Arte Gráfico, 2001. Softcover, 458 pages including the appendexes.

***** (Five Stars). Note: This book is in Spanish only! The author conducted over 200 personal interviews with people from Boquete, and wrote this history of the region. It includes old family photos from Boquete as well. It is a wonderful resource to those interested in Panama coffee tokens and who want to know a little of the history of the tokens. For instance, there are pictures and historical information for Nemesio Ledesma, Segundo Diaz, Enrique Vasquez, A.D. MacIntyre and other people who issued tokens. The book is readily available in the Boquete area and goes for about 12 dollars. But to get a copy of it here in the United States, you need a local contact in Panama to help - it was not on Amazon when I checked.

Scoullar, William T. Libro Azul: Panama 1916 - 1917. Panama City, Panama: The Latin America Publicity Bureau, Inc, 1916. Hardcover, 411 pages.

***** (Five Stars). The "Libro Azul" or "Blue Book" is a great historical resource. It is written in both Spanish and English. It starts out with a summary of Panama history, and focuses on the events leading up to Panama's independence including the many Columbian civil wars, such as the 1000 Day War which ended shortly before Panama's independence. As well it is an in-depth commercial and business directory with histories, descriptions and photos for many Panama businesses and business men of the day. It includes Americans such as R.W. Hebard and United Fruit Company employees working in Bocas Del Toro. It is a valuable resource for researching tokens and metal checks. Rare. Two sold at auction in November and December of 2005 for $152.50 and $127.50 respectively.

Verrill, A. Hyatt. Panama, Past and Present. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1921. Hardcover, 262 pages.

**** (Four Stars). Verrill gives a short history of Panama, but spends most of his time describing different regions of Panama as they were in 1921, the natural resources, etc. Verrill lived in Panama several years, and was there for a time during the French construction period. His view of history is a little different - he sees Balboa as a real scoundrel, and Morgan as a pretty decent guy - but his descriptions of Panama in 1921 are very interesting. 23 black and white photos taken by the author and five maps. Somewhat scarce.

Torrijos to Noriega, Operation Just Cause

Albert, Steve. The Case Against The General: Manuel Noriega and the Politics of American Justice. New York: Charles Scibner's Sons, 1993. Hardcover, 456 pages.

*** (Three Stars). An account of the trial of General Manuel Noriega. Sometimes rather dry and hard to read, as facts and characters enter and exit the story. At other times gripping. On the whole, I recommend this book and found it interesting not only for the Panama connection but as a portrayal of the American justice system in action. Readily available.

Behar, David S. and Godfrey Harris. Invasion: The American Destruction of the Noriega Regime. Los Angeles, California: Penguin Printing, 1990. Hardcover, 144 pages.

*** (Three Stars). A photographic history of Operation Just Cause, but includes a significant amount of narration as well. There are approximately 200 photos. The prologue and epilogue by Ross Simpson is interesting, but I found the narration by Godfrey Harris disappointing. Readily available.

Briggs, Clarence E. Operation Just Cause: Panama December 1989: A Soldier's Eyewitness Account. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1990. Softcover, 155 pages.

**** (Four Stars). A soldier's eyewitness account. 1st Lieutenant of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. Well-written, but short (which makes sense given that most of the action happened in the first 24 hours). Readily available.

Buckley, Kevin. Panama: The Whole Story. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991. Hardcover, 304 pages.

** (Two Stars). Not recommended. Covers from the Spadafora murder September 13, 1985 to 1991, a year after Operation Just Cause. Written with an unattractive negative attitude and focuses on perceived incompetence and mistakes by public officials. Readily available.

Dinges, John. Our Man in Panama. New York: Random House, 1990. Hardcover, 402 pages.

(Review Pending). Well-written and interesting. Readily available.

Donnelly, Thomas and Margaret Roth and Caleb Baker. Operation Just Cause: The Storming of Panama. New York: Macmillan, Inc., 1991. Hardcover, 453 pages.

***** (Five Stars). Well-written account of Operation Just Cause. Nicely illustrated with maps and pictures. Readily available.

Greene, Graham. Getting To Know The General: The Story of an Involvement. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984. Hardcover, 249 pages.

** (Two Stars). Not Recommended. A rambling introduction to General Torrijos, as seen through the rose-colored glasses of his drinking buddy. Readily available.

Harris, David. Shooting the Moon: The True Story of An American Manhunt Unlike Any Other, Ever. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2001. Hardcover, 394 pages.

**** (Four Stars). Tells the story of building the case against Noriega and capturing him, mostly from the point of view of the DEA case agent Steve Grilli. Epilogue mentions what happened to each of the main players in the story (with good behavior, Noriega will be out in 2007 at age 72). Fairly well-written, it kept my attention thoroughout. Readily available.

Kempe, Fredrick. Divorcing The Dictator: America's Bungled Affair with Noriega. New York: 1990. Hardcover, 469 pages.

(Review Pending). Kempe...behind the scenes details of the invasion of Panama and the surrender of Noriega, the real story of America's abortive October 1989 coup, George Bush's relationship with Noriega dating back to his tenure as CIA director, and others involved with Noriega Oliver North and Fidel Castro...

Koster, Richard M. and Guillermo Sanchez. In the Time of Tyrants: Panama: 1968-1990. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1990. Hardcover, 430 pages.

**** (Four Stars). This book begins with a very violent account of the Hugh Spadafora murder, but then settles down. It is well written and covers from the 1968 Torrijos military coup to the 1989 Just Cause Operation as experienced by the authors who lived in this era. The authors' strong feelings of hate towards the dictators that stole their freedom come through clearly. There are two maps, but no other illustrations. It is fairly easy to find.

Lenahan, Rod. Confrontation Zone: The Story of the 1989 U.S. Intervention Into Panama: Operation Just Cause. Charleston, South Carolina: Narwhal Press, 2002. Softcover, 354 pages.

**** (Four Stars). Colonel Rod Lenahan is a retired officer from the United States Air Force. As a high-ranking military professional, he brings different perspective than most of the other authors. The book is not a sequential account that grips your attention and holds it. Instead the author discusses facets of the preparation as separate chapters, facets of the combat and then facets of the support, logistics and aftermath. The end result is a book that moves more slowly than most but has a wider coverage. I found it very interesting, with information not found elsewhere, and I recommend this book. There are more than sixty maps and illustrations. Some of the illustrations are post cards from the collections of Isthmian Collectors Club members.

Sosa, Juan B. In Defiance: The Battle Against General Noriega Fought from Panama's Embassy in Washington. Washington: The Francis Press, 1999. Hardcover, 306 pages.

***** (Five Stars). A well written account by the Panamanian Ambassador to the United States, 1987-1989. It is a different viewpoint of the Noriega years than the others available and quite interesting. Illustrated with about 12 pictures and two cartoons. Readily available.


Barry, Tom and John Lindsay-Poland. INSIDE Panama: The Essential Guide to its Politics, Economy, Society, and Environment. Albuquerque: Resource Center Press, 1995. Softcover, 200 pages.

*** (Three Stars). Barry and Lindsay-Poland's guide is full of detailed political, economic, etc. information. It is somewhat difficult to read, and assumes that you already know a certain amount about Panama history and politics. It is fairly interesting, but definitely for the advanced Panama observer. Readily available.

Delgaudio, Richard A. Peril in Panama: China as the Gatekeeper of the Panama Canal Threatens new Missile Crisis. Washington: National Security Center, 1998. Softcover, 111 pages.

** (Two Stars). Delgaudio is full of convictions, but twists his "facts" on Panama history to fit his particular world view. Even though I consider myself to be a conservative, I found Delgaudio's arguments unconvincing and his conclusions unwarranted. Readily available.

Please send me an if you know of a book that should be added to this list.

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