Pay Tribute for Day of the Dead With These 7 Books

November 1st is a day to honor the dead. Immerse yourself in the Latinx culture with these informative book recommendations by learning about the spirit world!

Book Culture Diverse Voices Non-Fiction On This Day Recommendations
Day of dead cover photo of a skull surrounded by candles and red flowers.

We can all learn something special with El Día de Los Muertos. In English, it’s translated as The Day of the Dead. In the days leading up to The Day of the Dead, families gather items representing the loved ones that have passed. Whether they have been gone recently or have passed years ago– it’s a time to commemorate and celebrate their life. People partaking in this holiday decorate altars and hold vigils to honor the deceased, so the spirits know they are never forgotten. 

Within Latinx culture, it’s believed ancestors never really leave the world. Instead, they have entered another phase of their life by joining the spirit world. November 1st and 2nd is a day to celebrate Día de Los Muertos.

There are many ways to immerse yourself in the culture, so do it easily by reading about history, art, and how people celebrate this beautiful day of celebration. 

1. The Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico

The Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico book cover. Red with a picture of what it appears to be an altar with a skeleton on the side.

In this piece of work, we explore the historical origins of this holiday along with the present-day way of celebrating in Mexico and the USA. We also see the many ways Mexican artists craft personalized sugar skulls to other ways to make skeletons more in artistic form. This piece of work combines traditions and contemporary views toward the dead. Immerse yourself in culture, art, and folklore tales.

2. Cemetery Boys

Cemetery Boys books with a maroon background and a large moon in the center. A skeletal person in the background with two boys in front. One you see the side profile with a slight smirk and he's wearing a jacket, and the other boy is looking up and he is wearing a green button down.

Yadriel, a transgender boy, wants to prove his gender to his heavily traditional Latinx family. In this world, witches and wizards exist. Yadriel must establish not only his gender identity but also his magical abilities. Could he do it, or will Yabriel get mixed with ghosts?

I think the best way to understand any culture entirely is to learn from fiction because fiction can stem from somewhere true. In this world, ghosts exist, and they haunt the story while giving lessons of acceptance and honoring traditions, while at the same time, you need to stay true to yourself. 

3. Through the Eyes of the Soul – Mexico City, Mixquic, & Morelos

Through the Eyes of the Soul - Mexico City, Mixquic, & Morelos book cover black. Sugar skulls in various colors. Day of the dead.

More and more, we continue to see different ways photographs can illustrate many forms of love and respect on the Day of the Dead in the metropolia of Mexico City, Mixquic Morelos, and many neighboring cities. There, we see a ritual in hopes of showing the influence of these pre-Hispanic traditions. We then continue to see special meals made in preparation for the offering.

4. On the Path of Marigolds: Living Traditions of Mexico’s Day of the Dead

On the Path of Marigolds: Living Traditions of Mexico's Day of the Dead book cover. A vigil photo.

A photographer, Ann Murdy, has been taking photographs around the Day of the Dead for over twenty years. We look at the world through the lens of Murdy, where she shows Chicano art from the 1990s. Embrace the art in this magical artist book.

Murdy shows us these magnificent images that Mexican culture displays: death does not end one’s life. Find the many ways to celebrate the Day of the Dead through dance, food, prayer, and honoring people that have died. It’s something to welcome rather than to fear. 

5. Barrilete

Barrilete book cover. A boy holding a kite.

In Guatemala, Santiago Sacatep quez is a very small village but a beautiful place because, on the Day of the Dead, villagers fly the biggest kites in all the world for celebration. Juan and his brothers always help their grandpa build kites for this special occasion. Sadly, their grandfather had passed relatively recently, but Juan and his brothers decided to continue the tradition in memory. This fantastic story captures photos of the village while telling Juan’s story. 

6. The Butterfly’s Daughter

The Butterfly's Daughter book cover, a girl is running. Her back is facing us.

Grief is always difficult to process; Luz Avila vows to journey two thousand miles south to honor her Abuela (grandma) who raised her. She is to put her Abuela’s ashes in her ancestral village. As Luz travels, she meets many different distinctive women. However, an unplanned reunion from her past haunts Luz when she reaches San Antonio. This woman and her must travel together to Mexico, where past and present intermix the truth that Luz longs for. Will Luz’s ashes lay to rest with her family? Will her spirit rest?

7. Day of the Dead in the USA, Second Edition: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon

Day of the Dead in the USA, Second Edition: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon book cover. A car out on display where many pictures are shown of peoples passing.

Latinx culture honors relatives in many different ways through food, festivals, and prayers. In this book, you’ll see a mixture of ethnography, historical research, culture, and the transformation that happens when mainstream media embrace the tradition. Find out how the world decided to renew El Día de Los Muertos.

You tell me how you are going to celebrate this year! Pick a book or two from this grand list (or all! No judgment here).

Click here for more eye-opening books about other cultures you may not be familiar with. Want to see what we recommended last year for Day of the Dead? Click here!