Last week I received in the mail a review copy of a marvelous coffee-table book—Cuba —by Jack Kenny . Although the book was published in 2005, it remains as pertinent as ever, prompting me to write a review and turn you onto a fistful of other top-notch coffee-table books not to miss.
Michigan-based photographer Kenny has been photographing Cuba  since 1996, when he came to befriend the illustrious Cuban photographers Alberto ‘Korda’ Díaz  and father-and-son duo Osvaldo and Roberto Salas , whose work Kenny came to represent in the ‘States. Roberto Salas wrote the introduction to Kenny’s book.
Kenny’s Cuba offers 188 pages of emotionally charged black-and-white and sepia-toned images (taken between 2000 and 2005) that offer an intimate and poignant look at life inside this enigmatic communist isle.
In his introduction to the book, Kenny says “I credit the Cuban people with bringing out the true photographer in me…” and that he chose “to focus on the relationships between people and the artifacts and contingencies of their everyday lives.”
Anyone who understands the Cuban people—uncommonly gracious, resilient and kind—can relate to Kenny’s closing words: “This book celebrates their spirit of innovation, their eternal optimism, their humor and courage, and, most of all, their great dignity.”
It was all I could do to resist tearing up as I turned the pages, for Kenney’s evocative images are a reminder of both the Cubans’ beauty and poverty. Or perhaps I should say, their dignity in the face of the latter. Creased, sun-wrinkled faces smile, or look despondently, into the camera against backdrops that evoke a time-worn (indeed, a time-warp) nation struggling to keep alive a beautiful yet impossible revolutionary dream.
Here are three other must-have books for your coffee-table:
• Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles 
Christopher P. Baker
OK, I fess up. I’m promoting my own coffee-table book. And why not? After all, here’s what Martin Cruz Smith  (author of Gorky Park  and Havana Bay  and other Arkady Renko novels) had to say about it: “This is the most beautiful, most sympathetic coffee-table book about Cuba I’ve seen in years. It’s terrific!”
What you get is a dynamic photojournalistic essay that traces the long love affair between Cubans and the U.S. automobile, from ‘50s Edsel Citations  to Chevrolet Impalas  with fins sharp enough to draw blood.
Only $29.95 plus $5 postage, available solely through the author .
• The Splendor of Cuba: 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors 
Michael Connors and Brent Winebrenner
The author and photographer take us on an unprecedented tour of Havana ’s finest mansions and palaces.
• Havana 
The yang to Connors and Winebrenner’s yin, this stunning oversize book shows the faded glory of once-magnificent homes gone to ruin. By one of the world’s preeminent interior photographers.
• Fidel’s Cuba: A Revolution in Pictures 
Oswaldo and Roberto Salas
This father-and-son duo have followed the Revolution as official photographers since its inception in the 1950s. Many of the most iconic images of the Revolution  are theirs, including those of Che Guevara , the infamous Bay of Pigs  invasion, and the only known meeting of Ernest Hemingway  and Fidel .
To get you in the mood, be sure to buy an autographed hardback copy of Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba  , available only direct from me… the author.
If you’re excited and ready to visit this fascinating Caribbean island, buy my Moon Cuba --the most information-packed, traveler-friendly guidebook out there.
For further information on Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana .
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker .
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker