The history of modern Panama is dominated by the efforts to build a canal, and David McCullough offers insight on the both the unsuccessful efforts by the French builders, as well as the triumph Americans in The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914.” The book discusses the toll, not only in money but also in human lives, and the impact the canal had on the nation. Ulrich Keller’s book “ The Building of the Panama Canal in Historic Photographs” makes nice companion read, by providing additional insight and photos to help complete the story.

The 1989 invasion remains a point of contention on why it happened, and two books offer different takes on the events leading up to the invasion. “Our Man in Panama: How General Noriega Used the United States- And Made Millions in Drugs and Arms,” by John Dinges tells why the United States felt it necessary to invade, while Juan B. Sosa offers another view with In Defiance: The Battle Against General Noriega Fought from Panama's Embassy in Washington.”

And of course the United States was not the first to invade Panama. In 1671 Captain Henry Morgan, a privateer sailing for England, raided the city of Panama capturing a fortune in gold and silver. The story is retold in Peter Earle’s upcoming book “The Sack of Panama: Captain Morgan and the Battle for the Caribbean.”