Colombia's history is richly exotic and full of beauty and sadness. This destination is often times misunderstood and feared. For those who do travel to the country, reading on the history and political situation is more than recommended, it is necessary. Unfortunately, Colombia has suffered from ongoing violence due to liberal and conservative disagreement. Natural devastation as well as a center for illegal drugs, Colombia is a land that holds onto an incredible indigenous history in the midst of an ongoing struggle for stability.

Before you even pick up a guide or history book to the area, read the United States Government's Consular Information page dedicated Colombia which is full information regarding the current political climate in the country, safety and health concerns as well as the law differences. Please also stay current with the  travel warning issued by the U.S. government regarding travel to and within Colombia.

Lonely Planet has a great book on Colombia that covers pre-history through the country's civil war period and onto the current political situation. Heading to Colombia with a book that deals with all of these issues is a must.

" Inside Colombia: Drugs, Democracy, and War" by Grace Livingstone and Jenny Pearce  is another great read to learn more about the complex situation the country has been dealing with for so long.

Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw" by Mark Bowden is a fast-paced, fascinating read about Colombia in the '80s and '90s. Mark is an investigative journalist who also wrote Black Hawk Down about Somolia. It's based on a lot of primary research and while a lot of non-fiction can be rather boorish to slog through, Mark is a great storyteller.

Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent" by Eduardo Galeano is a sobering, educational read. It's the book that Hugo Chavez, deceased President of Venezuela, recommended to Barack Obama, President of the United States, to learn about the history of latin america. It's one of those books that can feel like a chore to get through, but leaves you with stronger understanding about the forces that have shaped the modern world.