To convey the rich and surprising kaleidoscope of Colombian history, culture, and politics offered in this monumental work is no easy endeavor. The Colombia Reader includes 7 sections, over 600 pages, 101 entries, 53 photographs, 37 works of art and historical documents (8 of them in color on glossy paper), and a list of suggested readings. It took me quite some time to read. I felt as if I faced an endless tasting menu that I savored slowly and could only digest so much at a time. The words and images were often distressing and sometimes funny but always revealing. Colombianists have anxiously awaited this work for years, and the result has exceeded all expectations.

As one might imagine, violence has a special section of its own, but it also sprouts throughout the book. The editors highlighted other fundamental topics such as...

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