There are too many books on Venezuela and any list can only be lacking. The books listed below are some of my favorites, books that I think bring something to the reader besides mere recompilation of facts or personal experiences. I stay clear from literature, limiting my choice to reference material, coffee table books and the like. Some are in English!
The Hacienda (a memoir)
This is the story of a young English Girl who married a Venezuelan exile who brought her back and dumped her at the family lands of Trujillo. There she had to manage on her own, including the land and its "tenants", noticing that whenever she managed to make some money her husband relatives would fall on her to get their share as the owners, even if they did not even bother to give her basic survival advice. Eventually she got a daughter and had to escape the country for their lives, becoming a writer. Unwillingly she certainly wrote one of the best books on how to explain the rise of a phenomenon like Chavez by illustrating the parasitic aspect of Venezuelan society, which Chavez uses to retain power, by the way.
Lisa Sait Aubin de Terán
Little, Brown & Company
1997, first edition
Atlas de Tradiciones Venezolanas
El Nacional published first the material as weekly inserts in its newspaper. Then the book was offered. If it is a little simplistic at times, leaving the reader with a wish for more details and context, it remains to date the best summary of Venezuelan traditions, from religious events, to local cooking without forgetting wood work, chinchorros, architecture, etc...
Fundacion Biggot-El Nacional
2005, first edition
Detras de la Pobreza
A clear eyed look at what poverty really is in Venezuela, what its consequences are, far from the ideological messages of chavismo. The book is a research report sponsored by some of the best institutions of the time, and edited and published through the UCAB, the top private university on social studies. It probably would be impossible today to repeat such a book as some of the sponsor company have been nationalized and the government blocks actively access to real data.
Asociación Civil para Promoción de Estudios Sociales-UCAB
2004, first edition