100 books like Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro

By Enrique Desmond Arias,

Here are 100 books that Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro fans have personally recommended if you like Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Laughter Out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown

Robert Gay Author Of Bruno: Conversations with a Brazilian Drug Dealer

From my list on the drugs and violence in Brazil.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was twelve, my family moved to Brazil for a year because of my father’s work. I’ve been fascinated by the country and it has been always been the focal point of my research. Initially, my focus was how neighborhood associations in Rio’s favelas took advantage of new political opportunities during the transition to democracy in the mid-1980s. By the mid-1990s, however, the neighborhoods had all been occupied by heavily armed and occasionally violent drug gangs. Since then, I've tried to figure out the dynamics of this process, from the involved actors’ points of view. Including the voices of participants in drug gang life and those, like Bruno, who bring drugs to market.

Robert's book list on the drugs and violence in Brazil

Robert Gay Why did Robert love this book?

If you want to get a taste of what life is like in a Rio favela, then this is the book for you. Based on years of meticulous fieldwork, Goldstein documents the hardships endured by a woman she befriended who works as a maid for a wealthy family in the city. More importantly, however, Goldstein’s book describes in detail how life in a Rio favela changed as violence associated with the drug trade overwhelms the community. When she began her fieldwork, in the early 1990s, Rio was enjoying a period of relative calm. By the end of the 90s, however, Goldstein could no longer risk visiting her friends for fear of her own personal safety. 

By Donna M. Goldstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Laughter Out of Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Donna M. Goldstein presents a hard-hitting critique of urban poverty and violence and challenges much of what we think we know about the "culture of poverty" in this compelling read. Drawing on more than a decade of experience in Brazil, Goldstein provides an intimate portrait of everyday life among the women of the favelas, or urban shantytowns in Rio de Janeiro, who cope with unbearable suffering, violence and social abandonment. The book offers a clear-eyed view of socially conditioned misery while focusing on the creative responses - absurdist and black humor - that people generate amid daily conditions of humiliation,…


Book cover of Children of the Drug Trade

Robert Gay Author Of Bruno: Conversations with a Brazilian Drug Dealer

From my list on the drugs and violence in Brazil.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was twelve, my family moved to Brazil for a year because of my father’s work. I’ve been fascinated by the country and it has been always been the focal point of my research. Initially, my focus was how neighborhood associations in Rio’s favelas took advantage of new political opportunities during the transition to democracy in the mid-1980s. By the mid-1990s, however, the neighborhoods had all been occupied by heavily armed and occasionally violent drug gangs. Since then, I've tried to figure out the dynamics of this process, from the involved actors’ points of view. Including the voices of participants in drug gang life and those, like Bruno, who bring drugs to market.

Robert's book list on the drugs and violence in Brazil

Robert Gay Why did Robert love this book?

Based on meticulous and ground-breaking research, this book examines the roles played by children and adolescents in the drug trade in Rio de Janeiro. The author and his team interviewed twenty-five young men involved with the drug trade, plus various other local actors. The testimonies reveal that the participation of children and adolescents is a function of a thriving drug market, the absence of alternative opportunities, and the corrupt and repressive nature of local security forces. I know of no other book with such unparalleled access to child combatants in Rio’s favelas. 

By Luke Dowdney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Children of the Drug Trade as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of The Killing Consensus: Police, Organized Crime, and the Regulation of Life and Death in Urban Brazil

Robert Gay Author Of Bruno: Conversations with a Brazilian Drug Dealer

From my list on the drugs and violence in Brazil.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was twelve, my family moved to Brazil for a year because of my father’s work. I’ve been fascinated by the country and it has been always been the focal point of my research. Initially, my focus was how neighborhood associations in Rio’s favelas took advantage of new political opportunities during the transition to democracy in the mid-1980s. By the mid-1990s, however, the neighborhoods had all been occupied by heavily armed and occasionally violent drug gangs. Since then, I've tried to figure out the dynamics of this process, from the involved actors’ points of view. Including the voices of participants in drug gang life and those, like Bruno, who bring drugs to market.

Robert's book list on the drugs and violence in Brazil

Robert Gay Why did Robert love this book?

This tremendous little book is about who has the right to discipline and kill. In an ideal world, the author argues, this right is monopolized by territorial entities we know as states. This is not the case in Brazil, however. In Brazil, or rather in metropolitan São Paulo, the right to discipline and kill is shared—hence the book’s title—between the various agents of the public security state and an extremely well-organized and powerful criminal faction known as the Primeiro Comando do Capital or PCC.

By Graham Denyer Willis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Killing Consensus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We hold many assumptions about police work that it is the responsibility of the state, or that police officers are given the right to kill in the name of public safety or self-defense. But in The Killing Consensus, Graham Denyer Willis shows how in Sao Paulo, Brazil, killing and the arbitration of normal killing in the name of social order are actually conducted by two groups the police and organized crime both operating according to parallel logics of murder. Based on three years of ethnographic fieldwork, Willis' book traces how homicide detectives categorize two types of killing: the first resulting…


Book cover of Rio de Janeiro: Extreme City

Robert Gay Author Of Bruno: Conversations with a Brazilian Drug Dealer

From my list on the drugs and violence in Brazil.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was twelve, my family moved to Brazil for a year because of my father’s work. I’ve been fascinated by the country and it has been always been the focal point of my research. Initially, my focus was how neighborhood associations in Rio’s favelas took advantage of new political opportunities during the transition to democracy in the mid-1980s. By the mid-1990s, however, the neighborhoods had all been occupied by heavily armed and occasionally violent drug gangs. Since then, I've tried to figure out the dynamics of this process, from the involved actors’ points of view. Including the voices of participants in drug gang life and those, like Bruno, who bring drugs to market.

Robert's book list on the drugs and violence in Brazil

Robert Gay Why did Robert love this book?

Luiz Eduardo Soares is a Brazilian anthropologist who served as the Coordinator of Public Safety in Rio de Janeiro in 1999 and the National Secretary of Public Security in 2003. As a consequence, he has a unique and very personal take on the relationship between poverty, drugs, and violence, and drugs at the local and country level. This book offers the reader a series of engaging essays on Soares’ experiences in office, revealing the near impossibility of reforming the system in the face of endemic corruption and a culture of violence in the public sphere. It is a great read!

By Luiz Eduardo Soares,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rio de Janeiro as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A book as rich and sprawling as the seductive metropolis it evokes, Rio de Janeiro builds a kaleidoscopic portrait of this city of extremes, and its history of conflict and corruption. Award-winning novelist, ex-government minister and sociologist Luiz Eduardo Soares tells the story of Rio through the everyday lives of its people: gangsters and police, activists, politicians and struggling migrant workers, each with their own version of the city. Taking us on a journey into Rio's intricate world of favelas, beaches and corridors of power, Soares reveals one of the most extraordinary cities in the world in all its seething,…


Book cover of The Violence

Sarah Gailey Author Of Just Like Home

From my list on for making you lose sleep.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love books that keep me up at night. I'm constantly trying to get into a good, healthy bedtime routine—but I am also constantly sabotaging that effort by finding books that I simply can’t put down. The feeling of being drawn so deep into a story that the hours slip away is easily one of my favorite feelings in the world. I also love books that make me wake up in the middle of the night, books that slide into my brain and plant new ideas there. As an author, I am always striving to write those books. I can think of no higher compliment than “I stayed up all night reading it.”

Sarah's book list on for making you lose sleep

Sarah Gailey Why did Sarah love this book?

This book delivers truly striking insight into the nature of fear, the cost of survival, and cycles of violence. Dawson’s writing shines here, grounded and visceral, and deeply honest. Between the propulsive and tense plot, the exquisitely rendered characters, and the unflinching examination of the world we live in, this one kept me up late and woke me up early.

By Delilah S. Dawson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Violence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How far would you go to be free? Three generations of women forge a new path through an America torn by a mysterious wave of violence in this “chilling [and] dizzyingly effective” (The New York Times Book Review) novel of revenge, liberation, and triumph.

“A compulsively readable fusion of domestic thriller and modern horror.”—Kameron Hurley, author of The Light Brigade

“A novel that defines this era.”—Stephen Graham Jones, New York Times bestselling author of The Only Good Indians

They call it The Violence: a strange epidemic that causes the infected to experience sudden bursts of animalistic rage, with no provocation…


Book cover of The Commander's Dilemma: Violence and Restraint in Wartime

Leigh Binford Author Of From Popular to Insurgent Intellectuals: Peasant Catechists in the Salvadoran Revolution

From my list on violence and restraint in wartime.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an anthropologist, trained in political economy, who began doing fieldwork in southern Mexico in the early 1980s. While there, Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees were flowing into the area from Chiapas. I visited El Salvador in 1986 and in 1991 made several trips to an FMLN-controlled area. After the war ended I made nine field trips to northern Morazán, the last in 2012. My interests in catechists and liberation theology developed early on as I sought to reconstruct the region’s pre-war history. I wrote one book on the El Mozote massacre and am currently working on a third book on the area.

Leigh's book list on violence and restraint in wartime

Leigh Binford Why did Leigh love this book?

Green investigates The Commander’s Dilemma in the Salvadoran Revolution through a combination of questionnaires with ex-combatants from the FMLN and government forces, interviews, documents, and secondary resources. She argues that all military commanders everywhere confront the dilemma of ensuring that troops are skilled in meting out violence but that they reign in their violent tendencies so as to respect the human rights of civilians and adversaries that have been wounded and captured. The rebel FMLN educated its troops far more than the government military and according to the United Nations and other organizations committed but a small percentage of the wartime human rights violations.

By Amelia Hoover Green,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Commander's Dilemma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do some military and rebel groups commit many types of violence, creating an impression of senseless chaos, whereas others carefully control violence against civilians? A classic catch-22 faces the leaders of armed groups and provides the title for Amelia Hoover Green's book. Leaders need large groups of people willing to kill and maim-but to do so only under strict control. How can commanders control violence when fighters who are not under direct supervision experience extraordinary stress, fear, and anger? The Commander's Dilemma argues that discipline is not enough in wartime. Restraint occurs when fighters know why they are fighting…


Book cover of I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her

Rebecca McKanna Author Of Don't Forget the Girl

From my list on true crime that still honor the victims.

Why am I passionate about this?

After writing a novel about the toll true crime can take on victims’ loved ones and the risk it runs of glamourizing killers while overshadowing victims, I’ve been on the hunt for true crime books that don’t fall into these traps. The titles on this list showcase beautiful writing and tell compelling stories without dehumanizing the victims or glamourizing the perpetrators. 

Rebecca's book list on true crime that still honor the victims

Rebecca McKanna Why did Rebecca love this book?

While on assignment for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Connors was raped by a man recently released from prison. Before, he lets her go, he tells her not to contact the police, warning her, “[…] I will find you.”

The phrase becomes the through line of Connors’ book, which is both about her quest to find a way forward after the assault and about her journey to uncover her assailant’s past and the reasons he might have committed this crime. The result is a poignant look at both the trauma left in crime’s wake as well as the societal influences that cause crime to occur in the first place.

By Joanna Connors,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Will Find You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A hard-hitting memoir about a woman's search to understand the man who raped her

Joanna Connors was thirty years old when she was raped at knifepoint by a stranger.

Many years later she realised she had to confront the fear that had ruled her life ever since that day. She needed, finally, to understand. So she went in search of her rapist's story, determined to find out who he was, where he came from, what his life was like - and what leads a person to do something as destructive as what he did to her.

'More chilling than a…


Book cover of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

J. Lawrence Graham Author Of Charlotte's War

From my list on understanding the roots of war and peace.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent the 1970s as an officer in the U.S. Navy UDT/SEAL Teams, giving me insight into the military aspects of peacebuilding. I have spent the last forty years researching and teaching international marketing and negotiations at USC and UC Irvine, after receiving a Berkeley PhD. I was also the director of the UC Irvine Center for Citizen Peacebuilding for ten years. I have published four books on international negotiations and all my ten books in print are on the topic of peace in families, neighborhoods, commerce, and international relations.

J.'s book list on understanding the roots of war and peace

J. Lawrence Graham Why did J. love this book?

Pinker’s masterpiece is hugely important for two reasons.

First, it well makes the case that the world is the most peaceful it has ever been. This is so despite what you see on TV. Second, he explains four reasons why: rule of law, rule of reason, rule of women, and international trade.

I have spent the last forty years teaching and promoting international trade. The fundamental truth of human relations is: The first persuasion was coercion; the first sophistication is exchange. We are almost through with coercion in this 21st century.

Readers of Pinker’s book will walk away with a greater understanding of what it takes to create peace in the modern geo-political climate.

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Better Angels of Our Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The most inspiring book I've ever read' Bill Gates, 2017

'A brilliant, mind-altering book ... Everyone should read this astonishing book' Guardian

'Will change the way you see the world' Daily Mail

Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2012

Wasn't the twentieth century the most violent in history? In his extraordinary, epic book Steven Pinker shows us that this is wrong, telling the story of humanity in a completely new and unfamiliar way. From why cities make us safer to how books bring about peace, Pinker weaves together history, philosophy and science to examine why we are less likely to…


Book cover of The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century

Guido Alfani Author Of As Gods Among Men: A History of the Rich in the West

From my list on the rich, the super-rich, and wealth inequality in general.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was a student, I have been fascinated with social and economic inequality–the more so because back then, my professors seemed to disregard this subject of study. So, I made it one of my own main areas of research: I simply needed to understand more about the nature and the causes of inequality in human societies. In recent years, I have been busy researching economic inequality in different historical settings, also looking at specific socioeconomic strata. I began with the poor, and more recently, I focused on the rich. In my list of recommendations, I included books that, I believe, are particularly insightful concerning wealth and the wealthy.

Guido's book list on the rich, the super-rich, and wealth inequality in general

Guido Alfani Why did Guido love this book?

In this book, Walter Scheidel proficiently exploits the new information that we now have available about wealth inequality in the past to make one bold claim: across history, only catastrophes and large-scale violence (the “Great Leveler”) could significantly reduce economic inequality. Otherwise, the concentration of political power and of coercive force in a few hands also led wealth to become ever more concentrated.

This is a rather depressing view, with which I partially disagree for scientific reasons (as it downplays the importance of human agency and of our collective choices).

Nevertheless, I love this book for its scope, its ambition, and the treasure trove of information about the Classical Age and non-Western societies and cultures that it brings to the debate on wealth inequality in human history.

By Walter Scheidel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Great Leveler as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes. Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that it never dies peacefully. The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world. The "Four Horsemen" of leveling-mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues-have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich. Today, the violence that reduced inequality…


Book cover of The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America

Kevin Kenny Author Of The Problem of Immigration in a Slaveholding Republic: Policing Mobility in the Nineteenth-Century United States

From my list on US immigration in the nineteenth century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write and teach about nineteenth-century US history, and I am interested in immigration for both personal and professional reasons. A native of Dublin, Ireland, I did my undergraduate work in Edinburgh, Scotland, completed my graduate degree in New York City, moved to Austin, Texas for my first academic job and to Boston for my second job, and then returned to New City York to take up my current position at NYU, where I teach US immigration history and run Glucksman Ireland House. The key themes in my work—migration, diaspora, and empire—have been as central to my life journey as to my research and teaching. 

Kevin's book list on US immigration in the nineteenth century

Kevin Kenny Why did Kevin love this book?

Why did anti-Chinese violence continue to rise even after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, reaching a terrible peak in 1885 and 1886?

In a powerful reinterpretation of Chinese exclusion, Beth Lew-Williams reveals how the 1882 act was deliberately limited in scope, poorly funded, and loosely enforced—because immigration policy at this time was still governed by diplomacy. Only in the late 1880s, with China perceived as weak, did the US unilaterally abrogate its treaty obligations and move toward outright exclusion.

The chronology really matters here: for Chinese immigrants it was a question not just of entry or exclusion, but of life and death. Deftly situating anti-Chinese violence in overlapping regional, national, and international contexts, Lew Williams shows how the idea of the immigrant “alien” emerged in tandem with national citizenship during the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. 

By Beth Lew-Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Chinese Must Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Ray Allen Billington Prize
Winner of the Ellis W. Hawley Prize
Winner of the Sally and Ken Owens Award
Winner of the Vincent P. DeSantis Book Prize
Winner of the Caroline Bancroft History Prize

"A powerful argument about racial violence that could not be more timely."
-Richard White

"A riveting, beautifully written account...that foregrounds Chinese voices and experiences. A timely and important contribution to our understanding of immigration and the border."
-Karl Jacoby, author of Shadows at Dawn

In 1885, following the massacre of Chinese miners in Wyoming Territory, communities throughout California and the Pacific Northwest harassed,…


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