100 books like Laughter Out of Place

By Donna M. Goldstein,

Here are 100 books that Laughter Out of Place fans have personally recommended if you like Laughter Out of Place. 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 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 Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: Trafficking, Social Networks, and Public Security

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?

Arias’ book is the product of nine years of intensive ethnographic research in three favelas (shanty towns) of Rio de Janeiro. This enables him to assess how local community leaders deal with the parallel power of drug gangs that become entrenched in their neighborhoods. Unable to rely on the police, who are violent and corrupt, community leaders are forced to find ways to coexist with actors who represent a substantial financial and military threat to their authority. In terms of methodology, this is a really impressive piece of research!

By Enrique Desmond Arias,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Taking an ethnographic approach to understanding urban violence, Enrique Desmond Arias examines the ongoing problems of crime and police corruption that have led to widespread misery and human rights violations in many of Latin America's new democracies. Employing participant observation and interview research in three favelas (shantytowns) in ""Rio de Janeiro"" over a nine-year period, Arias closely considers the social interactions and criminal networks that are at the heart of the challenges to democratic governance in urban Brazil. Much of the violence is the result of highly organized, politically connected drug dealers feeding off of the global cocaine market. Rising…


Book cover of Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro

Carl Abbott Author Of Suburbs: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on suburbs around the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a suburban kid in Knoxville, Tennessee and Dayton, Ohio and didn’t see much wrong with my neighborhood. As someone who then grew up to write and teach about the history of cities and city planning, I’ve long been struck by the mismatch between high-brow scorn for “suburbia” and the everyday experience of people who live in suburban communities. This short book is an effort to show how the world became suburban and what that meant to people in the different corners of the world—and maybe to put in a plug for my suburban Meadow Hills and College Hill neighborhoods. 

Carl's book list on suburbs around the world

Carl Abbott Why did Carl love this book?

The improvised communities that ring the cities of Latin America have a bad reputation as squatter towns. Not so fast.

Look beyond the surface and you will see communities with strong social ties, systems of self-government, and residents who are as committed to their neighborhood as any American suburbanite. Janice Perlman has spent decades studying the Rio de Janeiro that lies behind its beaches, and gives a clear-eyed look at some of the self-built communities on the city’s edge.

By Janice Perlman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Janice Perlman wrote the first in-depth account of life in the favelas, a book hailed as one of the most important works in global urban studies in the last 30 years. Now, in Favela, Perlman carries that story forward to the present. Re-interviewing many longtime favela residents whom she had first met in 1969-as well as their children and grandchildren-Perlman offers the only long-term perspective available on the favelados as they struggle for a better
life. Perlman discovers that while educational levels have risen, democracy has replaced dictatorship, and material conditions have improved, many residents feel more marginalized than ever.…


Book cover of The Myth of Marginality: Urban Poverty and Politics in Rio De Janeiro

Aili Mari Tripp Author Of Changing the Rules: The Politics of Liberalization and the Urban Informal Economy in Tanzania

From my list on the economy as if people mattered.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Tanzania, where I discovered the importance of learning first-hand from ordinary people about their lives by accompanying my mother, who was an anthropologist, when she carried out participant observation among coastal people. Much later in my own research, I could see how essential it was to interact with people face-to-face and learn about their aspirations, joys, fears, daily struggles, and creative ways of coping with the challenges of an economy in free fall. I learned to look beyond the “economic data” to more fully appreciate the humanity of the people involved. All of these books I selected are by people who learned about the real urban economy in this way.

Aili's book list on the economy as if people mattered

Aili Mari Tripp Why did Aili love this book?

Drawing on her first-hand experience of living in a shantytown in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Perlman powerfully upends many existing myths about the urban poor as marginal in this classic work.

This book, which inspired me to look beyond the economic models at how people actually live, shows how shantytown dwellers are integrated into society, but in a way that exploits and oppresses them economically and politically.

They are not socially and culturally marginal, but rather they are stigmatized and excluded from a closed social system that is radically unequal.

They are socially well-organized and cohesive; they aspire to educate their children and improve the quality of their homes; they work hard and take pride in a job well done. They are aware of and involved in those aspects of politics that affect their lives. 

By Janice Perlman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

myth of urban poverty .....


Book cover of The New War on the Poor: The Production of Insecurity in Latin America

Mary E. Hawkesworth Author Of Globalization and Feminist Activism

From my list on capitalism’s iniquities.

Why am I passionate about this?

Two weeks before qualifying for his 30-year pension benefits, my father lost his job. This corporate reduction in labor force introduced a debilitating shame to the displaced breadwinner and a new level of precarity to a family with 3 of 4 kids in college. It also shattered the myth that capitalism rewarded individual initiative and hard work. Understanding inequities and the manifold structural forces that can determine an individual’s life prospects became a focal point of my graduate studies and my four decades of university teaching. Using race, gender, and sexuality as analytical tools, my research enriched traditional approaches to political economy.

Mary's book list on capitalism’s iniquities

Mary E. Hawkesworth Why did Mary love this book?

As economic inequality has grown exponentially over the past five decades, some of the dispossessed have rebelled. 

Focusing on mobilizations in Brazil, Mexico, and Salvador, Gledhill demonstrates how struggles for social justice are transformed into “threats” to national security, which require “securitization” measures. Through intricate ethnographies, the book documents the deployment of the police, military, and paramilitary to quell domestic disputes.

Protests by students, laborers, migrants, Indigenous, the poor, environmentalists, and human rights activists are subjected to police “pacification” involving state violence, criminalization, incarceration, and sometimes death.

Situating securitization in the context of transnational and global relations generated by capitalist uneven development, Gledhill argues that the logic of capitalist accumulation in the current era is inseparable from repressive violence against “inconvenient” populations.

By John Gledhill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New War on the Poor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When viewed from the perspective of those who suffer the consequences of repressive approaches to public security, it is often difficult to distinguish state agents from criminals. The mistreatment by police and soldiers examined in this book reflects a new kind of stigmatization. The New War on the Poor links the experiences of labour migrants crossing Latin America's international borders, indigenous Mexicans defending their territories against capitalist mega-projects, drug wars and paramilitary violence, Afro-Brazilians living on the urban periphery of Salvador, and farmers and business people tired of paying protection to criminal mafias. John Gledhill looks at how and why…


Book cover of Poverty, by America

Dennis W. Johnson Author Of American Public Policy: Federal Domestic Policy Achievements and Failures, 1901 to 2022

From my list on understanding public policy challenges and failures.

Why am I passionate about this?

Much of my academic work has been focused on American domestic public policy. Previously, I wrote a ground-breaking book called The Laws that Shaped America, which focused on 15 key laws in American history. My latest book, American Public Policy: Federal Domestic Policy Achievements and Failures, 1901 to 2022, focuses on what we have accomplished, but even more importantly on what we have failed to do. And, boy, do we have work to do: inequality, climate change, immigration, racial injustice, gun violence, drug addiction, and more. I’m passionate about what good government can accomplish, and, like so many, sadden by what we have failed to accomplish.

Dennis' book list on understanding public policy challenges and failures

Dennis W. Johnson Why did Dennis love this book?

Why do we have so much poverty in America? Matthew Desmond writes that we have such poverty because the rest of American society benefits from having poor people.

This is a tough pill to swallow, but Desmond certainly convinced me. We live in the richest country in the world—with our gated communities, our tax savings and incentives, our private schools, and our ability to weather the economic storms of life.

We needn’t have such high rates of poverty; policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels could make life more bearable for the poor—through schooling, decent wages, health care, and a whole host of other programs. But tragically, what is missing is the political will. Truly an eye-opener.

By Matthew Desmond,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Poverty, by America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted reimagines the debate on poverty, making a “provocative and compelling” (NPR) argument about why it persists in America: because the rest of us benefit from it.

“Urgent and accessible . . . Its moral force is a gut punch.”—The New Yorker
 
ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2023: The Washington Post, Time, Esquire, Newsweek, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Elle, Salon, Lit Hub, Kirkus Reviews

The United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow…


Book cover of Tyrell

Paul Volponi Author Of The Great G.O.A.T. Debate: The Best of the Best in Everything from Sports to Science

From my list on for fearless readers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent 16 years teaching in NYC public schools, six of them on Rikers Island the world's biggest jail where I helped incarcerated teens improve their reading and writing skills. That experience helped to launch me on my own writing career. The job of the author? To hold up a mirror to society and reflect upon the page what the reader may not have experienced yet or missed seeing in the world outside the borders of a book.

Paul's book list on for fearless readers

Paul Volponi Why did Paul love this book?

Booth is an extraordinary writer and Tyrell is her signature story. Tyrell is a young man living under incredible pressure with a family that needs him to have both feet on the ground. But he's always on the verge of going the wrong way. Will the need for fast money put him in prison like his father? Booth is in complete command of her characters, story and pacing here. A marvelous book that will make you grateful for your own choices in life.

By Coe Booth,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Tyrell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

An astonishing new voice in teen literature, writing what is sure to be one of the most talked-about debuts of the year.

Tyrell is a young African-American teen who can't get a break. He's living (for now) with his spaced-out mother and little brother in a homeless shelter. His father's in jail. His girlfriend supports him, but he doesn't feel good enough for her -- and seems to be always on the verge of doing the wrong thing around her. There's another girl at the homeless shelter who is also after him, although the desires there are complicated. Tyrell feels…


Book cover of Memoirs of a Breton Peasant

Mark Greenside Author Of (Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living

From my list on the magic of Brittany France.

Why am I passionate about this?

Mark Greenside has been a civil rights activist, Vietnam War protestor, anti-draft counselor, Vista Volunteer, union leader, and college professor. He holds B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Wisconsin and his stories have appeared in numerous journals and magazines. He presently lives in Alameda, California, where he continues to teach and be politically active, and Brittany, France, where he still can’t do anything without asking for help.

Mark's book list on the magic of Brittany France

Mark Greenside Why did Mark love this book?

Jean-Marie Déguignet is not your typical Breton peasant. He’s small and puny—and these people aren’t built that way. At nine, a bee caused him to fall and hit his head, leaving an ugly wound that oozed for years and left a deep indentation in his skull when it finally healed. The result was a lifetime interest in bees and a lonely life, as no one wanted to be near him.  

A curious and isolated lad, he becomes an auto-diktat, and like many auto-diktats has lots of disparaging things to say about those who are less educated and more successful and powerful than he—especially church and government officials, monarchists, and landlords: ignorant bastards he constantly fought (and lost) who controlled and ruined his life. He’s an anti-cleric in this most Catholic of lands. He’s a Republican in a time and place of monarchists. He understands the world as a scientist, through…

By Jean-Marie Déguignet,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memoirs of a Breton Peasant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating document of an extraordinary life, Memoirs of A Breton Peasant reads with the liveliness of a novel and bristles with the vigor of an opinionated autodidact from the very lowest level of peasant society. Brittany during the nineteenth century was a place seemingly frozen in the Middle Ages, backwards by most French standards; formal education among rural society was either unavailable or dismissed as unnecessary, while the church and local myth defined most people's reasoning and motivation. Jean-Marie Déguignet is unique not only as a literate Breton peasant, but in his skepticism for the church, his interest in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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