100 books like Rio de Janeiro

By Luiz Eduardo Soares,

Here are 100 books that Rio de Janeiro fans have personally recommended if you like 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 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 From My Window

Laura Resau Author Of Stand as Tall as the Trees: How an Amazonian Community Protected the Rain Forest

From my list on children’s pictures set in South America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I feel passionate about spreading the word about all the fantastic children’s literature set in South America. As an author and a multilingual mom whose son enjoys learning about his Latin American heritage, I’ve always brought home stacks of picture books—in Spanish and English—that celebrate Latin American cultures and settings. I’ve loved traveling to the Andes mountains and the Amazon rain forest as part of my children’s book collaborations with Indigenous women in those regions. Most of all, I love transporting young readers to these inspiring places through story.

Laura's book list on children’s pictures set in South America

Laura Resau Why did Laura love this book?

The vibrant, colorful cut-out style mosaic artwork first caught my eye—it creates a jubilant sensory experience.

In poignant observations, the author recounts what he saw as a boy from his window, in his favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Although favelas might have problems with lack of services and violence, this story is a celebration of the creative spirit of the favela, where Brazilian funk was born, and where future soccer super-stars hone their skills.

This is a poignant glimpse into the poetry of people’s lives in the favela, and it captivated me completely.

By Otavio Junior, Vanina Starkoff (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From My Window as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

What do you see from your window? This #OwnVoices picture book from Brazil offers a first-hand view of what children growing up in the favelas of Rio de Janiero see everyday. A vibrant and diverse celebration of urban community living, brought to life by unique, colorful illustrations that juxtapose brick buildings with lush jungle plants.


Book cover of Ways to Disappear

Glen Hirshberg Author Of Infinity Dreams

From my list on loners whose passions lure them to other people.

Why am I passionate about this?

All my life, I’ve been fascinated by interest-driven people and the subcultures they discover or form around themselves. Though my writing ranges from mainstream literary work to music criticism to speculative fiction in many different flavors, I’m best known for what one longtime reader referred to as my “oddly personable brand of horror.” Call them people-and-their-ghosts stories. I’ve written six novels and four collections, which have earned me the Shirley Jackson and International Horror Guild Awards, among other honors. I’ve also taught writing at the graduate, university, and secondary level for more than 25 years.

Glen's book list on loners whose passions lure them to other people

Glen Hirshberg Why did Glen love this book?

Emma, the bored and restless translator into English of the works of a reclusive, once-celebrated Brazilian author, learns that the author has disappeared. On impulse, and uninvited, Emma ducks out of her Pittsburgh life and a relationship she has tired of, jets off to Brazil, and insinuates herself into the ongoing investigation into what has happened. Less a detective story than a constantly unfolding act of decoding—like Helene Hanff, Emma seems to have an easier time coaxing layered meaning out of words than interpreting gestures or interactions with actual people—Ways to Disappear is packed with doubts about humanity but soul-deep love of books, Brazil, and the process of translation. (Novey herself has translated the brilliant and enigmatic Clarice Lispector.) This being 21st Century American lit, the relationships that form feel less stable, healthy, and sustainable. And yet, in indulging her fascination with the mysteries of other places…

By Idra Novey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Sami Rohr Prize in Fiction

Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction

NPR Best Book of 2016
Buzzfeed Best Debut of 2016
BUST Magazine Best Book of 2016

Winner of the 2016 Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize for Fiction

New York Times Editors' Choice

2016 Barnes & Noble Discover selection

"An elegant page-turner....Charges forward with the momentum of a bullet." --New York Times Book Review

For fans of Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette, an inventive, brilliant debut novel about the disappearance of a famous Brazilian novelist…


Book cover of The Seven Sisters

Barbara Josselsohn Author Of Secrets of the Italian Island

From my list on set on an intriguing island or coastline.

Why am I passionate about this?

A native of New York’s Long Island, I’ve always been obsessed with the shoreline. My best early memories are of traveling with my family to the eastern edge of Long Island for our two-week summer vacation. My parents didn’t earn a lot of money, and we didn’t vacation often, so those two weeks in August were heavenly. As an adult, I gravitate to coastlines and islands. I’ve always been a fan of books with a strong sense of place, especially when that place is the shore. And I loved setting my current book on an island in the Mediterranean, delving into the qualities and characteristics that make a coastline so evocative and so appealing. 

Barbara's book list on set on an intriguing island or coastline

Barbara Josselsohn Why did Barbara love this book?

Lucinda Riley had me before I even opened this book, as I loved the concept: Maia and her sisters, each adopted separately as babies by their enigmatic billionaire father, return upon his death to their childhood home: a castle on the coast of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva.

There, they discover that their father left clues about each sister’s origins. Maia, the eldest, an introverted beauty in her early thirties, learns that her roots are in Brazil, so she sets out to discover more.

I love this novel for its exotic locations, complicated mysteries, star-crossed lovers, and main character who finds her true self by searching her past.

The book is chock full of romance, passion, and history – my favorite ingredients! No surprise, I’m making my way through the whole eight-book series!

By Lucinda Riley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Seven Sisters is a sweeping epic tale of love and loss by the international number one bestseller Lucinda Riley.

Maia D'Apliese and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home - a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva - having been told that their beloved adoptive father, the elusive billionaire they call Pa Salt, has died.

Each of them is handed a tantalising clue to their true heritage - a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil . . .

Eighty years earlier, in…


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 Around the World Mazes

Scott Bedford Author Of Mega-Maze Adventure!: A Journey Through the World's Longest Maze in a Book

From my list on maze books for children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author, illustrator, and award-winning creative director. I have loved to draw and make things since a young age, mostly wacky contraptions (inspired by my love of the Hanna-Barbera Wacky Races cartoons). I’m also passionate about mazes, having spent many family holidays drawing mazes on a small whiteboard for my two boys to complete.

Scott's book list on maze books for children

Scott Bedford Why did Scott love this book?

Here’s another maze book by Usborne, Around the World Mazes by Sam Smith (as I mentioned previously, Usborne publishes great children’s books!). Unlike The Big Maze book this book has an overarching theme linking all the mazes, ‘places around the world’, also, each maze covers the entire double-page spread, so there are fewer mazes but with greater visual impact. While the delightfully illustrated mazes will appeal more to younger children, they do playfully bring to life the different locations they depict, whether that be the Australian Outback or coast of Vancouver, and so provide educational content along with oodles of fun!

By Sam Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Around the World Mazes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Travel from the Amazon and the Antarctic to the Himalayas and Hollywood with this entertaining selection of mazes from across the globe. Each maze is more challenging than the last, from taking a ramble in Rio de Janeiro to touring the Norwegian fjiords or finding your way in a Moroccan market. All the answers are at the back of the book.


Book cover of A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth: Stories

Livi Michael Author Of Succession

From my list on historical fiction based on real people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I read all kinds of novels, but I’m fascinated by the true story in history since truth is so much stranger than fiction – you just couldn’t make anything up that is equally amazing. The stories of real individuals in history tell us so much about how human nature changes, and remains the same, over time. I read my first historical novels as a teenager when there wasn’t a YA fiction as such, and books by Jean Plaidy and Anya Seton taught me how to enter into history rather than just learning facts. I’ve been hooked ever since! It was a hard job to make this selection, but I hope you love the books on my list as much as I do!

Livi's book list on historical fiction based on real people

Livi Michael Why did Livi love this book?

An unusual one, this collection of short stories and historical fiction rarely appear in short form. But actually, I was just blown away by the writing! The first story, "Death of the Pugilist" is magnificent, and hard-hitting, if you’ll excuse another terrible pun, but the second, about Alfred Russel Wallace, is both exquisite and exquisitely painful. For those of you who are wondering who Alfred Russel Wallace was, he was a naturalist and explorer, whose contributions allowed Darwin to develop his theory of natural selection and evolution. Obviously, most of the credit has been given to Darwin for this world-changing theory while Wallace, who did not have Darwin’s social standing, remains overlooked, in one of those twists of history that speaks volumes about what is commemorated and what is not. Mason’s wonderful story implicitly questions the historical record, and by implication, history itself.

By Daniel Mason,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

** Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2021**

From the bestselling, award-winning author of The Winter Soldier and The Piano Tuner comes a collection of interlacing tales of men and women as they face the mysteries and magic of the world.

On a fated flight, a balloonist makes a discovery that changes her life forever. A telegraph operator finds an unexpected companion in the middle of the Amazon. A doctor is beset by seizures, in which he is possessed by a second, perhaps better, version of himself. And in Regency London, a bare-knuckle fighter prepares to face his most…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and anthropology?

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