The best books about Brazil

11 authors have picked their favorite books about Brazil and why they recommend each book.

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Securing Sex

By Benjamin A. Cowan,

Book cover of Securing Sex: Morality and Repression in the Making of Cold War Brazil

This book contributes greatly to the global history of the Cold War by showing that “moral technocrats” during the military dictatorship in Brazil equated political subversion with sexual subversion: Anticommunist countersubversion included anxieties about gender, sex, and youth. South American Cold War dictatorships have been traditionally understood as modernizing projects but Cowan complicates the definition by exploring the moral panic, and consequent calls and attempts at repression, related to the sexual revolution, new forms of female sexual expression, and pornography. 

Who am I?

I am a historian of twentieth-century Argentina and a professor of modern Latin American history currently teaching at the University of Houston. Born and raised in Argentina, I completed my undergraduate studies at the National University of Rosario and moved to the United States in 2000 to continue my education. I received my M.A. in history from New York University and my Ph.D. in history from Indiana University, Bloomington. I have written extensively about gender, working-class history, consumer culture, and sexuality in Argentina. I am the author of Workers Go Shopping in Argentina: The Rise of Popular Consumer Culture and Destape! Sex, Democracy, and Freedom in Postdictatorial Argentina.

I wrote...

Destape: Sex, Democracy, and Freedom in Postdictatorial Argentina

By Natalia Milanesio,

Book cover of Destape: Sex, Democracy, and Freedom in Postdictatorial Argentina

What is my book about?

Under dictatorship in Argentina, sex and sexuality were regulated to the point where sex education, explicit images, and even suggestive material were prohibited. With the return to democracy in 1983, Argentines experienced new freedoms, including sexual freedoms. The new availability and ubiquity of sexual material became known as the destape, and it uncovered sexuality in provocative ways. This was a mass-media phenomenon, but it went beyond this. It was, in effect, a deeper process of change in sexual ideologies and practices.

By exploring the boom of sex therapy and sexology; the fight for the implementation of sex education in schools; the expansion of family planning services and of organizations dedicated to sexual health care; and the centrality of discussions on sexuality in feminist and gay organizations, my book shows that the destape was a profound transformation of the way Argentines talked, understood, and experienced sexuality, a change in manners, morals, and personal freedoms.


By Tom Oldfield, Matt Oldfield,

Book cover of Neymar: From the Playground to the Pitch

This isn’t one you’ll enjoy reading over your kid’s shoulder unless you truly are a diehard soccer fan. Matt and Tom Oldfield’s series of soccer-star bios are comfort food for tween fans - a bland, seemingly never-ending diet of rags to riches stories to inspire every kid with dreams of the Premier League. The prose is undemanding: “With his mohawk dyed red this time, Neymar Jr walked onto the stage. He couldn’t believe what was happening. His goal had beaten brilliant strikes by Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi”. The story unfolds with a happy triumphalism: Neymar is spotted as a deft-footed child prodigy, he is scouted to the heights of Barcelona, he overcomes injuries, he puts the team first, he is a mega-star who does noble things for Brazil. If you’re not a soccer person, the Oldfields’ books on Lionel Messi, Harry Kane and Paul Pogba don’t read very differently.…

Who am I?

I am an expat Australian freelance writer living in Silicon Valley, and also the mother of two boys aged ten and seven. My boys are avid readers and it is an accepted rule that no one in our family speaks at breakfast. I have a bad habit of reading books over their shoulders, but my boys are still willing helpers on some current writing projects on kids’ fiction and circumnavigating the horribly sad “decline at nine”. I also have a PhD in South Asian Studies and have worked in commercial research and marketing.

My project is...

Madelaine @ Medium

I love to write and you can find some of my work on Medium. My last article was entitled Why Are Chihuahuas Filling Up Bay Area Shelters? 

Way of Death

By Joseph Calder Miller,

Book cover of Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730-1830

This book is a mandatory read for anyone interested in the history of the transatlantic slave trade. In Way of Death, the late Joseph C. Milller examines the South Atlantic node of the slave trade within the context of the rise of merchant capitalism in the eighteenth century. Miller explores the connections between Angola, Portugal, and Brazil through the experiences of Africans and slave traders of Portuguese, Brazilian, and Luso-African origins. In this book, Miller advances his now much-debated theory of the expansion of the slave frontier eastwards into the deep interior. Scholars interested in the slave trade from Angola agree that Way of Death is a landmark study both methodologically and theoretically. Miller was able to mine primary sources in the Angolan archives in a time when the country experienced war and authorities were suspicious of researchers. 

Who am I?

I am a professor of African history at the Royal Military College of Canada, where I teach courses on European colonialism and early and modern Africa. I earned a PhD in history from York University in Canada and spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto before joining RMC. My research interests include slavery, slave trade, legitimate commerce, and intercultural marriages in Luanda and its hinterland. I have published articles and book chapters and co-edited (with Paul E. Lovejoy) Slavery, Memory and Citizenship. My first book, Slave Trade and Abolition was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in January 2021.

I wrote...

Slave Trade and Abolition: Gender, Commerce, and Economic Transition in Luanda

By Vanessa Oliveira,

Book cover of Slave Trade and Abolition: Gender, Commerce, and Economic Transition in Luanda

What is my book about?

Well into the early nineteenth century, Luanda, the administrative capital of Portuguese Angola, was one of the most influential ports for the transatlantic slave trade. Between 1801 and 1850, it served as the point of embarkation for more than 535,000 enslaved Africans. In the history of this diverse, wealthy city, the gendered dynamics of the merchant community have frequently been overlooked.

Vanessa S. Oliveira traces how existing commercial networks adapted to changes operating in the South Atlantic during the nineteenth century. Slave Trade and Abolition reveals the strategies adopted by slavers in face of the ban on slave exports in 1836. Oliveira shows that large-scale merchants survived the end of the slave trade becoming the main investors in the "new" trade in tropical commodities, including ivory, wax, coffee, cotton and sugar.

The Boys from Brazil

By Ira Levin,

Book cover of The Boys from Brazil: A Novel

Doctor Josef Mengele, the worst of the mad scientists, is in hiding after the war but planning a comeback, heading a secret project to genetically reincarnate Hitler. The most frightening part about his plan to bring back the Nazi Fuhrer is the degree of scientific rigor in the biology and psychology underlying the design.

Who am I?

Christopher Rankin is an author, the host of the Vanadium podcast on YouTube, and a scientist in the field of renewable materials. He was awarded a PhD in materials science from the University of Pennsylvania and holds several patents. A lifelong lover of science, Rankin hopes to encourage greater public interest and a broader understanding of technical subjects.

I wrote...

Ann Marie's Asylum (Master and Apprentice Book 1)

By Christopher Rankin,

Book cover of Ann Marie's Asylum (Master and Apprentice Book 1)

What is my book about?

Ann Marie has just earned her Ph.D. in chemistry at age sixteen when she receives a mysterious and lucrative job offer. The new position at the infamous Asylum Corporation takes the young chemist and her alcoholic mother from their working-class Philadelphia neighborhood to coastal California. 

She becomes fascinated with her new boss, Dade Harkenrider, a famed but reclusive scientist, labelled Dr. Death by internet conspiracy theorists and rumored to be involved in witchcraft and murder. As Ann Marie grows closer to her new mentor, a sinister plot by a secretive coven is unfolding in the city. This monstrous force is stealing pets and children in an effort to breathe life into an ancient and terrifying evil.

The Falling Sky

By Davi Kopenawa, Bruce Albert, Nicholas Elliott (illustrator), Alison Dundy (illustrator)

Book cover of The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman

Imagine a Martian landing on planet Earth, meeting with people in Europe and the USA, and writing about it. Part of this book is filled with such freshness of vision and its cuts through the problems and vices of our civilization; the other part is no less of an extraordinary tale of a religious leader brought up in the Amazon who seems to move effortlessly between the natural and supernatural realms.

Who am I?

From about the age of 14, I have been exploring how unusual ideas and experiences might change a person’s life. This led me to become an author and experimental psychologist studying the effects of religious beliefs, rituals, and meditation exercises on our minds and bodies. I have spent a good part of the last 4 years putting together a book which tries to answer many of my questions on the varieties of meditation practices around the world.   

I wrote...

The Oxford Handbook of Meditation

By Miguel Farias, David Brazier, Mansur Lalljee

Book cover of The Oxford Handbook of Meditation

What is my book about?

This is the most comprehensive volume published on meditation, written in accessible language by world-leading experts on the science and history of these techniques. It covers the development of meditation across the world and the varieties of its practices and experiences. These are some of the questions it addresses: what were meditation practices developed for and by whom? How similar or different are they, how effective can they be in changing our minds and biology, and what are their social and ethical implications?

Bisa's Carnaval

By Joana Pastro, Carolina Coroa (illustrator),

Book cover of Bisa's Carnaval

A festive book filled with dance, culture, family, and love. The text and the illustrations bring alive this Carnaval in Olinda, Brasil. And even though this party is all about dancing and fun, in this book, this party is also about not leaving anyone behind, especially your lovely bisa (great-grandma). I love seeing all the colors and movement of the Carnaval in Olinda. This is a great book to share with kids about another culture and the universal theme of love. 

Who am I?

Ana Siqueira is a Spanish-language elementary teacher, an award-winning Brazilian children’s author, and a published author in the Foreign Language educational market. Her debut picture book is Bella’s Recipe for Disaster/Success (Beaming Books, 2021), Her forthcoming books are If Your Babysitter Is a Bruja/ Cuando Tu Niñera Es Una Bruja (SimonKids, 2022), Abuela’s Super Capa/La Super Capa De Abuela (HarperCollins 2023) - two-book deal auction, Room in Mami’s Corazon (HarperCollins 2024) and some others that can’t be announced yet. Ana is a member of SCBWI, Las Musas Books, and co-founder of LatinxPitch. You can learn more about Ana, by following her.

I wrote...

Bella's Recipe for Success

By Ana Siqueira, Geraldine Rodríguez (illustrator),

Book cover of Bella's Recipe for Success

What is my book about?

Bella wants to find out what she's good at. But she quits everything she (barely) tries because she's a disaster at it. Her somersaults are like clumsy jirafas rolling downhill, her piano playing like elephant feet. When she decides to learn how to bake with her wise old abuela, her first attempt at dulce de leche frosting looks like scaly cocodrilo skin. She must learn it's okay to try again or she won't be good at anything. Peppered with Spanish vocabulary and set in an intergenerational Latinx home, Bella's Recipe for Success will show all kids the value of practicing to learn a new skill, and that it's okay to make mistakes along the way.

Ways to Disappear

By Idra Novey,

Book cover of Ways to Disappear

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…

Who am I?

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.

I wrote...

Infinity Dreams

By Glen Hirshberg,

Book cover of Infinity Dreams

What is my book about?

In my most recent book, a novel-in-stories called Infinity Dreams, two insatiably curious, instinctively solitary people, Nadine and Normal (aka the Collector), sustain a decades-long romance neither of them expected largely through a shared love of prowling the more arcane corners of the collecting universe. Far from antique shops or garage sales or flea markets, they help (or sometimes thwart) people who collect everything from maps of places that may not exist to lost tastes. They also keep bumping up against an elusive and increasingly dangerous sense of something fraying at the edges of what we insist on calling reality. And they keep rediscovering each other.

Here are five more books I love about obsessive people pursuing their interests and incidentally discovering possible bridges back toward others.

Walking with Shadows

By Luke Romyn,

Book cover of Walking with Shadows

What I loved most about this was the story within the story. A famous author is travelling back from a convention in Brazil when his plane goes down. The only other survivor is a young boy, not quite in his teens. In order to reach safety, they must battle not only Colombian drug runners and other nefarious characters, but the jungle itself.

Who am I?

When I was at school, reading was a chore. We were given books that held no interest and told to dissect the author’s words to find a deeper meaning. It put me off reading for years. It wasn’t until I came across a thriller that I discovered my love of books, and I’ve been hooked ever since. There’s nothing like mounting tension to get you flipping the pages, and I try to do that in my books. 

I wrote...

Run and Hide

By Alan McDermott,

Book cover of Run and Hide

What is my book about?

After her brother is killed in a faked suicide, CIA wet ops specialist Eva Driscoll teams up with ex-soldier Rees Colback, the one person who can help her find answers. Together they’re determined to uncover why members of his Special Forces squad are dying in mysterious circumstances. But with every agency in the country in hot pursuit, their only choice is to flee. The clock is ticking. They can’t run forever. It’s time to make a choice: kill or be killed…


By Alex Bellos,

Book cover of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life

How do you explain a football-mad country? Which has produced the greatest players, the most extraordinary teams, and a whole way of playing the game itself. Bellos dives deep into the Brazilian passion for football, ranging far and wide in an engaging style that is open to all experiences and tells us more about Brazil than many dry, academic studies ever could. I would never have written my own book if I hadn’t read this.

Who am I?

I am a historian and journalist. I lived in Italy for over twenty years, immersing myself in the culture of that country—in every form. I decided to write Calcio after becoming aware of the centrality of football to Italian culture and politics, and around the time of the rise of a football entrepreneur to political power—Silvio Berlusconi. The book took me three years, led me to visit numerous cities, stadiums, and regions, and interview dozens of journalists, experts, and players. It was a love letter and a warning—dedicated to ‘my father who loves football, and my son, who hates it.'

I wrote...

Calcio: A History of Italian Football

By John Foot,

Book cover of Calcio: A History of Italian Football

What is my book about?

A history of Italian football which ranges across the beauty and the ugliness of the game, and its importance for culture, politics, and history in that country. Italy cannot be understood without understanding its football. This book tells the story of triumph and tragedy, of four world cups, of geniuses and villains, of scandals and violence, of rivalries and moments of beauty and grace, and crazy fans and out-of-control ultrà. At the heart of the book are the connections between politics, money, and Italian football—from fascism to FIAT to Silvio Berlusconi and beyond. Monumental and fascinating, this book has been called ‘the bible of Italian football’.

Tristes Tropiques

By Claude Levi-Strauss, Doreen Weightman, John Weightman

Book cover of Tristes Tropiques

A classic work of philosophical anthropology containing the record of one anthropologist’s search for what it means to be human. Part personal memoir, part vivid travelogue, part scientific milestone, part critique of civilization, and all tour de force, the work defies easy categorization. Another rich playground for the intellect.

Who am I?

William Ophuls served as a Foreign Service Officer in Washington, Abidjan, and Tokyo before receiving a PhD in political science from Yale University in 1973. His Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity published in 1977 laid bare the ecological, social, and political challenges confronting modern industrial civilization. It was honored by the Kammerer and Sprout awards. After teaching briefly at Northwestern University, he became an independent scholar and author. He has since published a number of works extending and deepening his original argument, most prominently Requiem for Modern Politics in 1997, Plato’s Revenge: Politics in the Age of Ecology in 2011, and Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail in 2013.

I wrote...

Plato's Revenge: Politics in the Age of Ecology

By William Ophuls,

Book cover of Plato's Revenge: Politics in the Age of Ecology

What is my book about?

We are embarked on an industrial Titanic running on fossil fuels that have caused a climate crisis, soon to become a civilizational crisis. Making the deck chairs from recyclable materials and fueling the boilers with biofuels is futile. In the end, the ship is doomed by the laws of thermodynamics and implacable geological and biological limits that have already begun to bite. Thus we are headed for a post-industrial future that will resemble the pre-industrial past in many respects.

I argue for an essentially Platonic politics of consciousness dedicated to inner cultivation rather than the external pursuit of perpetual growth. We might then achieve a way of life that is materially and institutionally simple, but culturally and spiritually rich.

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