Books About Brazil in English

These days there are so many books about Brazil in the U.S. that it's impossible to keep track of them...you know where to find them on the Web, right? These are just a few suggestions. All our books are now at the Sheila Thomson Collection of Brazilian Culture at Florida International University in Miami. That's the main reason why we keep these pages on the site, since we don't update them as often as we used to.

fruit.jpg (17446 bytes)A book about fruit in Brazil is a feast for the eyes...and then you go down there and feast on the real thing!! Not-to-be-missed (both experiences). This is one of the most beautiful and informative books in our collection, along with the book about the Brazilian fabric chitão.

"A Geography of Time: The Temporal Misadventures of a Social Psychologist, or How Every Culture Keeps Time Just a Little Bit Differently" by Robert Levine. Brazilians use (or misuse) and perception of time is driving you crazy? Relax: here are all the answers.

thebrazil.gif (4266 bytes)"The Brazilians" by Joseph A. Page. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1995. Page, a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, has a lot to say about the history, people, and culture of Brazil as he examines politics, religion, soccer, carnaval, and the social and economic ills of the country. Just as with any other of the older books suggested here, there isn't a way that we can easily keep track if it's still in print, so you just have to research that.

"Bodies, Pleasures and Passions. Sexual Culture in Contemporary Brazil" by Richard G. Parker. Boston, Beacon Press Books, 1991. Parker, a professor of anthropology in the Institute of Social Medicine at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, examines the very complex world of Brazil's sexuality, looking behind the myth of the sensual land of samba and carnaval. I finally found the origin of the expression "não existe pecado do lado de baixo do Equador" (sin doesn't exist beneath the equator). You'll have to read the book...

From Assouline, 2011: Carmen Miranda graces the cover and, as I flip through the gorgeous pages...I run into my hero, Santos Dumont, followed by - guess what? - my beloved jabuticabas. Could I not fall in love? Caetano and Marisa Monte, Baroque architecture and Lina Bo Bardi, baianas, grafitti by Os Gêmeos, maracatu, and a close-up of a brigadeiro...Gee, is this a companion book to our website or what? Anyway, we recommend that you take the grand tour of "Brazilian Style" now and gift it to your best friends come December!

The next best thing to being there is gawking at the gorgeous photographs in these books published by Céu Azul de Copacabana in Rio. There are twelve in total, covering the country from the Amazon to that megalopolis everyone loves to hate...but really is a fabulous city...you guessed, São Paulo. Grab some fab wallpapers also...

"Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life" by Alex Bellos...From a British correspondent in Rio comes this sensitive, insightful, funny account of Brazil's national passion and, along the way, a portrait emerges of a people that's impossible not to love and a nation full of amazing contradictions. 

"Journey on the Estrada Real" An American decides to walk the mountains of Minas Gerais between Mariana and Diamantina, on a winding road called Estrada Real that the Portuguese built in 1697. Crazy? Not at all; along the way he meets loving, generous people, visits magnificent Baroque churches and writes a book that will help even Brazilians discover Brazil. Funny, insightful...I couldn't put it down!

"Traveler's Tales Brazil" I love this book. It is a collection of stories written by many different people who either visited or lived in Brazil. I met one of them, a man who lives in Columbus, Ohio and used to be the private secretary of ex-president Juscelino, believe it or not. This guy wrote a lovely memoir of his days in Rio. You'll really enjoy reading this one, I promise!

"The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts - Brazil Theme Issue" Published in 1995 by The Wolfson Foundation of Decorative and Propaganda Arts in Miami. With fascinating articles written by the likes of José Mindlin (Illustrated Books and Periodicals in Brazil, 1875-1945) and Pedro Vasquez (Marc Ferrez: A Master of Brazilian Photography) and superb, I mean, superb illustrations! You can mail or fax your order to The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, 1001 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139 USA. Fax 305-531-2133. It costs $25 plus US postage $5 or foreign postage and handling $10. Orders not charged to a credit card must be accompanied by a check or money order in U.S. dollars drawn on a U.S. bank and payable to The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts. Now that we got all that out of the way, I can tell you I fell in love with it and it's worth the $$ for the pictures alone if you're too lazy to read.

"Fazendas. The Great Houses and Plantations of Brazil" by Fernando T. F. Pires, Nicolas Sapieha (photographer) and Gregor Rabassa. The history of Brazilian coffee and sugar cane plantations and cattle ranches of Rio, Minas, Rio Grande do Sul, Pernambuco, etc. Gorgeous photos, needless to say.

"Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form. History, Philosophy, and Practice" by Bira Almeida - Mestre Acordeon. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1986. It's not new, but goes to the top of the list because we got it from the author when we attended a capoeira meet in Boston. The cover picture features some instruments played for capoeira. The back cover has a very nice picture of the berimbau, so we are showing it here too. The author examines the history of capoeira, the instruments, songs and moves of the athletic game itself. A well-written, fun to read book with plenty of photographs and illustrations. I enjoyed it very much and highly recommend it to anyone interested in Afro-Brazilian culture and/or the martial arts.

"SAMBA: Resistance in Motion" by Barbara Browning. Bloomington and Indianopolis: Indiana University Press, 1995. Barbara is a dancer and teaches in the Department of Performance Studies at New York University.A social history of the development of samba, danced religion, capoeira and the popular dances of Bahian carnaval. This is how she describes the samba: "The feet keep up a rapid patter, while the hips beat out a heavy staccato and the shoulders roll a slow drawl." No wonder it's not easy to learn! I especially love the chapter on capoeira.

"Samba in the Night: Spiritism in Brazil" by David J. Hess. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Hess is a professor of Anthropology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Don't let the title fool you, this is not a book about wild parties and summer nights. As Hess himself explains in the preface, a better word would have been "batuque" (drumming), as in Afro-Brazilian religions. This is a first-person narrative of the author's research into Spiritism and other popular religions in Brazil, and his encounters with mediums, healers and believers around the country. I enjoyed his comparison of the American and Brazilian Presbyterian churches and thought his comments about the "crentes" and the different "linhas de umbanda" were accurate.

"A Floresta da Tijuca e a Cidade do Rio de Janeiro" Photos by Pedro Oswaldo Cruz and texts by Paulo Bastos Cezar and Rogério Ribeiro de Oliveira. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Nova Fronteira, 1992. Bilingual edition (Portuguese-English). With superb illustrations and magnificent photographs, this meticulously documented history of the massif and forest that surround the Brazilian megalopolis is a must-read for travelers, researchers, or anyone interested in finding out how nature and a modern city can coexist. This book gave me a better understanding of a place I've been deeply in love with for decades.

"Behaving Brazilian: A Comparison of Brazilian and North American Social Behavior" by Phyllis A. Harrison. Rowley, Massachusetts: Newbury House Publishers, Inc., 1983. I think any American doing business in Brazil (or vice-versa) should read this book. More importantly, if you're a Brazilian-American family like we are, read it together. It might help smooth your path through life. It has certainly helped me understand that I'm not weird, I'm just not home! Because it was written so many years ago, it's a bit dated as far as Brazilian women go. Things have changed at an amazing pace in Brazil. In 1992, 39% of women worked outside the home and 57% had college degrees. In the universities, 62% of medical students and 19% of engineering students were women. Among my female friends and acquaintances, most have advanced degrees and very successful careers. In 2010, numbers are still more impressive: all their daughters - who graduated from medical, veterinary and law school - cannot imagine life without a career. The younger generation are now studying economics, engineering, and so on. And, of course, two women ran for President of Brazil in 2010 and one of them is the new President-elect!

"Palavras Amigas-da-Onça: A Vocabulary of False Friends in English and Portuguese" by Leonard S. Downes. Rio de Janeiro: Ao Livro Técnico S. A., 1980. Here is a VERY useful book. I bought it in Cambridge, MA, a few years ago, and found it a great help more than once. Great for translators, interpreters, and students of either or both languages.

"Vassouras: A Brazilian Coffee County, 1850-1890. The Roles of Planter and Slave in a Changing Society" by Stanley J. Stein. New York: Atheneum, 1976.

"The Golden Age of Brazil: 1695-1750. Growing Pains of a Colonial Society" by C. R. Boxer. Los Angeles: St.Martins Press, 1995.

"My Airships" by Alberto-Santos Dumont, with a new introduction by Sir Peter Wykeham, K.C.B. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1973. The autobiography of the great Brazilian aviator.

"Alberto Santos-Dumont" by Henrique Lins de Barros. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Index, 1986. Beautifully illustrated and lovingly researched biography of Santos-Dumont in a bilingual (Portuguese-English) edition. 

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