The best books on Brazil aren't always available in English, however some that are—covering aspects of the country's history, literature and culture—have been picked out by journalists and academics on Five Books.
Brazilian novelists recommended on our site include modernist author Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) as well Machado de Assis (1839-1908) and his comic masterpiece, Epitaph of a Small Winner. Also included in our interviews are Paulo Coelho, author of the international bestseller The Alchemist, and a book of plays by Nelson Rodrigues, a leading figure in modern Brazilian literature.
For (mainly) nonfiction books about Brazil, we have recommendations from American journalist Larry Rohter, who spent many years reporting on Brazil. He includes a book on indigenous peoples by the French anthropologist, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, and the tragic tale of the War of Canudos, in which 15,000 people were killed.
Football is central to Brazilian culture. Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life is described as a "magical book" by British journalist Steve Bloomfield, a way of learning not only the story of Brazilian football but the story of Brazil more generally. The memoir of Brazil's most famous footballer and one of the sport's all-time greats, Pelé, is available in English.
Other notable Brazilians who feature on our site include Sergio Vieira de Mello, the assassinated Brazilian UN diplomat. He was the subject of a book by Irish-American journalist, Samantha Power, now head of USAID, highlighting his humanitarian work.
If you're following Brazilian politics, there is a new biography in English of populist leader Jair Bolsonaro: Beef, Bible and Bullets: Brazil in the Age of Bolsonaro by Financial Times reporter Richard Lapper. For a good biography of Lula—the former union leader who worked his way up from abject poverty to become the 35th president of Brazil—we recommend Lula (volume 1; volume 2 is only due out in 2023) by Brazilian journalist and writer Fernando Morais. For now, it's only available in Portuguese.
The former Rio de Janeiro bureau chief for the New York Times, Larry Rohter, discusses five books that explore the strain of tragedy lurking just beneath Brazil’s ‘happy’ image.