Books Set In Brazil That Will Have You Dreaming Of Sipping Caipirinhas

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Brazil is one of those places I’d love to go but am not in a huge rush to visit. It’s one of those places that, I won’t lie, I’m intimidated by.

It looks amazing but also a little overwhelming, so for now, instead of visiting, I’ll just read some books set in Brazil.

This is a collection of Brazilian fiction, Brazil travel books, and books about life in Brazil. I’ve only read one of these (Walking the Amazon) but definitely want to read some of the others, too.

  • If you’re want to listen to some of these, consider trying Audible! You can get your first month free (one free book) plus tons of others they have for free.  Get that Audible deal here.
  • If you’re on more of a budget, try Scribd!  You can get your first month free there. You can read books and listen to audiobooks. It is unlimited (especially the reading) but if you listen to tons of new audiobooks you may be restricted after a few. I don’t listen to enough to confirm this, but I do use Scribd myself and like it a lot.
  • If you want to read more on your Kindle but don’t want to buy books, Kindle Unlimited is a wonderful option and right now you can get four months for $4.99! It’s usually $9.99 so this is a great deal. Get that deal here!

Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle

This is a riveting account from the linguist Daniel Everett when he lived in central Brazil with the Pirahã people.  In 1977 he was a Christian missionary when he arrived with his wife and three young children intending to convert the Parahã people.

Instead, he found a language unlike any other: they had no counting system and no fixed terms for color, no concept of war or personal property, living entirely in the present.  He became obsessed with their language and over the next three decades, spent seven years with them.

Fordlandia

This is actually a non-fiction book about Brazil and the Amazon jungle.

In 1927, Henry Ford bought a piece of land twice the size of Delaware in the Brazilian Amazon to grow rubber but soon it evolves to bring golf courses, ice cream shops, bandstands, indoor plumbing, and Model Ts to the jungle.

The settlement was called Fordlandia and became the site of an epic clash with Ford on one side and the Amazon on the other. Fordlandias eventual demise foreshadowed practices till laying waste to the rainforest today.

The Deep Blue Between

After a brutal raid, Hassana and Hussenia’s home is left in ruins and this is just the beginning of their story that takes them to new cities and unfamiliar cultures where they build families and ford new lives.

Even though their lives take them on separate paths in Brazil and West Africa, the twins remain connected through shared dreams of water, but will their fates ever draw them back together?

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands

No one is surprised when Vadinho dos Guimaraes, a gambler notorious for never winning, dies during carnival. His widowed wife, Dona Flor, dedicates her life to cooking school and her friends, who urge her to remarry.

Soon she is drawn to a pharmacist who is everything Vadinho wasn’t. After their wedding, she finds herself dreaming about Vadinho’s amorous attentions and one evening, he appears at the foot of her bed to claim his marital rights.

Lockdown: Inside Brazil’s Most Dangerous Prison

The Carandiru House of Detention in Sao Paulo was the largest and most crowded Latin American prison. It was closed to the outside world and even largely to the wardens, leaving it run almost entirely by the inmates who created their own society and hierarchy.

In 1989, during the height of the AIDS epidemic in Brazil, there was only a handful of physicians to treat the over 7,000 population. Drauzio Varella volunteered over thirteen years to help combat the disease.

As he gained the inmate’s trust, he was allowed into their society where he was overwhelmed by the humanity and spirit shown by the inmates, despite the horrible crimes they committed. This is the depiction of life on the inside, ending with a police massacre of the prisoners that ultimately brought down the prison.

I think this one would be really interesting to read if you’re looking for Brazilian non-fiction.

The Invisible Life of Eurdice Gusmao

Euridice is bright and ambitious but in 1940s Brazil, she’s expected to be a loving wife and mother. Antenor is busy congratulating himself on his excellent catch while she spends her days ironing his clothes and removing onions from his food, dreaming of a more successful life she could have had.

When her “born knowing everything” sister Guida returns from her failed elopement with stories of heartbreak and loss, the lives of Euridice and her husband are thrown into confusion with disastrous consequences.

The Boys from Brazil

Josef Mengele, the fiendish Nazi Dr., is alive and well, hiding in South America where he’s gathering former colleagues for a horrifying project.

When Barry Koehler, an investigative journalist, hears of the scheme, he informs Yakov Liebermann, a famed Nazi hunter, but before he can share the evidence, Koehler is killed.

Liebermann is the only one who can answer all the questions remaining while aging and, thought by some, losing his grip on reality.

The Mapmaker’s Wife

In the early 18th century, a group of brave French scientists set off on a decade-long expedition to South America in a race to measure the shape of the Earth.  Their mission revealed the mysteries of a little-known continent to a world hungry for discovery. 

Their mission was barely completed after battling jaguars, insects, vampire bats and more.  One scientist was murdered, another died from fever, and a third, Jean Godin, almost died of heartbreak.

At the end of the expedition his Peruvian wife Isabel Gramesón was stranded at the opposite end of the Amazon, a victim of a tangled web of international politics.  Her journey to reunite after 20 years separated had all of Europe spellbound.

Ways to Disappear

Beatriz Yagoda was one of Brazil’s most celebrated authors and at 60 years old, she was mostly forgotten until the summer afternoon when she climbed an almond tree in a Rio de Janeiro park and disappeared.

When Emma, her translator, finds out, she flies to Rio where she meets with Yagoda’s children to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

I Didn’t Talk

As Gustavo, a professor, is preparing to retire to the countryside from Sao Paulo, as he flees from the violence of his memory. As he sorts everything out, the ghosts return in full force. In 1970, he and his brother Armondo were arrested and viciously tortured. Gustavo was released but Armondo was killed.

No one is certain he didn’t turn traitor, but guilt is his lifelong harvest. This is everyone against Gustavo as he faces his memories and internal exile.

Heliopolis

Ludo was born in a Sao Paulo shantytown but followed a remarkable trajectory from one side of the city’s social divide to the other, now entrenched in a gated community of the super-rich after being rescued and raised by a plutocrat.

Now, at 27, he works for a communications company marketing unwanted and unaffordable products aimed at the underclass he was born into and escaped.

Now, to make things worse, he’s developed an obsessive and adulterous love for his adoptive sister whose husband is his only friend. He’s also involved in an ill-conceived supermarket launch aimed at the favela’s desperately poor population, embroiling himself in a violent and brutal world.

Dancing With the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro and the Olympic Dream

This is another great non-fiction book about Brazil and the Olympics in Rio.

Juliana has moved a lot in life but Rio is always home. After twenty-one years away, she returned home to find her city undergoing a major change.

In order to prepare for the world stage of the 2016 Olympics, Rio had to vanquish the problems Juliana recalls from her childhood to show off all the best Brazil has to offer with the whole world watching.

A Death in Brazil: A Book of Omissions

The threat of violent death is a steady threat in this travelogue through modern-day Brazil, starting with Robb’s own near murder twenty years earlier. The exuberant life force from the people and country is what really leaves a lasting impression.

From the beaches to the jungles and mountains, he seeks to understand how extreme danger and passion can coexist in a nation for centuries.

Nemesis

This is the riveting account of how Antonio Francisco Bonfim Lopes became king of Rocinha, the largest slum in Rio, and his ruthless ascent into the terrifying Rio underworld.

He tried to bring welfare and justice to a playground of gangs and destitution but finds himself in a world of gold hunters, evangelical pastors, drug lords, and more.

Family Gap Year

If you’re interested in a book about expat life in Brazil, this could be a good option for you.

Sheila was a forty-two-year-old lawyer with three kids under ten. Everything was great on paper but she was exhausted with life’s frantic pace. Deciding there had to be more to life, she moved her family to Vitoria, Brazil for a year where she reconnected with herself, her family, nature, and her birth country.

My German Brother

In 1960s Sao Paulo, Ciccio comes home to a house full of books every day that his father spent his life collecting. Her mother spent her life organizing this library and Ciccio feels like an afterthought in his own family, left to his own criminal devices.

He is forbidden from touching the books but sneaks off with The Golden Bough to, decades later, discover a hidden letter detailing an illicit affair his father had in Nazi-era Berlin resulting in the birth of a baby boy. Hee and his mother disappeared into the chaos of the Second World War.

Now, he develops a fixation with his mysterious German brother, pursued over decades with dead ends, embarrassments, and mistaken identity.

Mapping Diaspora

Brazil has become a major destination for African American tourists seeking the cultural roots of the Black Atlantic diaspora. This is a decade worth of research tracing origins of roots tourism in the late 1970s starting in the state of Bahia.

This is perfect if you want a book about Brazil that looks at culture and tourism.

The Air You Breathe

Dores is nine years old, orphaned, and working in the kitchen at a sugar plantation n 1930s Brazil. When Graca walks in, everything changes. They quickly bond over shared mischief and a love for music.

One has a voice like a songbird and the other composes melodies and lyrics to match. Music becomes their shared passion and the only way out of their respective lives but only one of them is destined to be a star.

This is another good choice for historical fiction set in South America.

Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. The Impossible Task. The Incredible Journey

This isn’t entirely set in Brazil, but a lot of it is, so I’m counting it.

In April 2008, Ed Stafford decided he wanted to be the first man to ever walk the entire length of the Amazon River.  He started on the Peruvian coast and crossed the Andes to find the official source of the Amazon. 

He passes through Colombia and Brazil, facing logistical issues, wildlife, indigenous people, and more all while facing his own personal struggles, fears, and doubts.

His journey lasts 860 days and over 4,000 miles as he witnesses deforestation, pressure on tribes due to loss of habitats, and nature in its raw form.  I love books about walking long distances and this was a great one for that.

Have you read any of these books set in Brazil? Which ones? Any other Brazil books I should check out?

Author: Megan Johnson

I'm Megan, a Wisconsin native currently working my way around the US. You can probably find me reading on the beach, wandering through the desert, or hanging out in a cute little coffee shop.

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