Reading list

8 books set in Brazil

Knock back a caipirinha with our Brazilian reading list, featuring books that delve into the nation's sporting passion and real-life stories from its drug underworld

Futebol Nation by David Goldblatt  

Playing and watching football is a staple of the Brazilian lifestyle; it’s a thing of joy and a cause for celebration. But the corruption of the football authorities is also reflective of Brazil’s society. David Goldblatt, Bristol University lecturer and renowned sports writer, reveals the best stories about the players, the fans and the darker side of the game. With brilliant writing and great insight, this is a fascinating account of Brazil’s history through their beloved sport.  

 

Brazil by John Updike

This tale of all-consuming love is raw, intense and impossible to put down. A poor black boy meets a white rich girl on a beach in Rio, and they fall madly in love, despite their family’s attempts to pull them apart. Beautifully written with a touch of magic realism, it’s based on the legend of Tristan and Iseult, and gives a powerful insight into the poverty-stricken Brazil of the 1960s and 1980s.  

 

Adultery by Paulo Coelho

Ever felt the need to change something in your life? To break from routine, to feel something other than the same things day in, day out? Paulo Coelho is an international best-selling author from Brazil, and his novel Adultery follows a woman in pursuit of something other than her usual feelings; a rush of adrenaline or a burst of lust, but at what cost? Provocative and controversial, it’s a book that is ultimately – and surprisingly – about love.  

 

The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector

G.H. is a sculptress in Rio, and enters her maid’s room to find a cockroach in the otherwise clean, white space. She slams the door on it, and her fascination with the dying creature sparks a crisis of being. This is an unsettling and deeply disturbing book, complete with mesmerising prose and a language that transcends itself into something unique. Lispector’s innovation in fiction brought her international acclaim, and references to her work are often made in the music and literature of Brazil and Latin America.

 

Rio de Janeiro by Luiz Eduardo Soares

This rich and compassionate account of Rio de Janeiro is told through the eyes of its people, from the gangsters to the police to the struggling migrant workers. Weaving a complicated web of everyday lives with an inferred history of corruption and conflict, it makes for a gripping and enlightening read.

 

Ancient Tillage by Raduan Nassar

André is growing up on a farm in Brazil, and his life consists of ‘the earth, the wheat, the bread, our table and our family’. He fears his religious father and begins to loathe himself when he begins to harbour shameful feelings for Ana, his sister. Sensual, sincere and breathtakingly told, this is a coming-of-age story that sees André confronting his body and soul, and rethinking his idea of duty and freedom.

 

Nemesis by Misha Glenny

An explosive book about drugs, gangs, violence and poverty, Nemesis tracks the life of notorious Brazilian gangster Nem, from the moment he makes a dangerous and life-changing decision in Rio. Set against a backdrop of the wider forces at work - the evangelical church, the corrupt politicians, the TV magnates and the police – it’s a riveting and well-researched read that gives a vital insight into Brazil’s recent social history.

Heliopolis by James Scudamore

Set in modern day São Paulo, Ludo is a young man who has escaped poverty and now works for a major corporation. But his identity is questioned when his work throws him up against the very slums he was born from. With haunting imagery, memorable characters and a water-tight plot, this is a novel not to be missed.

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