There are many interesting aspects that generally everybody knows. For example, Brazil is seventh most populous and fifth-largest country by area of planet Earth. It is also the largest country in South America and Latin America.
Apart from geography, Brazil has won 5 football or soccer world cups, the most by any country. The world knows Brazil for giving football legends like Pelé, Kaká, Rivaldo, and Romario. How can one forget contemporary greats like Ronaldinho and Neymar, among many others?
The world also knows Brazil for spicy foods, dance music, the Amazon forest, and pristine beaches. How about the best Brazilian books since we are discussing the best of everything from Brazil? Today, I will only discuss Brazilian books and authors from Brazil.
So, you get to know the country from Brazil’s very own voices that are raw, authentic, and true to their lived experience. Let’s discuss the best Brazilian books and explore a new world today without further ado.
“Child of the Dark,” titled “Quarto de Despejo” in Portuguese, is a Brazilian literature classic. The work is an autobiographical diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus. De Jesus was an impoverished black Brazilian woman who lived in the favelas of São Paulo.
De Jesus talks of her struggles with poverty and the challenges of raising her children in dire circumstances. Although de Jesus lived in slums but, her eloquent prose and the authenticity of her voice make Child of the Dark one of the best Brazilian books.
If you want to get an in-depth look at the socio-economic hardships of Brazil during the mid-20th century, start with this Brazilian book. After all, the book is not just about hardships but is a courageous testament to the human spirit.
Clarice Lispector was one of the best 20th-century authors from Brazil. She was born in Ukraine but moved and died in Rio de Janeiro. Her debut novel, “Perto do Coração Selvagem”, became a hit, and it was the first time a female writer made inroads in Brazil’s male-dominated literary world.
The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector is one of the best books from Brazil. Among her 9 novels and 85 short stories, The Hour of the Star remains one of her most celebrated works. The novel was also adopted for the same name as the novel.
The novel is about Macabéa, a young woman who lives in Rio de Janeiro. In Rio de Janeiro, she is astounded when she confronts the stark realities of urban poverty. Despite everything, she finds beauty and meaning in an indifferent world. As a reader, you join Macabéa on an intimate journey into her simple life, mundane job as a typist, and romantic reveries.
Paulo Coelho needs no introduction. The Alchemist needs no introduction. The Alchemist made Paulo Coelho a global phenomenon of world literature. Almost 3 million reviews on Goodreads testify to that.
It is one of the nine world literature books, with over 100 million copies sold worldwide. I wouldn’t exaggerate to say that the novel introduced me to books from Brazil. I hope your experience wasn’t different,
It is a story about pursuing destiny and listening to the heart’s voice. Santiago, a young shepherd, experiences a recurring dream about a treasure waiting for him at the foot of the Egyptian pyramids. The dream drives him on a quest that goes beyond the mere acquisition of worldly wealth. During his journey, he lives through adventures that challenge his spirit and change his perspective on life.
The novel is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of destiny and the human condition. So, if you are looking for an enchanting read on the weekend, The Alchemist is one of the best Brazilian books to read.
Dom Casmurro is one of the best masterpieces of Brazilian literature by the author Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. The novel was published in 1899 and is read to this day for its psychological depth.
The novel’s narrator, Dom Casmurro, is a wealthy lawyer who recounts the tale of his life. However, a more significant aspect of his life is his tormented love affair with Capitu, his childhood sweetheart. As the plot unfolds, Dom Casmurro gets suspicious about an alleged affair between Capitu and his best friend, Escobar.
This doubt leads to an obsession that is visible in the entire narrative. Be ready for the most debated question: did Capitu truly betray Bento, or is it just his jealous imagination?
The story is set in Rio de Janeiro during the late 19th century, which means you can experience Brazilian society during that era. Dom Casmurro is undoubtedly one of the best Brazilian books for exploring the complexities of human emotions.
The Passion According to G.H. is one of the best Brazilian novels by Clarice Lispector. If you want to explore the existential depths of the human experience, this book from Brazil should be on your reading list. We have already discussed The Alchemist and Dom Casmurro, which reflect human nature. This one goes deep, however.
The main character G.H. is a well-to-do sculptress living in Rio de Janeiro who experiences a life-altering epiphany. As the story unfolds, she enters her maid’s room after the maid has left her job and discovers a cockroach.
This encounter catalyzes an intense metaphysical journey, thrusting G.H. into a crisis of identity. It eventually leads her to question the nature of existence, reality, and her place in the universe. Think of this work just like The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka but on a large canvas with deeper introspection.
In the introduction, I talked about the Brazilian football legends. How can I exclude the book from Brazil about football? Why Soccer Matters is a non-fiction book co-written by the legendary Brazilian footballer Pelé and Brian Winter. Brian is an American journalist specializing in Latin America and lives in São Paulo.
The book offers a unique look into the beautiful game of soccer and its profound impact on society. Pelé shares his personal experiences to discuss the influence of soccer on global culture and its role as a unifying force. He also reflects on his remarkable career, including his upbringing in Brazil and his ascent to becoming one of the most iconic figures.
If you are a sports fan looking for insights from a legendary player, Why Soccer Matters should be on your reading list. To me, it is one of the best Brazilian books that appreciate the game to inspire and unite people across borders, cultures, and races.
Gabriela, Clove, and Cinnamon is a lively novel by Brazilian writer Jorge Amado. The novel was published in 1958 and is set in the 1920s in the coastal town of Ilhéus in Bahia. Just like The Hour of the Star (discussed above), this novel also intertwines personal stories with the wider socioeconomic transformation in Brazil at the time.
The novel takes place when the cacao industry experienced a boom, which brought wealth and dramatic social changes to the Bahia region. When money is the only rising sun, everyone tries to catch the sunlight.
We see two central characters: the bar owner, Nacib Saad, and the enchanting migrant worker, Gabriela, who becomes his cook and later his lover.
Gabriela is an alluring and free-spirited figure whose beauty captivates everyone. It is Nacib who falls helplessly in love with her. Gabriela, however, is not the one who abides by the traditional gender roles and societal norms. In fact, she defies them with her effortless sensuality and honesty.
All in all, the novel is a perfect blend of romance with a sharp critique of social structures such as patriarchy, class divisions, and racial discrimination. Jorge weaves humor, politics, and sensuality into a robust narrative sprinkled with Brazilian folklore.
It is a Brazilian folklore book full of humor and critique of social structures. It is one of those books that you can read when you don’t want to muddle your head much.
Captains of the Sands by Brazilian author Jorge Amado is one of the best novels about Brazil. The novel is set in the writer’s hometown of Salvador and portrays the lives of a group of abandoned street children who have come to be known as the “Captains of the Sands.”
These children, from preteens to late adolescents, survive on the jagged edges of society. They sleep in an abandoned warehouse by the beach called the Trap. They spend their days committing petty thefts and small crimes to provide for themselves. The gang has a clear hierarchy, rituals, and code of conduct. Each member has a nickname that reflects their attributes or histories.
Through the group’s adventures and misadventures, Jorge Amado masterfully exposes the harsh realities of social injustice, poverty, and the abandonment faced by street kids in Brazil and urban centers worldwide. Another similar book on the same theme is Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup.
Captains of the Sands remains one of the best Brazilian books of the 20th century. Even in the 21st century, the novel’s themes resonate as much today as in the early 20th century. As the French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” ” the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands is the second novel by Brazilian author Jorge Amado in this blog. Amado is one of the best-known writers of modern times, and his work has been translated into more than 45 languages. Filmmakers have adapted his works into films, with “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands” being one notable example.
The story revolves around Dona Flor, a beloved cooking teacher in Salvador. She is widowed after the death of her charming but irresponsible husband, Vadinho. His husband had a penchant for gambling and flirting with women.
Eventually, Dona Flor remarries, and her new husband is the complete opposite of Vadinho. He is respectable and reliable but lacks the allure of her late husband. Dona Flor finds herself in a tepid existence until, to her astonishment, the ghost of Vadinho begins to visit her.
Like Gabriela, Clove, and Cinnamon (discussed above), the novel contains elements of magical realism and humor. It is one of the best Brazilian books, with rich descriptions of Brazilian culture and social criticism.
City of God is one the best novels about Brazil by the Brazilian author Paulo Lins. The book derives its name from the City of God (Cidade de Deus) housing project in Rio de Janeiro. A housing project that, over time, became one of the city’s most notorious shanty towns.
The novel is about how organized crime takes hold of the community and its devastating impact on the lives of the residents. Paulo Lins’s work is based on reality, as he grew up in the City of God.
In his work, we see characters such as Rocket, who dreams of becoming a photographer and escaping the cycle of violence. On the contrary, we see Lil Zé, a drug dealer seeking power and territory. The research and lived experience of the writer makes this one of the best Brazilian books.
In all the chaos that ensues, we see characters looking for survival and destiny amid urban Brazil’s social complexities. City of God was also adapted into an acclaimed film of the same name, which I discuss in the best Brazilian movies. The movie’s critical success introduced a wider international audience to the novel’s stark portrayal of life in the favelas of Rio.
Brazil is one of the most popular tourist destinations for global tourists for its turquoise beaches, dance club culture, and spicy foods. I think that if you can’t visit a country, the best way to explore it is through music, movies and books.
It’s the very reason that I have covered music, movies, and books in Brazil’s country section. This blog about the best Brazilian books covers broader aspects of Brazil. If you have any particular favourite books from Brazil or authors from Brazil, leave a comment!