Brazil: travel books to read before you go

This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Brazil guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

A Death in BrazilA Death in Brazil by Peter Robb is one of the most fascinating travelogues published in recent years (2004). Robb, who spent 20 years in Brazil, explores four centuries of Brazilian history, while detailing his own modernday travels, creating a compelling portrait of the country.

A Travelers' Tales - BrazilTravelers’ Tales Brazil, edited by Scott Doggett and Annette Haddad, is a fine anthology of tales of travel and life in Brazil. The excellent 2nd edition (published 2004) includes contributions from writers such as Diane Ackerman, Joe Kane, Petru Popescu and Alma Guillermoprieto.

How to be a CariocaHow to Be a Carioca by Priscilla Ann Goslin is highly recommended for anyone planning to spend time in Rio de Janeiro. Her tongue-in-cheek descriptions of the Carioca (resident of Rio) lifestyle are spot on. Don’t miss the hilarious ‘essential vocabulary’ section for mastering the local lingo.

The Capital of HopeThe Capital of Hope: Brasília and Its People by Alex Shoumatoff is an engaging portrait of Brasília, informed by the author’s interviews with government workers and the capital’s first settlers.

Brazilian AdventurePeter Fleming’s Brazilian Adventure is about the young journalist’s expedition into Mato Grosso in the 1930s – a wild region then – in search of vanished explorer Colonel Fawcett. What Fleming found is less important than the telling, written with wry humor.

Exploration of the Valley of the AmazonFor a fascinating journey from the Andes through Brazilian Amazonia and on to the Atlantic Ocean in the 19th century, read Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon by William Lewis Herndon. This recently republished volume is a vivid account of the people and local cultures Herndon encounters, along with observations of the plants, animals and geography of the Brazilian landscape.

Through the Brazilian WildernessAfter serving as US president, winning the Nobel Peace Prize and surviving an assassin’s bullet, Theodore Roosevelt explored parts of Brazil and wrote Through the Brazilian Wilderness. It’s a great adventure story well worth seeking out.

In Trouble AgainAlthough not specifically about Brazil, Redmond O’Hanlon’s hilarious In Trouble Again: A Journey Between the Orinoco and the Amazon tells of his fretful journey through Latin America.

The Cloud ForestAlso not solely about Brazil is Peter Matthiessen’s The Cloud Forest, an account of a 30,000km journey across the South American wilderness from the Amazon to Tierra del Fuego. It’s well worth a read.

The Saddest PleasureMoritz Thomsen’s The Saddest Pleasure: A Journey on Two Rivers is an engaging book about the author’s experiences in South America, including journeys through Brazil and along the Amazon.

Running the AmazonRunning the Amazon by Joe Kane is the story of the 10 men and one woman who, in 1986, became the first expedition to cover the entire length of the Rio Amazonas (Amazon River), from the Andes to the Atlantic, on foot and in rafts and kayaks.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.