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March 29th, 2014

The best bookshops in Rio and São Paulo

4 comments | 2 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Blog Admin

March 29th, 2014

The best bookshops in Rio and São Paulo

4 comments | 2 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

In the latest in our series on bookshops around the world that academics should visit, Cheryl Brumley, Podcast Producer for LSE Review of Books and our sister blogs, shares her favourite bookshops in Rio and São Paulo, Brazil. If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, find more information about contributing below.

Bookshop visits are a frequent indulgence on my travels. Whereas some travel-weary souls seek out the comfort of global-chain restaurants when they go abroad, I seek out the enduring comfort of bookshops when I feel that longing for familiarity. On a recent trip to Brazil to record material for the the LSE Review of Books podcast series, I found some gems in the country’s two largest cities: Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

A view of Sugarloaf Mountain from the German Consul General in Santa Teresa, Rio. Credit: Cheryl Brumley

Livraria La Travessa has multiple branches in Rio, but its branch down the narrow Rua Sete de Setembro, lined with Rio’s iconic mosaic pavement, is a particularly memorable one. Its location in Rio’s business district, away from the glitzy chaos of the beach, makes it a nice haven for those wanting a memorable read. Havaianas-clad students and the suited and booted from neighbouring offices can all be found here, casually browsing side-by-side. Livraria La Travessa has an impressive collection of social science books, although most are in Portuguese. There is a gentle chaos to the arrangement of its stock, labels do allude to a specific subject area, but often you’ll find, say, a Spinoza amongst the cook books. “I think it’s really nice. It’s like Rio – very mixed,” Cristal Moniz de Aragão, Professor of Psychology at UFRJ told me on a visit together, “Actually, it’s like all of Brazil. This is how our cities are [arranged]. You can find a five million dollar apartment next to a favela.”

Rio Favela
Rio Favela. Credit: David Schenfeld CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

And then there’s São Paulo. If ever an oasis of books were needed, this would be the city for it. Known for being the cultural cousin to Rio, its rich array of art galleries and über-cool bars dot an otherwise overwhelming and homogenous metropolis. The city greets first-time visitors with a heavy-handed dose of traffic and crime-related paranoia, but, thankfully, it is chocked full of unique bookshops to while away the rush-hour and stress.

sao paulo nas alturas
Sao Paulo. Credit: Fernando Stankuns  CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Livraria Cultura is a multi-storied book palace, housed in a shopping centre just off São Paulo’s main thoroughfare: Avenida Paulista. Livraria Cultura’s size ensures there’s something for every book-browser inside. When I visited, the ground floor was abuzz with a book-launch and shoppers, but I needed only to climb to the top floor to find a cozy chair, a good book and some peace and quiet.

Livraria Cultura, Sao Paulo. Credit: Cheryl Brumley

Livraria Freebook in Rua da Consolação, a walkable distance from Avenida Paulista, is a specialist bookshop for design geeks. After ringing a doorbell, visitors are ushered into a long, concrete space where a few rows of shelves display bound treasures on interior design, architecture and fashion. You’re then left alone with a cup of tea to browse at your leisure. Maíra Serra Teixeira, the Sales and Marketing Director for the shop, told me, “Freebook is the only place in São Paulo that specialises in imported books… my Dad started the company in 1976”. Frequented by the city’s stylistas and interior designers looking to populate their clients’ coffee tables, Freebook’s big-sellers last year were a photobook on graffiti artists Os Gêmeos and a book on the designs of the Paris fashion-house Kenzo.


LSE Review of Books in Brazil: Episode 1: Rio in transition

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 Download MP3     Listen + Subscribe via iTunes    Webfeed

In the first episode of a three-part series on Brazil, the LSE Review of Books Podcast takes a closer look at the city of Rio de Janeiro to uncover wider issues that face the world’s fastest growing cities. Before talking to LSE and Brazilian authors about their books on Brazil, LSERB podcast producer, Cheryl Brumley, made her first stop at the annual Urban Age Conference to hear how politicians, academics and planners from cities around the globe grapple with city transformations. The conference, put on by LSE Cities and the Alfred Herrhausen Society, is a globetrotting event which invites 70 experts to participate in a two-day investigation of cities. The conference took place in Rio amidst unprecedented urban transformation and ambitious redevelopment projects, spurred on by the impending World Cup and Olympic Games.

This podcast features Ricky Burdett, Director of LSE Cities, and architectural adviser to the London 2012 Olympics; Washington Farjado, Adviser on Urban Affairs to the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro; Dame Tessa Jowell, MP and former UK Minister for the Olympics; Enrique Peñalosa, former Mayor of Bogota; Amanda Burden, Director of the New York City Department of Planning; and many others.


Cheryl Brumley is Multimedia Editor for the LSE Public Policy Group blogs and produces the LSE Review of Books Podcast. Cheryl joined the LSE PPG in January 2012 after graduating from the LSE with an MSc in Theory and History of International Relations with a focus on political Islam. Cheryl previously conducted research into social media and the Arab Spring at the Regional Centre for Conflict Prevention in Jordan, and researched for BBC World Service radio and Public Radio International. Read more reviews by Cheryl.


Do you have a favourite bookshop? If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit when they’re undertaking research or visiting a city for a conference, then now’s your chance to tell us all about it.

As part of a new weekly feature on LSE Review of Books, we’re asking academics and students to recommend their favourite two or three bookshops in a particular city, with the aim of building an exciting online series for our book-loving community of readers the world over.

Bookshops could be academic, alternative, foreign language, hobby-based, secret or underground institutions, second hand outlets, or connected to a university. We’d like to cover all world regions too.

If something comes to mind, we’re looking for around 100 words per bookshop, detailing why this place is a must-see. Our editorial team can then find suitable photos and links to accompany the piece, though you’re welcome to supply these too. We only ask that you focus on just one city or region, and two or three bookshops within it.

Email us now if you’d like to contribute:

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Posted In: Bookshop Guides | Contributions from LSE Alumni | Contributions from LSE Staff and Students | LAC region


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This work by LSE Review of Books is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales.