Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

What Jair Bolsonaro’s Reading List Says About How He’ll Govern

Reading Time: 2 minutesThe Brazilian president has displayed numerous books at events and on social media. Some appeal to his base, while others seem aspirational.
Reading Time: 2 minutes


Reading Time: 2 minutes

This article was adapted from our latest print issue. To see the rest of our package on Brazilian politics, click here. | Ler em português

Since his October election, Jair Bolsonaro has prominently displayed numerous books on social media. Some choices seem designed to rally his conservative base, while others may be intended as aspirational goals or attempts at conciliation with critics. Overall, the books offer clues to who Bolsonaro is—and how he’ll lead.

Suffocated Truth: The History the Left Doesn’t Want Brazil to Know
By Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra

In a July interview, Bolsonaro called this book by convicted torturer Ustra his personal favorite. Bolsonaro dedicated his 2016 vote to impeach then-President Dilma Rousseff to Ustra, who as an army colonel during Brazil’s last military dictatorship ran the São Paulo arm of the intelligence agency that killed and tortured people labeled as subversives. In Suffocated Truth, Ustra denies personally participating in torture, a practice Bolsonaro has openly supported. 

Memoirs of the Second World War
By Winston Churchill

In his first post-victory speech, Bolsonaro referred to this abridged version of Churchill’s World War II memoirs and said his government would be inspired by great world leaders. In a TV interview, the president said Churchill’s message of patriotism has been missing in Brazil. On Twitter, Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo said Brazil’s security chaos, like the war, required the ascension of selfless leaders.

The Minimum You Need to Know to Not Be an Idiot
By Olavo de Carvalho

This collection of essays and articles from the man many consider to be the philosophical father of Brazil’s “new right” has sold more than 320,000 copies. It includes chapters on subjects like democracy and socialism, as well as abortion, the intelligentsia and “gayzismo”, a word used to describe LGBTQ activism as a totalitarian ideology. Carvalho articulates for Bolsonaro his critiques of the left and globalism in a complex but accessible manner. 

The Bible

Bolsonaro is known to quote — or, at times, misquote — the Christian holy book to justify his views, including his defense of gun ownership. With his slogan “Brazil over everything, God over everyone,” Bolsonaro’s religiosity helped make him, a Catholic also baptized in the Jordan by a protestant pastor, the preferred candidate among evangelical voters — an increasingly powerful constituency.

Brazil’s 1988 Constitution

After Bolsonaro gave numerous campaign speeches praising the military dictatorship and advocating unconstitutional measures, he received copies of the constitution as a gift from several public figures, including Supreme Court justices, the leader of the Senate and the head of the public advocate’s office. Perhaps seeking to allay their anxieties, Bolsonaro has prominently placed the document on his social media videos. At a congressional event commemorating the constitution’s 30th anniversary in November, Bolsonaro told lawmakers it was Brazilian democracy’s “true north.”

O’Boyle is a senior editor for AQ. Follow him on Twitter @BrenOBoyle


Reading Time: 2 minutes

Brendan O’Boyle is a former senior editor at Americas Quarterly.

Follow Brendan O’Boyle:   X/Twitter

Tags: Bolsonaro books, Bolsonaro constitution, Jair Bolsonaro, Olavo de Carvalho
Like what you've read? Subscribe to AQ for more.
Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Sign up for our free newsletter