It’s easy enough to search an online bookstore, such as Barnes and Noble or Amazon, for “capoeira” and take a chance on whatever comes up—but if you aren’t familiar with the authors or specific topics, how will you know where to begin?
This list is meant for the beginner: someone who is just starting their capoeira journey and hunting for as much information as any human can reasonably absorb. Your enthusiasm will be rewarded with three essential books: two from well-respected mestres (masters of capoeira) that give a great overview of the art’s philosophy and history, and one superbly researched book on the less cliché aspects of its history in Brazil and beyond. After you’ve digested these three, you’ll have a much better idea of where to go next. Enjoy!
- The Little Capoeira Book by Nestor Capoeira — in what’s become the first capoeira book for many capoeiristas, Nestor Capoeira paints a vivid picture of the art and provides so much valuable insight that I find myself revisiting it over and over as I learn and grow as a capoeirista.
- Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form: History, Philosophy, and Practice by Bira Almeida (a.k.a. Mestre Acordeon) — my favorite book to gift new capoeiristas. Mestre Acordeon comes from an esteemed capoeira lineage; in this book, he gives us a solid foundation of practical knowledge and tells great anecdotes of his many years in the art, both as a student and teacher. He’s also a musical force, well-respected and admired in the world of capoeira.
- The Hidden History of Capoeira: A Collision of Cultures in the Brazilian Battle Dance by by Maya Talmon-Chvaicer — a different perspective on the history of capoeira, which is decidedly more interesting and more nuanced than, but not contradictory of, the “dance/fight of the African slaves” narrative that is commonly told. While that narrative isn’t wrong, there’s always more to a story than can be told in a soundbite tailored for the general audience. Every capoeirista finds themselves eventually searching for a better answer—you can start here.