We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Joseph A. Page’s The Brazilians (Addison- Wesley) provides an epic, emotional survey of South America’s “infinite country.” Page, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, traverses Brazil’s vivid socioeconomic landscape, juxtaposing the country’s high-tech ambitions and timeworn traditions. “Right now, Brazil is at a crossroads, trying to be more market-oriented in its approach to the people and the economy,” explains the author, who has made 16 trips to Brazil and spent the past nine years writing his exhaustive study. He writes that two-thirds of all Brazilians are classified as poor, while 10 percent of the population controls over half of the national income; this division of wealth often breeds violence, as other authors including John Updike (Brazil) and Alma Guillermoprieto (Samba) have noted. “There is a saying that capitalism has never really been tried in Brazil, so it will be interesting to see the outcome,” Page says, cautiously adding that “this new economic approach might not trickle down and effect the really poor for quite some time.” Page isn’t interested only in economics, though. The Brazilians is also an enthusiastic travelogue that takes readers beyond the frenzy of Rio Carnivals, visits the country’s contested rain forests, and explores the everyday lives of São Paulo’s street children.