This book is one of a series devoted to major cities. I had already read the ones on Paris, Florence and Sydney, and while each was interesting in its own way, found a common weakness that the author, rather than the city, tended to dominate the narrative. Castro’s book was therefore a welcome change. Like any good travel writer, he is not absent, but his focus remains on the charms and foibles of Rio. He provides a potted, at times humorous, history, explains the shape of the modern city, traces the growth of samba and the modern face of Carnival, and showcases some of the highlights and lowlights of carioca culture. Castro is a journalist with an engaging style and clearly loves his home town. The other books I’ve read so far in this series left me with no great desire to see the cities they described, but after reading Castro I was giving serious thought to putting on my dancing shoes and flying down to Rio.