tango books

10 tango books that answer every question you have for tango

At different times during our tango journey we’d have different wants and needs: advice on improving techniques; knowledge on tango music for better musicality; tips for planning a tango trip to Buenos Aires and learning Spanish, the language of the dance. We may also be curious about different topics such as the history of the tango; the códigos (unspoken rules) in a milonga porteña (a milonga in Buenos Aires). Sometimes we may want fun read of tango, of the dance we all love.

Here we provide our top pick of 10 books that will answer all kinds of questions you have of tango, for you to sit back and enjoy with a coffee, tea or a glass of wine!

Book on Tango music and lyrics

​1. Tango Stories: Musical Secrets by Micheal Lavocah

A must-read for all tango music lovers. Written by Michael Lavocah, a tango teacher, and DJ, the book introduces tango orchestras of different periods of time while focusing on those important ones in the golden period, and highlights the characteristics of the music of different orchestras so to help you recognize them in a milonga (“tango balls”). It also comes with a playlist including the most representative songs from each orchestra so you can listen to while reading the book.

If you are into music by golden age orchestras, check out his “Tango masters” book series—offer in-depth analyzes of the music of Aníbal Troilo, Osvaldo Pugliese and Carlos Di Sarli.

2. Tango words (Letras de tango) (Written in English and Spanish) by Manuel Garber

If you are looking for enriching your understanding of tango lyrics and advance your Spanish, “Tango words” is the book you will love. The author, an Argentine milonguero (tango dancer) who grew up in Buenos Aires and is now living in Australia, offers his meticulous and beautiful translations of 20 classical tango songs. You can listen to the songs on his website while reading the book.

Book on traveling to Buenos Aires

3. Happy Tango—SallyCat’s guide to dancing in Buenos Aires by Sally Blake

This book is written by a British artist and tanguera (tango dancer) who follows her tango dream and travels all the way from United Kingdom to Buenos Aires. It is an entertaining book yet filled with sage advice and useful tips. You will get advice from how to attract dances in milongas, to planning a week of milongas and classes in Buenos Aires. Though the latest version was published in 2013 which means you will need to double check the information of milongas and tango schools in the book, it still offers timeless insights for tangueros who will set foot on Argentina soil for the first time.

Book on learning Spanish for tango and traveling to Buenos Aires

4. Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires travel tips  by Jeanie Tsui and Micaella Digenio

This book is for those of you who have been thinking about learning Spanish for tango. It is also a must-read for those who will visit Buenos Aires for a full tango experience. Instead of being an ordinary Spanish learning book, the author Jeanie Tsui, a tanguera, and her Spanish teacher Micaella Digenio introduce a fresh approach for learning Spanish tailored for tangueros for learning the basic of Spanish for tango in only 3 months.

The book goes into details of explaining how Argentine Spanish is unique from European and Latin-American Spanish. It also provides essential information and practical tips on how to save money and bargain for discount; strategies of tango class taking and unspoken rules in local milongas, which are essential for a successful tango trip.

5. Tango Spanish: Essential phrase book for tango class (and language guide for tango shoe shopping) by Jeanie Tsui and Micaella Digenio

If you are planning to go to Argentina for learning tango, this book is for you. Many non-Spanish speaking tango visitors who travel to Buenos Aires for the first time would be shocked to find out many teachers teach group classes speaking mostly in Spanish, and struggle to catch up.

This book offers a comprehensive collection of Spanish words that are frequently used in a tango class: body parts; figures and techniques; actions and movements and common dialogues between students and teachers, plus vocabularies and phrases one would need for tango shoe shopping—a must-do for every tanguero visiting Argentina. You’d learn the name of parts of shoes, asking for the right size, and bargaining for the best price.

Book on History and culture of tango

6. The meaning of tango by Christine Denniston

If you would want to learn about the history of tango, this is the book you should turn to. The author of the book, Christine Denniston, is the first non-Argentine tango teacher in Buenos Aires. It traces back to the origin of tango and walk readers through the development of tango. From there you can learn about the golden age, and the dark period of prohibition of tango from Argentine government. The book also talk about the success of Broadway show “Tango Argentino” that led to the renaissance of tango in the 1980s which eventually made the dance becomes a global phenomenon. Apart from the history part, the book also offers a section on tango techniques.

Tango Technique

7. Secrets of the embrace (Secretos del abrazo) by Rubén Véliz (English, Italian and Spanish versions available)

This book is for those who need insights on improving posture and dance technique. The book author, Rubén Véliz is a world-renowned Argentine tango master who has been performing and teaching with his wife Sabrina Véliz since 1998. He is passionate about tango teaching and has taught tangueros all over the world. He wrote this book to help tangueros to understand how their body works, and how to shape it into the best form for dancing via regular practices.

Tango memoirs

8. Tango passion and the rules of the game by Margareta Westergård (English and Spanish versions available)

Tango is not purely a performance art, but also a social activity that involves complex human interactions. The author Margareta Westergård is a Swedish milonguera who has a sociology background. She offers her observation about the códigos (unspoken rules) and behaviors of tangueros in Buenos Aires milongas. You may also gain insight about how a life of a devoted tanguero would look like, and how to survive the roller-coaster ride of tango—from being at the height of intense joy and delight, to the rock bottom of tango depression and feeling like a pariah. Read the book for a fascinating glimpse of the happenings inside the tango world of Buenos Aires!

9. Tango lesson by Meghan Flaherty

An enchanting memoir on author’s tango journey in New York in her late twenties, and how these “tango lessons” taught her about life. Being a young lady daunted by past traumas and frightened by male touches, tango was an unlikely choice for her. But as she felt the needs for transformation and the urge of digging up a long-lost dream, she gave tango a try.

A well-researched book interlacing tango history and personal memory written in lyrical prose, you will find it both a pleasurable and enriching read.  

10. In Strangers’ Arms: The Magic of the Tango by Beatriz Dujovne

By an American-Argentine author, this book serves both as a textbook and a memoir which presents a study of tango history and culture, and personal experience of the author. It covers a broad range of themes: from the anthropology of tangueros; the psychological effects of tango on dancers to the socio-economic factors that popularize tango. An eloquently written book recommended for readers who are looking for a deeper understanding of the dance.

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Want more Spanish practice? You can book a 30-minute trial class for only USD7 with our Tango Spanish teachers who are tangueras living in Buenos Aires!

Going to Buenos Aires soon? Check out our books Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel Tips and Tango Spanish: Essential Phrase Book For Tango Class (And Language Guide for Tango Shoe Shopping).

Tango Spanish and Buenos Aires Travel TipsTango Spanish Essential Phrase Book for Tango Class