The Amazon: A Trip for the Imagination

24 12 2011

During the past three weeks, I have read three terrific books on Amazon exploration. Taken individually, they are great, but reading them close together has to be the best way to go. The books are “The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey” by Candice Millard, “River of Darkness” by Buddy Levy and “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” by David Grann.

The bottom line is this: the Amazon, especially “back then,” was not for the faint of heart. Or even for the strong of heart. The majority of people who went in did not come back out. Amazon exploration strikes me as a lottery. These people literally gambled with their lives. Indians sometimes decided to kill explorers. Sometimes they let the explorers go. U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt barely survived his expedition in the early 1900s, and he has Indians to thank for his survival (the Indians left him alone). Grann’s book is the only one that presents a picture of the Amazon today, and it is for that reason if you read only one of the three books, I recommend Grann’s. Grann’s book also gives the best depiction of how savage/plentiful bugs and other predators were.

Overall, I left these three books with a feeling of sadness for what exploration brought to the Amazon: deaths of its peoples, its ecosystem and so much more. I hope the Brazilian government stays with its policy of letting uncontacted Indian tribes be.

These three books made me feel as if I were right there in the Amazon, and I want to find more books. This is a place I’ve loved going to in my head. But going in person I will leave to others! 🙂







4 responses

24 12 2011

Out of that list I only read River of Darkness, which was fantastic. I will have to add the others to my list as well.

27 12 2011
Doris Riley Short

I hope you get to explore the Amazon one of these days!

27 12 2011
Q. Kelly

I’ll go if you go 😉

1 01 2012
State of Dismay « Groovy Pages

[…] mostly nonfic, books on the Amazon region through various periods of time (blog post on that here) so I was excited to check out Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder.” It had gotten […]

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