Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Book Review: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

"The Lost City of Z" by David Grann
First published in 2009
321 pages (plus bibliography, etc.)
My rating: 4 out of 5

"The Lost City of Z" is a fascinating reads-like-a-novel non-fiction book about an ill-fated Amazon expedition in the 1920s.

The book centers on well-known British explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett, who had made several successful trips to the Amazon -- a place where pretty much everything is out to kill you -- in the early 1900s. He became convinced of the existence of a place he identified only as Z, ruins of a large, sophisticated ancient civilization. If he was right, the discovery would turn everything scientists thought about the Amazon (like that the natives were hopelessly primitive, and that the harsh environment couldn't sustain a large population) on its head.

In 1925 he mounted a small expedition with his son, his son's best friend and a few guides to search for Z, but he vanished in the forest with barely a trace. His disappearance has been a source of fascination, speculation, and many deadly treks into the Amazon to search for answers over the decades since.

I enjoy reading books like this because it's fun to be transported back to a time when parts of our planet were still undiscovered, still a mystery. And, for the same reason I like books set in cold, rugged, miserable climates, I like books set in the jungle. I sure wouldn't want to BE Percy Harrison Fawcett -- or even the author, David Grann, as he made his own trek just a decade ago -- but it's exciting to live vicariously thorough them as they battle starvation, deadly mosquitoes, hostile natives, piranhas, poison dart frogs, elephantiatis and plenty more on their adventures.

In addition, Grann gives readers a brief history of Amazonian exploration, mapmaking, archaeology and anthropology, especially around Fawcett's time. "The Lost City of Z" was just the kind of non-fiction book I love: informative and educational while also fast-paced and captivating.

1 comment:

  1. I struggle with books set around this time that deal with archaeology. I just want to slap everyone for their terrible methodology :D


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