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Ten Great Books set in the Amazon Rainforest

21st April 2021

The Amazon rainforest is the latest location for us to visit in our Great Books series. Ten Great Books set in the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon rainforest, covering much of northwestern Brazil and extending into Colombia, Peru and other South American countries, is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, famed for its biodiversity. It’s crisscrossed by thousands of rivers, including the powerful Amazon. River towns, with 19th-century architecture from rubber-boom days, include Brazil’s Manaus and Belém and Peru’s Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado.

‘The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness’  John Muir

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

There were people on the banks of the river. Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women for ever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery: she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns. Now Marina Singh, Anders’s colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders’s wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr. Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest. What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination. Marina is no longer the student, but only time will tell if she has learnt enough.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

This is in part a biography of the life and quests of Percy Harrison Fawcett and what became his obsession of finding the Lost City of El Dorado, a man who hasn’t survived the rigours of history, but int he 1920s had the world gripped by his disappearance. Gann retraces some of Fawcett’s potential steps, with an interesting conclusion.A splendid book if you are heading off to the Amazon.

The Trade Mission by Andrew Pyper

Imagine your job is to translate for a pair of arrogant technology whizzkids on business in South America. Imagine you are accompanying them on a jaunty boat trip up the river Amazon. Imagine that late one night some foreign bandits steal onto the boat and kill the crew. Imagine that you and your charges are kidnapped at gun point. Would you give your life for theirs in the name of survival? Crossman is faced with just this dilemma. A seemingly straightforward trek through the jungle rapidly breaks down into mayhem and, after the kidnapping, nobody knows who to trust. There are five of them – the whizzkids, their two colleagues and Crossman – buried in a deep, dark pit with the ever-present threat of torture to keep them there. But an escape route is finally found and quickly five become three, stranded in a tiny boat on the enormous Amazon and facing new threats from the surrounding wildlife. But these are as nothing compared with the often violent redrawing of allegiances between the three survivors…Sunday Times Bestselling author Andrew Pyper has written a chilling, tense follow-up to his debut novel, LOST GIRLS, which confirms his mastery of thriller writing and explores new – and terrifying – territory against the dramatic backdrop of the Amazonian jungle.

Ghost Flight by Bear Grylls

The Bourne Identity meets Indiana Jones – a debut thriller to take your breath away. A mother and child savagely abducted from a snow-swept mountainside. A loyal soldier tortured and executed on a remote Scottish moor. A lost warplane discovered in the heart of the Amazon jungle, harbouring a secret of earth-shattering evil. A desperate race to defeat a terrifying conspiracy emanating from the darkest days of Nazi Germany. One thread unites them all. Only one man can unravel it. Will Jaeger. The Hunter.

World Burn Down by Steve Cole, Oriol Vidal (Illustrator)

Carlos’s mother works for IBAMA, Brazil’s Environmental Authority. As head of a specially trained task force, her role is to protect the Amazon from the farmers, loggers and miners who are illegally destroying the precious rainforest. It’s a dangerous role and when she upsets some of these land-grabbers, they decide to teach her a lesson by kidnapping her son, Carlos. Taken deep into the Amazon, Carlos manages to escape his captors only to find himself trapped by the fast-moving fires. Will he be able to outrun the flames as the world around him burns to the ground? The terrifying reality of illegal deforestation and the destruction of the rainforest is revealed in this powerful and gripping Amazonian adventure from bestselling author Steve Cole. Suitable for children.

Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. The Impossible Task. The Incredible Journey by Ed Stafford

In April 2008, Ed Stafford began his attempt to become the first man ever to walk the entire length of the River Amazon. Nearly two and a half years later, he had crossed the whole of South America to reach the mouth of the colossal river.

With danger a constant companion – outwitting alligators, jaguars, pit vipers and electric eels, not to mention overcoming the hurdles of injuries and relentless tropical storms – Ed’s journey demanded extreme physical and mental strength. Often warned by natives that he would die, Ed even found himself pursued by machete-wielding tribesmen and detained for murder.

However, Ed’s journey was an adventure with a purpose: to help raise people’s awareness of environmental issues. Ed had unprecedented access to indigenous communities and witnessed the devastating effects of deforestation first-hand. His story of disappearing tribes and loss of habitats concerns us all.

Ultimately though, Amazon is an account of a world-first expedition that takes readers on the most daring journey along the world’s greatest river and through the most bio-diverse habitat on Earth.

Journey of the Pink Dolphins: An Amazon Quest by Sy Montgomery

Scientists call them “Inia geoffrensis,” an ancient species of toothed whale whose origin dates back about 15 million years. To the local people of the Amazon, pink river dolphins are “botos,” shape shifters that, in the guise of human desire, can claim your soul and take you to the Encante, an enchanted underwater world.

As tributaries braid into a single river, “Journey of the Pink Dolphins” weaves ancient myth and modern science into one woman’s search for these elusive creatures. Over four separate journeys, Sy Montgomery follows the dolphins, tracing their spiritual, historical, and environmental past, present, and future. Ancient legends tell us that dolphins have guided humans for millennia, and in “Journey of the Pink Dolphins,” Montgomery answers their call, taking us to that perfect place where the Amazon melts into the forest, dolphins swim among treetops, and the twenty-first century dissolves into the beginning of time.

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Sent in 1910 to live with distant relatives who own a rubber plantation along the Amazon River, English orphan Maia is excited. She believes she is in for brightly colored macaws, enormous butterflies, and “curtains of sweetly scented orchids trailing from the trees.” Her British classmates warn her of man-eating alligators and wild, murderous Indians. Unfortunately, no one cautions Maia about her nasty, xenophobic cousins, who douse the house in bug spray and forbid her from venturing beyond their coiffed compound. Maia, however, is resourceful enough to find herself smack in the middle of more excitement than she ever imagined, from a mysterious “Indian” with an inheritance, to an itinerant actor dreading his impending adolescence, to a remarkable journey down the Amazon in search of the legendary giant sloth.

A Land of Ghosts: The Braided Lives of People and the Forest in Far Western Amazonia by David G Campbell

The western Amazon is the last frontier, as wild a west as Earth has ever known. For thirty years David G. Campbell has been exploring this lush wilderness, which contains more species than ever existed anywhere at any time in the four-billion-year history of life on our planet.
With great artistic flair, Campbell takes us with him as he travels to the town of Cruzeiro do Sul, 2,800 miles from the mouth of the Amazon. Here he collects three old friends: Arito, a caiman hunter turned paleontologist; Tarzan, a street urchin brought up in a bordello; and Pimentel, a master canoe pilot. They travel together even farther into the rainforest, set up camp, and survey every living woody plant in a land so rich that an area of less than fifty acres contains three times as many tree species as all of North America.
Campbell knows the trees individually, has watched them grow from seedling to death. He also knows the people of the Amazon: the recently arrived colonists with their failing farms; the mixed-blood Caboclos, masters of hunting, fishing, and survival; and the refugee Native Americans. Campbell introduces us to two remarkable women, Dona Cabocla, a widow who raised six children on that lonely frontier, and Dona Ausira, A Nokini Native American who is the last speaker of her tribe’s ages-old language. These people live in a land whose original inhabitants were wiped out by centuries of disease, slavery, and genocide, taking their traditions and languages with them — a land of ghosts.

The Mapmaker’s Wife by Robert Whitaker

The year is 1735. A decade-long expedition to South America is launched by a team of French scientists racing to measure the circumference of the earth and to reveal the mysteries of a little-known continent to a world hungry for discovery and knowledge. From this extraordinary journey arose an unlikely love between one scientist and a beautiful Peruvian noblewoman. Victims of a tangled web of international politics, Jean Godin and Isabel Gramesón’s destiny would ultimately unfold in the Amazon’s unforgiving jungles, and it would be Isabel’s quest to reunite with Jean after a calamitous twenty-year separation that would capture the imagination of all of eighteenth-century Europe. A remarkable testament to human endurance, female resourcefulness, and enduring love, Isabel Gramesón’s survival remains unprecedented in the annals of Amazon exploration.

Enjoy your virtual trip to the Amazon rainforest!  Any titles we’ve missed add in Comments below…

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