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Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett was the last of a breed of great British explorers who ventured into 'blank spots' on the map with little more than a machete, a compass and unwavering sense of purpose. In 1925, one of the few remaining blank spots in the world was in the Amazon. Fawcett believed the impenetrable jungle held a secret to a large, complex civilization like El Dorado, which he christened the 'City of Z'. When he and his son set out to find it, hoping to make one of the most important archeological discoveries in history, they warned that none should follow them in the event that they did not return. They vanished without a trace. For the next eighty years, hordes of explorers -- shocked that a man many deemed invincible could disappear in a land he knew better than anyone, and drawn by the centuries-old myth of El Dorado -- searched for the expedition and the city. Many died from starvation, disease, attacks by wild animals, and poisonous arrows. Others simply vanished.

In The Lost City of Z, David Grann ventures into the hazardous wild world of the Amazon to retrace the footsteps of the great Colonel Fawcett and his followers, in a bracing attempt to solve one of the greatest mysteries. It is an irresistibly readable adventure story, a subtle examination of the strange and often violent encounters between Europeans and Amazonian tribes and a tale of lethal obsession.

Topics: Colonialism

Published: Simon & Schuster UK on
ISBN: 9781847378057
List price: $13.99
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A gripping, true adventure story.more
Ahhh, a nerd book for history nerds. Anyone who knows me will know that I have never professed a desire to head into the Amazon and embark on a months long quest to find a lost city. First off, my hair would be incredibly greasy AND I'd be able to grow a mustache that would rival anything on an explorer from the 1920s. Second, I'm not a super great adventurer or camper and bugs are gross. However, this book made me want to be the kind of person who did go on those types of trips... an excellent departure from the literature I generally read.

more
Possibly not the best book to read in the jungle, with its explicit descriptions of all the terrible things jungle bugs might be doing to or laying in you right now, but a terrifically engaging read. About the hunt for the mythical city of El Dorado.more
I alternated between being riveted and disgusted/horrified by this book. I listened to the audiobook in my car, so I couldn't skim the gross bits. It's quite the armchair travel read about Major Percy Fawcett, famous intrepid British explorer of the Amazon back in Victorian times. Man of iron constitution, kind of an a**hole to those of weaker constitution (and I relate more toward the weak), apparently very charming and good looking as well. Thoroughly obsessive. Must! Explore!

It's an interesting depiction of the state of explorations at the time and of a Victorian man; very contradictory aspects of self, but then times were rapidly changing. Fawcett disappeared in the 1920s on an expedition to find the fabled El Dorado-ish lost city of "Z" as Fawcett dubbed it, and author David Grann tries to find out what might have happened to him and whether there might be a Z. He's not the only one, an amazing number of people have died over the years trying to find Fawcett. At first I was blithely enjoying it, thinking of how much fun an expedition might be, and then the maggots and the vampire bats struck. Not to mention the sweat bees in eye pupils and diseases and bacterial ailments and murderous Indian tribes. Not that I blame the Indians; the horrific treatment they received from rubber baron companies and other whites is also detailed in this book. My god, I'm never traveling to the Amazon! These explorers were insane. Oh, the maggots. Grann's adventure is not as fascinating, but it provides an interesting denouement and depiction of how the Amazon is changing.

I liked it as much as Candace Millard's River of Doubt, about Teddy Roosevelt's trip where he traveled a previously unknown Amazon river - also a fairly disastrous trip - but if a patron had a weaker stomach and more of a taste for wildlife description, I'd point them toward Millard's book first.more
Read all 103 reviews

Reviews

A gripping, true adventure story.more
Ahhh, a nerd book for history nerds. Anyone who knows me will know that I have never professed a desire to head into the Amazon and embark on a months long quest to find a lost city. First off, my hair would be incredibly greasy AND I'd be able to grow a mustache that would rival anything on an explorer from the 1920s. Second, I'm not a super great adventurer or camper and bugs are gross. However, this book made me want to be the kind of person who did go on those types of trips... an excellent departure from the literature I generally read.

more
Possibly not the best book to read in the jungle, with its explicit descriptions of all the terrible things jungle bugs might be doing to or laying in you right now, but a terrifically engaging read. About the hunt for the mythical city of El Dorado.more
I alternated between being riveted and disgusted/horrified by this book. I listened to the audiobook in my car, so I couldn't skim the gross bits. It's quite the armchair travel read about Major Percy Fawcett, famous intrepid British explorer of the Amazon back in Victorian times. Man of iron constitution, kind of an a**hole to those of weaker constitution (and I relate more toward the weak), apparently very charming and good looking as well. Thoroughly obsessive. Must! Explore!

It's an interesting depiction of the state of explorations at the time and of a Victorian man; very contradictory aspects of self, but then times were rapidly changing. Fawcett disappeared in the 1920s on an expedition to find the fabled El Dorado-ish lost city of "Z" as Fawcett dubbed it, and author David Grann tries to find out what might have happened to him and whether there might be a Z. He's not the only one, an amazing number of people have died over the years trying to find Fawcett. At first I was blithely enjoying it, thinking of how much fun an expedition might be, and then the maggots and the vampire bats struck. Not to mention the sweat bees in eye pupils and diseases and bacterial ailments and murderous Indian tribes. Not that I blame the Indians; the horrific treatment they received from rubber baron companies and other whites is also detailed in this book. My god, I'm never traveling to the Amazon! These explorers were insane. Oh, the maggots. Grann's adventure is not as fascinating, but it provides an interesting denouement and depiction of how the Amazon is changing.

I liked it as much as Candace Millard's River of Doubt, about Teddy Roosevelt's trip where he traveled a previously unknown Amazon river - also a fairly disastrous trip - but if a patron had a weaker stomach and more of a taste for wildlife description, I'd point them toward Millard's book first.more
This was totally a fun book. On the one hand, I got really into the romance of tromping through the jungle looking for El Dorado. On the other hand, gangrene. So I was definitely grateful that I could enjoy the mystery from the comfort of my couch.

I found the alternating chapters a little jarring, and the author's adventure didn't really hold my interest until the very end, but it didn't detract much from the book, and the device justified itself towards the end, where we actually get something that feels like closure. The stories of all of the people sucked in to the drama are almost as good as that of the Fawcett himself - not just his wife, slowly going mad back home, but all the people who plunged into the Amazon after him, and the con artists claiming they'd found him, or his half-native grandson, or his bones.

Totally an engrossing (and often gross) read.more
A celebrity of his time, explorer Percy Fawcett’s last adventure was deep into the Amazon. Along with him on the trip was his son, Jack, and his son’s best friend, Raleigh Rimell. The trio were never heard from again.

Author David Grann retells their story, with the events that led up to their expedition and the tales of the many who went in search of them. Despite the promise of adventure and all the hype surrounding this book, I didn’t get into it. Grann’s background is in journalism and it shows: much of the book felt like an overly extended article in the Wall Street Journal. The backstory dragged on until I was bored. When it finally picked up the pace, it was nearly over.

I understand some of the appeal found in this book. Primarily, there is an unsolved mystery. Further, there is a journalist who takes great strides in research and “front-line” journalism to get at the heart of the story. Admittedly, Fawcett’s story should be told and Grann was a great choice to do it. I would argue, however, that it would be a much better read as a concise five-part story in a popular newspaper or journal. As it is stands, The Lost City of Z is an arduous trek through an uncharted jungle of boredom which a reader does not hope to become lost in.more
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