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A Notable Book–The Lost City of Z

My second book in a year about explorers in the Amazon!

I picked up “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann because it’s on this year’s American Library Association Notable Books List. As you may know, each year I read most of the books on this annual list, and then make presentations on them. DO contact me if you’d be interested in such a presentation for your group.

Just last year, I read, “River of Doubt” about Theodore Roosevelt’s trek down a river in the Amazon basin early in the 20th century. It was a finalist for the One Book One Lincoln program.

Truth to tell, I chose this one for no other reason than because it happened to be checked in. But I’m glad that I made time for it. What it has in common with other Notables is that it’s a fine book that seems not to have received a lot of attention.

David Grann writes for The New Yorker. He became intrigued with the story of British explorer, Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in the Amazon rainforest in 1925. Fawcett was looking for “Z,” the ruins of a great civilization. Grann alternates chapters with what he learns of Fawcett’s story, with his own story of researching and then becoming obsessed by Fawcett. Eventually, Grann also sets out to see what he can learn of the lost Fawcett expedition.

He tells the story well. Fawcett becomes an interesting character, well placed in his time and people. My hunch is that people who say they don’t like history would like it told this way. Grann’s insertion of himself as the author into the story also works well. It’s easy for me to understand that a reporter would become wrapped up in a story.

What is it about exploring? What was it about the 19th and early 20th centuries that made Europeans want to explore the world? Why do people seek out such hardship? What is it about people who disappear? What is it about thinking that YOU might be the one who finally figures things out?

I’d recommend this to people who find the questions above intriguing, to those who enjoy a nonfictional history story told well, and to people interested in the Amazon.

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