I’ve been thinking about reading Grann’s The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon off and on for well over half a decade. For years whenever I saw a copy of it at the library I’d always waltz right by it without even giving the book a second look. Even after seeing Grann interviewed on The Charlie Rose Show about his then recently published collection of New Yorker pieces The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession I still didn’t run out and read Grann’s bestseller The Lost City of Z. I guess when you wanna read so many books you just can’t get to everything, Then one day, I finally grabbed a copy from the library and read it. Luckily for me I thought it was pretty darn good.
To me, The Lost City of Z seemed like two books woven into one. One book told the story of Percy Stewart, one of those intrepid yet slightly crazed Brits who loved traveling to exotic and inhospitable places. After years journeying around the globe in search of adventure and scientific discovery Stewart turned his sights to the Amazon, where legend had it an ancient city once stood. Convinced he could locate the ruins of this great settlement, Stewart and his son entered the dense Amazonian rainforest and were never seen again.
The other book chronicles city-slicker, New York resident Grann’s mission to discover what exactly happened to Stewart. Realizing he can’t solve the mystery of Stewart’s disappearance from the cozy confines of the Big Apple, Grann travels to the Brazilian hinterland. Provisioned and equipped with the all the modern world can supply, Grann nevertheless feels like he’s risking life and limb. Will he find out what really happened to Stewart, or will he end up like so many others before him who went searching for Stewart only to succumb to disease, killed by natives or emerge from the jungle physically and psychologically broken.
I’m glad I read 1491 and 1493 before I read The Lost City of Z because both books provide excellent background material to Grann’s book. Fortunately for me, last year or so I was given a copy of Candice Millard’s The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey which looks like a terrific follow-up to The Lost City of Z. Therefore, don’t be surprised in the near or not so near future if you see The River of Doubt featured on this blog.