To begin the new year, I was looking for a good read, but something out of left field. By that, I mean a book that was not already on my only-growing-longer "to read" list.
From time to time I check in on the blog called Shelf Actualization, where a handful of guys post about literature. One of the authors wrote a post where he listed out all of the books he read in 2011, and noted the ones he enjoyed most. One of those was "The Lost City of Z" by David Grann.
The title rang a bell, so between that and a thumbs up recommendation, I figured I had as good a candidate to kick off 2012.
"Z" is a non-fiction piece that documents the pursuits of British explorer Percy Fawcett to find the City of Z: the legendary metropolis in the middle of the Amazon. Whether it was called Eldorado, or mystified in some other way, the legends told that there was once a glorious city in the middle of the Amazon filled with riches and strange wonders.
The allure of the uncharted and wild nature of the Amazon jungle brought a line of western explorers, including Theodore Roosevelt, to the jungle to map it, conquer it, and uncover its secrets. But none became more famous for this pursuit than Fawcett. Much of this is because the last time he went in, he never came back out. On this last expedition, he only went in with his son, and his son's friend, and though they kept some rudimentary correspondence with the outside world, at one point that went silent and they were never seen or heard from again. So what happened? Starvation? Murder at the hands of an indigenous tribe? Or did they find Z and were living in opulence in the hidden kingdom?
In many ways, that's where the story begins. What follows is Grann's documentation of all of the explorers who went into the Amazon jungles to find Fawcett himself -- and many of these folks didn't return either. The mystery only grew as more time lapsed and no answers came of the fate of the Fawcett party.
Grann describes his own research, preparation, and eventual trek into the Amazon to find answers to Fawcett's disappearance.
Throughout the book, he describes the dynamic that existed between the various parties of explorers, the indigenous tribes (with various degrees of tolerance for white men), the Brazilian government, and other parties with vested interests in the jungle such as Catholic missionaries and (strangely cruel) rubber barons.
Grann presents excellent research in a page-turning narrative. I really enjoyed this one and think most readers of varying tastes and interests would find "The Lost City of Z" a good read.