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One River

4.42  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,084 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
The story of two generations of scientific explorers in South America—Richard Evans Schultes and his protégé Wade Davis—an epic tale of adventure and a compelling work of natural history.

In 1941, Professor Richard Evan Schultes took a leave from Harvard and disappeared into the Amazon, where he spent the next twelve years mapping uncharted rivers and living among dozens of
Paperback, 544 pages
Published August 5th 1997 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 3rd 1996)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,622)
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Sep 21, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing
Blew my mind in so many ways. A great tale of adventure in the Amazon region during two important eras, fascinating exploration of the world of plants and human usage, important exploration of human usage of drugs (yage, coca, etc...), and a subtle case for recognition of what we are losing in destroying ancient cultures and this great region of the earth.

One of my all-time favorite books!
Jun 29, 2015 Adam rated it it was amazing
I started reading this with the intent of reading some light non-fiction to detox from grad school reading requirements. But I ended up reading one of the best books I've ever read. Longer review probably forthcoming, barring distractions.
Christian Burger
May 04, 2014 Christian Burger rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, memoir, biography
Even though I am not finished, I can safely put Wade Davis' One River in 5-star territory. There is just some art that you know was completed passionately and with care. There is plenty of source material in case you need your footnotes with your reading. This is one of those.

The story itself is the story of an ethnobotonist from Harvard that travels through the Amazon in search of plants and their role in local medicine, culture, and religion. Maybe not to everyone's taste but to those interes
Mar 30, 2014 Rajam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Wade Davis is one of my favorite authors to read. He displays a sensitivity to other cultures that is rare, even to find in an anthropologist and he's a fantastic writer as demonstrated in this paragraph:

"Shamanism is arguably the oldest of spiritual endeavors, born as it was at the dawn of human awareness. For our Paleolithic ancestors, death was the first teacher, the first pain, the edge beyond which life as they knew it ended and wonder began. Religion was nursed by mystery, but it was born
Apr 02, 2012 Bob rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mike Reidy & Leah Adams
Recommended to Bob by: Outside Magazine
If I were an enthnobotanist, and could really appreciate and understand the scientific portions of this incredible non-fiction book, I'm sure it would be rated 5 stars. Davis is himself an ethnobotanist, but the book focuses on his mentor, the pre-eminent explorer Richard Schultes, who spent roughly 30 years on the Amazon and its thousands of tributaries, primarily in Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. Davis and his friend (and fellow Schultes disciple) Tim Plowman retraced some of Schultes' steps in t ...more
Aug 15, 2007 Adam rated it really liked it
A really great set of stories detailing the botanical and cultural explorations of two generations of ethnobotanists, Richard Evans Schultes and Wade Davis. It details all of Schultes' exploration of the Amazon basin in the early part of the 20th century, and lends some interesting historical perspective to the rubber-dependent country we live in today. (blight in S. America never allowed for commercial rubber growth, and only when moved to SE. Asia did rubber become available for the myriad use ...more
Nov 26, 2015 Chrisl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book to buy as gift for a science oriented family. My own copy feathered with stickies.

The Cataloging-in-Publication subjects listed on book's title/info pages :
Ethnobotanists ...
Hallucinogenic plants
Medicinal plants

Subject Entries I would have added by page 67 :
Amazon River Region
Andes Mountains
Colombia - Description and Travel
Colombia - History
Indians of South America - Tairona
Kiowa Culture
Tairona Civilization

The narrative portrays a fascinating cast ... it features Harvard Uni
Jan 24, 2014 Agnese rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, biographical
The enthralling account of the exploration of the Amazon forest by ethnobotanists in the 1900s. Led by their passion for the Amazonian flora, Richard Schultes, and later his students including the author, traveled through the forest discovering its plants, rivers and people. A fascinating and inspiring book. I just would have loved to know more about the explorers’ emotions as they encountered peoples, experienced their cultures and lived some unique adventures. The voice of the man beside that ...more
Johanna Hastay
Oct 06, 2007 Johanna Hastay rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History buffs
A disaster to natural rubber (either bio-terrorism or natural) would devestate the global economy but no one's talking about it. Read this book for an eye-opening review of the history of rubber in the Americas and beyond. The second part of the book deals with cocaine and it's use (as coca leaves) by indigenous folks in South America. Also very timely with regards to the US's war on drugs...almost makes me glad that our government is focused on the Middle East instead of Central and South Ameri ...more
Ian Brydon
Sep 26, 2015 Ian Brydon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am struggling to decide how to summarise this powerful book. At one level it seamlessly combines anthropology, history, geography and ethnobotany, with sprinklings of pharmacology, shamanism and politics thrown in. It is, however, also a powerful personal memoir of Timothy Plowman. a close friend of the author and widely acknowledged giant of the world of ethnobotany.

In the late 1960 and early 1970s Davis was a student of Professor Richard Schultes who was at that time the world's leading auth
James F
Feb 04, 2015 James F rated it liked it
Shelves: science, biology
A biography of ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, alternating with an account of the author's travels with Schultes' student Tim Plowman in 1974 in search of the origins of the coca plant. This was crammed with information about a number of subjects, including the (natural and political) history of the Amazon region, the history of the rubber industry, the story of earlier explorers of the region (particularly Richard Spruce) and the customs and religious beliefs of many native tribes. Much o ...more
Constantino Casasbuenas
Mar 31, 2016 Constantino Casasbuenas rated it it was amazing
Telling the names of gods through plants, rivers, hallucinogenics, industries and languages: what a discovery was reading One River! My wife has read it like ten years ago, and it was only now when I got the time and the motivation to read it, mainly because it inspired the Colombian film "El Abrazo de la Serpiente", nominated for the Oscars, 2016.

The film got no Oscar, but the 529 pages told me a story that we have never learned in schools or in the universities in Colombia, Ecuador, Perú or B
Bill Pritchard
May 25, 2015 Bill Pritchard rated it it was amazing
An incredible work and equally incredible read, Wade Davis helped bring the unsung work of professor Richard Evans Schulte to life. He left from Harvard in the early 1940s and disappeared into the Amazon, where he spent the next 12 years mapping uncharted rivers and living among dozens of Indian tribes. Why? For him it was to continue his life's work - unveiling the botanical secrets of coca and the wonders of the plant life of the Amazon. For the government, he was securing the vital natural ru ...more
Lucy Landry
Dec 13, 2015 Lucy Landry rated it really liked it
Whew. I just finished reading more about botanists, hallucinogenic plants, and remote Amazonian cultures than I ever would have imagined reading. But it was surprisingly captivating. Although it's a dense book of almost 500 pages, I was only irritated by some descriptions of events that were skimmed over in too little detail. I enjoyed this book but for the life of me I can't imagine who I might actually recommend it to - unless I happen to meet a tropical botanist. But then, chances are that yo ...more
Mar 10, 2016 Debrigard rated it it was amazing
You are reading about worlds that do not exist anymore - at least in Colombia. Much of the territory covered first by Schultes in the 40's and then by Wade in the 70's has since that time changed great deal due to the combined effects of the FARC, the military, the paramilitary, the drug lords, the US-sponsored drug eradication of coca fields, and the resulting dislocation of ordinary civilians and natives caught in the middle of this mayhem. And to this we must add the ravages of modern tourism ...more
Giovanni Mora
Aug 03, 2011 Giovanni Mora rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Buen libro introductorio a la etnobotánica colombiana utilizando una impecable crónica de viaje atreves del bosque pluvial sur americano.
Jun 28, 2015 John added it
Boy, was this book hard to read, I felt that I needed a giant map at hand all the time of Northern South America to plot the journeys three main protagonists. That and the small print meant a great deal of re-reading. I was mainly interested in the travels and work of Richard Schultes, particularly his work on rubber and the story of Richard Spruce. I found it much harder to be interested in hallucinogenic substances, although the section on coca and its history was fascinating. Overall the writ ...more
Jan 19, 2014 Cherie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Venessa
A What a fantastic book. This is a book of a lot of things - it is about Davis's ethnobotanical journeys through the Amazon; about the amazing vast amt of work his mentor and professor, Schultes did in the Amazon (classifying hundreds if not thousands of previous unidentified plants), about the indigenous people and the injustices they have experienced and how they survive, about the rubber tree time, about the hallucinogenic plants and how they are used, about coca, about Colombia, about so man ...more
Jun 14, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to be lazy and endorse the other reviews of this book. I didn't actually finish it but that was because I wasn't sure how much extra I would get from it once I was half-way through. Nevertheless, as an admirer of Davis's recent book Into the Silence, I was happy to have found this much earlier book of his in a forgotten stack of old volumes. If anyone reading the Everest book thinks that Davis is an armchair traveller, they are wrong, and this book is the evidence. Furthermore, it conf ...more
Aug 08, 2011 Regina rated it it was amazing
An exciting walk through the Amazon River region that pairs science with storytelling and adventure in an entirely historical context. Davis paints a vivid picture that shows the reader the importance and value of recognizing and attempting to understand other cultures, despite their differences from our own, always noting that the wisdom they possess could prove paramount to our own survival. In this account, Wade Davis explores the Amazon Rainforest as an ethnobotanist, noting the unique and d ...more
An intriguing and richly written intertwining of Wade Davis' own ethnobotanical adventures, and the biography of Richard Evans Schultes.
The book is a great read in that it has a little of everything-- travel and adventure, ethnobotany (botany and cultural anthropology), history, politics, and mysticism.
Davis does an amazing job of conveying the sheer depth of the amazon region. The staggering depth of flora and fauna, the depth of culture and language, experience, history, tragedy and beauty. I
Nov 06, 2008 Sean rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Weaves together the adventures of Richard Schultes, the greatest ethnobotanist of the 20th century, discoverer of thousands of plants/trees/etc. previously unknown to the west, including every imaginable psychotropic plant/vine/bark/mushroom, all of which he used himself to verify their effects, with the adventures of the author, Wade Davis, as he assists another ethnobotanist in his search for coca varieties to learn how historically they were used and cultivated.

Schultes' adventure
Kathleen Farrell
saturation fascination. Shultes and his work emerged as most interesting to me. I read this book at least a decade ago, so I'm flying from there because I don't own a copy. Research and storytelling equally, intricately entwined. I am sorry to say so, but Davis is least compelling in accounts of his own adventures. Panther story the exception. And really, it is his most important testimony of all. The Serpent and the Rainbow, that I do own and have begun and not finished 3 times. This is not a c ...more
Win Dunwell
Jan 05, 2013 Win Dunwell rated it it was amazing
. One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest. On a University of Kentucky Horticulture Club trip to Costa Rica, lead by our fearless leader Dr. Bob , student Ryan Quire told me of this book. She was so enthusiastic that as soon as I returned I ordered a copy. It is the story of Dr. Richard Evans Shultes' travels in South America. What an amazing story; I was mesmerized and read it from cover to cover including all the Notes on Sources, even the index. It includes some of t ...more
May 05, 2010 Liza rated it it was amazing

Davis presents in his book One River an engaging personal narrative recounting explorations and experiences in the Amazon rainforest with his friend and fellow naturalist Timothy Plowman, to whom the book is dedicated. At the same time Davis covers a broad historical perspective of topics relevant to ethno–botanical studies, such as the ceremonial use of hallucinogenic plant material, the importance of coca leaves to indigenous peoples in everyday life, the exploitation of native populations by

Jun 25, 2009 Bonnie rated it really liked it
This is an unusual and amazing book that I would probably not have encountered at random. It was highly recommended by my cousin’s son, Greg, who had traveled in South America. I picked it up when we were in SF in March.

There are several interwoven journeys here: Tim Plowman’s, Wade Davis’s, and Richard Evans Schultes’s. Richard Spruce is included as well. These men spent substantial time in the Amazon rain forests at different points in time. They were ethnobotanists of the first order, dedica
Bruno de Maremma
I actually read 'One River' a couple of years ago and was reminded of that while reading another of Mr. Davis' books called 'The Light at the Edge of the World'.
In 'One River' Davis writes two stories; one is a description of the work of Richard Evans Schultes, the 'father of ethnobotany'.
Here's a quote from Davis regarding Schultes ... "Taking a semester's leave of absence from the university, he disappeared into the Northwest Amazon, where he remained for twelve years, mapping uncharted river
Jun 01, 2011 Jason rated it it was amazing
Davis dishes up myths and adventures and history at an alarming rate in perhaps the first non-fiction "page turner" I've ever read. I never knew so many exciting things could happen in so few pages. Except, unlike a fictional page turner, which yields some sort of conclusion and thus satisfaction for tearing through it, this book gently reminds you how little you know and therefore makes you savor it that much slower so that you won't be left with the task of finding some equally entertaining so ...more
Sep 19, 2013 Sancho rated it it was amazing
This is absolutely one of my favorite books. I learned about it on a plane from Leticia (Colombia's main city in the Amazon) to Bogotá. I immediately looked for it and simply could not put it down for a second.

This book is a mix of adventures by two real-life Indiana Jones: Davis himself and his mentor, Schultes. It tells everything they experienced during their trips to the Amazons studying local plants and herbs and how locals used them for all kinds of purposes. Davis follows a lot of his men
Aug 26, 2015 Nathalie rated it it was amazing
Given to me as a gift many years ago, I read this in my mid 20's, and hadn't heard of either Richard Schultes or Wade Davis. Really one of the most interesting, astonishing and eye-opening books I've ever read. Has prime place on my shelf of books I could never part with. For anyone who's interested in ethnobotany, adventure, exploration or anthropology I can't recommend this book enough.
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Edmund Wade Davis has been described as "a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet, and passionate defender of all of life's diversity."

An ethnographer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker, he holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University. Mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent more than three years in the Amazon an
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“a young Harvard student, traveled west to Oklahoma to live among the Kiowa and participate in the solemn rites of the peyote cult. In one photograph the land appears as a blur of dust, the sky fading to gray, the air darkened by soil worked loose by the wind, the farmhouses” 0 likes
“during his four-day vision quest, the Indian built a sweat lodge of willow and hides, fasted, cleansed himself with sage and cedar, and endured the heat of the fire until his spirit was released to soar over a field of snakes. His ordeal ended when a vision of his mother appeared and told him to go back home because he had forgotten his pipe.” 0 likes
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