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The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  66,495 ratings  ·  5,801 reviews
A grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon.

After stumbling upon a hidden trove
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 24th 2009 by Doubleday/Random House (NY) (first published 2009)
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Feb 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
We’ve all been wrong on this whole rainforest issue. We don’t need to SAVE the rainforest. We need to DESTROY the rainforest. Immediately.

I knew that the Amazon was a hostile environment, but I was really shocked at the variety of horrific ways that the jungle will kill a person. You’ve got your standard malaria and yellow fever. Then there’s the piranha, the electric eels, the anacondas, the coral snakes or the poisonous toads that are so toxic that one of them could kill a hundred people. Sti
Will Byrnes
Jun 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Be careful when you pick this book up. You won’t want to put it down. In 1925, Percy Harrison Fawcett, armed with information only he had unearthed, accompanied by his son, his son’s best friend and a small company of bearers and support personnel, headed off into the Amazonian wilderness in search of a large, ancient, fabled city, the City of Z. Fawcett, his son, Jack, and Jack’s friend, Raleigh, were never seen again. There were many attempts by later explorers of varying levels of expertise t ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
”How easily the Amazon can deceive.

It begins as barely a rivulet, this, the mightiest river in the world, mightier than the Nile and the Ganges, mightier than the Mississippi and all the rivers in China. Over eighteen thousand feet high in the Andes, amid snow and clouds, it emerges through a rocky seam--a trickle of crystal water.”

By the time it reaches the ocean, the estuary of the Amazon river at the mouth is 202 miles wide. A trickle becomes one of the mightiest forces on the planet.

 photo PercyFawcett_zpsdqbaubap.jpg

Colonel Percy Fawcett,
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Dem by: Pam Walter
Shelves: adventure
A terrific adventure story, full of suspense and intrigue and lots of historical detail to keep the reader interested. I am not really a reader of adventure strories but every now and again one comes along that catches my interest and when a trusted Goodread's friend recommend this I just had to give it a try and see exactly what the Lost City of Z was all about.

In 1925, British explorer Percy Fawcett and his son journey into the Amazon jungle, in search of what for centuries Europeans believe
Reading this book helped clarify one of my life goals, which is TO NEVER GET STRANDED IN THE AMAZON JUNGLE.

Seriously, that place would kill me. There's the threat of piranhas, electric eels, venomous snakes, vampire fish, vampire bats, disease-carrying mosquitoes, dangerous spiders, poisonous plants... and about a hundred other scary things. I fear the jungle because I respect it.*

I also respect those who have set out to explore the jungle — many of whom have died or disappeared. So
Jason Koivu
May 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This will make you feel like a kid again! It will ignite a Jonny Quest kind of desire for adventure, to dive into the jungle in search of lost worlds.

This will also quench most desires to ever take one step closer to a jungle.

"Z" is supposedly a long lost South American city of a once powerful people. Think El Dorado. Did it ever really exist? Finding out was the self-imposed task of an almost legend of a man who lives up to the myth:

Famous British explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett...

This will make you feel like a kid again! It will ignite a Jonny Quest kind of desire for adventure, to dive into the jungle in search of lost worlds.

This will also quench most desires to ever take one step closer to a jungle.

"Z" is supposedly a long lost South American city of a once powerful people. Think El Dorado. Did it ever really exist? Finding out was the self-imposed task of an almost legend of a man who lives up to the myth:

Famous British explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett...


A military man with an athlete's physique and a cast iron constitution, Fawcett made the perfect explorer. As fortune would have it, he lived in a time and place where conquering the last of our Earth's unknowns was in high fashion: Victorian England.

I've read a few of these sorts of books and I've come to expect the unavoidable asides. After all, to take this book as an example, there is always going to be more to the story than just one man trying to find one lost city. The Lost City of Z is fattened by many an aside discussing the myriad of Victorian era explorers who threw themselves into harm's way for glory and adventure. It was almost like a game to them, a great race to see who could get there first, be it the depths of the jungle or the arctic pole.

Author David Grann juggles these stories well, never dropping the main story, at least no more than necessary to incorporate the interesting details from these off-shoot tales that help the reader to better understand the mindset of the times or to underscore the perils of such treks into the unknown.

In the process of putting this book together, tracking Fawcett became Grann's adventure. However, it turned out to be one shared by many.

Fawcett went on numerous South American explorations with varying degrees of success and always emerging - though slightly worse for wear - in relatively good health compared to the many who perished along the way. However, after disappearing into the jungle one last time, with his son and a friend in-tow on this occasion, Fawcett disappeared forever. In the years that followed, finding Fawcett became a new kind of sport that swept the world. Many expeditions set out to find and bring the man back, dead or alive.

As you read The Lost City of Z you begin to form the opinion that "dead" is the only possible outcome for anyone foolish enough to set foot in the jungle. Grann's descriptions of the jungle's deprivations felt to me like watching a David Attenborough nature program in Feel-o-vision...every sting, bite and virulent disease feels like its invading your body. I itched unconsciously at every mention of the ubiquitous insects. I swore my skin creeped and I could feel a fever coming on. So, if you've got Indiana Jones aspirations, this is the cure!

Nancy Oakes
Nov 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book and was immediately lost between the covers and could not stop reading until I had finished the entire thing. That's how good this book is.

The author sets forth the story of Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, a British explorer who in 1925 set out on an expedition to the Amazon to find what he had named the "lost city of Z." He was convinced that an ancient and "highly cultured" people lived in the Amazon of Brazil, untouched by modern civilization, and that they l
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Incredible reviews, national best seller, interesting subject matter, well written, extensively researched and yet it did nothing for me. EPIC FAIL. Not sure why but I had a hard time getting through it without falling asleep every other page. Too many details, too many names, too many stories, too much repetition (I get it, the AMAZON is incredibly dangerous). The first half just dragged and dragged. I am glad that I made myself finish it otherwise I would have nothing positive to say. I will a ...more
Richard Derus
Oct 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.5* of five

This review has been revised and can now be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.

Real-life Indiana Jones doesn't come back from this one.

2017 Movie News: Go watch the trailer for this Amazon Studios film. I'll wait. Okay, now go read the Rotten Tomatoes aggregation. Won't take long.

Now. A four-plus star book review from me and a host of other sources, agreement among critics from Den of Geek all the way to The Nation, and a cast of pretty, pretty the fact that it'
Michael Ferro
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After reading KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON, I was desperate for more nonfiction and, especially, more David Grann. Well, THE LOST CITY OF Z did not disappoint! The joy of Grann's writing isn't just in the sense of action and adventure he offers in his works, but the incredible reportage and detail he puts into each of his books. Fawcett, a man larger than life and one who might seemingly be impossible to capture in the antiquated medium of the written word, comes alive like few other historic char ...more
Part biography, of renowned British explorer Percy Fawcett and part autobiographical travelogue interspersed with bits of history of myriad obsessive attempts across centuries to explore and reveal the location of the legendary city of El Dorado
The description of Fawcett's expeditions felt harrowing and blood-curling at times, them being plagued by incessant deadly mosquitoes, fleas, poisonous snakes & plants, bodies being invaded by maggots, vampire bats, pirhanas and not to forget the indigenous inhabi
Mar 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for reasons to avoid jungle expeditions.
Recommended to Mara by: Kemper
You can see how someone, perhaps someone who goes by the alias of Kemper, would read this book and come to the conclusion that we need to destroy the rainforest immediately (see review and comments that follow for a glimpse at the behaviors of peoples who have never before come into contact with sarcasm).

Seriously though, as noted in my review of Candice Millard's The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, and further evidenced in reading this tale, the jungle is a punishing, dangerous place. As pe
Heidi The Reader
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
A well-researched tale by journalist David Grann about Percy Fawcett, the intrepid explorer who disappeared in the Amazon jungle on his search for the city he called 'Z'.

The part in this book that I appreciated the most was Fawcett's struggle to learn about and appreciate the cultures of the people he discovered in the Amazon, while at the same time, juggling his own biases against any culture other than his own.

In some ways, he was a product of his time, but the fact tha
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
I wish this book would have been fiction so the reader would find out the ending. It seems to me that the story begins over and over but there is no closure.
Laura Noggle
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, history, nonfiction
“Loneliness is not intolerable when enthusiasm for a quest fills the mind.”

I keep finding justifications for my (primarily) solitary life of reading and writing—as if I needed any further convincing.

“Exploration … no longer seemed aimed at some outward discovery; rather, it was directed inward …”

The Lost City of Z vacillated between a 3 and 4 star read. At times it felt like I was slogging through text right alongside the jungle trekkers. However, the ending was satisfactory enough to ma/>“Exploration
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
THE LOST CITY OF "Z" is an amazing adventure in the Amazon jungle. It also chronicles the history of Amazon exploration and various attempts to discover a "lost city." David Grann is a superb writer and I enjoyed this book immensely.
Apr 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
What a great read. For really the first time I understood the fascination with the phrase 'armchair traveller.' In other circumstances, I always thought it was somewhat absurd to think that reading about a thing was as fun as doing it. In this case, it was a lot more fun to read about it than to do it. Pit vipers, swarms of biting insects, interminable wet, death by maggots...and in all of it, a frustrating mystery. At its heart, this is a story of the search for a magnificent civilization in the h ...more
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great non-fiction account of British explorer Percy Fawcett and he’s attempt to find what he believed to be lost city in the Amazon during 1925.
Journalist David Grann try’s to piece together Fawcett journey.

I wasn’t aware of this story until the movie adaptation, it was such a fascinating read.
It gave a real sense of what the conditions would have been like for Fawcett.
Matthew Quann
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Matthew by: Josh Bragg
Shelves: non-fiction
A question for my nonfiction-loving friends: what is it you love about nonfiction?

I ask this question not because I have an inherent dislike for the factual, more that I find fiction much more compelling, readable, and entertaining. It’s why I’ve switched to taking in the bulk of my nonfiction through audio: I just find it easier to get through in that medium. Still, I like to take the occasional foray into reading my nonfiction. With The Lost City of Z, then, I’m confused as to what I
Nov 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
The Lost City of Z by David Grann is exceptional book that I can altogether recommend to every variety of reader. This well-rendered and deeply researched biography of Percy Fawcett, centers on his all consuming obsession with the Lost City of Z (evidence of a great but forgotten jungle civilization), the international fever that follows his mysterious disappearance and some of the more exciting tidbits of Grann’s journey to piece together Fawcett’s tale.

The book is unrelenting in its portraya
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Two stars is probably generous. The rating stems from having known but little about the Amazon rainforest from an experiential point of view. Had I even taken more than a few trips to the National Zoo's only-slightly-muggy version largely without free-roaming pestilence, my rating would probably have been lower. So expectations and foreknowledge are everything here. The more you already know about what a godforsaken wasteland the Amazon is (from a nontropical, industrialized, rocking-chair, arti ...more
Percy Fawcett, a famous British explorer in the 20th century, disappeared into the Amazon jungle with his son and his son's best friend in 1925. Fawcett was searching for an ancient lost city that he called Z. The 3 men were never seen again. Over the decades after their disappearance, several teams and even individuals ventured into the dense jungle to find the famed explorer. Some of them reappeared weeks or months later sick and emaciated, and some were never seen again. No real trace of Fawc ...more
L.A. Starks
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another superb book from David Grann. I read this after reading his later Killers of the Flower Moon.

Grann researches, and then replicates, Amazon explorers' efforts to find the El Dorado (or "Z") of the Amazon. As in KFM, he focuses on the story of one individual, Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, and his extensive efforts.

We take satellite pictures and maps of the world for granted, but Grann shows so much of the world remained unmapped until the 1900s, and that the Royal
K.J. Charles
The tale of Colonel Percy Fawcett--what a name--an Edwardian explorer of the most fantastically Rider Haggard kind. Derring do, apparent natural malaria resistance, absurd physical courage and endurance, mad as a spoon, obsessed with the Amazon. He mapped the borders between various South American countries, but became obsessed with finding El Dorado and the fabled Lost City of Z. No, really.

At the time received wisdom was that the indigenous tribes of the Amazon basin were inferior,
Excellent engaging read of a quest of a quest. Grann, a non-athletic journalist in New York, becomes obsessed with the obsession of an early 20th century British explorer, James Fawcett, with the uncharted areas of the Amazon near the boundaries of Bolivia and Brazil. His fame for several expeditions between 1905 and 1915 skyrocketed to nearly Airhart proportions when he disappeared with his son and his friend on a 1925 journey into the vast Mato Grosso wilderness of Brazil in search the ruins o ...more
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
The jungle is super scary ya'll. I havent had this many gross out moments since i read "The Illustrated History of Cannibalism." So there is no way you will get to the end of this book without being wildly impressed at the abilities of PJ Fawcett and what he was able to do and when he did it. No radios, violent (rightfully so, btw) Indians, no modern medicine, and yet he helped mapped thousands of miles never mapped before in the middle of a jungle.

Likewise you will be equally disgus
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Don't you think the magic is gone from this world? There's nothing left to explore or discover. And if I were to pack a backpack and trek off into the Amazon rain forest in search of a city made of gold and possibly the fountain of youth, you'd institutionalize me.

But not Percy (F'ing) Fawcett, the guy whose mustache and zeal for adventure more than makes up for his sissy first name.

He's the real-life Indiana Jones. A treasure hunter, not an archaeologist (and by the way, it's clear to me now that In
Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it
This is kind of an odd accomplishment: an adventure book that will make you really really glad your not an adventurer. Grann's descriptions of Fawcett et al trampling through the amazonian rainforest with their crass, (often racist) imperialist delusions of grandeur and discovery are often gut-wrenching. Skin peels off in sheets, everyone gets malaria, parasites, maggot infections (shudder), gangrene, etc. Trekking through unspoiled tropical jungles is utterly horrifying, you basically just turn ...more
Nov 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
The most dangerous moment in my highly amateurish hiking career was when I fell a little behind my friends and then fell off a mountain path. Fortunately, I was holding a rope and did not roll down the cliff into the rocks below. Unfortunately, my friends couldn't hear me screaming for help. I held on tight, calmed myself, and climbed back on to the path.

It scared the living daylights out of my mom when I told her, even though I was clearly still alive as I told the story.

The Captain
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Ahoy there me mateys! For those of ye who are new to me log, a word: though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes. Occasionally, I will share some novels that I enjoyed that are off the charts (a non sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult novel), as it were. So today I bring ye:

the lost city of z: a tale of deadly obsession in the amazon (David Grann)

This pirate Captain has a slight obsession with exploration, trea
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David Grann has written about everything from New York City’s antiquated water tunnels to the hunt for the giant squid to the presidential campaign. His stories have appeared in several anthologies, including What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001; The Best American Crime Writing, of both 2004 and 2005; and The Best American Sports Writing, of 2003 and 2006. A 2004 finalist for the Michael Kelly award for the “ ...more
“Years later, another member [of the Royal Geographical Society] conceded, "Explorers are not, perhaps, the most promising people with whom to build a society. Indeed, some might say that explorers become explorers precisely because they have a streak of unsociability and a need to remove themselves at regular intervals as far as possible from their fellow men.” 19 likes
“...much of the discovery of the world was based on failure rather than on success--on tactical errors and pipe dreams.” 15 likes
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