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Shadows in the Sun: Travels to Landscapes of Spirit and Desire

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  385 ratings  ·  28 reviews
" One of the intense pleasures of travel is the opportunity to live among people who have not forgotten the old ways, who still feel their past in the wind, touch it in stones polished by rain, recognize its taste in the bitter leaves of plants."
In this riveting collection of stories and essays, gifted scientist, anthropologist, and writer Wade Davis offers a captivating
Paperback, 292 pages
Published October 12th 1999 by Broadway Books (first published 1992)
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Jun 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I don't love every word that Wade Davis writes. He occasionally gets lost in superfluous details and overly romanticized descriptions. But every one of his books has at least several passages that perfectly harmonize the importance of seeing the world holistically, distill the importance of why one should care. The following is one of my favorite passages from this book:

"Sensitivity to nature is not an innate attribute of indigenous peoples. It is a consequence of adaptive choices that have resu
Rosemary Bloom
Dec 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book on a whim at a local bookstore. I absolutely love it! Presented in short stories, the author recounts his experiences studying the spirituality of other cultures from an anthropologist's perspective. This can either be read in pieces or from cover to cover. I find myself in awe of this man's countless adventures in lands where I can only dream of visiting. A must-read for anyone interested in worldly spirituality.
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic collection of essays on forests, adventure, wild nature, botany and spirituality. Davis does a great job setting the stage, couching the story, and transporting you to a place to experience nature and its people. Some of my favorites were "Hunters on the Northern Ice," in which Davis spends some time with the Inuit in northern Canada; "White Blood of the Forest," which tells the tragic tale of rubber production; "Smoking Toad," that explores Davis' scientific exploration of the myth ...more
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of 15 essays, with no real theme to connect them (except how much Davis has travelled); many of them published previously. I enjoyed most of them, except the two where he tried his hand at reviews of what turned out to be bad movies - very incongruous with his other writing. The best are those from his experience as an ethnobotanist: trying hallucinogens in Peru, the Amazon and the Sonoran Desert; teaching us about the risk of losing bio-diversity in tropical & temperate rainforests ...more
Kathy Leland
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I actually read this collection of essays in a different version titled "The Clouded Leopard: A Book of Travels," (Tauris-Parke publisher) which differed by one essay, but otherwise it's the same. As always, I love Davis's writing style and his observations about nature and all the places where he's traveled and studied. Based on a series of his lectures, the essays sometimes overlap or repeat material from Davis's other works, but it's hardly noticeable because the material is so diverse and fa ...more
Sep 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
World enveloping view of that which we overlook and sometimes contribute to the destruction of. Beautifully narrated with facts and backstories making the convincing argument to "leave it and them, be".
Max Kondziolka
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding. Although, we should expect nothing less from Mr Davis at this point.
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In typical Wade Davis fashion, this story reads like a storybook, teaches like a textbook, and ushers in adventure at every turn of the page! The enlightening combination of storytelling used in solid historical and scientific context paired with captivating subject matter allows for a wonderful expedition around the world! This trek not only entertains, but educates throughout the entire length of the journey to the very last page.

As an ethnobotanist, many of Davis' stories and essays incorpora
Perrin Pring
After reading the first chapter of The Clouded Leopard, I was a little worried. I kept reading however, and the book greatly improved. Every chapter was completely different, which is why I think of this book in terms of chapters. Some chapters I learned a lot from, and some I was left wondering what I should have learned. Overall, Davis's message speaks to the conservation of culture and the environment. What I really found interesting were Davis's parallels between tradition medical advances a ...more
Apr 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is rare that a scientific-minded individual can write with the engaging fluidity of creative non-fiction author, but Wade Davis strides both worlds effortlessly. It never occurred to me that an ethnobotany could be so riveting. Wade Davis takes you to his homeland Canada, to the heights of Peru and the depths of the Amazon basin, to Haiti and Tibet in pursuit of the secrets of plants and how mankind has used them over the centuries. The accounts in this book of travels reveal mysterious pract ...more
A series of globe-spanning essays on the confluence of land and human culture - both our inherently destructive, all-consuming materialist culture and the well-adapted, respectful and harmonious culture of the indigenous. Davis is an ethnobotanist, an anthropologist concerned with plants and their human uses. He's been blessed with some serious traveling and immersion opportunities, and his intrepid spirit leaps of these pages. His writing is clear, strong and persuasive - although, while there ...more
Nov 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting. Had some cool mini sections about Peru, the coca leaf, ayuasca and san pedro. . . all names I heard often while in Cusco. Also gives the reader a really good idea of just how many medicinal plants are being destroyed everyday with the deforestation of the Amazon. How sad. . . It was kinda funny near the end of the book though. It pretty much seemed like a guy who loved trying out new natural psychadelics solely for the name of science. Still pretty cool bringing up the connection be ...more
Noah Enelow
May 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone except squares

Great collection of essays from a true adventurer. Fascination with visionary plants and traditional medicine, admiration and respect for indigenous cultures. The spirit of exploration and discovery. Occasionally the essays meander a little bit, like in "Smoking Toad." Others are focused explanations of the possible links between ecological disaster and economic crisis, as in the case of rubber ("White Blood of the Forest"). Davis has been referred to as the "real Indiana Jones," and this book w
Feb 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amazing accounts of different places and spaces throughout the world. The cultural exploration and diversity in this book had me hooked from the first page. It is a compilation of stories from around the world detailing the lives of little known cultures and the amazing rituals/traditions they have. This book made me want to be an anthropologist (unfortunately my Pre-History class took away that desire) but this will be a book that stays on my shelf forever. A must read for anyone interested in ...more
Aug 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nolimits
A little uneven and a bit repetitive in parts, and yet the whole is still a very good and ultra - informative read. Encompassing everything from toad licking in the America's to clear cutting in Borneo, the author brings forth a number of unusual tales all rooted in the natural world. Much of his information in regards to loss of biodiversity and environmental ruin is utterly frightening and truly astounding. Solid 4 stars!
This book provides a collection of essays on Wade Davis' travels, especially amongst indigenous peoples of the world. There is detailed sections on various groups in North and South America. Although there is no broad single theme of the book, all of the essays in some way stress the need to embrace indigenous knowledge, and begin to halt the destruction of the natural environment.
Harlan Wolff
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: author-s-choice
A book of intelligence and beauty. This was Wade Davis before he became a household name on National Geographic TV. The author has followed the less travelled path of ethnobotany and knows more on the subject than any living writer. This is a book for anybody that is alive and can think. A monument of a book.
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A Wonderful collection of essays w an anthropological twist - Davis reflects on the Arctic ice, hallucinogenics of the Amazon and the US, the elusive clouded leopard of Tibet, Shamanic healing, smoking toads - really interesting, always with a deper look at the people. Fasinating reading, highly recommended.
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
A bunch of great short articles about the plants, cultures, and atmosphere of the wilderness. Awesome beach book, and especially for those with shorter attention spans but a thirst for knowledge, this is a great book.
Aug 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Man, this guy has done incredible things.
Hit or miss with my interest level in the essays...but really good topics, and good writing. I would recommend this to anyone interested in "the environment," ethnobiology, or sacred places, for them to skim through to find the parts that interest them.
Luce Cronin
Did not really like this book because it was way too disturbing, with nothing to cushion the blow. I was perhaps looking for something that this book was not meant to offer. It is beautifully written and takes on journeys with Wade Davis in very remote places.
Julia Henderson
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
had to take this steadily as it's an intense read, but some of the essays in here are magnificent..especially 'Dreams of a Jade Forest' about Bruno Manser, whom I'd never heard of before.
Sep 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Captivating look at indigenous cultures from around the world.
Was a recommendation from Paul
Leela Francis
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, fun, wise, expansive, earth sustaining. I am so grateful for this existence of this man on our planet.
Leela Francis
Jan Horan
Enjoyed the mixing of science, research, mystical & sprit world with travel and adventure. Personal favorite. ...more
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Contains the amazing story of the Inuit poop-knife. 5 stars.
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009-books-read
I heard Wade Davis on NPR and immediately went out on bought his book. He's a fascinating person leading a fascinating life, but I felt that more listening to him speak than reading his work.
rated it really liked it
Nov 29, 2012
Laurie Mcgrath
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Sep 03, 2009
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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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“Sensitivity to nature is not an innate attribute of indigenous peoples. It is a consequence of adaptive choices that have resulted in the development of highly specialized peripheral skills. but those choices in turn spring from a comprehensive view of nature and the universe in which man and woman are perceived as but elements inextricably linked to the whole. ” 7 likes
“A simple intuition, a single observation, can open vistas of unimagined potential. Once caught in the web of an idea, the researcher is happily doomed, for the outcome is always uncertain, and the resolution of the mystery may take years to unfold. Such was the case in my encounter with the magic toads of the Americas.” 2 likes
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