Book Concierge's Reviews > Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle

Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes by Daniel L. Everett
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bookshelves: adventure, animals, culture, concierge, library, nature, memoir, science

The subtitle pretty much sums this up: Life and language in the Amazonian Jungle. Everett chronicles his experiences over three decades living among and studying the Piraha, an indigenous tribe. He first went to their villages in 1977, as a Christian missionary and accompanied by his wife and three young children. His mission was to learn their language and translate the New Testament into their native tongue so as to bring Jesus to them. What he found was his life’s work.

Parts of this book are very enjoyable for even a lay person (and armchair traveler). There is plenty of danger in the Amazonian jungle – anacondas with a body thicker than a grown man’s, jaguars, caimans, piranhas, not to mention distrustful natives, malaria, typhoid fever and tarantulas the size of dinner plates. Everett and his family encountered all these and more. Stories of hunts, of a frantic trip upriver to take his critically ill wife and child to a hospital, or of altercations with unscrupulous merchants trying to buy natural resources with cheap liquor were told with flare and I found them fascinating and illuminating. But Everett is a linguistics professor/researcher, and there were chapters devoted to detailed study of the structure of language and the way it shapes (or is shaped by) a culture. I tended to lose interest in those sections of the book that read like a research paper, and sometimes got to the end of the page only to realize I’d understood what I read about as well as I might understand the Piraha language.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 6, 2014 – Shelved
September 6, 2014 – Shelved as: adventure
September 6, 2014 – Shelved as: animals
September 6, 2014 – Shelved as: culture
September 6, 2014 – Shelved as: concierge
September 6, 2014 – Shelved as: library
September 6, 2014 – Shelved as: nature
September 6, 2014 – Shelved as: memoir
September 6, 2014 – Shelved as: science
September 6, 2014 – Finished Reading

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