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

David Grann
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 24 2009
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 of diaries, acclaimed New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve "the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century": What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for the Lost City of Z?

In 1925 Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world’s largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many scientists convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humankind. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions helped inspire Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions around the globe, Fawcett embarked with his twenty-one-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilization—which he dubbed “Z”—existed. Then he and his expedition vanished.

Fawcett’s fate—and the tantalizing clues he left behind about “Z”—became an obsession for hundreds who followed him into the uncharted wilderness. For decades scientists and adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party and the lost City of Z. Countless have perished, been captured by tribes, or gone mad. As David Grann delved ever deeper into the mystery surrounding Fawcett’s quest, and the greater mystery of what lies within the Amazon, he found himself, like the generations who preceded him, being irresistibly drawn into the jungle’s “green hell.” His quest for the truth and his stunning discoveries about Fawcett’s fate and “Z” form the heart of this complex, enthralling narrative.

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“At once a biography, a detective story and wonderfully vivid piece of travel writing….suspenseful….rollicking….Fascinating….reads with all the pace and excitement of a movie thriller and all the verisimilitude and detail of firsthand reportage, and it seems almost surely destined for a secure perch on the best-seller lists.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“David Grann, recounts Fawcett's expeditions with all the pace of a white-knuckle adventure story…..What a grand tale it is!....Grann follows its twists and turns admirably. Thoroughly researched, vividly told, this is a thrill ride from start to finish.”
--The Washington Post

“[O]utstanding….a powerful narrative, stiff lipped and Victorian at the center, trippy at the edges, as if one of those stern men of Conrad had found himself trapped in a novel by García Márquez.” —Rich Cohen, The New York Times Book Review

“[V]ividly alive….What makes Mr. Grann's telling of the story so captivating is that he decides not simply to go off in search of yet more relics of our absent hero -- but to go off himself in search of the city that Fawcett was looking for so heroically when he suddenly went AWOL.”
--Simon Wincester, The Wall Street Journal

“A fascinating account….Grann expertly juggles narratives….breathtaking clarity of scene and immediacy; any writer who can breathe life into letters written by scientists in the early 1900s deserves more than a hat tip. Grann brings Fawcett's remarkable story to a beautifully written, perfectly paced fruition.”
--The Los Angeles Times

“A fascinating yarn that touches on science, history, and some truly obsessive personalities.”
--Entertainment Weekly

“[A] smart biographical page-turner whose vivid narrative chronicles Fawcett's extraordinary life and harrowing adventures.”–USA Today

“To read “The Lost City of Z” is to feel grateful that Grann himself bothered to set out for the Amazon in search of the bones of an explorer whose body was long ago reclaimed by the jungle.”
--Christian Science Monitor

"Grann has an extraordinary sense of pacing, and his scenes of forest adventure are dispatched in passages of swift, arresting simplicity." -- Bookforum

“David Grann takes the reader on an extraordinary journey that snakes through expeditionary archives and ends deep in the Amazonian forest. The Lost City of Z is a gripping tale of a lost world and of the magnificent obsession of those who have sought it.” —Caroline Alexander, author of The Bounty and The Endurance

“David Grann's Lost City of Z is a deeply satisfying revelation–a look into the life and times of one of the last great territorial explorers, P. H. Fawcett, and his search for a lost city in the Amazon. I mean, what could be better–obsession, mystery, deadly insects, shrunken heads, suppurating wounds, hostile tribesmen–all for us to savor in our homes, safely before the fire.”
--Erik Larson, author of Thunderstruck, Devil in the White City and Isaac’s Storm

"Few things are better than experiencing a horrendous adventure from the comfort of your own armchair. Hordes of mosquitoes, poison-arrow attacks, bizarre and fatal diseases, spies in starched collars, hidden outposts of Atlantis -- what's not to like? The Lost City of Z is like a wonderful 19th-century tale of exotic danger -- except that David Grann's book is also a sensitively written biographical detective story, a vest pocket history of exploration, and a guide to the new archaeological research that is exploding our preconceptions of the Amazon and its peoples."
--Charles Mann, author of 1491

"The Amazon has had many chroniclers but few who can match David Grann's grasp of history, science, and especially narrative. Shifting seamlessly between the past and present, THE LOST CITY OF Z is a riveting, totally absorbing real-life adventure story."
--Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Mayflower and In the Heart of the Sea

"The story of Z goes to the heart of the central questions of our age. In the battle between man and a hostile environment, who wins? A fascinating and brilliant book."
--Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point

"What a wild and adventurous life! In the deft storytelling hands of David Grann, explorer Percy Fawcett emerges as one of the most ambitious, colorful, just plain intrepid figures ever to set foot in the New World. Part Indiana Jones, part Livingstone, and part Kit Carson, Fawcett has found his perfect biographer in Grann, who has gamely endured every conceivable Amazonian hardship to piece together the story of this British swashbuckler and his crazed search for a vanished civilization." — Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers

"With his riveting work, David Grann emerges on our national landscape as a major new talent. His superb writing style, his skills as a reporter, his masterful use of historical and scientific documents, and his stunning storytelling ability are on full display here, producing an endlessly absorbing tale about a magical subject that captivates from start to finish. This is a terrific book." —Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of a Team of Rivals

“A fantastic story of courage, obsession, and mystery, THE LOST CITY OF Z is gripping from beginning to end. In the pantheon of classic exploration tales, this stands out as one of the best.” —Candice Millard, author The River of Doubt

“A wonderfully researched true story about an intrepid adventurer, a colorful cast, and an obsession that grips both him and the author.”
-- Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein

About the Author

David Grann has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2003. He has written about everything from New York City's antiquated water tunnels to the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, from the hunt for the giant squid to the mysterious death of the world's greatest Sherlock Holmes expert. His stories have appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic, where he is also a contributing editor.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating! Jan. 17 2009
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
This is a biography of early twentieth century explorer, Percy Fawcett. Fawcett was an accomplished explorer of the Amazon jungles and recipient of the Royal Geographical Association's Gold Medal. He is most known for his determination in finding a lost city and civilization hidden in the depths of the jungle, often called El Dorado, Fawcett labeled his unfound city "Z".

The book begins with Fawcett's early days as an explorer up to his infamous journey in which he took his 22-year old son with him and simply vanished from the face of the earth. Many others have gone in since to find him and either disappeared themselves or returned defeated and emaciated.

Between chapters of Fawcett's story, the author occasionally jumps to his own tale of following in the footsteps of Fawcett's ill-fated last journey using modern technology.

A very compelling read. Fawcett is truly a larger than life character and his story makes for good reading. I really enjoyed the time period, 1900s-1920s, and am fascinated with exploration of that period. A well written biography with plenty of original source quotations including from Fawcett's own journals. I only wish the book had included some photographs. I like to see who I'm reading about but all in all a very interesting and compelling biography and description of the days of exploration.

Edited to Add: While my arc edition has no photographs, the finished book *will* have photos and maps. That's great news!
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5.0 out of 5 stars WOW...WOW...WOW...WOW...WOW!!!!!!! Aug. 28 2013
This review is for the hardcover edition measuring 9 1/2 X 6 1/4 having 339 pages and 16 photo pages in 2 sections.
Despite of it's incredibly lurid cover ( My edition came from GB and it was like a cartoon lurid ) the story inside is both unbelievably entertaining and at the same time astoundingly informative.
Although Mr Grann doesn't 'really' find out much that is new he certainly does find out some very valuable information about the redoubtable Percy Fawcett from existing family members.
Winning their confidence he manages to see and make good use of several previously unpublished diaries of the explorer and with these and the clues contained within he sets out to see if he can find either Fawcett's last location and fate or the mythical city of Z.
Several previous reviewers have described the book as 'not really a page turner'....I beg to differ.
I have been a student of the Fawcett mystery since I was quite young and although there are only a few NEW revelations in this book, nonetheless ALL the previous data and search attempts are linked seamlessly into one continues epic with Mr Grann's search blended on so skilfully into the narrative.
I had, of course, known of the MANY other parties that have gone in search of Fawcett's fate and have come up empty or simply have not returned and each party that searches and fails to either return or find results FEEDS the fire of mystery of Colonel Fawcett.
Setting out with his eldest son and his son's best friend, both in their 20's and in superb condition, Fawcett headed out to an area he was quite familiar with due previous explorations in the Amazon.
This time, however, he intended to head out with JUST the 3 of them and ultimately drop the few porters they did bring along.
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4.0 out of 5 stars interesting June 19 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was a slightly different read for me, but I still enjoyed the historical aspect of it. The author covers a lot of ground in a very interesting tail.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reads like fiction, but it's all true... March 4 2009
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Subtitled: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon --

Who hasn't watched the movies where an explorer or adventurer discovers a lost world or civilization? I personally am fascinated by the whole idea that there may still be some untouched or unfound something out there.

The Lost City of Z isn't fiction - it's an incredible true story. In 1925 famed explorer Percy Fawcett set out to find the fabled city of El Dorado or as he referred to it - The Lost City of Z. Dispatches were sent back documenting his journey for the first two years, but then he and his expedition vanished - no trace of them ever to be heard of again. Many others followed, looking for Fawcett or his golden city. None have ever found it.

David Grann, a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, became enthralled with Fawcett's story as well. Grann discovers some of Fawcett's old journals that give him additional information on Fawcett's planned expedition. He decides to head to the Amazon himself and trace the explorer's route.

What follows is an absolutely riveting tale. The history of Fawcett and other adventurers bent on mapping and mastering the Amazon is utterly fascinating. The book alternates between Fawcett's time, drawing on newspapers, journals and letters to present a real picture of his time and Grann's own growing obsession and pilgrimage. I had to keep reminding myself that this was real - documented history. I honestly couldn't put it down. Does he discover what happened to Fawcett and his lost party - well I'll leave that for you to explore.

Brad Pitt is rumoured to be starring in a film version of The Lost City of Z coming out in 2010.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Not lost anymore?
Amazon disappears rapidly. One day somebody will probably find bones and things belonging to Percy Fawcett, his son and his companion. Read more
Published on Jan. 17 2012 by Regnal
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lost City of Z
The service was excellent and very quick. The book was brand new condition. I would not hesitate in dealing with this seller or Amazon in general.
Published on Dec 1 2011 by DC
4.0 out of 5 stars El Dorado doesn't go out of style
It just comes back for a new generation. In this book David Grann uses the early 20th century Amazon explorations and ordeals of Fawcett to launch his own highly entertaining,... Read more
Published on Oct. 29 2011 by Rodge
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and entertaining read
I was rather surprised at some of the negative reviews generated by this book.It seems to me that many of those who disliked it so much approached the book with some misguided... Read more
Published on April 23 2011 by C. J. Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating!
this is a great book- a page turner! Loved it. Learned alot about geography, native cultures, history and about Fawcett! What a man!!
Published on Jan. 20 2011 by Wendy S Hamelin
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, facinating historical story!
Very well written, flows back and forth through the authors story and the tale of Percy Fawcett effortlessly. Read more
Published on Aug. 26 2010 by Veronica
2.0 out of 5 stars Well researched...yes. Page turner? NO.
I really looked forward to reading this book. I really wanted to like this book.Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. Read more
Published on June 14 2010 by P. Gordon
3.0 out of 5 stars Swashbuckling fun but ultimately forgettable
I really enjoyed this book, but unlike most books I buy, I am passing this one on to a friend. I can't imagine re-reading it in a couple years. Read more
Published on May 22 2010 by Brenton
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Excellent read; enjoyed it a lot; plus learned some things about South American exploration i had never heard before.
Published on March 2 2010 by AvidReader
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting read
I've never read a book so quickly, loved the way it flowed, back and forth in time. Climactic finish.
Published on Oct. 5 2009 by Cardinal buoy
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