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10 Books About the Amazon River

  |   Expert Advice

From time to time, Rainforest Cruises have Special Guest Cruise Departures, like the Delfin II Amazon Cruise that sailed in February 2016 with guest John Hemming, a world-renowned author, explorer and overall expert on the Amazon and Incan Civilization. We've selected a list of 10 Books About the Amazon River, for you to read before, after, or during, your Amazon river cruise. There is nothing more blissful than reading a book on the deck of your Amazon riverboat, watching the jungle scenery pass by. Two of the Amazon books selected have been written by John Hemming himself, while others are Rainforest Cruises staff favorites and recommendations. 

Where better to enjoy a book about the Amazon than in the Amazon itself!

Where better to enjoy a book about the Amazon than in the Amazon itself!

1. Naturalists in Paradise: Wallace, Bates and Spruce in the Amazon

Author: John Hemming

Naturalists in Paradise By John Hemming

John Hemming’s newest book, examining the thrilling stories of three pioneer English naturalists’ explorations and findings in the world’s richest ecosystem– the Amazon. Alfred Wallace, Henry Walter Bates, and Richard Spruce went on a journey over 150 years ago, to Amazonia, the world’s largest tropical forest and greatest river system. At that time, it was an almost-undiscovered environment to Western explorers and scientists. Each of the naturalists are famous for a particular discovery: Wallace is credited, along with Charles Darwin, for developing the theory of evolution; Spruce transported the quinine-bearing Cinchona tree to India, saving countless lives from malaria and Bates uncovered the phenomenon of protective mimicry among insects.

John Hemming reaches beyond the well-known narratives, offering an exciting story of frontier life in South America as seen through the lives of the great pioneers of anthropology, tribal linguistics, archaeology, and every branch of natural science.


2. Tree of Rivers: the Story of the Amazon

Author: John Hemming

The Story of the Amazon by John Hemming

Author, John Hemming is one of the most powerful advocates of the Amazon– one of the most magnificent habitats on earth, containing the world’s largest river and home to the planet’s most biological diversity. In this book, Hemming discusses the current threats to Amazonia, such as deforestation and the passionate struggles taking place in order to utilize, protect, and understand the Amazon. He also recalls the adventures (and misadventures) of explorers, Jesuit ecclesiastics and greedy rubber barons, who enslaved thousands of indians for profit. 







3. Mother of God: An Extraordinary Journey into the Uncharted Tributaries of the Western Amazon

Author: Paul Rosolie

Mother of God By Paul Rosolie

A tale of extraordinary adventure in the uncharted tributaries of the Western Amazon. This story captures the isolation and true beauty of the of the Amazon Rainforest. The Amazon River begins its massive flow in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. It’s where the Andean mountain cloud forests fall into the lowland Amazon jungle, making it one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet. In January 2006, Paul Rosolie embarked on a journey to the west Amazon that would transform his life. He encountered giant snakes, isolated tribes untouched by outsiders, floating forests, prowling jaguars, poachers in the black market trade in endangered species and much more. He ventured into the Amazon jungle’s most inaccessible tributaries and waterways. This book relives his adventure exploring one of the most wild places on Earth. 




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

Author: David Grann 

The Lost City of Z by: David Grann

A New York Times Best-Seller, The Lost City of Z, follows the story of the legendary British explorer, Percy Fawcett, when he ventured into the unknown Amazon jungle searching for civilization. He never returned to tell his story. David Grann tells the stories of Fawcett’s quest for “Z”, the greatest exploration mystery in the 20th century, and his own journey to the magnificent, and sometimes deadly, Amazon jungle. 










5. River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana's Legendary Voyage of Death and Discovery Down the Amazon

Author: Buddy Levy

river of darkness

A true story of the legendary 16th century explorer and his death-defying navigation of the Amazon River. Francisco Orellana became the first European to navigate and explore the entire length of the Amazon river. In this book, the author gives an account of the native populations– some welcoming and peaceful, giving life-saving guidance, while others ferociously hostile, performing terrifying rituals. Overflowing with violence and beauty, nobility and tragedy, River of Darkness is a breathtaking adventure that will sweep readers along on an epic voyage unlike any other.







6. The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes

Author: Scott Wallace


The Unconquered tells an extraordinary true story about a journey deep into the remote Amazon rainforest to track one of the world’s last uncontacted indigenous tribes. Wallace uncovers clues as to who the “Arrow People” might be and how they have managed to endure as one of the last unconquered tribes. Laced with lessons from anthropology and the Amazon’s own history, the author explores why so much about the Arrow People must remain in mystery if they are to survive. 

The Unconquered reveals this critical battleground in the fight to save the planet as it has rarely been seen, wrapped in a page-turning tale of adventure.






7. White Waters and Black

Author: Gordon MacCreagh

white waters and black

Gordon MacCreagh recounts his adventures with eight "Eminent Scientificos" as they set out to explore the Amazon in 1923 without any idea of what lies ahead of them: rapids, malaria, monkey stew, and "dangerous savages." This book is one of the most honest accounts ever written of a scientific expedition. The narrator takes you over the Peruvian Andes to the headwaters of the Amazon River, and then down the river until the expedition finally expires halfway to their intended destination: the mouth of the Amazon. Their encounters with parasites, water hazards, jungle dwellers, and many other jungle dangers, keeps you reading more. 






8. Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu

Author: Christopher Heaney 

Cradle of God

In 1911, a young Peruvian boy led an American explorer and Yale historian named Hiram Bingham into the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. Bingham made Machu Picchu famous, and his dispatches from the jungle made him as a true Indiana Jones-like character. Christopher Heaney takes the reader into the heart of Peru's past to relive the dramatic story of the final years of the Incan empire. Drawing on original research in untapped archives, Heaney vividly portrays both a stunning landscape and the complex history of a fascinating region that continues to inspire awe and controversy today.







9. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey

Author: Candice Millard 

river of doubt

The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth. The River of Doubt—it is a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon that flows through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world. Here Roosevelt faced armed Indians with poison-tipped arrows, saw piranhas glide through its waters and had to glide through white water rapids. While discovering the Amazon rainforest, Roosevelt and his men faced many hardships, losing their canoes, during starvation and facing an Indian attack. From the soaring beauty of the Amazon rainforest to the darkest night of Theodore Roosevelt’s life, this book keeps the readers suspenseful and eager to read more. 





10. Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time. 

Author: Ed Stafford 

Walking the Amazon

In April 2008, Ed Stafford set off to become the first man ever to walk the entire length of the Amazon. He started on the Pacific coast of Peru, crossed the Andes Mountain range to find the official source of the river. On his grueling 860-day, 4,000-plus mile journey, Stafford witnessed the devastation of deforestation firsthand, the pressure on tribes due to loss of habitats as well as nature in its true-raw form. Jaw-dropping from start to finish, Walking the Amazon is the unforgettable and gripping story of an unprecedented adventure.










Contact Us to send in any Amazon book recommendations you may have, or if you need help planning your own Amazon river cruise adventure. 

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About Rainforest Cruises

Rainforest Cruises is a boutique travel company specializing in Amazon river cruises and tours, providing you with the finest collection of cruises in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Panama. As South American travel experts we have all the advice you need to help you find and book your dream cruise and an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime.


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