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, 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 enthralling narrative.
Reviews for The Lost City of Z
“A blood-stirring reading experience.”
— The Denver Post
“ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR!”
— New York Times, Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Christian Science Monitor, Publisher’s Weekly
“The Lost City of Z is at once a biography, a detective story and a wonderfully vivid piece of travel writing that combines Bruce Chatwinesque powers of observation with a Waugh-like sense of the absurd. Mr. Grann treats us to a harrowing reconstruction of Fawcett’s forays into the Amazonian jungle, as well as an evocative rendering of the vanished age of exploration. ... Suspenseful … Rollicking ... Fascinating ... It 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.”
“Outstanding ... 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 Garcia Marquez ... A kind of magical nonfiction ... Terrifically entertaining.”
— The New York Times Sunday Book Review
“The Lost City of Z, by New Yorker writer David Grann, recounts Fawcett’s expeditions with all the pace of a white-knuckle adventure story. The book is a model of suspense and concision. By the end, Grann wins us over with his own hard-won experience. He has geared up, abandoned his family and climbed into the vortex himself—stung by his subject’s obsession. But Grann differs from Fawcett in two important ways: Unlike the colonel, he knows he is no match for this badland; and equally unlike him, he lives to tell the tale.
What a grand tale it is! ... Thoroughly researched, vividly told, this is a thrill ride from start to finish.”
“The story of Fawcett is brought vividly alive ... Poisoned arrows, cannibalism, impenetrable canopies of rainforest, incomprehensible maps, utility-pole-size pythons, stiff upper lips, gray-bearded geographers, steam packets, naked jungle folk and incessant drumming ... all figure boldly in the epic. ... 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 Winchester, The Wall Street Journal
“A riveting, exciting and thoroughly compelling tale of adventure.”
“Grann has an extraordinary sense of pacing, and his scenes of forest adventure are dispatched in passages of swift, arresting simplicity. ... Grann, a staff writer for the New Yorker who’s proved himself capable of writing about anything, from Sherlock Holmes aficionados to New York City’s underground water system, … manages mostly to clear up the mystery surrounding Fawcett’s 1925 disappearance. More than that, however, he discovers—and it would be unfair to a splendid, suspenseful book to say just how—what a few jungle anthropologists have come to believe is the surprising truth about Z. By his own journalistic autopsis, he vindicates not only Fawcett’s obsession with Z but his own obsession with Fawcett.”
“By interweaving the great story of Fawcett with his own investigative escapades in South America and Britain, Grann provides an in-depth, captivating character study that has the relentless energy of a classic adventure tale.”
“A stirring tale of lost civilizations, avarice, madness and everything else that makes exploration so much fun … marked by satisfyingly unexpected twists, turns and plenty of dark portents.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“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
“With this 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 Team of Rivals
“A fascinating and brilliant book.”
— Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point
“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, New York Times bestselling author of Mayflower
“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
“Though it reads like a novel, this is 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
“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
“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
“The Lost City of Z is [Grann’s] winning first book. Like others before him, Grann became fascinated by the Fawcett legend and the city he was looking for, “Z,” as Fawcett called it, his own private El Dorado. Fawcett had a reputation for being fearless, capable of wading into a rain of poison arrows to make peace with the warriors who were firing them. He traveled light, living off the land, and he traveled fast. For years after he disappeared, rumors emerged from the jungle of blond-haired, blue-eyed children, supposedly his offsprig, being spotted in tribal enclaves.
What makes Grann’s book different is his access to diaries and correspondence, obtained from Fawcett’s grandchildren, that no researcher had seen before…”
— National Geographic Adventure