Great books have an incredible ability to transport you; one minute you’re sat on the sofa finding your page, the next you’re exploring a far off land, being whisked away to meet a cast of intriguing fictional characters. The setting of a book is key, and often the more fantastical and far away this is, the more it makes us want to go there. With this in mind, here are some books, covering all ages, which take the Amazon as their setting and sure enough make you want to pack your bags and set off on an adventure of your own!
1. Journey to the River Sea
Journey to the River Sea by Iva Ibbotson is an Amazon adventure set in the wilderness of Brazil in 1910. It follows main character, Maia, who is tragically orphaned at thirteen and sent from England to start a new life with distant relatives in Manaus, hundreds of miles into the Amazon. Filled with mystery and vividly imaginative scenery, this children’s book narrates the ultimate adventure with the enthusiasm and questioning attitude of a child, and definitely leaves you wanting to hop in a boat and start your own journey to the Amazon.
2. State of Wonder
Ann Patchett conjures up the Amazon in our imaginations as she writes of Dr. Marina Singh in State of Wonder. Dr SIngh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, in search of her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug. Thrust into a lush but forbidding world, she must confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness. Intrigue after intrigue against the dramatic backdrop of the dangerous yet incredible Amazon rainforest.
3. One River
A book for any keen adventurers or natural history enthusiasts, One River by Wade Davis is the story of two generations of scientific explorers in South America; Richard Evans Schultes and his protégé Wade Davis. In 1941, Professor Richard Evan Schultes took a leave from Harvard and disappeared into the Amazon, spending twelve years mapping uncharted rivers and living alongside native peoples. In the 1970s, he sent two students, Tim Plowman and Wade Davis, on the same journey. They set about unveiling the botanical secrets of coca, the source of cocaine and sacred plant, known to the Inca as the Divine Leaf of Immortality. This is their epic tale of adventure and a compelling work of natural history, telling of two generations of explorers drawn together by the transcendent knowledge of native peoples, the visionary realms of the shaman, and the extraordinary plants that sustain all life in the incredible and imposing forest that is the Amazon.
4. A Company of Swans
Another Amazon-inspired adventure from Iva Ibbotson, A Company of Swans, for young adults, centres around Harriet Morton, whose weekly ballet classes are her only escape from an extremely dull life in England. When she is chosen to join a corps de ballet setting off on tour to the Amazon, she runs away to a new life of performing in grand opera houses far away. There she is swept away by it all, including a handsome aristocratic exile. Meanwhile unaware that her father and intended fiancé have begun to track her down. The ultimate escapist romance, especially for anyone who has ever dreamed of becoming a dancer, or simply running away to some exotic foreign land.
5. The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest
The Great Kapok Tree written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry may be a children’s book, but it is no less effective in tempting us to set off on a journey to the Amazon. The author herself journeyed deep into the rain forests of Brazil to create this gorgeous picture book, and the descriptions and images are beautiful. The story tells of a man who exhausts himself trying to chop down a giant kapok tree. While he sleeps, the forest’s residents, including a child from the Yanomamo tribe, whisper in his ear about the importance of trees and how ‘all living things depend on one another’, and he awakes with a changed perspective. With words and colourful drawings both equally evocative of the jungle, this book is ever relevant in teaching children to care for our planet.