You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

When Nerdy Journalists Think They Are Indiana Jones

In 1925, the legendary explorer Percy Fawcett set off into the Amazon jungle, on a quest to find the mythical city of El Dorado. He never returned. In the years that followed, dozens followed in his footsteps to figure out what happened--and to see whether the Amazon's hidden civilization really existed, as Fawcett believed. Many of these explorers died, or simply disappeared as Fawcett had. None ever solved the mystery.

Today, few people would seem less likely to attempt such a journey than David Grann, my former TNR colleague who now writes for the New Yorker. As Dave will tell you, he hates the outdoors, has little experience as an adventurer, and (by the way) is half-blind. This particular area of the Amazon, meanwhile, remains nearly as deadly--and shrouded in mystery--as it was in Fawcett's time. But Dave found the Fawcett story irresistible. With the help of Fawcett's original diaries, Dave not only made the journey but lived to tell about it.

The result is The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deady Obsession in the Amazon, which Doubleday published this week. I won't spoil the ending, which reveals more than you might think. But I can tell you it's a terrific read, which will come as no surprise to those of you who recall his work at TNR. And while I'm most definitely biased--Dave is a dear friend--you don't have to take my word for it. It's already getting rave reviews.

You can read all about them--and, yes, buy the book--at the official website

--Jonathan Cohn