Saturday, December 18, 2010

Favorite Reads of 2010

It's that time of year again--your friendly neighborhood librarians are eager to tell you about their favorite reads of 2010. Here is Sally S. with a review:

Among my favorite reads this year are two stories of adventurers in South America: The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, by David Grann, and Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a real-life Indiana Jones searching for Machu Picchu, by Christopher Heaney. The Lost City of Z describes Percy Fawcett's ill-fated attempts to find El Dorado, the legendary city of gold, which he named 'Z'. Cradle of Gold tells of Hiram Bingham's adventures in the Andes and the Peruvian Amazon, searching for the fabled cities of the Incan Empire. The determination shown by these men--their repeated attempts to reach their goals, their hardships at home while finding funding and in the field battling disease, malnutrition and hostile tribes--are very well described in these two exciting stories.

In April of 1925, Percy Fawcett took his son and his son's friend into the Amazon to search for the city of gold; they were never heard from again. Grann's description of Fawcett's obsession with the legendary lost city and its effect on him, his family and friends make
The Lost City of Z hard to put down. Grann himself became so involved in Fawcett's story that he left his wife and infant son to venture into the Amazon in an attempt to discover what happened to Fawcett. Luckily for us, he returned safely and wrote this gripping tale.

In Cradle of Gold, Heaney maintains the sense of wonder about Bingham's exciting discoveries by alternating between the history of the Spanish conquest of the Incas and Bingham's adventures. Bingham's personal history and the state of archeology at the time are very well described, including a description of the bonded servitude of the Incan descendants who helped with Bingham's excavations, and the shady ways in which Bingham took artifacts out of Peru. Heaney explores who owns Incan history, shedding light on the dispute between Yale University and the government of Peru over the treasure Bingham brought back with him. I recommend this book to people who want to learn more about Machu Picchu--the people who built it, those who re-discovered it, and where the treasures have ended up.

Thanks to Sally for this double shot of true adventure! (Lost City of Z is also available as an audiobook...)

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