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4 books to read before travelling to the Amazon | Insight Guides Blog

4 books to read before travelling to the Amazon

The Amazon rainforest is one of the most fascinating places on Earth. Not to mention a perfect place for an adventure, says Susan Heads of The Book Trail. Begin your journey from the comfort of your sofa with these reads, before booking an adventure through the jungle with Insight Guides
A compilation of covers of Amazon books: "A State of Wonder" and "The Journey to the River Sea". Source: Amazon
A compilation of covers of Amazon books: "A State of Wonder" and "The Journey to the River Sea". Source: Amazon

1. A State of Wonder

Synopsis: Manaus, in northwestern Brazil, is often referred to as the gateway to the Amazon jungle and it certainly is in A State of Wonder. Dr Swenson, a renowned scientist, is working along the banks of the city's River Negro. Her work is shrouded in mystery and someone sent to look for her has been reported dead. Follow the trail to Dr Swenson deep inside the Amazon and discover a world of intrigue, mystery and dark secrets...

Need to know: The jungle is evoked through every sense as you are transported to the heart and heat of this tropical habitat. Close your eyes and you can hear the rustle of the leaves, feel the sweat of the humidity on your face. This book is largely set in and around Manaus, the port city situated close to where the three main tributaries of the Amazon river join, and a hub for trekking and rafting tours.

Add this to your itinerary: The Jardim Botânico Adolpho Ducke is not so much a garden but actually the world’s largest urban forest. You can go on any one of five short trails and see the flora and fauna illustrated in the book. The open-air museum (MUSA; Museu da Amazônia) also has excellent exhibits on Amazonian flora and fauna and a stunning observation tower. Create a trip to Brazil, including a stop at Manuas, with the help of Insight Guides' local experts: simply submit a trip request today

2. Journey to the River Sea

Synopsis: Orphan Maia is set to live with her distant relatives deep in the Amazon jungle. She travels by boat where she discovers a magical world. This is a journey in more ways than one, however, for she is set to join relatives she’s never met before, has a strict governess for company, and has to fight against the forest's unknown dangers.

Top quote: “Those who think of the Amazon as a Green Hell bring only their own fears and prejudices to this amazing land. For whether a place is a hell or a heaven rests in yourself, and those who go with courage and an open mind may find themselves in Paradise.”

Add this to your itinerary: There are plenty of package tours available for journeys down the Amazon, including Insight Guides' Peru Explore: The Andes to the Amazon holiday. Your very own journey to the river sea!

A compilation of covers of Amazon books: "The Lost City of Z" and "The Mapmaker's Wife"A compilation of covers of Amazon books: "The Lost City of Z" and "The Mapmaker's Wife". Source: Amazon

3. The Lost City of Z

Synopsis: A biography of the trials and tribulations of Percy Harrison Fawcett and his obsession with finding the Lost City of El Dorado. A story which captured the world’s imagination back in the 1920s and still does today. Fawcett had an incredible sense of adventure,  and even served as a spy during WW2. His growing obsession with finding the lost city was thought to be a result of the effects of the trauma he suffered during the war, in particular.

Need to know: This man became so well known and his adventures so well documented that it’s widely believed he was the inspiration behind Conan Doyle's The Lost World' (another unmissable read).

Add this to your itinerary: Don't miss the Encontro das Águas, known in English as the 'Meeting of the Waters'. Downriver from Manaus, the reddish-brown water of the Rio Negro merges with the much lighter water of the Rio Solimões and the two streams of water flow alongside each other until they blend into one giant mass. Add Manaus and a trip down the river to your Brazilian holiday with the help of Insight Guides: simply submit a trip request today

4. The Mapmaker's Wife

Synopsis: A tale of love, betrayal and survival in the darkest depths of the Amazon. It's 1735 and French scientists are racing to measure the Earth's circumference when one woman must travel across the Andes and through the Amazon to find her stranded husband. 

Need to know: Discover the excitement of jungle exploration on a journey right into the heart of a very real historical moment. The Mapmaker's Wife presents a picture of colonial life in South America, science at the age of Enlightenment, and Amazonian flora and fauna too. Isabel Gramesón’s survival remains unprecedented in the annals of Amazon exploration. A true life tale this will really inspire and show you just how exciting and unique a place this is.

Add this to your itinerary: Embark on your own expedition on Insight Guides' Totally Wildlife holiday. Cruise the Galapagos archipelago before travelling deep into the Ecuadorian Amazon.


These are just four of Susan Head's favourite ways to explore the Amazon from the pages of a book. This is only a taste of the possibilities and challenges this South American jungle can offer. To read more of Susan's book recommendations for destinations around the world, follow her on her blog, The Book Trail.

Are you ready for a journey down the Amazon?

Explore trips including the Amazon jungle with Insight Guides online now or talk to a local expert today