Laura Hare

Books to Read before You Travel to the Amazon

Books to Read before You Travel to the Amazon

Aug 9, 2017|Traveler ResourcesWhere we travel| by Brittany Pendergrass

Discover the in-depth history and unique wildlife of the Amazon through firsthand experiences, detailed guides and amazing photography before you visit. Thankfully, we've prepared a book list that will get you ready for your trip and provide some insight into this unbelievable world. Enjoy!

Reading List


Amazon Wildlife
James Kavanagh

This handy foldup card covers common species.


Neotropical Rainforest Mammals, A Field Guide
L.H. Emmons

An illustrated guide to the mammals of the New World tropics, compact enough to slip into your daypack, with 29 color plates illustrating more than 200 species. It covers most Central and South American mammals. Even the author concedes that it's difficult to see many of the more elusive rain forest mammals but keep a close watch for the sloths -- they're marvelous, and not likely to escape in a hurry.


Reptiles and Amphibians of the Amazon
R.D. Bartlett, Patricia Bartlett

A convenient guide to 250 colorful and commonly encountered snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs and salamanders of the Amazon Basin, each with clear color photographs and descriptive information. The Bartlett team, who lead trips to the Amazon, has written a series of book on the care of herps as well as a guide to the reptiles and amphibians of Florida.


Birds of Northern South America, Vol. 2: Field Guide
Robin Restall, Clemencia Rodner, Roger Williams

Designed for use in the field, this Identification Guide features Robin Restall’s exquisitely detailed paintings, along with range maps and brief notes on identification integrated on facing pages. It covers all of Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana (including offshore islands) and can be used (with caution warn the authors) in Northern Peru and Brazil. Birders in the Amazon will welcome this book.



Amazon Map

With inset maps of Belem, Manaus and Iquitos, this colorful double-sided map (1:2.5 million) shows both detail and the expanse of the great river basin from the Andes to the Atlantic.


The Smithsonian Atlas of the Amazon
Michael Goulding, Ronaldo Barthem, Efrem Ferreir

An illustrated atlas of the 4000-mile-long river, including its major tributaries, with 150 full color maps and 300 photographs. Michael Goulding (Floods of Fortune) and Brazilian biologists Ronaldo Barthem and Efrem Ferreira provide the accompanying text. Organized geographically, with chapters on major tributaries and drainage basins in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.



Bradt Guide Amazon Highlights
Roger Harris

A compact guide to the Amazon and Orinoco rivers of Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador.


Brazil: Amazon & Pantanal, Travellers' Wildlife Guides
Les Beletsky, David Pearson

A comprehensive guide and handbook to the flora, fauna and habitats of Brazil, with a focus on the Amazon and Pantanal. An Ecotravellers' Wildlife Guide, the book features color illustrations of commonly encountered birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. The 100 color plates feature 90 species of amphibians and reptiles, 310 birds, 70 mammals, 30 insects and 50 common trees and plants.



Along the River that Flows Uphill: From the Orinoco to the Amazon
Miriam Murcutt, Richard Starks

One thousand miles up the Orinoco, along the length of the Casiquiare to Rio Negro and the Amazon. Traveling along the route of La Condamine and Alexander von Humboldt, who explored the region in 1799, the authors' many adventures include a brush with guerrillas across the Venezuelan border in Colombia, encounters with the Yanomami, and the travails of traveling by canoe with their guide, his extended family, and a crew of biologists. The Casiquiare joins the Orinoco River to the Amazon.


Amazonia at the Crossroads, The Challenge of Sustainable Development
Anthony Hall

A wide-ranging analysis of development alternatives for the Amazon, including logging, mining, fisheries, agroforestry, and pharmaceuticuals.


Flowers of the Amazon Forest, The Botanical Art of Margaret Mee
Margaret Mee

Featuring 60 of explorer and artist Mee's splendidly detailed, gorgeous botanical illustrations, along with field sketches and diary excerpts.


Monkeys of the Amazon
Nick Gordon

A photographic celebration of the diversity of primates found in the Amazon basin, from the four-inch Pygmy Marmoset to local behemoth Humboldt's Woolly Monkey.


Naturalists in Paradise, Wallace, Bates and Spruce in the Amazon
John Hemming

The story of three pioneering British naturalists whose discoveries in Amazonia impacted the world. After exploring the South American rainforest, Alfred Russel Wallace theorized evolution, Henry Bates uncovered the concept of protective mimicry and Richard Spruce discovered how to mass-produce quinine to cure malaria.


One River, Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon
Wade Davis

Wade Davis has written a lyrical, meticulously researched book of discovery. One River is both a biography of his mentor, the director of the Harvard botanical museum Richard Schultes, and the story of his own botanical adventures throughout South America with colleague Tim Plowman. It's a sprawling tale of explorers, botanical secrets and larger-than-life personalities. This unconventional book is, in part, a testimonial to Schultes, a legendary teacher and explorer who single-handedly created the discipline of ethnobotany. More than that, it's a magnificently written chronicle of five decades of botanical exploration (including some pretty wild experiments with native hallucinogens).


The Naturalist on the River Amazons
Walter Henry Bates

A spell-binding early account of the river and its environs, first published in 1863. A talented naturalist himself, Bates accompanied Alfred Russel Wallace on a collecting expedition for the British Museum in 1848. He stayed on for 11 years, traveling throughout the region. This classic chronicle of his adventures, part natural history and part travelogue, has inspired generations of tropical biologists. Darwin liked it too.


Frans Lanting (Photographer), Christine Eckstrom

Bringing together 120 color photographs taken over a period of 20 years in jungles from the lowlands of the Congo to the cloud forests of the Andes, Lanting interprets the aesthetic splendor and the remarkable natural history of the tropical rainforest -- a realm of bewildering complexity where nothing is the way it first appears. "While the essence of photography is to show, jungles hide, or at best, suggest," Lanting writes. "So I opted to show impressions of jungles to evoke a sense of their kaleidoscopic nature -- the glimpses of faces that melt into shadows, the bursts of color and shimmering light."



In Amazonia, A Natural History
Hugh Raffles

Hughes -- an intriguing, personal guide to the Amazon -- interweaves anecdote, ethnography, the history of exploration, conservation and biology in this engaging overview of the region. He focuses on a small Brazilian riverine community and the transformation of their river over the last 50 years. Make no mistake, this is an academic book chock full of theory but an uncommonly artful, absorbing one. Hughes is a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Santa Cruz.


Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon
William Herndon, Gary Kinder (Editor

An original account of 19th-century exploration of the Amazon by Captain William Lewis Herndon, who traveled from Lima to the Atlantic coast of Brazil for the United States government in 1851-1852. A best seller in its day.


Trekking Through History, The Huaroni of the Amazonian Ecuador
Laura M. Rival

Judging the Huaorani tribe of the Ecuadorian Amazon by a modern ethnographic standard, this scholarly study reappraises the society's extraordinary tradition of trekking and its unique place in anthropology and environmental history.


Joe Kane

A first-hand account of a naive journalist among the Huaraoni of the Ecuadorian Amazon. In the struggle for the control of their homeland, it is certainly not the local people who behave as savages. Kane is an engaging, humorous guide to development issues in the Oriente of Ecuador.


La Doctora, The Journal of an American Doctor Practicing Medicine of the Amazon River
Linnea Smith

Those of you who have visited the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research foundation may have met Dr. Linnea and seen her Clinica Yanamono near the Explorama Lodge in the upper Amazon of Peru. This is her insightful, heartfelt and funny memoir of life in the region.

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