Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Review: River of Doubt, Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey

Find me a better "adventure" yarn...you can't.

Truly stunning in its detail and readability this may be one of my favorite books of the past few years.  Rivaling other books like "Into the Wild", "Perfect Storm" and other modern recaps of "man vs. nature" this book may stand above all of them--certainly right there with them.

Covering Roosevelt's journey, after his first two terms as president and after his failed running for a third term, to run and map an uncharted river in the heart of the Amazon, the book stands as an incredible education on numerous subjects including Roosevelt, the Amazon, South American culture and history, history of South American exploration, American political history, race relations, father-son relationships, plant and animal examinations, etc., etc.  I came away from the book feeling more educated about more things than I have from any work in longer than I can remember.

Which is not to say that the book is uninteresting.  Written by Candice Millard who has previously worked for National Geographic it is written in a clear, concise and coherent narrative, reading like an Indiana Jones film.  You have political intrigue, cannibals, murder, theft, wild rapids, infection, sickness, starvation--and yet its all true.

Throughout the work you sit there stunned that any American president would even contemplate such and adventure, let alone lead it by his force of will.  The days of someone as strong and as independent minded as Roosevelt are long gone and this book makes you hunger for them more than you had realized possible.

Pitch perfect in nearly every way Millard's recounting of the near loss and death of Roosevelt during this expedition that was world class in its ambitions deserves to be read widely and often.  It has you reading it like a summer potboiler trying to consume each page so that you can get to the next while realizing you're reading one of the most remarkable episodes of 20th Century American history.  Read it.  You deserve it.

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