Here are our reviews of what we consider to be some of the best resources on the Amazon. Every so often we hope to add another book review to this page. The resources selected cover a wide variety of topics, and while Project Amazonas does not necessarily agree with, or endorse all the viewpoints or opinions expressed, we heartily recommend these books to anyone interested in the Amazon. Project Amazonas does not ask for nor expect remuneration of any kind for favorable reviews - we simply want to let you know about the great resources that are out there. Periodically we will remove dated or no-longer relevant books. Happy reading!
A Neotropical Companion, 2nd Ed. 1997. Kricher, J. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, USA. ISBN 0-691-04433-3. 451 pp., cloth (also available in paper) A comprehensive yet accessible review of the ecology, plants and animals of the American tropics. This is the book of choice for many courses and for travelers who want an excellent introduction to the natural environment that they will be visiting. Extensive diagrams and references add to the value of this book as a resource for students at all levels. If you are going to visit the Amazon or other parts of the American tropics but will read only one book, this may be the one!
Amazonian Ethnobotanical Dictionary.1994. Duke, J. A., and Vasquez, R. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USA. ISBN 0-8493-3664-3. 215 pp., paper. A great reference for students of botany and ethnobotany. Over 1600 plant species referenced with notes on the names and uses given them by native and other peoples of the Ecuadorian, Colombian, and Peruvian Amazon regions. Much useful information on the chemically/medically active compounds and medicinal or other uses of each species is given while line drawings illustrate some species, and useful appendices list local names and plant species that are used for each use. This is an expensive book but for the serious student of botany or ethnobotany, it will be worth it.
A Guide to the Birds of Colombia.1986. Hilty, S. L., and Brown, W. L. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, USA. ISBN 0-691-08372-X. 835 pp., paper. With over 1700 species of birds, Colombia holds the world title for most diverse avifauna. For many years, this was the most useful guide for birders in Peru and Ecuador. Recent advancements in the taxonomy of South American birds and the publication of new guides for Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Venezuela have made this book somewhat dated, but it remains an excellent guide for use in Colombia and in neighboring countries as well. The plates are mostly excellent, and the text is densely packed with information.
The Birds of Ecuador: Field Guide. 2001. Ridgely, R. S., and Greenfield, P. J. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, USA. ISBN 0-8014-8721-8. ? pp., paper. The companion guide to The Birds of Ecuador: Status, Distribution, and Taxonomy, this book sets a new standard for bird guides for South America. Excellent plates illustrate all of the nearly 1600 species in color. Range maps accompany the text, which follows the most current taxonomy, and provides extensive information on identification of each species, including habitat information, behavior, abundance, and voice/calls.
The Enchanted Amazon Rainforest. 1996. Smith, N. J. H. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA. ISBN: 0-8130-1377-1. 194 pp., cloth. The Amazon has always been an enchanted and mysterious place. Endless waterways and forest have given rise to a wealth of folklore which is a blend of indigenous Indian, African and European lore and religious beliefs. Nigel Smith spent many years in the Brazilian Amazon, and recognizes the folklore of the region as much more than myth or superstition. The folklore serves an important social and conservation function. Modernity and "civilization" threaten this rich folk heritige, and Smith does a masterful job of presenting it in an unjudgemental and positive light, and in showing how it continues to affect the way people of the Amazon live their daily lives. Be fascinated by accounts of pink dolphins that transform into humans to seduce them, giant pigs, phantom horses, and other ghosts. Water jaguars whose foul odor alone overcomes prey.
Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon 1851-1852. 2000. Herndon, W. L. Grove Press, New York, NY, USA. ISBN 0-8021-3704-0. 343 pp., paper. Lieutenant William Lewis Herndon was commissioned by the Secretary of the Navy to travel through the Amazon. His journey through parts of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil took most of a year. His report to the Navy was much much more than a catalog of distances and navagabilities, and included extensive information on the biology and people of the Amazon, though colored by the attitudes and prejudices of his times. "His report so far surpassed his superor's expectations that instead of the obligatory print run of a few hundred copies for Congress, the Secretary of the Navy ordered ten thousand copies in the first run; three months later, he ordered another twenty thousand, and the book became an international best-seller. Samuel Clemens was deeply influenced by Herndon's report - "an alluring tale of long voyage...through the heart of an enchanted land.
Explorers of the Amazon. 1990. Smith, A. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, USA. ISBN 0-226-76337-4. 344 pp., paper. Fascinated by explorers, adventure, history and tall tales? Anthony Smith makes history come to life with his accounts of early explorers of the Amazon. Each chapter recounts the story of a different explorer, and what a varied lot they are! From Madame Godin, the first European woman to travel down the Amazon (and the only surviving member of her party!) to the pathologically murderous Lope de Aguirre, are all presented in an engaging and vivid style. Other chapters deal with Pedro Cabral (discover of Brazil), Francisco de Orellana (discover of the Amazon), Pedro de Teixeira (who cemented Portugal's hold on Brazil), Charles Marie de la Condamine (surveyor and geographer), Baron von Humbolt (biologist and scientist), Spruce and Wickham (botanists and rubber thieves), and Julio Arana (despot, king, and slaver of the Putumayo).
A Field Guide to Medicinal and Useful Plants of the Upper Amazon. 1998. Castner, J. L., Timme, S. L., and Duke, J. A. Feline Press, Gainesville, FL, USA. ISBN 0-9625150-7-8. 154 pp., paper. Anyone interested in useful and medicinal plants of the upper Amazon region of Peru will want this book. 100 species are covered, with full page treatments of each species, complete with excellent color photographs and information on the identification and uses of each plant.
A Field Guide to the Families and Genera of Woody Plants of Northwest South America. 1993. Gentry, A. H. Conservation International, Washington, DC, USA. ISBN: 0-226-28943-5. 895 pp., cloth Extensive user-friendly keys and descriptions that rely largely on sterile plant characters enable the user to identify the woody plants of NW South America (including Peru) to family and usually to genus. This is the single most essential book for anyone interested in the incredibly diverse flora of the region. Numerous line drawings included.
Floods of Fortune: Ecology and Economy along the Amazon. 1996. Goulding, M., Smith, N. J. H., and Majar, D. J. Columbia University Press, New York, NY, USA. ISBN 0-231-10420-0. 193 pp., cloth. Written by three experts on the Amazon, this volume explores the role of annual river flooding in maintaining the biological richness and productivity of the Amazon floodplain, and the importance of this floodplain to the human population. Lavishly illustrated with magnificient photos (which by themselves make the book desireable!) and easily readable, this is a great coffee-table book which nevertheless conveys much important information and a sense of urgency regarding the conservation of the increasingly altered Amazon floodplain.
Flora da Reserva Ducke.1999. Ribeiro, J. E. L. da S., et al. INPA, Manaus, Brazil. 798 pp., cloth. (Available through Kew Botanical Gardens, London) An impressive new flora covering all known species of the Reserva Ducke, on the edges of the city of Manaus, Brazil. In innovative key system and book layout, combined with 1000's of high quality digital photos of leaves, flowers, fruits, and bark make this field guide very useful in the Peruvian Amazon as well. In Portuguese, but accessible to Spanish readers as well.
Florula de las Reservas Biologicas de Iquitos, Peru.1997. Vasquez Martinez, R. The Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis, MO, USA. ISBN 0-915279-48-7. 1046 pp., cloth - in Spanish. A monumental work covering 2740 plant species found in 3 reserve areas near Iquitos, Peru. Includes keys to the families, genera and species of plants included, with descriptions of each species. Line drawings of representative species and genera are included. A hugely important contribution to the botany of the region, and essential for serious students of botany of the Peruvian Amazon.
Fruits of the Guianan Flora. 1985. van Roosmalen, M. G. M. Institute of Systematic Botany, Utrecht University, Netherlands. ISBN 90-9000987-6. 483 pp., cloth. A field guide to the fruits of Guianan plants. An excellent resource for anyone studying frugivory and/or seed dispersal in the Amazon. Numerous illustrations of fruits and seeds, along with notes on identifying various families, genera, and species of plants, as well as commons on distribution, ecology and abundance.
Latin American Insects and Entomology. 1993. Hogue, C. L. University of California Press, Berkeley & Los Angeles, CA, USA. ISBN 0-520-07849-7. 536 pp., cloth. The best overall introduction to taxonomy and ecology of insects and arachnids in the American tropics. Family by family treatments give important characteristics and include many illustrations and important references. An amazing compilation of information and essential for any serious entomologist.
Neotropical Plant Families. 1993. Maas, P. J. M. & Westra, L. Y. Th. Koeltz Scientific Books, Koenigstein, Germany. ISBN 1-878762-39-9 (USA); ISBN 3-87429-342-4 (Germany). 289 pp., paper. A handy portable guide to identifying all the plant families found in the American tropics. Includes a brief summary of the identifying features of each family, listing of important genera, recent references, and many excellent line drawings and illustrations. Great for anyone wanting to learn to identify Neotropical plants!
Piranhas. 1997. Schleser, D. M. Barron's Educational Series, Inc.,Hauppauge, NY, USA. ISBN 0-8120-9916-8. 88 pp., paper. The perfect book for those interested in piranhas. While intended for the aquarium hobbyist, the book includes much recent information on the natural history of piranhas and their taxonomy, as well as how to successfully keep them. Many excellent photos as well.
Plantas Medicinales de Uso Popular en la Amazonia Peruana. 1995. Mejia, K., and Rengifo, E. Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion Internacional and Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonia Peruana, Lima, Peru. ISBN 9972-614.00.5. 284 pp., paper. A handy treatment of 105 commonly used medicinal plants of the Peruvian Amazon. Each species is illustrated with line drawings, and the text includes common and scientific names, a botanical description, and the distribution and medical uses of each species - including how the plant is prepared for use. A glossary describes different diseases, their manifestations, and references the plant species useful in treatment. In Spanish.
So Fruitful a Fish: Ecology, conservation, and aquaculture of the Amazon's Tambaqui. 1997. Araujo-Lima, C., and Goulding, M. Columbia University Press, New York, NY, USA. ISBN 0-231-10830-3. 191 pp., cloth. With the highest freshwater fish diversity of any ecosystem in the world, the Amazon also has some of the most desireable food fishes. One of the best, the "tambaqui" or "gamitana" is closely linked to flooded forest habitats in the Amazon floodplain. This book explores the tight ecological link between this fish and the flooded forest it inhabits, and the opportunities for conservation of Amazon floodplains and sustainable fisheries that it presents. Anyone interested in aquaculture, wildlife management, conservation, and native fishes of the Amazon will find this book interesting, educational, and inspirational.
The Amazon River Forest: A Natural History of Plants, Animals, and People. 1999. Smith, N. J. H. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. ISBN 0-19-512207-0 (cloth) and ISBN 0-19-512683-1 (paper). 208 pp. People have been a feature of the Amazon River and its floodplain ecosystem for at least 11,000 years, and probably considerably longer. Nigel Smith explores the role of humans in the historic Amazon, as well as in the present day utilization and management of its resources. Numerous black-and-white photos document the many uses that Amazon peoples make of the plants and animals of the floodplain, and the need to conserve these resources for future generations. Numerous references and several appendices add to the value of this book for students of the Amazon and for those who are fascinated by humans interactions with their varied environments.
Through the Brazilian Wilderness. 2000 (orig. pub. 1914). Roosevelt, T. Cooper Square Press, New York, NY, USA. ISBN 0-8154-1095-6. 410 pp., paper. Not only was he one of the United States' most influential presidents, but Theodore Roosevelt was also an Amazon explorer! At the invitation of the Brazilian government, former president Roosevelt led a joint Brazilian-American Museum of Natural History expedition through unexplored areas of Paraguay and Brazil in 1913-1914. A keen observer of both people and nature (he originally aspired to be a naturalist), Roosevelt's stunning firsthand account of the difficult expedition introduced the American public to piranhas, electric eels, native tribes of the Amazon, and the difficulties of Amazon exploration in general. Indeed, malaria that Roosevelt contracted during the expedition contributed to his untimely death a few years later.
Varzea: Diversity, Development, and Conservation of Amazonia's Whitewater Floodplains. 1999. Padoch, C., et al., eds. The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NY, USA. ISBN 0-89327-419-4. 407 pp., paper. A compilation of 24 papers (plus section introductions) dealing with Fish and Fisheries, Forests and Forestry, Conservation, Soils and River Dynamics and Land Resource Management in the Amazon floodplain. Current, timely, with diverse topics and numerous references, this book is an essential resource for students and researchers in the Amazon.