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One River by Wade Davis
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One River (1996)

by Wade Davis

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336932,756 (4.07)8
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    The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea by Philip Hoare (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Both detailed explorations of one aspect of the natural world.
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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Boy, was this book hard to read, I felt that I needed a giant map at hand all the time of Northern South America to plot the journeys three main protagonists. That and the small print meant a great deal of re-reading. I was mainly interested in the travels and work of Richard Schultes, particularly his work on rubber and the story of Richard Spruce. I found it much harder to be interested in hallucinogenic substances, although the section on coca and its history was fascinating. Overall the writing style is good although at times much too detailed for the ordinary reader.
  johnwbeha | Nov 18, 2015 |
I am struggling to decide how to summarise this powerful book. At one level it seamlessly combines anthropology, history, geography and ethnobotany, with sprinklings of pharmacology, shamanism and politics thrown in. It is, however, also a powerful personal memoir of Timothy Plowman. a close friend of the author and widely acknowledged giant of the world of ethnobotany.

In the late 1960 and early 1970s Davis was a student of Professor Richard Schultes who was at that time the world's leading authority on the hallucinogens and medicinal plants to be found in the Amazon Basin. In the 1940s he had wandered into the upper reaches of the Amazon and more or less disappeared for about twelve years. During that time he lived with local tribes and experienced numerous shamanistic rites. He returned to his academic life in Harvard twelve years later with a wealth of material and virtually created the discipline of ethnobotany.

Though principally an anthropologist himself, Davis became one of Schultes's inner circle, and consequently became acquainted with Plowman, whom Schultes had earmarked as his successor. Plowman spent most of his time retracing Schultes's footsteps, collecting thousands of specimens of plant life and exploring their hallucinogenic properties. (This was long before Colombia became established as the centre of illegal cocaine farming on the industrial scales of today.) Davis travelled south to join Plowman, and much of the book is devoted to recounting their travels.

Davis writes with great lucidity and has a great facility for conveying complex ideas with an easy clarity than even the most ignorant of laymen (i.e. me) can readily understand. He also adds a lot of historical insight along the way, making this an immensely interesting and informative book. ( )
1 vote Eyejaybee | Sep 26, 2015 |
Fantastic account of the work of Richard Schultes in search of Rubber and Hallucinogens in the Amazon Jungle
  oldhippy | Jan 6, 2014 |
Sprawling, ambitious and begging to be many individual books, this was great in parts. I really think it would make several very good books, but there's just too much here- a biography of Richard Evans Schultes, detailed biographical sketches of Richard Spruce and Tim Plowman, ethnobotanical histories, and more. I wanted more about every subject, and I wanted it presented in a more coherent fashion. Still, quite worth picking up. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
“Richard Evans Schultes is one of the last of those biologists and botanists who confronted a planet with vast unexplored regions, and lived out the high adventure of a serious student of tropical nature. Wade Davis tells his story with humor and reverence… One River is a must read.”
  TerenceKempMcKenna | Feb 24, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684834960, Paperback)

Best known for The Serpent and the Rainbow, Wade Davis is an ethnobotanist interested in the native uses of plants, especially psychotropics. He finds many such plants in the travels he recounts in One River, especially coca and curare. (The first, famously, is a curse in the First World but is a necessity in the Andes, where it promotes the digestion of many kinds of food plants.) Framing Davis's narrative is an account of the dangerous World War II-era Amazonian expeditions undertaken by his mentor, Harvard biologist Richard Evans Schultes. Davis describes a few hair-raising encounters of his own, making this a fine book of scientific adventure.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:12 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Enjoyable and insightful work was written as a tribute to the scientific achievements of Richard Evans Schultes, an Amazonia explorer active during 1940s-50s. Also relates explorations of the author and of Timothy Plowman, both Schultes' students. Intended for a popular audience"--Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 57.… (more)

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