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The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey

by Candice Millard

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,1721313,665 (4.18)356
The true story of Theodore Roosevelt's harrowing 1914 exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth, a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon that snakes through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world. Indians armed with poison-tipped arrows haunt its shadows; piranhas glide through its waters; boulder-strewn rapids turn the river into a roiling cauldron. After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find, the first descent of an unmapped tributary of the Amazon. He and his men faced an unbelievable series of hardships, losing their canoes and supplies to punishing whitewater rapids, and enduring starvation, Indian attack, disease, drowning, and a murder within their own ranks. Three men died, and Roosevelt was brought to the brink of suicide. Yet he accomplished a feat so great that many at the time refused to believe it.--From publisher description.… (more)
  1. 70
    The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann (bogreader)
  2. 10
    The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston (rakerman)
    rakerman: The River of Doubt is a dangerous jungle expedition to explore a river in 1913–14. The Lost City of the Monkey God is a dangerous jungle expedition to explore a lost city in 2015. Although separated by a century, some similar challenges are encountered.
  3. 10
    The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris (CSL)
    CSL: Those looking for more about the most remarkable Theodore Roosevelt couldn't do better than to consult this first volume of Edmund Morris' (hopefully) three volume biography of the 26th President.
  4. 00
    Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt by David McCullough (Cecrow)
  5. 00
    In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides (davesmind)
  6. 00
    Jungle of Stone: The True Story of Two Men, Their Extraordinary Journey, and the Discovery of the Lost Civilization of the Maya by William Carlsen (rakerman)
    rakerman: River of Doubt tells the tale of a difficult exploration of an Amazonian river. Jungle of Stone tells the story of challenging explorations of Mayan sites.
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» See also 356 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
Amazing story. I learned so much about Teddy Roosevelt that I never knew. ( )
  bangerlm | Jan 17, 2023 |
Honest truth, I don't know much about Teddy Roosevelt other than the very little that was included in my AP American History textbook, whose authors had felt the need to give every president space even if they hadn't done anything (looking at you, Millard Fillmore). Thus, Teddy had gotten short shrift. I wish I had known more at the time because from this small snapshot of one point of his post-presidential life, he was a pretty interesting guy.

Reading this made me reconsider any desire I had to go visit the Amazon, even though logically I know that it's a lot easier to get around in, and there are better safety measures, and vaccinations and medicines available these days. And chances are I wouldn't have to cut down a tree and make my own canoe, or shoot monkeys in order to survive.

I'm honestly very surprised that considering everything, only three men died or were lost. It was pretty harrowing reading. I did feel that Millard took some liberties with the telling, extrapolating some things that would have been impossible to verify from primary source documents, which made my inner historian wince.

This book did spark an interest in Teddy Roosevelt and I think I will need to read some more about him. This book also introduced me to Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, who was unknown to me previously, and another figure that I will have to research more. ( )
  wisemetis | Dec 26, 2022 |
After Theodore Roosevelt lost his attempt to capture a third term as President in 1912 he fell into a depression. As he often did in his life, he sought out an adventure to refocus his attention and South America called to him. Candice Millard’s The River of Doubt chronicles Roosevelt’s fateful eight-month journey down the previously uncharted river where he almost lost his life. Millard does an excellent job of recounting the story using letters and other primary sources interspersed with family history and a lot of Amazon information to tell the story. The River of Doubt is an excellent nonfiction book for readers who like adventure and history. ( )
  Hccpsk | Nov 15, 2022 |
“Less than eighteen months after Roosevelt’s dramatic, failed campaign for an unprecedented third term in the White House, the sweat-soaked figure before [ornithologist] Cherrie in the jungle darkness could not have been further removed from the power and privilege of his former office. Hundreds of miles from help or even any outside awareness of his ordeal, Roosevelt hovered agonizingly on the brink of death. Suffering from disease and near-starvation, and shuddering uncontrollably from fever, the man who had been the youngest and most energetic president in his nation’s history drifted in and out of delirium, too weak to sit up or even to lift his head.”

Dramatic account of the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition into the dark reaches of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest to explore an uncharted river in 1913-1914. After losing the presidential election in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt and his son, Kermit, embarked on a trip to South America. The above quote appears in the opening chapter, and the author then provides a riveting story of how the former president reached such an imperiled state.

Roosevelt was known for his adventurous spirit and willingness to risk his life, though this particular journey was originally not planned to be so arduous. The route was changed after the planning and supplying had already been completed. It occurred before the advent of antibiotics and any method to communicate with the outside world. The result is a harrowing experience, brilliantly described by the author and pieced together from the participants’ journals and related research.

“Even more disturbing than what they knew was what they did not know. The obvious riddle of the river’s course was only one of a thousand potentially lethal mysteries that now surrounded them. As they plunged deeper and deeper into the jungle, the riot of nature that enveloped them—from the crowded canopy overhead to the buzzing, insect-laden air around their faces to the unseen depths of the black river—became increasingly strange, unfamiliar, and threatening, to say nothing of the constant threat of Indian attack, which transformed every shadow into a potential enemy.”

Not only do we follow the details of a grueling journey, but we also get a feeling for what Roosevelt was like as a person. In addition, we learn about one of Brazil’s most renowned explorers, Colonel Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, co-leader of the expedition, who never wavered in his dedication to the indigenous Brazilians. I became completely absorbed in the narrative, turning the pages long into the night. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys tales of exploration, adventure, and survival.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
The River of Doubt by Candice Miller, this book was a gift from my brother and his wife, Denise. They highly recommended it and, rightfully so.The story is of Theodore Roosevelt's exploration of unknown territory (except to the indigenous peoples of the Brazilian interior) along the tributary of the Amazon known as the River of Doubt. In tandem with Brazilian army officer, Colonel Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon, they led an expedition into the Brazilian rainforest where no European had gone before. The plan was to map the river and its' environs, along with Rondon's hopes of befriending the Indians. Rondon had worked hard to draw the native populations into mainstream life in Brazil. Unfortunately, the expedition had been put together in the U.S. by people who had no idea of the requirements of such a journey. At the beginning of their Safari, disagreements developed between Roosevelt and Rondon over this and over procedures and, even over the aim of the journey. Both Roosevelt and Rondon were headstrong in their motives for the journey, but both learned to respect each other. The trip was the most dangerous and last trip of Roosevelt's exciting life. Once again he rose in stature, both in the US and around the world. Rondon also climbed in rank and social standing in Brazil. The trip suffered tragedy, hunger, and, at times, despair. The people depended on and supported each other, to pull through. The story is exciting, at times inspirational without being corny or preaching, and always creating a brisk, tense atmosphere. Better than some fiction I have read along the same theme. Spellbinding, and historically true. ( )
  thosgpetri | Oct 2, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
"The River of Doubt" spins these events into a rich, dramatic tale that ranges from the personal to the literally earth-shaking... "Ms. Millard succeeds in taking a broad, humbling view of one man's place in the natural scheme of things. She juxtaposes Roosevelt's larger-than-life persona with the rules of the jungle."
added by danielx | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Jan 20, 2017)
 
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The line outside Madison Square Garden started to form at 5:30 p.m., just as an orange autumn sun was setting in New York City on Halloween Eve, 1912.
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The true story of Theodore Roosevelt's harrowing 1914 exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth, a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon that snakes through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world. Indians armed with poison-tipped arrows haunt its shadows; piranhas glide through its waters; boulder-strewn rapids turn the river into a roiling cauldron. After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find, the first descent of an unmapped tributary of the Amazon. He and his men faced an unbelievable series of hardships, losing their canoes and supplies to punishing whitewater rapids, and enduring starvation, Indian attack, disease, drowning, and a murder within their own ranks. Three men died, and Roosevelt was brought to the brink of suicide. Yet he accomplished a feat so great that many at the time refused to believe it.--From publisher description.

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Haiku summary
Teddy takes a trip
Murder, illness, starvation
Sloop John B was right
(amweb)

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