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on 17 April 2001
"One River" is one of the most fascinating and readable books about South America that I have ever come across. Although Wade Davis obviously intends his work to be a tribute to his mentor, Schultes, and his friend Tim Plowman, the book is much more than a mere botanical biography. Davis writes with great enthusiasm and combines subjects that continually entertain and inform the reader. The book is filled with true tales of adventures on the Amazon, encounters with jungle tribes, fanatical hunts for rare plants, and wild journeys through the remote Andes. Exploration, excitement and ethnobotany are skilfully blended with a well-researched history of South America. The reader is presented with a great deal of thought-provoking material about the past, present and future of this contradictory continent. HIGHLY recommended.
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Absolutely fascinating story of the Amazon this/last century. A fantastic chapter on the rubber boom and its side affects on the Amazon peoples. Also contains a chapter on the Waorani which the book is worth buying for alone as I learnt more on the Wao's from this chapter than I did from one whole book on the waorani by another author. This book does not contain one tedious moment between its two covers.
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on 9 December 2005
Without doubt one of the most wonderful books I've ever read.
Exceptionally researched, really clever intertwining of the the personal experience, history and biography of the mentor.
A great writer!
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on 21 September 2014
Having read Wade Davis' wonderful "Into the Silence" I bought "One River" thinking it was his next book. In fact the latter was first published in 1996 and, presumably, re-released in the UK on the back of the former's great success. It was interesting too that there appeared to be little literary review of "One River".

It certainly was a leap of faith as South America is not an area of interest to me (it should be) nor the psychoactive properties of plants (perhaps it should be) and this combined with anthropology of the Amazon tribes caused me to abandon the book half way - I tried to persevere but was conscious all the time of "ploughing" and page counting (how long to the end?). I was not pulled into the narrative nor was my interest piqued in any way.

Some will like this book. I can see the appeal but I suggest they have to enjoy and have an interest in the topics detailed above. "One River" does not frankly soar to the literary heights of "Into the Silence"
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on 26 September 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.
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on 10 December 2000
excellent read which inspires fear now that the gringos are talking of aerial spraying of the colombian rain forests. worth reading for the description of the value of the most biodiverse part of the planet.
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HALL OF FAMEon 3 February 2006
Anyone still doubting the superiority of fact over fiction need only take this book to a quiet corner and start reading. Wade Davis relates the stories of two Richards, Schultes and Spruce, plus his own in their respective excursions in the upper Amazon. Schultes, Davis' Harvard mentor, spent many years there seeking medicinal plants and new sources of rubber when access to Asian resins were lost during World War II. No work of fiction, including Hollywood's almost trifling account in the film "Medicine Man", can match the scope of what Schultes accomplished during his extensive travels. Schultes had the good sense to approach the Native American shamans with respect, dealing with them on their terms and not as a latter-day conquistador. They responded to his inquiries in kind, leading to countless new medicines for treating our "civilized" illnesses. He became a "depswa" - medicine man - sharing their rituals while gaining knowledge. Davis is able to use his close relationship with Schultes to provide an engrossing and detailed account of Schultes' career in the bush.
The second Richard is Schultes' own model. Richard Spruce came to the Upper Amazon from mid-Victorian England. Prompted by an inestimable source, Charles Darwin's account of the Beagle voyage, Spruce entered the Amazon country in 1849. Few of the celebrated explorers in Africa in the same period can match the perils Spruce faced and dealt with. As did his follower Schultes, Spruce avoided the overbearing colonialist image - his desires were achieved by finding new medicinal plants. Spruce dealt with the dispensers of drugs and their tales of visions incurred as an equal. In their turn they imparted valuable information leading to useful medicines. Clearly, both Schultes and Spruce operated as Davis stipulates: "botanists in the Amazon must come to peace with their own ignorance." As Schultes, Spruce and Davis himself demonstrate, the peaceful approach brings substantial rewards in information and experience.
Davis' own, modern, story enhances that of his mentor Schultes, carrying the research and adventure forward. Only the ability to travel further and faster than his teacher separates the two. Davis has a sensitive touch in describing the world of the Upper Amazon, its dense forests and often mysterious people. His grief at the loss of their culture is manifest, buttressed by a strong historical sense of what they once were. Certainly this account belies the image of the "detached" scientist scouring the forest's resources for personal gain. He is there to learn and to teach us. He accomplishes both with a fascinating narrative. This is a book to be treasured and read again. A single sitting with this book is but an introduction to this disappearing world. Read it and discover that adventure is not a lost experience.
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on 3 October 2000
I too found this book amazing. I read it whilst working as a jungle guide in Peru and it was such a good companion. It was funny and interesting and sad and some of the history it described was shocking. Awesome.
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on 11 February 2013
As described with Wade Davis' other books. An author with original thoughts and interpretations of experience.. of life on Earth. If only every man woman and child would read his works, there would be less propaganda and less dumbed down thoughtless 'following' of age-old tired-out worn-out paths of culture and society.
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on 15 May 2016
Big fan of Wade Davis, this book encampassed some extraordinary adventures and facts on the Amazon, some of its tribes and Dr.Schultes. An amazing read for anyone interested in any of the or ethnobotany! Truly gripping and hard to put down ❤️❤️❤️❤️
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