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5 Great Jungle Novels

While browsing Amazon.com, I came across a booklist called Amazon 2011! I was disappointed to find utilitarian titles such as the Travellers Wildlife Guide of Peru and the Smithsonian Atlas of the Amazon. They are very competent books, but I was looking for stories, novels, epics. I tried searching the addictive Listmania section of Amazon.com but came up with nothing (lots of other cool lists though, such as one on utopias). So ransacking my own memory I came up with five rain forest novels worth recommending:
  1. The Mosquito Coast, Paul Theroux: An overbearing and aggressive American genius inventor takes his family to the coast of Central America. He tries to save a village and his family from modern society. Both need to be saved from him.

  2. At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Peter Mathiessen: A missionary and a misfit in Madre de Dios of the sixties try to bring order to the Amazon. In the end, of course, all the chaos they dam up finds its way out tragically. One scene has played in reality many times: the herd of peccaries trampling around the small town.

  3. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver: Combines the past two stories – a stubborn and selfish missionary leads his family into the Congo where he tries to change a village to fit his fundamentalist ideals. No good can come of that. I remember a distilled lesson of political economics: Leah teaching Rachel that democracy is a form of organizing government, whereas communism is a form of organizing the economy.

  4. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad: The original dark tropics novel. Fascination with the abomination. Just reading that sentence coined by Conrad in its proper context is worth the whole novel.

  5. El Hablador, Mario Vargas Llosa. A story about how a Peruvian Jew with a disfiguring birthmark who canīt fit in, evolves into one of the central Machiguenga figures, the lonely storyteller. Also a mystery novel and an account of machiguenga folk tales.


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