River of the Gods

River of the Gods by Candice Millard

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for River of the Gods:

Who knew adventurers could be so catty?

Quick synopsis:

The story of the men who tried to find the source of the Nile River. Well, the first Europeans anyway.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

When you wear a cardigan, you can thank the man it was named after, James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Richard Burton went so far undercover as an adherent to Islam, he even got a circumcision. I will say this, that is amazing dedication to a bit.

My Take on River of the Gods:

Just go ahead and trust me that finding the source of the Nile was a huge deal back in the 19th century. Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke were two adventurers who went looking for it and it turned out to be relatively easy.

Just kidding! There was starvation, sneak attacks, and so many bugs. Everyone ended up with scars and of course local people (particularly Sidi Mubarak Bombay) were instrumental and ignored by the larger public. There is also a particular scene which would be at home in any Stephen King book. It is horrific and I feel like Millard enjoyed telling the story. I can’t prove it. It’s just a feeling.

There is adventure and massive roadblocks, but the book is much more about the relationships between the three men mentioned above. People who “discovered” things back in the day were extremely territorial. The relationship between Burton and Speke was especially fraught. I came for the adventure, but I was riveted by the backbiting.


If you know me at all, you know Candice Millard can do no wrong. Read it. Buy it here!

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2 responses to “River of the Gods by Candice Millard”

  1. Barb K Avatar
    Barb K

    Candice Millard rarely puts a foot – or a keystroke – wrong. Her books always end up being immensely readable and educational at the same time.

    1. Brendan Dowd Avatar

      Barb, if you forced me to choose a favorite author, it would be Candice. Everything she puts out is gold in my book.

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