Andrés Ruzo’s grandfather used to tell him about a boiling river in the Amazon that is hot enough to make your tea.  As a PhD grad student, Ruzo asks around about this river while creating a geothermal map of South America.  He’s about to give up when his aunt tells him she’s been to the river.  As he gets closer to discovering the truth about this childhood legend, Ruzo learns about the many groups who have an interest in the Amazon, and the surprising ways those interests do and do not align.

The Boiling River is one of a collection of books published in part by TED, the same company that brings you the immensely popular TED Talks.  The books are touted as more in-depth than a TED Talk but, at 20,000 words or less, still short enough to read in one sitting.  Thus, The Boiling River is only 144 pages, or 2.75 hours on audio, making for a fast-paced retelling of Ruzo’s adventures in the Amazon.  The writing is concise, as it needs to be to stay under the limit, but still descriptive, which makes it accessible and engaging.  The audio is read by the author, allowing for sincerity and energy, though it lacks the photographs contained in the print edition.  While he does discuss some of the science of how the river is heated and how he attempted to determine that information, it turns out that this is not the main focus of Ruzo’s book.  Instead, The Boiling River is a reflective, thought-provoking examination of how oil companies, cattlemen, loggers, shamans, and locals are all influencing and influenced by this geothermal river, the rainforests around it, and the questions of how they should be protected.

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