Travel books can often provide hours of enjoyable reading, and in addition be an excellent source of knowledge of an area. Some of the most incisive reports of Latin America have been found in them, and most Latin Americanists have their personal favorites. To this reviewer Flandrau’s Viva México and Schmid’s Beggars on Golden Stools stand as classics; storehouses of cultural information and yet highly readable.

Two recent additions to the fund of travel literature concerning Latin America, are Rolf Blomberg’s Chavante and a new and expanded edition of T. Harper Goodspeed’s Plant Hunters in the Andes.

The first book, Chavante, proves to be the least satisfactory. The author, a Swedish explorer and naturalist long resident in Ecuador, writes of his adventures in Brazil while making a commercial film in various parts of the back-country. The title of the book is a misnomer, since readers who are anxious to read of the isolated and little known Chavante tribe will have to wait until page 98, three quarters of the book, before the author discusses them. Even then the fourteen-page treatment is little more than a series of casual observations. The major portion of the book is given over to descriptions of Rio de Janeiro, Marajó Island near Belem, and a chapter concerning filming of scenes of the intrepid coastal fishermen near Fortaleza. It would apear that Mr. Blomberg has written the book to titillate the imagination of the armchair adventurer. Its value as a piece of social literature is nominal. Some fine color photos of various tribes of the Mato Grosso are a contribution. Even in the cover illustrations, however, the publishers appear to have been carried away with sensationalism. In bold letters the world Chavante is emblazoned across the dust jacket. Below is the portrait of an Indian in multicolored headdress, full paint, and finery. On page 65 one learns that the illustration is of a Carajá Indian. The Chavantes wear virtually nothing, and perhaps do not lend themselves as readily to colorful cover illustrations.

Plant Hunters in the Andes was first published in 1941 following two expeditions undertaken for the University of California Botanical Garden. Expanded to include four more expeditions, the book carries us up to 1958. These expeditions covered the whole of Andean South America, with periodic visits to neighboring regions. Though largely written by Goodspeed, the book includes lengthy reports extracted from the journals of his assistants. At times this leads to a certain amount of confusion on the part of the reader, since it sometimes is difficult to determine which expedition he is referring to, and who are the members.

The one dominant theme of the book is the search for different species of the genus Nicotiana, of which Tabacum, the common tobáceo plant, is most famous. Involving over 25 years of effort, lengthy and difficult journeys into the selva, páramos, and such exotic places as the Chilean island of Más Afuera, Goodspeed and his assistants gathered the largest collection of Nicotiana in the world, thus enabling the author to draw conclusions as to the origin of the various species. Employing considerable wit as well as sagacity, the book concerns not only the botany of the areas visited, but offers some interesting observations of the people encountered. Perhaps these occasional digressions from the botanical theme are not enough to sustain the interest of the general reader. As a testimonial to self-sacrificing scholarship, however, this book has few equals. Twenty-five years of effort to expand the knowledge concerning one genus of plants indicates true dedication. The book should prove to be an inspiration to any scientist—physical, natural, or social.