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History doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, because we can’t simply time travel to ask our ancestors, history is full of mysteries that detectives -- both of the armchair and field variety -- have tried to solve over the decades. Some of the most exciting of these mysteries involve lost cities, hidden treasures, and other Indiana Jones-esque adventures. These true stories pull together the surviving facts for exciting archaeological-based tales that reach into the past with a modern eye. The perfect getaways, these thrilling books will take you on far away escapades without the danger of snake bites, drowning, or worse. 

Note: Due to the nature of this topic, colonization, brutalization of indigenous peoples, and other challenging subjects are recurring themes in these books.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann 

The Lost City of Z book cover

Though many tried both before and after Percy Fawcett’s expedition through the Amazon to find the “Lost City of Z,” the man himself became something of a lost legend that inspired further exploration of the dangerous terrain. Inspired by Fawcett’s fortitude and adventurous spirit, journalist David Grann takes up after the lost Fawcett and the city he sought in the early twentieth century, this time armed with modern tools and technology and the lessons of those who failed before him. Also available as an audiobook, an ebook, an eaudiobook, and adapted to film on DVD.

The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt by Randall Sullivan 

The Curse of Oak Island book cover

Limited by the tools of the time, Canadians in eighteenth century Nova Scotia were thwarted in retrieving what they believed to be treasure upon discovering a strange dimple in the ground of Oak Island. Inspiring men of means centuries later, the mysterious spot continued to perplex treasure hunters as they attempted time and time again to relieve Oak Island of its “Money Pit.” However, the island may have a mind of its own as those who seek its legendary treasure find themselves worse off than when they started, sparking rumors of a curse in this haunting story that brings readers along for another try at the fortune. Also available as an audiobook.

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas J. Preston 

The Lost City of the Monkey God book cover

It is rumored that the terrain of Honduras hides a lost city of untold wealth. When journalist Theodore Morde returned from an expedition with claims that he’d found the Lost City of the Monkey God and had artifactual evidence to support the find, the world was abuzz in 1940. But before anyone could learn more, Morde died by suicide. Writer Doug Preston takes up the baton in the race to locate the city with hopes that modern technology will finally uncover the legendary city. Also available as an audiobook, an ebook, an eaudiobook, and in large print.

The Tsarina’s Lost Treasure: Catherine the Great, a Golden Age Masterpiece, and a Legendary Shipwreck by Gerald Easter and Mara Vorhees 

The Tsarina’s Lost Treasure book cover

Throughout history, it has been far harder to lose a city, it would seem, than to lose a jewel or painting. One such lost painting is the subject of this account. After the sinking of a merchant ship in the Baltic Sea, its contents were lost to the waters, including The Nursery, a famed triptych by Gerrit Dou, a Rembrandt protégé. Over 225 years later, one shipwreck hunter came across the ill-fated Vrouw Maria, leading Easter and Vorhees to relay the story of a find of a lifetime and the tale of the man behind the renowned painting.

Chasing the Thrill: Obsession, Death, and Glory in America’s Most Extraordinary Treasure Hunt by Daniel Barbarisi 

Chasing the Thrill book cover

Not all hidden treasures are ancient. Diagnosed with cancer, Forrest Fenn had one thing he wanted to do before he passed: create an unforgettable puzzle. After secreting away a treasure chest in 2010, Fenn unleashed a clue-filled poem on the world, leaving the rest up to treasure hunters of all skills. But Fenn survived, taking pleasure in watching the efforts of people from all over the world try to solve his enigmatic riddle. Then, one reporter, Daniel Barbarisi, was made aware of the treasure and set out to make a record of this modern adventure, resulting in this exciting and unique narrative. Also available as an ebook.

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson 

Pirate Hunters book cover

If treasure hunting on land is a challenge, doing the same in the cold, dark depths of the ocean is near impossible. The test does not daunt John Chatterton and John Mattera, however. Tasking themselves with finding the Golden Fleece, the two shipwreck hunters make it their mission to find the treasures of pirate Joseph Bannister. With the help of modern technology, Chatterton and Mattera set out on a nigh insurmountable excursion only to find they may have to rely more on the materials of the past than the latest in cutting edge tools. Also available as an ebook and an eaudiobook.

The Sunken Gold: A Story of World War I Espionage and the Greatest Treasure Salvage in History by Joseph A. Williams 

The Sunken Gold book cover

After making fatal contact with German mines during World War I, the HMS Laurentic sank to the bottom of the sea off the coast of Ireland. Carrying funds for the war to the United States, the ship and its fortune was lost to the ocean and any attempts to retrieve it had to be very quiet lest Germany discover the opportunity. Tasked with resurfacing the loss, Lieutenant Commander Guybon Damant saw obstacles at every effort, delaying the rescue of the treasure for years and pushing him to question whether a recovery was even possible.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams 

Turn Right at Machu Picchu book cover

Rediscovered in 1911, Machu Picchu was lost to the world when Yale professor Hiram Bingham III came upon it. But decades later, public opinion of the explorer has shifted, understanding his role in Machu Picchu’s long history as something more nefarious. With a plan to get to the bottom of Bingham, writer Mark Adams sets out to recreate Bingham’s trip through the Andes with a travel reporter’s eye. Adams takes readers along for the journey, uncovering little-known parts of the Peruvian wilderness. Also available as an ebook.

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Author: Abby H.