In this rare gem of a book, journalist Emily Voigt takes readers on a global quest in search of the Asian arowana, or “dragon fish,” one of the most coveted black market pets in the United States. From the streets of the South Bronx to the heart of Borneo, Voigt follows the trail of an endangered species that has brought Wall Street bankers to tears and spurred heists, fraud, kidnapping, and even murder. “[An] enthralling look at the intersection of science, commercialism, and conservationism” (Publishers Weekly), THE DRAGON BEHIND THE GLASS is a wondrously entertaining scientific travelogue as unique as the primitive predator it illuminates. In turn humorous and horrifying, Voigt’s epic adventure through the bizarre realm of ornamental fish hobbyists to some of earth’s last remaining tropical wilderness yields a beautifully written exploration of the human conquest of nature. An important new voice, Voigt has produced not only a fascinating story but also a perceptive work that lays bare our deepest desire—to hold onto what is wild.

  • A finalist for the 2017 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
  • A 2016 Library Journal Best Science Book of the Year
  • A Publisher's Weekly "PW Picks: Books of the Week" in nonfiction
  • Featured in National Geographic magazine
  • Longisted for a 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal from the American Library Association
  • Featured on Cool Green Science, blog by The Nature Conservancy
  • Named one of the "Books and Movies to Watch For in 2016" by Outside Magazine
  • A Publishers Weekly 2016 "Best Summer Book" in nonfiction


"This book starts with a 'bang'-a murder to be exact-and the momentum just keeps going from there. THE DRAGON BEHIND THE GLASS is a gripping blend of investigative journalism, science, international crime, travelogue and don't need to know anything about tropical fishes or fishkeeping to be totally riveted by this informative page-turner."

-Forbes Magazine

"An immensely satisfying story, full of surprises and suspense."

-Wall Street Journal

"Voigt paints a vivid world of murder, black market deals and habitat destruction surrounding a fish that's considered, ironically, to be a good-luck charm" 

-Discover Magazine

"Comprehensively researched and gracefully written."

-New York Times Book Review

"Voigt's passion in pursuing her subject is infectious, as is the self-deprecating humor she injects into her enthralling look at the intersection of science, commercialism, and conservationism."

-Publishers Weekly, starred review

"[A] spirited debut book [...] A fresh, lively look at an obsessive desire to own a piece of the wild."

-Kirkus Reviews

"An absorbing, behind-the-scenes look at [the arowana]." 


"Not since Candice Millard published THE RIVER OF DOUBT has the world of the Amazon, Borneo, Myanmar, and other exotic locations been so colorfully portrayed. [...] A compelling must-read."

-Library Journal, starred review

"[Voigt's] adventurous book, which reads like a cross between a travelogue, a true-crime yarn and a work of popular science is [...] engrossing."

-South China Morning Post

"Few writers can match the intelligence, charm, wit, and sheer audacity that Emily Voigt brings to bear in this highly readable and important book. From the bleak housing projects of the South Bronx to the steamy jungles of southern Myanmar, Voigt takes us along on a journey of adventure and discovery in her quest to find an increasingly rare fish in the wild. With a page-turning plot and a cast of vivid characters, THE DRAGON BEHIND THE GLASS shines a powerful light on the international trade in endangered species.”


"A masterpiece! What an extraordinary, and extraordinarily well-told…tale. Voigt brings such wonderful humor, adventure, crime, and hard science to this subject[that] I found myself unable to put this book down. Never has good science been so much criminally good fun!” 

-Bryan Christy, author of THE LIZARD KING and chief correspondent of the Special Investigations Unit at National Geographic