I read two nonfiction books. In a row. That’s huge for me. But they were both really good, both about exploration – though about exploring different things.
In The Lost City of Z: a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon, author David Grann writes about Percy Fawcett, a British explorer in the early 1900s. He spent lots of time in the Amazon, looking for proof of a lost city. On his last trip into the Amazon, he and his son and his son’s friend simply disappeared into the jungle and were never heard from again. Many, many people have tried to follow in his footsteps, searching for traces of him, clues about what happened, anything. Some of those people have just disappeared. Others have made it out of the jungle alive, but just barely. The author, David Grann, begins researching Fawcett and his travels, makes some new discoveries (after all this time), and ends up like many others – trying to track Fawcett through the jungle. It’s a fascinating story, a true page-turner and has some really interesting history from the 20s-30s. I’ve since gotten the book Exploration Fawcett, which is a collection of accounts, manuscripts, log books and journals from Fawcett and was published by his remaining son. Looking forward to that one!
As for Scatter, Adapt, and Remember, by Annalee Newitz, it’s an exploration of the earth’s ancient past – the mass extinction events we’ve had, the life forms that have evolved over time, and an exploration of we are doing and should be doing to try and save ourselves in the event of another extinction event.
I’ve been sitting on this book, which was given to me by a certain JM, for a while – I am into the science fiction stories which deal with post-apocalyptic society, looking at how people cope with a new set of rules for living, and so I knew I should be into this book, but it took me a while to crack it open. I really enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book.
The section on earth’s history was really interesting – it was a punchy romp through different eras and megavolcanoes and the “Great Dying”. The author covered the migration of homo eraster and homo sapien, and talked about the different theories of how those tribes merged. The first section is basically about how the earth survives, and how living beings have evolved and survived all these cataclysmic events. The rest of the book covers different ideas on how humans can survive and thrive in a changing world – many, many scientists are hard at work at researching energy alternatives, food supply alternatives, building materials alternatives, all trying to find new ways to live should our world be devastated. At the end of the book, the author spends a little time exploring ideas about living in space/on other planets. This book is not a crack-pot “the sky is falling” kind of read. It’s a well-thought-out and well-researched look at how living things adapt and survive in the face of a mass threat, and what we can learn and work on for ourselves. Reading this also prompted me to pick up a copy of The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, which explores how our man-made structures will be reclaimed by nature once humans are no longer around.
A good book definitely starts a trail – it’s up to you to continue down a path and follow it where it will go. Who knows where you’ll end up?