Book Aesthetic

I tease NYT best seller books a LOT!  It seems like every book at every airport newsstand is a NYT best seller.  I have never actually looked to see what the requirements of making that list are (I smell a future 5 things) but based on some of the books that make the ranks I’m reluctant to classify all NYT best sellers as good reads.

However, if all you have to go on is the coveted NYT best seller stamp of approval, then more often than not, I’m pretty sure you’ll be satisfied with the selection.

All this is to say that the most recent book in this year’s book aesthetic The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World was ranked as one of New York Times 10 best books of the year.  And they nailed it!

Holy SHIT, this book is unbelievable. Von Humboldt’s contributions, his reach, his story, his creativity, his resolve, his dedication is mind blowing.  Author Andrea Wulf has uncovered and rediscovered a treasure trove of glory.  Her ability to take the reader on Von Humboldt’s journey is genuine gift.

I rarely go out of my way to recommend books to anyone, but this book is too good to keep to myself, and thus I recommend it to everyone!

The catalogue of people directly touched, influenced, and inspired by Von Humboldt is much too long to list here, but just to give an idea of how great his reach is, check out some of these names.

Napoleon, Kant, Thomas Jefferson, Simon Bolivar, Goethe, Wordsworth, Darwin, Thoreau.  I’d be interested in someone who influenced or was influenced by any one of these people, but the person who influenced all of them? Come on!  How is it that I am only now learning of who Alexander Von Humboldt is.  Better late than never I suppose.

Seriously one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read, and without a doubt one of the crown jewels of this year’s adventure series.

The book aesthetic can’t do it justice, and I’m not sure why I ever tried.

We have one final adventure book for 2022, and so, for December we’ll wrap up this adventure series with a trip down The Oregon Trail.  If you want to read along, here is a link to Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey.


11 Replies to “Book Aesthetic”

  1. But, but, but . . . but what is the book ABOUT? This is indeed a tease, but man I would have liked just a smidgen of information about the contents behind such a provocative title!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know…I was on the fence about this. I think one of the reasons I liked it so much was because I knew so little about what I was about to learn, and I didn’t want to take that away from any would be readers. BUT, you asked, so here is a really short summary. It’s essentially a biography about one of the greatest and forgotten scientists/naturists ever. His expeditions around the world, how he noticed similarities in all parts of the world, e.g. how fauna on mountains change at different altitudes. He started to connect the dots on ideas that we take for granted. And inspired others to do the same. The way it’s written really pulls the reader into the experiences of Alexander von Humboldt’s life and journey.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OK so now I have to read it. Goethe mentioned von Humboldt in Italian Journey and in his hope to find the “ur plant”. Thank you!

    There was another book – Mountains of the Mind (?) by Robert McFarlane that seeks to explain the (in his opinion) 18th century romantic idea of the sublime that led to people wanting to climb mountains which had, until then, been regarded as monstrous obstacles? He talks about the depiction of Swiss mountains by British poets and painters, like Turner, mountain beauty as a new thing, an outgrowth of romanticism? I wasn’t convinced, but maybe I’m so indoctrinated that I couldn’t possibly accept his argument.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is this book called The Philosophy of Travel, that makes a similar argument. It is pretty interesting to think about the world prior to our notions of what the world is. It will be interesting to for future thinkers and writers to think about our notions of the world in relation to theirs as well. I’ll have to check that book out. It sounds likes it’s right up my alley!

      I think you’ll like The Invention of Nature, I may have overhyped it, but Goethe and Humboldt really influenced one another. I’m not sure either would have landed where they did without the influence of the other.

      If you don’t like it let me know, so I can reign in my hype.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I want to read it — I have ready to order. It might not be soon, though, since the contest books will arrive in December.

        It’s really weird that a lot of historians don’t realize how much medieval people traveled and didn’t even think about it. I hadn’t until I started studying the Crusades. And then woke up to the innumerable pilgrimage sites that people went to — I was all, “Martha, DUH!!!”

        I read a kind of (disturbing?) article in the recent Outside about the new way of “bagging” Himalayan peaks — definite the future is going to look at us and go, “WTF?” As I read the article I imagined some future adventure writer pining for the days when a person had to walk to Everest Basecamp and trying to understand that and even coming up with the idea that those people were masochists, not realizing that at the beginning of the 20th century bottled oxygen was a big deal and NEW, so if someone wanted to do that they had to resign themselves to the incredible danger. One of the climbers in the article brushed the whole thing off with “Well, the world has changed.”

        I’m not making a case for Mallory’s corpse or Messner’s lost brother being a more pristine ethic, but wow. “O brave new world.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “Well the world has changed” is such an empty statement. It amounts to dogmatism. Access to unique/pristine/susceptible places in nature should have an associated quiz. If you get something like a 50% then have fun looking through these binoculars, get a 70% and you can go to base camp. With a 90-100% then give it a shot, take a photo at the top if you make it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I was out with Bear in the snow thinking about this. These people don’t love nature, don’t love mountains, don’t love mountaineering; they love themselves. This is very egocentric and I suspect the mountains are going to hit them upside the head. I hope not, but a mountain is a mountain.

        Liked by 1 person

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