The life of a National Geographic staff writer--""the choicest job in the known universe""--and a disarming and especially frank look at intramural politics from one who considers himself ""totally a Geographic man."" For 31 years Canby was a writer and a science editor at the magazine with the yellow border. His assignments are interesting enough--journeys to Inuitland and to Kuwait while it burned, probings into El Niâ€žo and famine and rats, an ambivalent stint as a disaster journalist after the San Francisco earthquake--but he gloats a bit too often about his first-class travel arrangements and the wads of traveler's checks the society dispenses. Wending its way through the account of field days are Canby's insights into the daily affairs at the magazine: the unfolding of an article as it goes from idea to print, the strengths and weaknesses of editors and writers and the gods up there on the ninth floor, and a no-punches-pulled section on the firing of one editor who ran afoul of the governing board. In the end, Canby is still a company man, and in singing praise of the magazine he can go over the top. His comment that the magazine's contributors are given ""liberty to write in [their] own style,"" defies credibility: the magazine has one of the clearest and most identifiable editorial voices going. Still, Canby's field exploits make for enjoyable reading, and his detailing of the society's inner workings and turmoils will keep readers turning the pages.