An elegant narrative masterfully combining fine reporting and a moving personal journey.

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MAGDALENA

RIVER OF DREAMS

The explorer, photographer, and prolific author returns to a country beloved since his boyhood to chronicle a river whose rehabilitation mirrors Colombia’s own.

Traveling to Colombia in the early 1970s from Canada, Davis—a professor of anthropology and former explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society whose book Into the Silence won the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize—regards the country as the place that first allowed him to “imagine and dream” and to give him “license to be free.” Davis’ popular book One River, published in a Spanish edition in 2002, was “a love letter to a nation by then scorned by the world,” still in the throes of the violence and corruption of drug cartels, which sadly marred the country’s reputation as a place of natural splendor. In his latest delightful journey, the author takes on the Magdalena, the so-called Mississippi of Colombia, which is celebrated for its legendary status as the life artery bringing food to the regions, exploration, trade, and commerce but also excoriated as a highway for the death and corruption that plagued the country for 50 years. Davis is a natural, engaging storyteller, and while he makes his way through Colombia’s history—from the early Tairona natives’ sophisticated civilization on the shores of the river, first contacted by the Spanish explorers in the early 16th century (and subsequently decimated), through the dark days of the drug wars of the 1980s and ’90s—the book is also an affecting account of on-the-ground exploration. The author skillfully weaves in accounts by academics, who have studied the vicissitudes of the river, and by the people who have lived and toiled along its shores. Many of these people have endured decades of political turmoil, beginning in 1946, when the Liberals and Conservatives “faced off in fratricidal conflict” known as La Violencia. This remarkable river has endured eras of massive extermination, erosion, damming, and pollution, but it has emerged renewed thanks to a people’s spirit and resilience.

An elegant narrative masterfully combining fine reporting and a moving personal journey.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-375-41099-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

HORIZON

Distinguished natural history writer and explorer Lopez (Outside, 2014, etc.) builds a winning memoir around books, voyages, and biological and anthropological observations.

“Traveling, despite the technological innovations that have brought cultural homogenization to much of the world, helps the curious and attentive itinerant understand how deep the notion goes that one place is never actually like another.” So writes the author, who has made a long career of visiting remote venues such as Antarctica, Greenland, and the lesser known of the Galápagos Islands. From these travels he has extracted truths about the world, such as the fact that places differ as widely as the people who live in them. Even when traveling with scientists from his own culture, Lopez finds differences of perception. On an Arctic island called Skraeling, for instance, he observes that if he and the biologists he is walking with were to encounter a grizzly feeding on a caribou, he would focus on the bear, the scientists on the whole gestalt of bear, caribou, environment; if a native of the place were along, the story would deepen beyond the immediate event, for those who possess Indigenous ways of knowledge, “unlike me…felt no immediate need to resolve it into meaning.” The author’s chapter on talismans—objects taken from his travels, such as “a fist-size piece of raven-black dolerite”—is among the best things he has written. But there are plentiful gems throughout the looping narrative, its episodes constructed from adventures over eight decades: trying to work out a bit of science as a teenager while huddled under the Ponte Vecchio after just having seen Botticelli’s Venus; admiring a swimmer as a septuagenarian while remembering the John Steinbeck whom he’d met as a schoolboy; gazing into the surf over many years’ worth of trips to Cape Foulweather, an Oregon headland named by Capt. James Cook, of whom he writes, achingly, “we no longer seem to be sailing in a time of fixed stars, of accurate chronometers, and of reliable routes.”

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-394-58582-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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