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The Natural Explorer: Understanding Your Landscape Hardcover – 15 Mar 2012
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[THE NATURAL EXPLORER] is an essential part of any outdoor/nature-writing library and it's full of wonderful examples of how to read, understand and connect with the landscape. (Country Walking)
Using poems, diary entries and letters from nature lovers of ancient Rome to the present day, Gooley has written the perfect book to take out walking - and it would be a crime not to find the time to see, and smell, the roses. (Daily Mail)
Discover a whole new world... a journey through the intricate, detailed and often-missed sides of a walk. (Wanderlust)
THE NATURAL EXPLORER take us on a multi-sensory, literary journey intent on heightening awareness of our surroundings. An ambitious combination of Gooley's own insights and those of countless other writers, explorer and philosophers, this is serious armchair adventuring. (Prospect Magazine)
Gooley returns with a highly readable and engaging work devoted to the temporarily mislaid art of exploration... it's an inspiring account but also a turning point - perhaps a classic in years to come - because its simple aim is to help you recognise what your senses are telling you. It's also an object lesson in how to frame a call to action, because this is a book you can't put down until you absolutely have to get out and start seeing the world as you should. And that's when the adventure really begins... (Countryfile)
The Natural Explorer by Tristan Gooley is a call to enrich our travel experiences through connecting with nature - essentially a greater awareness of our surroundings... Chapters include the sky, the earth and time - and as someone who can get around the Tate in about half an hour, I paid particular attention here. (Evening Standard)
A charming and intelligent guide to exploring the local landscape. (Financial Times)
Celebrated explorer Tristan Gooley gives a fascinating insight into how to connect with nature and heighten the enjoyment of outdoor discoveries, be they grandiose or modest...Are you a traveller or an explorer? This account divorces the two and aims to really open our eyes... (Press Association)
The book's key chapter, though, is the first one. Entitled "The Senses", it aims to switch on our powers of perception and, with its thought-provoking discussion of the way we sometimes take touch, taste, smell, hearing and even sight for for granted, it succeeds brilliantly. Did you know, for example, that if you look at a landscape from right to left, rather than from left to right, you will become more observant? (The Scotsman)
Gooley tells fascinating tales of scientific wonder and geographical discovery. Each themed chapter, complete with illustrations, maps, diagrams and literary quotations, stand alone as a mini-museum in tribute to exploration... he reads the landscape with genuine perceptiveness... (Times Literary Supplement)
A new era of exploration is dawning...See all Product description
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It follows the format of the Natural Navigator books, short digestible chapters which in this case take you round the world in the company of the likes of Humboldt, Muir, Thoreau, Ibn Battuta and Eberhardt. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of exploring and to illustrate each point Mr. Gooley pauses while he opens a cupboard door and out pops another fascinating individual with a memorable quote or anecdote. How a walk in the South Downs is transformed into an international imaginational romp is just wonderful. After each chapter I rummaged around on the net and Amazon to add to my reading list from the wonderful cast of characters that bring life and wonder to the pages of this beautifully written book.
As the chapters progress they become more reflective and philosophical with the final two bringing me out in goosebumps and I read them slowly, going over each paragraph twice, savouring the writing and the exquisite call to imagination. This book is a wonderful antidote to the pedestrian publications which although fill a small hole, cause one to miss the gaping maw of missed experience one doesn't even know is there.
If I could compare the book to a drink I'd say it was a well crafted 18 year old malt from the Gooley distillery. You know what to expect if you've read The Natural Navigator but this book has a lingering aftertaste provided by the last two chapters that surprises and delights the reader.
If you're an outdoor blogger, read this book and rebuke the wonderful observation from Rebecca Solnit that:
"The combination of a silver tongue and iron thighs seems to be a rare one".
I loved the touches of human discovery that Tristan attaches to often familiar places in the world. For example I've always wanted to see Fingal's Cave with its hexagonal basalt pillars - it's so familiar from photos - reading Tristan's passage on this means I'll not just tick-it-off my list when I do get there, I'll really appreciate both the physical side and the human impact it has had on people. This book is full of passages and insights like this - it adds great value to our experience of the landscape.
"The Natural Explorer" will give so much to the reader who appreciates being outside and who enjoys peeking beneath the surface of what they see.
If there's one down-side to this book it's that your list of places to visit will get so much longer!
My criticisms of the book are partly that for those with a moderate grounding in natural history, there aren't quite enough "aha" or "I never knew that" moments in the book, perhaps partly due to the restricted range of historical explorers referenced (going into detail on Humboldt, Darwin and Leichhard, wetting the appetite for more detail on others). Also, there are a number of inaccuracies in the text which detract from the authority of the work, for example suggesting that the reason that mountain climbers start summit days early is primarily to avoid cloud which forms later in the day (rather than minimising time spent at peak altitude, or climbing before the surface of the snow gets softened by sunlight), or another point where the mass of a cloud is described as 1 billion kg (only true if you include the mass of the air that was already there before the cloud appeared - the mass of water is about 1/200 of that, or 5,000 metric tons). But for the errors, I'd probably have given this four stars though, so later editions will probably be well worth a look.
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