the German Enlightenment

Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann (2005)
“That was the moment when he grasped that nobody wanted to use their minds. People wanted peace. They wanted to eat and sleep and have other people be nice to them. What they didn’t want to do was think.”
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a German scientist and adventurer who mapped Latin-America. He also collaborated and corresponded with another great German scientist, Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855). Gauss was nicknamed the Prince of Mathematics and he also did great things for physics. 
Kehlmann has written an exciting and accessible account of their friendship and Humboldt’s travels. Yet I felt that it should be something more to this book, because it felt too light and easy. I think it is because I never got mesmerised and involved with the story as I usually do, but this time I never really connected with the story. And three days later I don’t remember much of the book. Which is weird, because it should be right up my alley.

And now it sounds like the book is awful, but it’s definitely not! I enjoyed it there and then and I definitely learnt a lot about Germany at that time in history. I just wish it was more to it.

I picked this up after reading Rose-Marie‘s glowing review, and I read it for Ingalill’s biography reading circle where this round’s theme was crossovers.


Wild by Cheryl Strayed (2011)
From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Cheryl Strayed hiked alone on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert in Southern California to the Bridge of the Gods on the Oregon / Washington border in 1995. And wrote an amazing book about it.
I really want to gush about this one, but also I want you to find out for yourself how amazing it is. So in short; after Cheryl’s mum died of cancer, she went down a self-destructing path and in order to find herself again decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. On the trail she encountered all sorts of weather, rattlesnakes and bears, lost her shoe, starved, had no money but also met all sorts of awesome people.
I cried, grinned and held my breath while reading it and it was a great fun to read about all those places I have been to in the past month. Just wish I had read it before going, but then again, I might have done something crazy like attempting to hike myself. But I have done is putting some of the books she read on her hike on wish list. I love books which inspire me to read other books!
I also must mention that I was sceptical at first – but the chief reason for that was that the book is in Oprah’s Book Club. But now I have come to believe that Oprah has a great taste in books and especially because a lot of those books I have either read and loved or they’re in my bookshelves. 


How I Found Livingstone by Henry M. Stanley (1872)

“I would have run to him, only I was a coward in the presence of such a mob – would have embraced him, but that I did not know how he would receive me; so I did what moral cowardice and false pride suggested was the best thing – walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?””

Henry M. Stanley was hired to find Dr. Livingstone who had been missing in Central Africa for years. He sets off from Zanzibar with a large party of men, horses and donkeys, and much cloth and beads to trade with the various Arab sheiks and natives along the way. But the horses aren’t made for the tough African conditions, the men desert or die of illness and trading with a hundred different tribes is not easy. Yet he succeeds, and locates Livingstone close to Lake Tanganyika just nine months after departing.

I have been asking myself why I chose to read this particular book now while reading. I seem to have been stuck in a explorers’ theme, both fictional and non-fictional. I think this is the first book that I wish had fewer details, I have a feeling that I know every nook and cranny of his route, yet I had to read wikipedia to zoom out. Still, it is an interesting read, I learnt a lot about the Arab slave trade which I stumbled upon first in Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah, and then Out of Africa by Karen Blixen. And the description of the various tribes and races are not so horrible as could be expected at that time, but still not impressive.

The big question now is what to read next? I’m really enjoying the Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad, but I need something less serious to read as well. Any suggestions?


The Lost City of Z by David Grann (2009)A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

“Now, as I examined my creased map, none of that mattered. I looked up at the tangle of trees and creepers around me, and at the biting flies and mosquitoes that left streaks of blood on my skin. I had lost my guide. I was out of food and water. Putting the map back in my pocket, I pressed forward, trying to find my way out, as branches snapped in my face. Then I saw something moving in the trees. “Who’s there” I called. There was no reply. A figure flitted among the branches, and then another. They were coming closer, and for the first time I asked myself, What the hell am I doing here?”

Percy Harrison Fawcett was a famous explorer of the Amazon, and he disappeared in the jungle with his son and his son’s friend in 1925 when he was looking for an ancient city called Z. Fawcett became even more famous after his death, many disappeared into the Amazon when trying to find him and people even established cults devoted to him.

David Grann tells the excellent tale of the explorer’s life and his disappearance, but also about his own adventures into the Amazon 80 years after Fawcett. He hopes to find more clues about the disappearance and the city Fawcett was looking for.

I loved this book. David Grann has done an excellent job researching Fawcett and the Amazon. It is a thrilling adventure and I really felt the jungle while reading. As I read it on my Kindle, I highlighted parts of the text because I really liked what I read.

“The electric lights went out in Manaus,” the historian Robin Furneaux wrote. “The opera house was silent and the jewels which had filled it were gone… Vampire bats circled the chandeliers of the broken palaces and spiders scurried across their floors.”