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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The finest 'nature book' written
I've read a lot of nature writing--from Thoreau, Muir, Dillard etc. Lopez is the keenest observer and the most lyrical writer. (not to slight Muir, incidentally, but 19th century lyricism is hard for some to get used to...).
I've been a backcountry ranger for 28 years and, I like to think, have an appreciation for wilderness and observation of the natural world...
Published on May 28, 1998 by George

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and captivating for the first half of the ...
Beautifully written and captivating for the first half of the book. Thereafter I found it dragging a bit and tedious. would recommend to anyone who loves reading descriptive prose about the outdoors.
Published 23 days ago by Lucy L. Noonan


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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The finest 'nature book' written, May 28, 1998
By 
George (Twain Harte, CA USA) - See all my reviews
I've read a lot of nature writing--from Thoreau, Muir, Dillard etc. Lopez is the keenest observer and the most lyrical writer. (not to slight Muir, incidentally, but 19th century lyricism is hard for some to get used to...).
I've been a backcountry ranger for 28 years and, I like to think, have an appreciation for wilderness and observation of the natural world. Lopez is able to describe what I see.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Desert Island book, April 27, 2004
By 
Ryan McNabb (Ooltewah, TN USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Arctic Dreams (Paperback)
Funny that a book about the Arctic would be on my "Desert Island" list, but this is one of the most effecting things I've read in my life. It's one thing to write a book about a region that explains it to the reader. It's quite another thing to write a book about a region that truly makes you feel as if you are there, that you understand it, that you "get it". The Eskimos have something like 25 words for snow. They can draw incredibly detailed maps of coastlines, from memory. On and on, the people and places are introduced to you, like visitors to your home, and you really begin to understand what it is to live in such a cold, beautiful place. The story of one Eskimo hunter will never leave me: he was hunting, and somehow became stranded on a broken off piece of ice. It floated away, with him on it, into the mist. All he had was his knife, made of bone. His friends searched for him, to no avail, and he was given up for dead. But he came back, years later, in a kayak he'd made, fully outfitted with warm clothes he'd also made, fat and happy and completely in tune with his environment, absolutely as at home there as the polar bear. He could make everything he needed, just from what this supposedly "barren" wasteland provided. That may not sound like much, but put yourself in his shoes (or mukluks) and you'll begin to feel the cold and the quiet close in around you.
That's what this book does for you. It puts you there.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Celebration Of The Arctic Landscape & Man's Dreams!, September 27, 2003
This review is from: Arctic Dreams (Paperback)
"Arctic Dreams" was recommended to me by a friend before I went on an Alaskan adventure a few years ago. This book expanded my vision of nature, and turned me on to the exquisite writing of Barry Lopez, who won the 1986 National Book Award for this classic work on the wild regions of the far north. "Arctic Dreams" is an extraordinary celebration of Arctic life and landscape which takes the reader on a journey to places rarely visited by man. Lopez' narrative does have a dreamlike quality, not only in its descriptions of nature at its most surreal, but in the absolute beauty of the writing itself. He does indeed capture the foreign reality of Arctic life, and death, with the loving care of an artist who places each brushstroke carefully on a canvas, bent on bringing the vision before him to others.
Mr. Lopez made a number of extended trips to Siberia, Greenland, and northern Canada, including Baffin Island, to observe the flora and fauna of the region - polar bears, killer whales, caribou, narwhals - as well as the spectacular Arctic landscape. He experienced eerie encounters with the aurora borealis, massive migrating icebergs, solar and lunar light, halos and coronas. And he experienced both the potential for catastrophic danger and the remarkable beauty that the Arctic land and sea offers. "Spring storms can sweep hundreds of thousands of helpless infant harp seals into the sea" - juxtaposed with, "A tiny flower blooms in a field of snow touched by the sun's benevolent light." Through Mr. Lopez' eyes the breathtaking experience of the Arctic landscape and the people who inhabit it become palpably real. I was particularly moved by his intimate and compassionate descriptions of the indigenous people of this region, who so aptly illustrate how mankind is capable of living in harmony with his surroundings. Lopez' prose and his conclusions make the strongest argument possible to work for the ecological health of our planet, for the sake of life itself, and for the health of our imagination and sense of wonder at the magnificent.
As mankind grows closer to conquering the earth's last frontiers, the issue of exploitation and encroachment becomes greater. For anyone who advocates preserving the few remaining wild areas on our planet, "Arctic Dreams" is a welcome gift and a source of motivation. It also provides an extraordinary read, and, perhaps, an awakening to those who have shown little interest in earth's most mysterious places.
This is a magical book that will enchant and awe the reader. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Bravo, Barry Lopez!
JANA
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish someone could write about Australia like this!, October 1, 2002
By 
Mike Brisco (Adelaide, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Arctic Dreams (Paperback)
Of all the books I've read on the artcic and antarctic, this stands out for its absolute precision of description. To see a landscape with Lopez' eyes, you would have to spend a lot of time looking, and absorbing what you saw, until you knew every inch of it with your eyes shut. So it's appropriate that when he describes things, the descriptions take time to write, they are precise, and thorough, and need to be read slowly. Any less would not convey the strangeness and unfamiliarity of the place. Lopez reminded me that many times, a day's aimless wandering about, just thinking about what you see, has as great a value as a day seeing the sights.
My edition has no photos, which is appropriate as the verbal description is superb. If you read this book, keep the internet handy, to use search engines to find photos of the places he and things he writes about. It's like having a limitless dictionary to hand, and with subject matter as unfamiliar as this, it helps tremendously. One could say that the book was 25 years ahead of its time.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine writing, February 27, 2004
By 
D. P. Birkett (Suffern, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Arctic Dreams (Paperback)
An account of the American Arctic based on the author's own travels and a survey of the biology, ecology and history of the region. There is a tree-hugging, save-the-endangered-species,motif. (Don't get me wrong -I love trees and whales and things). He is rather solemn and philosophical with a lot of fine writing about the wonders of nature lifting us above the mundane. Sometimes he falls into the traps of fine writing, such as impressive long lists of plants, birds and animals, and misuse of words such as "mesic" and "adumbrate". It is a mine of information which I suppose is mostly accurate although I hadn't heard before that Walsingham was a duke or that Vitus Bering was a Dutchman.
I had mixed feelings aout his attiude towards the Eskimos. His account idealizes the nomadic hunting existence and it is sometimes unclear whether he is talking about present-day Inuit or drawing upon older accounts. He only once mentions alcohol as a problem and does not mention disputes with other native Americans, even when desribing Hearne's travels.
The description is largely limited to America and the bibliography has no Russian sources. He often uses Inuit words but his review of Arctic prehistory draws only on archeological evidence and is weak on linguistics and says nothing about the Chukchi language and Asian-American language links. DNA and blood groups are not mentioned.
I wouldn't make all those niggling criticisms about what got left out if the book did not set itself a high standard of comprehensiveness. It's virtually a one volume encyclopedia of the Arctic full of fascinating facts, vivid firsthand accounts, and splendid writing.
By the way, one arctic question's been bugging me since I was ten years old (the teacher didn't know the answer then and Lopez doesn't have it). What time is it at the North Pole?
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barry's Guidebook, June 3, 1998
This is not just a great book about the Artic, but a handbook for how to move through and observe wilderness and areas of unspoiled natural beauty. Lopez knows more about the interdependence of the human and natural worlds than any other writer I know.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arctic as Desert, April 21, 2001
It's been some years ago now that I read Arctic Dreams. I found Lopez's writing powerful and gripping; I had to read more of his work and soon did. His use of the desert as a metaphor for the arctic brought to mind not only human desire to experience and transform landscapes, but also the sense of mystery that we attach to the environment--mystery that compels us to make known the unknown, whether through myth or exploration, and mystery that drives us to wax nostalgic when those landscapes are already comprehended and inexorably altered. Before the U.S. Civil War, some maps showed the Great Plains as the "Great American Desert." Within a decade, that land and its peoples had been transfigured in popular imaginations from a mythology of mystery to one of discovery and settlement. There is much to be gained from Lopez's deeply personal engagement with the Arctic and the ways his experience informs his elucidation of others' attempts, successful and not, to imagine, discover, conquer, and finally yield to this austere geography. In doing so, Lopez manages not to lose track of the sense of wonder and myth that nearly wells up from the landscape itself.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extensive account on wildlife too...., September 7, 2005
By 
This review is from: Arctic Dreams (Paperback)
I especially liked his account of polar bears, harp seals and whales and their intermingling relationships. His description of how he perceived his surroundings made me feel as if I was there! In fact, it made me book a 10-day trip to Alaska in order to escape the stresses of city-living for a while! I was somewhat surprised by the chapter on Eskimos and a thorough discussion of their origin since I had expected this book to be a travelogue at best. Of course, it is much more. The chapter on Ice and Light, for instance, is outstanding and has probably the best description I have read on the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis)!!!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barry Sold Me, December 19, 2000
By A Customer
Barry Lopez probably does not think of himself as a salesman but his book, "Artic Dreams: Imagination & Desire in a Northern Landscape" sold me on the artic. It caused me to spend most of a whiplashp settlement on a fishing trip to Alaska.
Barry Lopez's prose has gem-like quality to it. It begs to be read aloud, like poetry. He makes us all realize what a treasure this last frontier is, and how vital it is that we preserve it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arctic Dreams. Barry Lopez., March 26, 2007
By 
This review is from: Arctic Dreams (Paperback)
Arctic Dreams is an extraordinary book, immediately a classic work of its genre, environmental nonfiction. Chapters focus on muskoxen, polar bears, narwhal, the migration of birds and of caribou, the otherworldly temporal states and unusual lighting and light-bending phenomenon of the northern polar regions, the mental and perceptual states of the northland's human residents and visitors, and the history of European and American/Canadian exploration, and exploitation, of the arctic. Lopez examines the artic with a careful and attentive eye, recognizing its subtleties and mysteries and not demanding that they be reduced to something that the reader will feel he has brought fully within his or her understanding. The writing is appropriate to the subject in view; alert, unhurried, and deliberate.

"One of our long-lived cultural differences with the Eskimo has been over whether to accept the land as it is or to exert the will to change it into something else. The great task of life for the traditional Eskimo is still to achieve congruence with a reality that is already given. The given reality, the real landscape, is 'horror within magnificence, absurdity within intelligibility, suffering within joy,' in the words of Albert Schweitzer. We do not esteem as highly these lessons in paradox. We hold in higher regard the land's tractability, its alterability. We believe the conditions of the earth can be changed to ensure human happiness, to provide jobs and to create material wealth and ease. Each culture, then, finds a different sort of apotheosis, of epiphany, and comfort in the land." (from the epilogue)

On page 406 of my 1986 edition, Lopez writes, "The European culture from which the ancestors of many of us came has yet to . . . understand the wisdom, preserved in North America, that lies in the richness and sanctity of a wild landscape, what it can mean in the unfolding of human life, the staying of a troubled human spirit." If there is a 'short list' of great environmental nonfiction, this book is on it.
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Arctic Dreams
Arctic Dreams by Barry H. Lopez (Paperback - October 2, 2001)
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