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The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2003
This book is a beauty. I suggest that after you receive it, you buy a couple bottles of strong French-Canadian beer (La Fin Du Monde, for example) throw in a Classical CD on repeat and start flipping pages. On a rainy day here in San Francisco, where I am now, I can feel myself being transported to the most mystical place I have yet to visit--after seeing nearly all of the U.S., Europe, and Asia--nothing compares to a sunset on Lake Michigan, a snowstorm on Lake Superior, or a sunrise on Lake Huron.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2003
As I'm sure it is with many of the people that read this book, I grew up and live around the Great Lakes. My life has been sent sailing and fishing Lake Michigan and its tributaries. Jerry Dennis' book is a must read for anyone interested in the Great Lakes and what they mean to both the region's social and natural history. It's a pleasure to read all the factual tidbit's about these natural gifts carefully assembled together into a book. Jerry is not a writer that leaves you breathless with either his imagery or the depth of his prose. He has no need to. His straight forward style and knowledge of nature and science keeps you rolling along with him. He's like the smart and warm uncle whose conversations late into the night you've always cherished. Read this before planning your sailing or motoring trip through the Great Lakes and Erie Canal. It'll make you set a date for your trip instead of just thinking about it.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2004
I am (like many of those that have written reviews) a native Michigander. However, I am now living in upstate New York, which despite being part of the Great Lakes lacks the appreciation for the lakes that midwesterners have. This book is a must read for anyone who hasn't had the opportunity to grow up surrounded by the greatest natural wonder in the world. This book highlights not only the natural history of the lakes, but the social and environmental legacy of humankind in the lakes. For those who were lucky enough to spend time sailing, swimming, hiking, and otherwise enjoying the Great Lakes, this book will sweep you back in time to the lazy summers of youth (or retirement, as the case may be!) and remind you of why you love the Great Lakes.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
An enthusiastic outdoorsman, Dennis has written a comprehensive book on the Great Lakes from the perspective of personal experience, scientific data and historical background. He describes the area in its early pristine beauty, from the Indian tribes to the first European settlers and the dawning of industrialization that almost destroyed this natural preserve of geology, flora, fauna and indigenous species. With attention to the tales of the past, Dennis writes of the gradual evolution of natural beauty into a vast resource for lumber, farm products, shipping and related industries, including the influx of a population that has grown around opportunity, all imbued with the awesome grandeur of these vast bodies of water.

On a four-week voyage through the Great Lakes, Dennis views the area from the water, as opposed to his many travels along the shorelines, the exhausting, but fulfilling days on board filled with the lore of the sea, new friendships make while sailing and the eccentric individuals met along the way. Couched in contemporary terms, the author speaks of the past with reverence, his love of history enhanced by regional details, tales of shipwrecks and the personal observations of a man with great reverence for the bounty of this immense body of water and those who live on the miles of coastline that make up the Great Lakes. History is tangible in Dennis's work, impossible to ignore as the men navigate from one lake to another, reminded daily of the pitfalls of ignoring nature and the pleasures of communing with the elements.

The comprehensive chapters cover: Lake Michigan, from land and water; the Straights of Mackinac; Lake Superior, canoeing, the early voyagers, surviving storms; Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and the wilderness; St. Claire River; Lake Ontario, the Erie Canal and the Hudson River. Each chapter addresses relevant information but is complemented by stories, for example, the "White City" constructed in Jackson Park for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, the disappearance of an entire fishing village on the shores of lake Michigan, victim of "walking dunes", Sault Ste. Marie and the rapids of the St. Mary's and The Soo Locks. His eye on an ever-changing environment, Dennis paints a fascinating portrait of nature's bounty in the Great Lakes, past and present, ever vigilant for the dangers of pollution, overuse and the avarice of industrialization: "Bracketed by mysteries, adrift, alone, despairing of our ignorance, we turn to the physical because there, at least, we can know a thing for certain." This is out legacy and the key to the future of a national treasure. Luan Gaines/ 2006.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2003
Having lived amongst the Great Lakes my entire life, I thought I knew so much. I was wrong. This book was almost impossible to put down. It is a great mix of science, ecology, history, and personal experience. Many books about the Great Lakes get bogged down in too much of just one subject area, unlike this book. Positively fascinating. No lie.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2004
This book captures the heart of the Great Lakes and all the beauty that is found in and around them. It gives a wonderful detail of the geologic history of the lakes and the landscape around them. The author has a true appreciation for these living lakes and evokes that throughout his writing. If you live around the Great Lakes region, you will gain a new appreciation for how lucky we are to be by them and a new sense of desire to protect them. I used excerpts from this book to teach a high school earth science class when studying the hydrosphere and meterology. I recommend this book to any naturalist, Great Lakes region residence, or for anyone who wants to know why the largest source of fresh water on the planet is worth saving and preserving.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2005
Purchased the book because I'm considering a retirement along Lake Ontario and am an avid sailor. The book is centered around the relocation of a Ferro cement schooner from Michigan through the lakes to Lake Ontario, onward down the Hudson and around New England. Along the journey, are many mini stories added for each lake taken from a combination of personal adventures, history and many interesting collection of facts coveraging a wide range of subjects from geology, their early exploration, later exploitation and related environmental problems. My only mild dissapointment is there was not more on Lake Ontario. The trip ends in along the coast of Maine where I was raised. It's a delightful book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2003
This book is so well-written that you get educated and have fun reading at the same time. Jerry Dennis is a thoughful yet humorous writer who has done scads of research. I've lived on the Great Lakes all my life and didn't know half of what is in this book. His stories are memorable, from the fateful coho frenzy to the Chicago-to-Mackinac sailboat race, and the trip on the Malabar that ties everything together is really a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. I'm glad I was able to travel along vicariously through Jerry Dennis' wonderful prose.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2011
"The Living Great Lakes" by Jerry Dennis is subtitled "Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas" and that is an apt description of this engrossing book. It is very easy to see why the Outdoor Writers of America named it the "Best Book of 2003". Dennis succeeds in introducing the Great Lakes to you in the same sense that someone introduces special friends to you. You won't just learn about the lakes; you will meet them.
Though Dennis has driven around the lakes (more than once), he takes you through the lakes the only way any explorer can really meet the lakes - by boat, a sailing boat to be precise - and he is a skilled enough writer to make you feel like your reading chair must certainly have been magically transferred to the poop deck.
The Great Lakes, like the other incredible and enigmatic regions here; the Great Plains, the Rockies and Sierras, Appalachia, et al, are a region of amazement and Dennis helps his reader savoir that wonder through a very deft and enjoyable immersion.
"The Living Great Lakes" is a hearty brew of history, lake lore, science, ecology, appreciation, sailing adventure, Great Lakes culture, weather wisdom, and Irish wit. Your entertainment is guaranteed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2007
As a displaced Michigander, I am often amazed that westerners are almost completely unfamiliar with the Great Lakes. This book would be best enjoyed by those familiar with the region. But even the less familiar will enjoy the gripping adventure found in the many anecdotes offered here. I am on my second read and can't believe how much I had forgotten from my first read. There are stories that will nearly bring you to tears (the near disaster on the day of the Edmund Fitz sinking) and some that will simply amaze. This should be required reading for all school children from this region. Those less fortunate who live elsewhere will still enjoy the enlightening read. And while it certainly encourages protection of the lakes, I didn't find it preachy. It is a very objective book and doesn't dwell too much on the environment.

If there is a better book on the great lakes I haven't found it.
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