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The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs: Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals―and Other Forgotten Skills (Natural Navigation) Paperback – July 31, 2015
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“Gooley interprets clues like a private investigator of the wilds, leaving no stone unturned . . . For those inclined to solve mysteries written into the landscape, this author’s lead is one they’ll want to follow.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[Gooley] has become the global expert on natural navigation, finding his way around the world using nothing but natural clues and pointers. His discovery (made on a sailing expedition to Iceland)—that if, when at sea, you see more than 10 birds in any given five minute window this means you are within 40 miles of land—has become part of the British military’s survival guidance.”—The Daily Beast
“How rare to find a book that is truly brilliant. The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs, by Tristan Gooley, is brilliant in the English slang sense (as in being terrific); it is brilliant in its comprehensive conveyance of all the ways to interpret natural and man-made landscapes; and brilliance glitters from Gooley’s sparkling wit.”—Foreword
“Gooley’s comprehensive volume should pique the curiosity of budding nature-lovers and is ideal for anyone keen on forging a deeper connection with the land.”—Publishers Weekly
“While Gooley’s tips encompass useful, practical ways to predict a change in weather, determine when a predator may be prowling and find true North at night, his true gift is in igniting curiosity and wonder about the world around us.”—Shelf Awareness
“In terms of sheer did-you-knows per page it is one of the richest, densest, most rewarding books on nature I have read in a long time . . . its joy in deduction is infectiously delightful.”
—James McConnachie, The Sunday Times
“I for one will never look at the . . . countryside in quite the same way again.”
—Stephen Moss, Countryfile Magazine
“Gooley can show the most moonstruck how to interpret their surroundings. Even the intrepid Bear Grylls could learn a trick or two from this book.”—The Times
“Anyone interested in walking out of doors at any time would be well advised to read this excellent book.”—The Royal Institute of Navigation
“As with his earlier, equally important The Natural Navigator, this text is densely packed with information, engagingly and clearly written . . . Every outdoor-lover should have at least one Tristan Gooley book in their library. He’s attained national treasure status, as useful and educative as he is endearingly unique.”—The Great Outdoors magazine
“Learning so much […] that I might have to take another long walk”—Nicholas Crane
About the Author
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=== The Good Stuff ===
* Gooley has hiked in many locations throughout the world, including many in the US, Britain, Asia and Africa. He makes detailed observations, and shares both his insights and his methods for making those determinations. His wisdom includes traditional book knowledge, lessons and lore passed on from the natives, and common sense deduction. It is a remarkable tour de force of botany, biology, geology and astronomy.
* While the author spends a lot of time on specific observations, the real lesson of the book is how to develop an attitude of curiosity. While many of us might see “just a tree”, Gooley sees a navigational aid, a history of the area, and clues about the local topography, climate and civilization. While these insights can span the range from useful through trivial and even go all the way to arcane, they do serve as a motivation to make your own observations and deductions. It is sort of a cross between John Muir and Sherlock Holmes.
* There are a few useful gems for just about anyone. Even city dwellers will find some enjoyment in Gooley’s astronomy observations, and while much of his hiking experience is in Britain, he also discusses the flora and fauna of many parts of the United States.
* Some of the best parts of the book were the time spent with “exotic” cultures. For example, from spending time on Borneo, we find the natives use some very remarkable means of navigation, and prefer to think of “upstream and downstream” rather than the Western concepts of “east and west”.
=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===
* I was expecting more of a practical “how-to”, but the book is more of a motivational lecture on letting your own knowledge and observations run wild. For example, there are a number of tips for determining direction. There is the familiar “moss on the north side of trees”, rule, but there are seemingly hundreds of other techniques of direction finding. More than you could possibly remember, and indeed, more than I was interested in.
* Gooley has a habit of referring to plants by their common name. This can be a little problematic, since the US and Britain can not even agree on what “corn” means. I would have preferred plants be referenced also by their Latin names to avoid any confusion.
* Many of the observations become almost overwhelming and frustrating. The author has spent time with some very interesting cultures, and I would have liked to see more information on some of their novel technologies (such as the upstream/downstream navigation previously mentioned) rather than more mundane trivia.
=== Summary ===
If you are expecting a “Fieldbook”, I think you will be somewhat disappointed in this work. While there are numerous “tricks” for getting information about your environment, they are not organized in any way to reference them other than your memory. Rather, the book is more of a motivational guide to learning to trust your instincts and observations about your environment. I found the book enjoyable, but would have liked to see it edited a bit tighter.
=== Disclaimer ===
I was able to read an advance copy through the courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley
I am one of those people who learn by reading. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words but there are times when words are crucial. I had thought the book to be full of pictures without much context. I could not have been more wrong.
Mr. Gooley starts with a masterful introduction about determining weather with the backdrop of a beech and an amorous couple. He explains about distances, the wind and clouds before segwaying into his subject. This is not a universal book. The author is clear about the geographies in which the material in the book is applicable.
The book is split into several chapters; each chapter deals with a specific aspect of natural navigation. There are chapters on trees and plants, the landscape, the wind and many more, each dealing with how to use that attribute for finding your way. Yes, he does bring them all together. For those who like checklists, there are plenty of those as well. One of the most fascinating portions of the book is when he describes his walk with the Dayak. However, I wish there had been more detail. For example, how did they get away from the bees in the forest?
This book is a must read for educators, math teachers and geography teachers because it illustrates how these subjects should be taught. It is much easier to understand the Pythagoras theorem by its application in crossing a river and calculating heights and distances rather than those proofs and out of context problems that students are made to solve at least when studying in India.
Over all, a great read and a reference book I will return to frequently.