This is an incredible book and beautifully written. However the narration by someone who sounds like they should be doing movie trailers was really jarring. Check the sample to see if you can handle it.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
An interesting story about one of the most influential people on the environmental movement and understanding nature.
I was perhaps expecting more as it won the Royal Society book prize, but I felt the book neither fulfilled in creating a compelling personal story of Humboldts story or of his seminal thoughts in reconstructing a whole scientific field. Arguably the best written bits are the influence on other scientists and authors. Worth it for those who have never heard of Humboldt.
Narration was clear, but too monotone for me.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) - how much do we in Britain know about him? He was a 'visionary and thinker far ahead of his time who revolutionised the way we see the natural world' and this, his biography, is truly, truly, tremendous, brilliantly researched and intellectually rich. It won well-deserved huge acclaim and awards in 2015, including the Costa Biography prize.
In his long and staggeringly energetic life, Humboldt's achievements were enormous. The son of a wealthy Prussian aristocrat, he was able to finance his first mind-blowing 5-year expedition to Latin America in 1799 where he broke the mould of other adventurers by striving to communicate with the indigenous tribes and to understand their relationship with Nature. Nature was the key to Humboldt's life work. 'Nature is a living whole,' he said. 'not a dead aggregate.' Many years before anyone else he established that every living thing on earth is connected to another as though by a thread, and that human beings cause climate change through deforestation and excessive irrigation. He foresaw the catastrophic effects of cutting timber for the building of Europe's navies and reported even the destruction wrought by gases released into the atmosphere from centres of industry.
The whole story of Humboldt's enthralling and exciting life is densely packed with detail and there are equally stimulating side chapters on those whom Humboldt influenced including Goethe (who you would never have guessed had a collection of 18,000 rocks!), Bolivar, Darwin, Jefferson, Waldo Emerson, Thoreau, Haeckel and Marsh (whose wife who suffered from a painful back complaint accompanied her husband on expeditions carried on a board).
The narration is American with the American pronunciation of many words very different from the English. An American narration is appropriate however since Humboldt visited England only briefly, whilst in America his stature is huge with hundreds of places and geographical features named after him. I must admit that I found the narration monotonous because the tone was unvaried. But the content is so brilliant, I was happy to listen.
10 of 12 people found this review helpful
I rarely read biographies & I normally find C18 European history very dull. But this book has awakened my interest. Most amazing fact about Humbolt (in my opinion): the huge number of gigantic ally famous people he met, indeed was acquainted with. A real science adventure story. But then ... Humbolt himself gets into a slightly shambling old age, & so does this book. There's a long tail, with mini-biographies of some of the main people influenced by Humbolt. That's still interesting but ... Well, less so.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
A man for our season because he predicted the problems our planet would be in if our stewardship of the earth's resources were not wisely and scientifically managed.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
I would recommend the book, but I would warn the listener that the voice of the reader is unexpressive. Worth sticking with it for the content.
What did you like best about this story?
I didn't now how important Humboldt was to the development of theories about the natural world - brilliant!
Who might you have cast as narrator instead of David Drummond?
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
No laughing or crying, but I was fascinated.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful