INDIVIDUAL READING LIST
* I am building a directory of professional reviews of these reading list books to
aid you in making an informed decision about what book(s) to choose for your
report. I have not been able to find free on-line reviews for the books with an
asterisk. I will continue to search other sources as I have time.
This list was compiled with the help of UHM geography faculty and others. I asked
people to choose books that dealt with geography or geographic issues on a non-
academic level, books that had a component about geographic process, issues and
place. The books could be new or classics, the only criteria other than geography
related was that they were important to the contributor’s perception of geography
and the world in which we live and/or engaging reading. This list is the result of a
combination of my favorites and those from other geographers who responded.
*10 Geographic Ideas that Changed the World, Susan Hansen ed, 1997, Rutgers
University Press - A series of ten essays by well known geographers on how
geographic research, theories and ideas impact everyone’s life in today’s world.
Topics presented are in geographic technology, physical and human realms.
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles Mann, 2005,
Alfred Knopf Publishing, - A book that looks at the myth that the Americas were
largely unpopulated continents before the arrival of Columbus. The author presents
the research of geographers and anthropologists characterizing the cultures and
settlements of North and South America in the centuries before western contact.
A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold, 1949, Gibbs Smith - This classic book on
ecology and landscape was published almost 60 years ago after the author’s death.
Leopold was a forester, naturalist and environmental activist long before it was
popular. The book argues for the study of ecology and conservation but emphasizes
the need for nearing by observation in the field rather than from books.
A Sense of Place, A Sense of Time, John Jackson, 1993, Yale University Press -
A series of essays on place from the point of view of region and through the eyes
of different periods of people and cultures. Jackson explores many different
elements of place ranging from roads and their function to sights, sounds and smell.
A River Lost: the Life and Death of the Columbia, Blaine Harden, 1996, W.W.
Norton and Company - This book is by a journalist for the Washington Post, most
known for his articles on current events and environmental policy. The book traces
the conversion of the Columbia River from a free running salmon rich river to a
“machine river”, dammed for navigation, irrigation, hydroelectric power.
About this Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory, Barry Lopez, 1998,
Alfred Knopf Publishing - This book is a series of essays, broken into four themes
that develops explores the role in the development of personality and social order.
The authors explores many places ranging from Japan to Antarctica as well as the
role of home and associations.
Becoming A Geographer, Peter Gould, 1999, Syracuse University Press - This book
is a loosely autobiographical set of essays about Peter Gould’s travels through an
often love-hate relationship with the discipline and practice of geography and some
of its inhabitants. He has annotated and patched together a series of presentations
from different places and spends much time justifying his geography.
Blue Highways, William Least Heat Moon, 1983, Little Brown - This twenty some
year old classic is about one man’s travels through America on the blue (smallest)
highways of the United States in search of the real America and himself. He
travels through the places that time and McDonalds have passed by and chats with
all kinds of people.
Cartographies of Disease, Tom Koch, 2005, ESRI Press - Koch’s book studies the
spatiality and diffusion of disease looking at historical work in disease mapping and
the application of GIS to the field. The different chapters present case studies on
HIV and attempt to bridge cartography with the statistics laden epidemiological
research. The book discusses Snow’s cholera work in London in more detail than is
Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England,
William Cronon, 1983, Hill and Wang - This environmental history book traces the
ecology of New England from before the arrival of Europeans through the Indus-
trial Revolution and argues the degradation of the landscape and animal life of the
area was an effect of both European and Native American actions.
Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, Mark Kurlansky, 1997
Walker and Company – A history of the long standing fishing industry based on the
Atlantic Cod and the historical and political institutions that have driven the cod
to near extinction. The author blends history, politics, the Catholic Church and
recipes, to paint a very complex picture of the cultures and economics involved
with this fish and its restoration.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond, 2005, Viking
– This book which follows his earlier book on how societies gain strength through
agriculture, focuses on how societies fail when they mismanage soil, trees and
water. This book looks closely at the eastern and western settlements of the Norse
in 14th century Greenland and how they transplanted an agriculture pattern of
Scandinavia in an inappropriate environment.
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, Edward Abbey, 1968, McGraw
Hill – This classic in nature writing relates the authors work as a National Forest
back country ranger in Canyon Lands National Monument. The book is a memoir of
this time in the desert and his observations and criticisms of the people he
encounters as much as the desert and its inhabitants. Widely revered and
criticized, the book introduces Abbey as an ecological activist more than a student
Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900, Alfred
Crosby, 2004, Cambridge University Press – The author examines the roots of the
dominance of European expansion into the rest of the western world. The author
argues that Europeans went where their agriculture and animals could easily survive
and override natural ecosystems.
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Eric Schlosser,
2002, Houghton Mifflin – The author traces the short history of the explosive rise
of the fast food industry in America and its affects on a culture, unaware of where
the food comes from and industrial decisions that direct its growth.
Five Billion Years of Global Change, Denis Wood, 2004, Guilford Press – In his
book on the accelerating global change precipitated by the earth’s recent inhabi-
tants, Wood documents his “history of the earth” with a wide range of scientific
literature. The book is broken into two parts, the prehistoric and the rapid changes
that accompanied the presence of humans in late parts of the history.
Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, James Lovelock, 1979, Oxford University
Press – The GAIA hypothesis is that all the constituents of the earth comprise
one large interlocking self-regulating biosphere. The components of this biosphere
cooperate to keep the earth livable. Lovelock’s book presents the hypothesis in
layman’s terms to provide an alternative current destruction of the world by man
Global Outlaws: Crime, Money and Power in the Contemporary World, Caroline
Nordstrom, 2007, University of California Press – The anthropologist author of
this study of world of illegal trade spent three years interviewing smugglers,
bankers and other participants in the international sale of all manner of goods. In
this analysis of this underworld of economic trade, the reader meets players from
many different parts of the world in this somewhat hidden economic system.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond, 2005,
Random House – In this book Diamond traces the development of societies through
the use of agriculture and domesticated animals in different parts of the world.
This award winning book poses a number of hypotheses on the differences in the
dominance of societies in Asia, Europe and the Pacific.
Hooked: Pirates, Poaching, and the Perfect Fish, G. Bruce Knecht, 2006, Rodale
Press – This book is an action thriller of the pursuit and capture of the Patagonian
Toothfish in the international waters of Anarctica. It is a tale of failing fisheries
management in the case of the Chilean Sea Bass aka Toothfish which is being
eaten into extinction in the seafood restaurants of the world.
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, Nathaniel
Philbrick, 2000, Viking Press – This book is about the wreck of the Essex, when
when rammed by a sperm whale in 1820. This incident was made famous in Melville’s
Moby Dick. Philbrick’s treatment of the wreck and the aftermath is more an
analysis of the whaling industry as well as the officers and men that shared this
lowest class of the sailing industry. The author builds his report around the newly
discovered journal of a cabin boy on the Essex.
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, Aug 27, 1883, Simon Winchester,
2003, Harper Collins - This book details the massive explosion of the Indonesian
volcano Krakatoa, the massive volcanic explosion which killed almost 40,000 people
and whose effects were felt thousands of miles away. Written by a geologist, the
story is cast in the context of the period leading up to and after the eruption. The
international coverage of the event is highlighted by the timing of the disaster
shortly after the establish of world wide cable networks.
Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States
and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy, Andro Linklater, 2002, Walker and
Company - The rather grandiose sounding sub-title is a bit misleading about the
content of the book. Linklater’s study is on standardization of measures, including
the township and range land mapping system in a young United States. An important
sub-theme revolves around Thomas Jefferson’s fight to have the metric system
adopted in America.
Mental Maps, Peter Gould and Rodney White, 1986, Pelican Books - This is the
second edition of the classic book on the perception of geographic space. The book
starts with a discussion of perception and then moves to analyzing how people in
different areas perceive other parts of the world through the mapping of
*Native Science, Gregory Cajete
On the Road, Jack Kerouac, 1991
*Plants, Man and Life, Edgar Anderson, 1952
PrairyErth (a deep map), William Least Heat Moon, 1991, Houghton Mifflin - The
author presents a historical study of one Chase County in the middle of Kansas. He
provides an almost random look at the people, natural history of this thinly
populated area almost in the center of the United States. 30 months of research
provides the base for an understanding of a small area that every country should
River Horse, William Least Heat Moon, 1999, Penquin Books - In this book Heat
Moon travels the small waterways of America in several types of small boats and
different companions. Unlike his book on the blue highways, the small blue streams
concentrate more on observations and discussions with his companions rather than
the people me meets along his travels.
*The Colonizer’s Model of the World: Geographical Diffusionism and Eurocentric
History, Jame Blaut, 1993
The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution, Carolyn
The Map That Changed the World, Simon Winchester, 2001
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan, 2006
The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime, William. Langewische,
The Places in Between, Rory Stewart, 2006
The Republic of Pirates: Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them
Down, Colin Woodard, 2007
The River at the Center of the World, Simon Winchester, 1996
*The Road to Botany Bay, Paul Carter, 1987
The Slow Plague, A Geography of the AIDS Pandemic, Peter Gould, 1993
The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen, 1978
The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: Anne Salmond 2003
The Unnatural History of the Sea, Callum Roberts, 2007
Travels with Charley: In Search of America, John Steinbeck, 1961
Uncommon Ground: Toward Reinventing Nature, William Cronon, 1995
When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne
1405-33, Louise Levathes, 1994
Wisdom Sits in Places, Keith Basso, 1993