A Sense of the World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

A Sense of the World

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  743 ratings  ·  173 reviews
He was known simply as the Blind Traveler -- a solitary, sightless adventurer who, astonishingly, fought the slave trade in Af-rica, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon, and helped chart the Australian outback. James Holman (1786-1857) became "one of the greatest wonders of the world he so sagaciously explored," triumphing not only over...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2005)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Sense of the World, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Sense of the World

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,736)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Dec 20, 2007 Jenny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
An amazing biography on a little-known historical figure, John Holman. I think this blurb describes it best:

"He was known simply as the Blind Traveler, a solitary, sightless adventurer who fought the slave trade in Africa, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon and helped chart the Australian outback. Once a celebrity, a bestselling author and inspiration to Charles Darwin and Sir Richard Francis Burton, the charismatic, witty Holman outlived his fame, dying in...more
Austin Outhavong
this book seems to give a good picture about the following things i have never experienced:

1. being blind

2. living in the 19th century

3. being in the british navy

4. the nature of world travel before there was a world tourism industy

5. the nature of the medical profession in england in the 19th century

I have read an amazing book about a blind traveler in the XIXth Century. Jason Roberts has done a priceless job in bringing this role-setting man to life again. The book is truly breathtaking. Holman’s adventures sound like very far-fetched fiction. It’s insane how he could travel the world alone at those times. To top it all, it turns out his only pal was deaf. Here are some of the many increadible things he managed to achieve alone with very limited funds and no sight at all:

explore the Brazil...more
Oct 22, 2008 Carrie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Travelers & Adventurers
Recommended to Carrie by: Bookstore
This book is a biography and travel account of Englishman: James Holman (1786- 1857. During his life, he became "the most accomplished traveler of all time", covering no less than a quarter of a million miles in his circumnavigation of the world.

It is exceptional that a person ventured of his own initiative (with an impulse towards the exotic)- but perhaps even more epic, because this solo traveler was blind.

The Blind Traveler wrote more than 5 books, regarded himself of equal to any seeing task...more
Sep 25, 2007 Tracey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in historical travel.
A chance encounter in a library led the author to discover James Holman (1786–1857). Son of a shopkeeper, James rises to lieutenant in the British Navy right around the War of 1812. He is forced out of the Navy due to medical issues (blindness as well as rheumatic arthritis) and although nearly penniless, finds he is in the best of health when travelling in exotic countries and climes. ... alone.

Holman's charm and cunning nets him excursions to the Americas, Africa and the Orient - hunting slave...more
James Holman joined the Royal Navy in the mid-1700s to see the world. When he gradually became blind, he decided that travel was the only way to stay healthy and sane.He ended up traveling thousands of miles around the world.
Holman's accomplishments are astonishing not just for their time, but for the fact he often traveled to foreign countries alone, not knowing the language or anyone there. The book also contains the best description I have ever read about how a blind person uses the textures...more
A fascinating, very well-written book about someone you've probably never heard of - James Holman, the "Blind Traveler," who lived from 1786 to 1857.

In this age of Google (Glass, Earth, Maps) it's very hard to remember that there was a time when travelers could still journey to places that were absolutely unmapped and unexplored. Holman did make these journeys, and he did it as a blind man who had very limited means, only the most basic transportation(he mainly walked), and, usually, no compani...more
This was a timely read. I've been thinking a lot lately about eyesight and world travel and this is an interesting book about the life and travels of James Holman - a man born in England in the late 1700s. After several years in the navy and other illnesses he suddenly finds himself blind. Even though this leaves him with little support and opportunities, it doesn't stop him from living his life fully. He finds a way to take care of himself and even to travel the world and write about his advent...more
Oct 27, 2008 Erika rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs, adventure lovers
Shelves: biography
This biography takes the reader into the life and times of James Holman (b. 1786), a British Naval officer who becomes blind after a mysterious illness at the age of 25. Well-written, engaging, and informative, this book not only chronicles the incredible adventures and accomplishments of Holman, but deftly escorts the reader into the world of sightlessness, describing such skills as "human echolocation," and such sensations as synesthesia (seeing sound, in Holman's case). Holman circumnavigated...more
This is one of the more interesting biographies I've read. It's in a similar vein to The Professor and the Madman in that it explores a period in time as well as an idea as much as it does the life of a single individual. In this one, James Holman, the Blind Traveler, certainly is the central focus of the story, but it is wrapped in the early 19th century world in regards to its ideas about travel and Roberts exploration of blindness. Overall he has written a gripping, fascinating tale.
Cassandra Kay Silva
So inspiring! Holman really blew me away! What industry and what a sense of adventure, and a strong sense of self you must posses to confidently travel in this way. I am so upset at the author though! Bah on you for writing such an important and legendary hero in such a transparently boring fashion! A hundred stars for the main character and negative a hundred for the writer. Fie! What an opportunity to explore allusion and description in a novel focusing on someone who must use all there other...more
Everyone should learn who James Holman is. This guy was extraordinary and totally forgotten by history. He traveled more extensively throughout the world than anyone else had before him (1820s-1850s) and chose to get off the beaten path (if there even was one at that time) by hanging out in the bush and with natives any chance he got. A totally open-minded and sincere person who documented and experienced cultures we have all-but lost. Oh, did I mention he did this all as a blind man before Brai...more
This is very well written book about an amazing man. I am about 1/3 of the way through and find it incredibly interesting. The author of the book stumbled upon the blind traveler by happenstance and researched the traveler in such detail that you would think that either the traveler had written the book or was there to consult the author, who by the way was born over one hundred years after the traveler's time. So far this is a fabulous read - very compelling and quite amazing for this man to ha...more
Audio. I've already recommended this to two people - a good popular history choice. It was a little long as an audio, but consistently interesting (and good reader). I enjoyed the range of historical details that were added to the strict biography - I felt I got a good feel for the settings to which Holman traveled and the times in which he lived. I was left not only with a good bit of wonder for his accomplishments (and tenacity) but also with some nice historical tidbits to look into further (...more
This book is great. A true story of James Holman's life and travel in the late 1700's and early 1800's. He was blind and he circumnavigated the world in 1832. Impoverished and in bad health he traveled to the boundaries of the known world and further. An interesting section about Holman's participation in Britain's attempt to stop slave trade to the US. Britian sent British naval ships to intercept the slave ships off the coast of Africa and return the people to their homes. Their attempt was no...more
Wow! What am I so afraid of, that I don't follow my dreams? The whole idea of a blind man, with little monetary means, traveling such distances and with such enthusiasm and awe, is the best example of what people can do when they have the right attitude. (A little determination doesn't hurt, either!) I'm so thankful to Jason Roberts for not letting this story get lost! It's inspiring!
Fantastic!!! Jason Roberts is a extraordinarily gifted writer. I can't believe how much I learned about subjects beyond James Holman, including appalling maritime conditions and the archaic treatments of rheumatic diseases. It's like I took a college seminar on all the components of this man's unbelievable and gifted life.
Page 2 in his introduction the author writes: "Astounding as James Holman's exploits were, a further astonishment is how quickly he was forgotten." This is sadly very true. James Holman, the Blind Traveller, was perhaps the greatest traveller that ever lived, covering a quarter of a million miles in his lifetime, most of it on foot or horse, often unaccompanied, from Siberia to the heartlands of Africa. His was a "process of awareness, not a means of conquering distance." His travels were not hi...more
This book is a candle in the dark rooms of self-doubt and loneliness. It shines brightest when you find yourself in need of inspiration. Inspiration to travel, live, love and explore life with NO limitations... not even if you were a blind man circumnavigating the globe alone in the late 1800's. Phenomenal!
A biography after living for a longtime with fiction, I don't know what the exact difference is but it's different I can say that. A work filled with the beauty of wanderlust, hope and nature, A long forgotten history - loved it soo much.
Unlike most biographies, this book reads like a novel. I was captivated that a blind man could accomplish the scope and depth of world travel in the 18th-19th centuries. Totally inspiring without being the least maudlin.
Nov 11, 2009 Kristina rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: travel
I learned that sometimes the truly inspirational people out there, are amazing just by being who they are and doing their best to find joy in life. I also learned an amazing amount of history from this book.
Great book about life and travels of James Holman 1786-1857. Makes me want to walk the Appalachia trail. Haha. I am so stuck inside the box - I can't even get off the continent. Recommend.
Interesting, but didn't get into the real travelogue until the second half. Could have probably skipped the British naval history....
Best book I've read in ages. Story of a blind 19th century traveller covered vast stretches of the world. Inspiring. Humbling. Etc.
Lynn Ellis
A fascinating look at 19th c. travel & how to "sense" the world w/o that most immediate sense, sight.
This book is the biography of a remarkable man living in the early 19th century. James Holman was an apothecary's son who got the chance to move up in the world--with the hopes of seeing quite a lot of it--by joining the navy. Serving during the Napoleonic Wars, he saw little action because he was primarily stationed on the North American seaboard, enduring night watches in the harsh Nova Scotian waters and then heading south to resupply in balmy Jamaica. Such conditions and major climatic shift...more
Biography of James Holman (1786–1857), the "Blind Traveler". Holman was an English naval officer who, from illness, went completely blind in his early 20's and, rather than living as a helpless invalid (common in that age) instead spent the remainder of his life traveling the world - often alone, in an era when travel was rare and dangerous. He did so frequently having no knowledge of the local languages other than that he was able to learn during his travels. He circumvented the world, visiting...more
Tony Taylor
He was known simply as the Blind Traveler -- a solitary, sightless adventurer who, astonishingly, fought the slave trade in Africa, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon, and helped chart the Australian outback. James Holman (1786-1857) became "one of the greatest wonders of the world he so sagaciously explored," triumphing not only over blindness but crippling pain, poverty, and the interference of well-meaning authorities (his greatest feat, a circumnavigatio...more
Christina Dudley
Picked this one up on clearance at the bookstore, and I'm so glad I did! A fascinating account of James Holman, an English naval lieutenant who went blind in the early years of the 19th century, but who refused to live a limited, sedentary, holed-up life. In the days before railroads, he hit all major settled continents, traveling mostly alone and on a shoestring. His writings earned him fame and a little money before times moved on, and he became, when not completely forgotten, a figure of fun....more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 57 58 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Rage to Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton
  • Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer
  • The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt
  • 100 Places Every Woman Should Go
  • Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles To Timbuktu
  • Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey into the Heart of Darkness
  • Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Secret Exploration of Tibet
  • Running the Amazon
  • The Black Nile: One Man's Amazing Journey Through Peace and War on the World's Longest River
  • To the Heart of the Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa
  • The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History
  • The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century
  • Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica
  • The Heart of the Antarctic: The Farthest South Expedition 1907-1909
  • Shackleton
  • A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer: The Life of William Dampier
  • Jesus: The Greatest Life of All
  • Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars
Jason's debut nonfiction work, A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler (HarperCollins), was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics' Circle Award, longlisted for the international Guardian First Book Award, and named a Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Kirkus Reviews and other publications. He is also the inaugural winner...more
More about Jason Roberts...
A Sense of the World How To Do Almost Anything The Learn Guide The Learn2 Guide: Burp a Baby, Carve a Turkey, and 108 Other Things You Should Know How to Do Director 7 Demystified: The Official Guide to Macromedia Director, Lingo, and Shockwave with CDROM A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveller. Jason Roberts

Share This Book