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Arctic Dreams

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  3,419 ratings  ·  216 reviews
Barry Lopez's National Book Award-winning classic study of the Far North is widely considered his masterpiece.

Lopez offers a thorough examination of this obscure world-its terrain, its wildlife, its history of Eskimo natives and intrepid explorers who have arrived on their icy shores. But what turns this marvelous work of natural history into a breathtaking study of profou
Paperback, 496 pages
Published October 2nd 2001 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1986)
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If I could give six-stars or a 5+ I would. That's how special this book is.

It is a difficult one to do justice because it is so many things and all of them wondrous. It is beautiful, rhapsodist and hugely sympathetic yet not sentimental. At its heart it is a celebration of the profusion of life, all manners of life, and it succeeds on every page. Crucially, it is also a meditation on the very concept of landscape and how we view it, explain it and relate to it.

Lopez does not deal in superficia
Jul 31, 2008 Huan-hua rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of natural history/popular science/travel books
I stumbled on this in 2005, in a little bookstore in Heidelberg specializing in used English-language books. I was just trying to refill my reading material for my trip with something at least marginally interesting, but this turned out to be one of the most stunningly gorgeous books I've ever read--Lopez manages to not only see the hidden beauty of the seemingly barren Arctic landscape, but capture and convey its glory through his prose.
If you've never read any of Barry Lopez' work, here's a quick inaccurate description: He writes about the visible world with the mind of a scientist and the heart of a poet. His descriptions of the arctic, its geography, animals, people is so precise that it reaches beyond physical to that invisible realm that exists between the world and our emotional and spiritual prehension of it. Read his chapter on narwhals, for example, (those unicorn-like whales that seem to have come out a fairy tale) an ...more
I read this book about 15 years ago and did not like it. Luckily, Mr. Lopez was leading a session at a conference I was attending, so I picked it up again. This time I loved the book – what changed? It must be me since the book is the same edition.

I was impressed by many things. I especially liked his discussions of the land and how different peoples describe and view the land differently. He discusses maps as “an organization of the land according to a certain sense of space and an evaluation
A reader could be prone to chills on a sunny March day as spring breaks through, and still be mesmerized by the love Lopez clearly has for a land that routinely has temperatures double digits below zero centigrade. His love of the landscape’s mysterious, often impenetrable serenity, is filled with mirages and challenges for daily survival that suspend a reader’s usual perceptions like a good science fiction.
Slyly, he invites the reader to imagine the polar solstices, learn about the elegant pol
Jun 20, 2014 Ms.pegasus rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with a serious interest in Arctic ecosystems
The Arctic.... We think of it as a location. It's an inconsequential cap perched on the crown of the familiar Mercator projection of the world. It's a glacial mass anchored in a frigid sea. It's a circular expanse with the magnetic north pole at it's center. It's the area above 6633' N (the Arctic Circle). As Lopez points out, the magnetic pole is slowly drifting; and there are areas in Scandinavia lying north of the Arctic Circle inhabited by at least one species of lizard and of snake, thanks ...more
"It is easy to underestimate the power of a long-term association with the land, not just with a specific spot but with the span of it in memory and imagination, how it fills, for example, one's dreams" (279).

Reading Arctic Dreams, I was filled with longing, hope, no small measure of despair at the technological entanglements of modern life. While one might come to this book underestimating or failing to consider the "power of a long-term association with the land," it is impossible to finish re
“If we are to devise an enlightened plan for human activity in the Arctic, we need a more particularized understanding of the land itself—not a more refined mathematical knowledge but a deeper understanding of its nature, as if it were, itself, another sort of civilization we had to reach some agreement with.”

I would be very pleased, Goodreads, if I could give this book six stars. Can you make that happen for me? Because this book is just too good, too exquisite, too perfect.

I realize I write th
"Eskimos do not maintain this intimacy with nature without paying a certain price. When I have thought about the ways in which they differ from people in my own culture, I have realized that they are more afraid than we are. On a day-to-day basis, they have more fear. Not of being dumped into cold water from an ‘umiak,’ not a debilitating fear. They are afraid because they accept fully what is violent and tragic in nature. It is a fear tied to their knowledge that sudden, cataclysmic events are ...more
Jan 30, 2009 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: environmentalists, science geeks, anyone who appreciates (or wants to appreciate) simple beauty
Shelves: favorites
I'm adding this book to my list of favorites. This is an amazing exploration of every aspect of a landscape that I previously had no interest in -- and now I'm completely captivated. Besides making me think the muskox is one of the most amazing animals on the planet, Lopez also made me ponder some deeply philosophical questions regarding the nature of happiness and beauty, and my connection with place and my landscape. It's a long and dense book, but well worth the read.
I tend to feel elated when finishing a book by Barry Lopez. His ardor for landscapes and the vocabulary that flows out of this affection evokes something peaceful in my spirit.

The Arctic deserved a good look and telling by someone who could meditate on it with equal parts scientific rigor and a deeply spiritual orientation toward hope. Lopez was that someone.
Claire McAlpine
Arctic Dreams was originally published in 1986 and won the US National Book Award for non-fiction. It is a compilation of around 10 essays, which can be read separately, each one focusing on a different subject, as Lopez focuses on the inhabitants, visitors and four-legged, two-winged migrants of a frozen territory in the North.

Reading his work is a little like being mesmerised by a compelling narrator in a nature documentary, for it is not just the images of the animals and the landscape that a
As far back as I can remember, I've had a subtle fascination with the Arctic. I imagine myself wandering over endlessly white expanses of tundra and ice, a perfectly lonely permanent wanderer. In my fantasy, I am somehow detached, like a ghost - no need for food, rest, nor shelter, and with the ability to move quickly enough to gain a tactile sense of the land in giant swaths. I've always loved winter, and I am simply not satisfied with the winter I'm getting here in Wisconsin. I will go to the ...more
A classic, published in 1986, although I've managed to not read it until now. That's my loss, since Lopez's prose is astonishing, both in its scientific & journalistic precision & in its philosophical, ethical lyricism. In fact, his musings constitute a profoundly useful ethics of respect toward & value-recognition of both land & life in the Arctic (& by extrapolation, all places, species & cultures on Earth). One that assumes the dignity of each being within an ultimatel ...more
Rachel Rochester
Interviewing various workers in the mines and oil fields of the arctic region, Lopez identifies a common lament: "They shook their heads over industrial mismanagement, that humorless, deskbound ignorance that brings people and land together in such a way that both the land and the people suffer" (400). It is against just this type of ignorance that Lopez seems to be writing. Lopez seems to believe that to begin know and understand the arctic is the first step toward responsible preservation: a p ...more
Where to begin? Lopez covers a lot of ground here, both literally and figuratively.

Through the lens of the Arctic, he urges us to consider our relationship with both the land and its native inhabitants. He uses the alienness of the Far North to contrast the Eurocentric approach to the world with that of one that requires intimate and complex knowledge of, and relation to, the land for survival and growth.

These ideas seem to me to be obvious: we should know by now that just because a culture does
Lopez is eloquent in his writing and devoted to his topic. More like a 3.5 star rating for me. The flow of the book seemed odd, and at times it needed more focus regarding what point he was trying make. The book is filled with rich details of the landscape and animals of the arctic region.
Nov 23, 2009 bup rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to bup by: Mike!
Shelves: 2009
Well, everybody's reviews, and its 4.3 average rating make me pretty sure I'm missing something here. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for this book right now, but it seemed to go in many random directions. I thought I was going to get some good Scrabble words out of it, anyway, but iglu and aglu aren't legal.

The book goes over the wildlife, then the history of the various Eskimo (sic) groups there, then touched on oil exploration a little, then the history of European conquest of the Arctic. I k
3 stars for the slow parts to slog through, a solid 4 for the rest.

Highlights for me were the chapters on the polar bear, the narwhal, Ice and Light and A Northern Passage. There is pretty much no aspect of the Arctic or of life that Lopez does not touch on. A thought-provoking read that's very easy to lose yourself in.
Jan 19, 2015 Audra rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Audra by: Sonya
Shelves: alltimefavorites
One of the most descriptive, informative, thoughtful, introspective, and melancholy books I've ever read. Now one of my favorites, too.
Kevin Spicer
Some of the finest, most thoughtful and heartfelt writing I've read, it makes you want to be a better person/go to the arctic.
One of my favorite non-fiction books of all times! I can't believe I hadn't marked it as read here on Goodreads.
RH Walters
I got so excited describing this book to someone that I loaned it out before I finished it and never got it back.
Arctic Dreams is considered a classic of nature writing and won the National Book Award in 1986. I’ve frequently come across references to it over the years and finally decided to pick it up. It begins with a beautiful description of arctic ecology and dedicates several chapters specifically to detailed descriptions of muskoxen (which, surprisingly enough, are more closely related to mountain goats than bison), polar bears, narwhals, various migrating animals, and the influence and impressions o ...more
Perhaps it was the fascination of “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon” on television or Howard Hawks’ “The Thing from Another World” on the big screen but ever since I was very young, I’ve had a sweaty-palm attraction for the Far North. The Arctic, a place so alien, so harsh, and yet so beautiful, it defied my imagination. It’s an allure that has killed many and made heroes of others.

Winner of the 1986 National Book Award, “Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape” by Barry Lope
Mike  Davis
I found this to be an outstanding book, but not perhaps to those who fail to appreciate nature and conservation at the expense of financial gain. The book was copyrighted in 1986 so it is a 25-year old classic.

Opening chapters reveal the author's reverence for arctic-specific life with fascinating details of narwhals, muskoxen, caribou and various birds. It continues to define the wonders and hazards of arctic ice and land, and the Eskimos who inhabit the seemingly inhospitable regions and their
Aaron Arnold
Writing a decent book isn't that difficult - there are multitudes of good writers with a facility for language who can come up with something readable merely by applying their talents to a given subject for a few months. It's a matter of mechanics more than anything else: give an established writer a topic and a deadline and you can be assured that most of the time the resulting product whether fiction or non-fiction will slide smoothly down the gullets of the reading public. To write a truly ex ...more
Jul 19, 2008 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: essays
I first got into reading Barry Lopez's works with About This Life, not realizing that his claim to fame, so to speak, was Arctic Dreams. After reading an intriguing article that he wrote about the land and culture of today's Icelandic people in a National Geographic, I could tell he was very dedicated and well versed to the land of the northern hemisphere. So, I decided to pick this book up to see what it was all about.

First and foremost, it's refreshing. Very to the point without a whole lot
Like many of the most amazing places on earth, the Artic has the power to make us realize how truly small we are. The harshness of the environment mixed with the moments of pure beauty can't help but draw you into comparisons with the desert. Like the desert, the people and animals who have managed to adapted to life in these extreme places are truly amazing.

Lopez does a great job sharing his infectious love for this landscape and for the people and animals who live there. But like most books a
Jeevas Crow
Feb 10, 2013 Jeevas Crow rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves learning anything about the arctic.
Recommended to Jeevas by: Goodreads
This is a beautiful book, thought not entirely what I expected. The description made it sound like a newer, more ethereal version of Walden, but it ended up having extremely technical details about the biology of several species of animals, historical information on both the history of humans in the arctic and their effect on the surrounding life, and in between that real wondrous and deep thoughts. Many times I would stop reading to reflect on how intensely thoughtful Barry Lopez is, and in his ...more
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Barry Holstun López is an American author, essayist, and fiction writer whose work is known for its environmental and social concerns.

López has been described as "the nation's premier nature writer" by the San Francisco Chronicle. In his non-fiction, he frequently examines the relationship between human culture and physical landscape, while in his fiction he addresses issues of intimacy, ethics an
More about Barry López...
Of Wolves and Men Crossing Open Ground About This Life Desert Notes/River Notes Winter Count

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“Because you have seen something doesn't mean you can explain it. Differing interpretations will always abound, even when good minds come to bear. The kernel of indisputable information is a dot in space; interpretations grow out of the desire to make this point a line, to give it direction. The directions in which it can be sent, the uses to which it can be put by a culturally, professionally, and geographically diverse society are almost without limit. The possibilities make good scientists chary.” 14 likes
“No culture has yet solved the dilemma each has faced with the growth of a conscious mind: how to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in all life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s own culture but within oneself.” 14 likes
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