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The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  469 ratings  ·  91 reviews
If fresh water is to be treasured, the Great Lakes are the mother lode. No bodies of water can compare to them. One of them, Superior, is the largest lake on earth, and the five lakes together contain a fifth of the world's supply of standing fresh water. Their ten thousand miles of shoreline bound eight states and a Canadian province and are longer than the entire Atlanti ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 929)
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Corinna
I read this for the Weque summer bookclub, and it was very fun to read this so close to Lake Michigan, about which a good portion of the book is written. This book contains so many fascinating scientific and historical facts, stories, anecdotes, and wonder, it is hard to summarize it in a few sentences. There were so many familiar place-names among the Great Lakes explorers - Champlain, Hennepin, Charlevoix (a priest, as it turns out) Nicolet, Joliet, Marquette. I found it fascinating to read ab ...more
Kim
This was the 2015 Kalamazoo Public Library Reading Together book. I felt the title was a bit mis-leading, because it felt more like history. It was still a good read. It did seem to divert off the main story quite a bit, and I felt that was distracting.

With one exception. Have you ever seen, "Everybody Loves Raymond"? In it, he has said that when is wife talks, sometimes all he hears is blah, blah, blah. Turns out, I feel that way about fishing. There were a few pages where all I remember readin
...more
Shirley Freeman
It's good to be surprised by a book sometimes. This wouldn't normally grab my interest but I'm glad the community read program nudged me to read it. Jerry Dennis seems to have spent his life interacting with the great lakes. He writes engagingly about their history and biology,including environmental concerns, business/shipping concerns and human interest stories. Dennis spent a month crewing a tall ship from Chicago all the way through all the lakes and then down the Erie Canal to the Atlantic ...more
Paul
I liked The Living Great Lakes because not only was it full of information about each one of The Great Lakes but there was also woven into it the tale of a seaman. Maybe not an experienced one, but he has more experience then I ever will. Hearing and seeing some of the inner workings of sailing and boating from a layman' perspective was refreshing. I think a lot of people in the Great Lakes Region only know about the Lake (or Lakes) closest to them. For me, I knew virtually nothing about Eerie a ...more
Pam
Jan 13, 2008 Pam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone in the Great Lakes region
Jerry Dennis is simply a great story-teller, and he weaves together history, ecology, and memoir into a great yarn. He clearly loves the Great Lakes as much as I love Michigan, and is on a mission to impress the reader with their rich histories, power, and environmental fragility. I also appreciated that his adventure writing was not bogged down by machismo. I would've liked more detail about historical and contemporary Native American groups and their interactions with the Lakes. In his re-tell ...more
Mark
The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas, by Jerry Dennis, 2003. There are a good number of passages in this plunge of a book into the Great Lakes. Dennis writes well, and he has a wonderful and diverse subject. Listen to this – from his chapter on the Canadian North Shore of Lake Superior, about walking through the woods along the shore:
“The trees entwined their branches from crown to ground, tangling in an understory dense with blueberry bushes, Labrador tea, laurel,
...more
Wendy
While it took me a bit to really get into this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is rich with historical and anecdotal stories that bring the Great Lakes to life. This is the Kalamazoo library's community read this year. I look forward to attending the author visit and other events surrounding the book to learn even more.
Ted Hunt
This book was exactly what I was hoping it would be. Ever since reading "Blue Highways" 35 years ago, I have enjoyed books that are about journeys, and this book is about a trip on a sailboat through the Great Lakes. And like the other great books of this genre, it provides a look at the places that the author visits (both in this journey and in previous boating expeditions), and touches on history, ecology, biology, and even some persona philosophy. Not being a boat person, the book didn't real ...more
Stevi Kosloskey
This is the review I wrote about the book for my environmental science class:

I found this book to be quite interesting and informative. Dennis has a way of weaving an entertaining story of his personal experiences along with historical information, and at the same time educating the reader about the ecosystem of the Great Lakes and environmental challenges they face. At no point did I feel that this book was taking a self-righteous approach about saving the Great Lakes, instead Dennis makes you
...more
Sueij
Feb 22, 2013 Sueij rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sueij by: Nicola's, by way of Scott
Shelves: book-club
I was astonished by how much I loved this book. Our favorite indie bookstore recommended it, so Scott got it for me for Mother's Day.

The author does a fantastic job of mixing the history (old and new) of the Great Lakes with his personal experience living along them, visiting them, and sailing on them. He moves seamlessly from history to encounters. There's everything from the Native Americans who lived alongside, to the lakes' discovery by Europeans, to their use and abuse over the last several
...more
Tricia
This book was our community "Reads" book for 2010. It tells the story of a crew sailing the Malabar from Grand Traverse Bay (on Lake Michigan) to a harbor in Maine -- through 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, part of the Erie Canal, the Hudson River, and on into the Atlantic.

My husband is also reading it - he enjoys the languid pace. I don't really have an opinion (positive or negative) on the pacing, but I got really annoyed at how the book jumps back and forth. The author will be writing about their jo
...more
Kat Hagedorn
http://tinyurl.com/axjdk7m

Yet another example of fantastic science writing. And my second of two in a row that puts the author front and center in the drama surrounding the science.

Clearly, I am not correct in thinking that Rebecca Skloot was unique in making her personal story an important and integral part of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Because that's also what Jerry Dennis does in this volume-- in order to tell the story of the Great Lakes, he actually journeys them, describing his
...more
Jane
Having grown up by Lake Michigan I have tremendous respect for the water, watching peaceful mornings turn suddenly into stormy afternoons with waves growing in size and intensity. I know how lucky I am to be able to go exploring along the shores for a day or an hour. And, silly me, I thought I knew enough of the history of all five lakes to be 'knowledgeable'. After reading this book, however, I realized how little I knew of the other Great Lakes, the history surrounding all of them and geologic ...more
Kevin
Since I started working on a research project around the entire Great Lakes, I have had a renewed interest in their history. I find it amazing that I have lived most of my life within a short distance from Lake Ontario but knew very little about it except that it was huge. This book is centered around personal experiences of the author as he sails/explores all of the lakes. I learned a lot through a mix of physical history, initial European exploration history, human history (development), and e ...more
Joanne
If you love our Great Lakes (really, GREAT lakes), read this book. It's a bit distracting, to me, that he is taking an actual sailing trip through the Great Lakes. But maybe that is the thread that weaves it all together. The Great Lakes contain one-fifth of the fresh water in the entire world and we must protect it, keep it clean, use it but not abuse it, love it, respect it. But in order to do those, and more, we must understand it and how it works. This is a great beginning, with more informa ...more
Dave Gaston
Dennis details the Great Lakes voyage of an old sailing schooner called the Malabar. The trip originates in Lake Michigan. Malabar (and crew) travels up through the Great Lakes, through the Erie Canal, into the Hudson River and finally the old ship takes port at Long Island. The sailing trip serves as a tour de force of the Great Lakes and the spine of Jerry Dennis’s fine book. That said, his writings often tact far from Malabar’s main voyage. His side stories round out the ancient history and l ...more
Joyce
Although I usually pick my library selections in advance, it is also fun to just run in and browse for a bit to see what is new. This volume is Kalamazoo's next Reading Together title and it was the perfect companion for a vacation by Lake Michigan. Good on several levels - informative, makes important points about the environment, shows that a tall ships trip isn't all romance and is a reminder how lucky we all our to live around 5 great lakes.
Sean Eddy
This book is part naval history, natural history and modern day adventure about the Great Lakes all rolled into one with some great writing that captures their awe and splendor. And a dose of humor along the way helps. On passing through Canadian customs on the Welland Canal: "any alcohol on board? Any firearms?"
No and no. But he [the captain] forgot to mention...dozen cases of homemade beer and some bottles of rum and single-malt Scotch and two or three jugs if wine. Also a cannon.
Jake
“Nature had won again: the labor of thousands was forgotten.”
–Chapter 14
The title, The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas, rings a bit schmaltzy to me now that I’ve read the entire book. But it’s certainly appropriate. Having stood on a giant dune overlooking Lake Superior, I know what it’s like to be mesmerized by these freshwater colossi.

This book is a more personal journey than I expected. It benefits from a journalistic depth, yet the author’s seaborne reflectio
...more
James (JD) Dittes
I read this in advance of a road trip through Ontario and Michigan, and it was an excellent resource: lots of adventure, plenty of history (both natural and human), and as much care for the future of the six great lakes as its past.

The basis of the boat is a voyage on a two-masted schooner, The Malabar, from Traverse City, Michigan to Bar Harbor, Maine, via lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario, through the Erie Canal & the Hudson River to Long Island Sound. Despite the limited trip, Dennis's scope
...more
Diane
While reading this book I discovered a friend was in it, one Carleen and I visited when we went to the Great Lakes State Games in Marquette, so I called and congratulated him on his 15 minutes of fame. He said he was also in two other books by the author and had gone on a trip with him canoeing the rivers of Michigan. Neat! Also turns out I sailed on this ship before it was retired, with my friends Hong Jun and Najin, and have a picture of us on the deck of the Malibar. Hong Jun was seasick and ...more
Stephanie
Decent read, I appreciated the historical knowledge imparted about each of the Great Lakes, and the little stories in between. I love the discussion of the power of the lakes and the types of boats you can find on them. I thought Dennis could have spent more time on Lake Superior, but, then again, I am biased. The back and forth about his travels on the Malabar got a little tedious near the end.
Kirsten
Jul 09, 2011 Kirsten rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who sail, REALLY love boats
I love the Great Lakes, so I thought I would love this book...not really so. I like the idea of it, and am jealous of his trip, but I didn't care for the way it was presented.

I thought it was kind of erratically put together, just kind of a collection of stories and thoughts. A tiny bit of history and science was woven in , but for the most part just random stories about sailing. And talking about the boat. And random people/meals. I got bored, so apparently sailing is not a viable mode of trans
...more
Dave
A wonderful read for anyone interested in the Great Lakes. A journey from Lake Michigan to Maine full of flash backs reflecting life on the lakes. The author weaves history, environmental issues, humor, psychology and philosophy into this book. I look forward to reading more by Jerry Dennis.
Nathan
Jerry Dennis loves being on the water, he loves the Great Lakes, and he loves telling us about it. His enthusiasm propels his narrative through a rambling voyage on America's lakes. He sometimes flirts with self-indulgence, but redeems himself with an unfettered zest for the journey.

A little sober analysis of the native ecology would have been welcome, something more substantial than his flighty once-over, but with the overall mood of the book, it's not really expected. A pleasant jaunt, populat
...more
Luann
A lot of Michigan great lakes history in a nutshell. Well worth reading, and additionally, I would recommend it to anyone interested in sailing.
Dan Salerno
What a great read! Jerry Dennis weaves together magical stories and factual information with the skill of a top-grade story teller. If you don't know much about the Great Lakes, this book is for you. If you think you know a lot about the Great Lakes, this book is still for you!
Marj
I've lived my whole life within 50 miles of Lake Michigan. I've been swimming in all five of the great lakes. I spent a week backpacking on Isle Royale. My favorite place in the world is the Leelanau peninsula. Of course I loved this book. If the Great Lakes aren't in your blood, you might not rate it as high. You get geology, geography, history, biology and great adventure all rolled into one book. I have to admit that I lost a little interest when he left the Great Lakes but it still was a goo ...more
Jean
I learned so much about these great lakes and had a fun trip in a sea worthy but dumpy boat.
John P
Excellent. Very well written and engaging. Having spent most of my life in Michigan I have to say that Mr. Dennis does a fine job of including a boatload (pun intended) of Michigan lore in the telling of his tale. Moving deftly between such topics as local history, including geologic and human, the Big Mac race, personality quirks and conflicts among his crew, life and death on the big lakes, and the journey of the Malabar itself, he shines as a storyteller.
As a novice sailor on Lake Huron, I wa
...more
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“I asked him what he thought of the Great Lakes now.
I'm surprised at how much seamanship is required to sail them. I always thought they were for wussies, that only the oceans were worthy of tough guys like me. But in the ocean there's not much to hit, it mostly requires endurance. These lakes can kick your ass.”
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“Michigan alone is bounded by 3,200 miles of coastline—only Alaska has more.” 0 likes
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