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Tent Life in Siberia: An Incredible Account of Siberian Adventure, Travel, and Survival

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  180 ratings  ·  31 reviews
This collection chronicles the fiction and non fiction classics by the greatest writers the world has ever known. The inclusion of both popular as well as overlooked pieces is pivotal to providing a broad and representative collection of classic works.
Paperback, 448 pages
Published March 17th 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing (first published 1870)
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Another delight for the parsimonious, a great out-of-copyright ebook hidden in plain sight on the Internet, specifically, at Project Gutenberg,, and the Internet Archive, among other places.

A long time ago in the pre-Internet age I wrote this title down in an old-school paper notebook I kept for the same reason I am on Goodreads today: to keep track of books I would like to read someday. I thought at the time that it seemed unlikely I would ever be once again close enough to a univ
This is an amazing account of "extreme travel" on the Kamachatka peninsula and thereabouts in 1865-1867 written by George Kennan Sr. (a relative of the later George Kennan who was US Ambassador to Russia). He and his colleagues were employed by the Russo-American Telegraph Company to scout out a feasible route for an overland telegraph line to connect the US with Europe. It is hard to exaggerate how cut off these men were from the rest of the world and how much hardship and privation they endure ...more
This book is about a expedition to Siberia in 1860s by employees of an American telegraph company. It is one of the most engaging travel logs, I have read. Forget eat, pray, love - read this. His prose is current and readable. It seems like he is writing today and not during the civil war until the self-aggrandizing passages desribing the "heathen" the native communities (who keep him alive). The saving grace is that he keeps this theorizing to a minimum.

About 3 chapters into this book, I began planning my trip to Kamchatka. Kennan's description of the coast, the mountain ranges, the villages seated at the base of active volcanos, the wild rivers, and the tundra were so intoxicating that I felt I had to see them with my own eyes.

30 minutes of Google searching later, I realized that it would require flying Aeroflot (something I have no intention of ever doing), tickets would be insanely expensive, and once I got there the weather was likely to be
Tent Life in Siberia is the story of an 1864 expedition to map out the route for a telegraph line across Siberia, connecting America with Europe. The story is told by George Kennon, who with three other Western Union employees, is assigned this seemingly impossible task. The narrative is lively and quite humorous, particularly in his descriptions of the nomadic tribe’s reactions to “modern” technology such as matches and binoculars. Kennon is eloquent in his descriptions of the vast uncharted wi ...more
This book is the single most well written travelogue I have encountered, which means of course that it was written over 100 years ago when people knew how to write, for an audience that would only ever see what the author has seen through his own words.

Mark Twain called George Kennan the funniest writer of his time. George was more than funny. He was dead accurate, thorough, sensitive and respectful to the Siberian cultures through which he traveled on a surveying mission. His description on how
I'm not sure when I put this on the list that it was the original 1870 (?) version. If so, I might not have gotten it, which would have been a shame, as it was fairly readable. There were some references I googled (and some I didn't), but they were mostly either to Greek myths or pop culture and didn't subtract from the story too much.

Very interesting, and much less bleak than most arctic books (although there was a bizarre aside that sounded ominous). Also in a different part of the world than
Rex Fuller
The first efforts to lay a Trans-Atlantic phone cable didn’t work. So, go the other way around, build an overland cable to Europe via “Russian America,” as Alaska was then called, the Behring Straits, and Siberia, right? Sure thing. The Russian American Telegraph Company was formed and with Russian concessions in hand, its employees set sail from San Francisco on July 3, 1865, to identify possible routes, sites for warehouses, suitable mountain passes, possible opposition or assistance from loca ...more
Had to constantly remind myself that this REALLY happened and that it wasn't a fictional story. Fun but a little confusing due to lack of a map and place-names that have since changed or been lost to the intervening 130 years.
So interesting! This true story describes people, cultures, and places as they were about 150 years ago. Friendly writing style; the author has you laughing with him at his misadventures.
Kennan's account of his travels in Siberia to establish a western telegraphic route in the 1860s is a colorful composition part natural history, anthropology, and travel log. Despite much of this travel being arduous at best and life threatening cold and storm at worst, he gives a balanced account portraying his consternation with the local customs as he encountered them, with some sections bordering on a Twain-like humor. The account concludes with the re-establishment of the trans-Atlantic lin ...more
Dan Walker
I found this book to be absolutely fascinating. At its heart this book is about a young man's adventures in an exotic and foreign land, but Mr. Kennan's self-deprecating humor and observations on Siberia make it an enjoyable and absorbing read.

The adventures are all suitably harrowing and thrilling. Some are the kind caused by young men making rash decisions, but in a land as hostile as Siberia, some adventures are simply unavoidable.

And Siberia is certainly an exotic place. The sea, land, and t
An account by Kennan of traveling through some of the far Eastern reaches of Siberia in the 1860s. Many travel narratives by Western writers of the 19th century, writing about some of the far-flung and little-known areas of the world, can be quite dry and dull; at their worst, some of them come across as having a very condescending sense of the superiority of their own culture. Kennan is hardly among the worst offenders, but does have some of that condescension in his writing. What sets his narr ...more
This book is amazing. If you have even the most passing interest in travel narratives, or the 19th Century Russian empire, or the ecology of northern climates, or epic tales of adventure, or voyages on the high seas, or dog sledding, or reindeer herding, or funny writing that will make you laugh out loud, or basically anything else, you should read this book. Unless you are of Siberian native descent, in which case you should definitely not read this book, because--while the narrator was probabl ...more
I stumbled across a petite hard back edition of this from 1905 last year. I was initially attracted to it because I simply can't resist holding a tiny old book in my hands. But when I finally got around to peaking inside, I was intrigued. In 1986 (or somewhere around there) the author, as a product of mere chance, found himself on an expedition to the extremely remote and rugged Kamchatka Peninsula at the most far eastern reaches of Siberia. While George Keenan is certainly not the most brillian ...more
Joshua Mabry
It was an interesting historical piece although the writing was sometimes as dull as the Siberian landscape.
Cyril Gleiman
I picked up this travelog after reading Ian Frazier's "Travels In Siberia." Between 1865 and 1867 George Kennan explored Kamchatka and much of the area around the Okhotsk sea. He was surveying the area for the Russian-American Telegraph Company. After the failure of the first trans-atlantic telegraph cable, Western Union formed this company with the Russian Government in order to bring telegraphic communications between the US and Europe. Kennan documents his travels and travails. It is well wri ...more
Although some of the viewpoints in this book are dated (white man meets indigenous populations late 1800s), the writing is amazing. Kennan clearly has a good sense of humor - you'd have to to spend the better part of the winter traversing Siberia by dog sled and living in a tent!
Aaron Kuehn
What a great story of traversing the snowy north of Siberia. This true story covers the adventures of a team that searches for a route to string telegraph wires in the mid-1800s. Told with intelligence and wit it is an interesting look inside life at that time.
Robert Giambo
An old book about the authors surveying Siberia for a telegraph company right after the civil war. Amazing that anyone can survive the cold in the winter, bugs in the summer. Not all that interesting in the end. (But you can get it free from
Kennan wrote well and had a great story to tell but the could have been synthesized considerably and still be interesting. I wished he spent more time describing the cultures he saw and less time discussing interactions with his team.
Who knew that, after the end of the Civil War, an attempt was made by a U. S. company to lay a telegraph line from Alaska through Siberia. A fascinating, well-written account of the author's participation in the expedition.
Jan 04, 2009 Jackie marked it as to-read
Pete Green suggested this book (01/02/2009) about the attempt to establish a telagraph line from Russia across the Aluetian Islands ~ which eventually fails.
Ted Brewster
Fascinating story of life in mid-19th-century Siberia, particularly Kamchatka, written in a style more modern than one might expect.
I've had an enduring fascination with Russia and especially Siberia, and this book did not disappoint in that regard.
I couldn't put it down.I love historyand outdoor adventure and this title brings them both together
A often hilarious account of a fascinating expedition in Siberia 150 years ago.
Jul 10, 2014 Cathy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
A map of the area he explored would have been very helpful.
This book will entertain you with each passing page.
Writer has great sense of humor. Found myself LOL.
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George Kennan was an American explorer noted for his travels in the Kamchatka and Caucasus regions of Russia.

Do not confuse with his great-nephew, diplomat and historian George Frost Kennan (1904-2005)
More about George Kennan...

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