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A Field Guide to Getting Lost

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  5,040 Ratings  ·  646 Reviews
Whether she is contemplating the history of walking as a cultural and political experience over the past two hundred years (Wanderlust), or using the life of photographer Eadweard Muybridge as a lens to discuss the transformations of space and time in late nineteenth-century America (River of Shadows), Rebecca Solnit has emerged as an inventive and original writer whose mi ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 27th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2005)
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May 03, 2013 Melanie rated it it was amazing
Say you're a coin.
You're resting quietly in somebody's palm.
Someone says "heads" or "tails" and suddenly you are thrown high up in the air, as high as you can go.
As you twirl, you meet Walter Benjamin and his illuminations, you meet Daniel Boone and his adventures in the wilderness, you meet Robert Hass and Simone Weil, you meet the color blue and all its meanings, you meet Cabeza de Vaca, Eunice Williams, Mary Jemison and Cynthia Ann Parker, you meet the Clash and Isak Dinesen, you meet Alfre
Oct 24, 2016 Dolors rated it really liked it
Recommended to Dolors by: Uncertain sources
Shelves: read-in-2016
The opening chapter of this book can be misleading.
Solnit delineates the uneven skyline of the many uncertainties that shape our expectations with surgeon’s precision, employing the perfect choice of words and metaphors, so that the reader falls under the false impression of being handed a map that will eventually lead him to the steady inner balance that will help him navigate the unpredictability of life.
What ensues instead is a vibrant mosaic composed of autobiographical flashbacks, labyrint
Aug 23, 2015 Forrest rated it really liked it
All your life, you've never seen
A woman taken by the wind

Fleetwood Mac, Rhiannon

I simply could not get these lyrics out of my head as I read Rebecca Solnit's remarkable book of essays A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Truth be told, Solnit could be an amazing philosopher if she organized her thoughts a little more tightly. But she is, at heart, a cultural historian, an activist, and a journalist, and not a philosopher. I admit that I went into this book hoping for something to act as a compliment t
Apr 09, 2008 ValerieLyn rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: wanderers
I am obsessed with reading about nomadism. About place, the the experience we have as we move through it, about topography, how it reveals us while simultaneously revealing itself, about wandering, how our thoughts work when we move. Solnit is a fantastic author in this vein.

Remember those rambling conversations that you had late late late into the night at some coffee shop when you were not yet twenty something, or maybe you were just, when you were discovering (inventing!?) philosophy, and you
There's something light about this book. Not light in the manner of an enormous buoyant force, but in a tone of equanimity, of sitting on the floor with one's legs crossed. The lightness that comes with accepting the terrible things that can happen in one's life.
Terrible things happened in that house, though not particularly unusual or or interesting ones; suffice to say there's a reason why therapists receive large hourly sums for listening to that kind of story.
Rebecca Solnit navigates thro
Mar 22, 2015 Liz rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
“To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away. In Benjamin’s terms, to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.”

I think more than anything else it was the fact that I could relate to the author's personal stories so very often that made me love this book so much.
Solnits connects history, art, geography and literature wi
Sonja Yoerg
Jun 11, 2014 Sonja Yoerg rated it really liked it
I'm convinced Rebecca Solnit could talk about any topic and I'd be keen to listen. She is well-read and sensitive, and has a mind like a bird dog, picking up the scent of one idea, hunting it either into the light or into the underbrush before picking up the trail of the next idea and loping after it. What an intellect.

The book is about all the possible ways of getting lost, especially when getting lost is the only way to find something, or to be found. But I'd characterize the main theme as exp
Sep 06, 2007 aloveiz rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: page skimmers
Recommended to aloveiz by: c. musgrave
This book is written like a love letter which, in this case, is an insult to its topic.
I found many of the anecdotes and references too personal making parts seem more like an autobiography (or collection of excuses) than a cultural document on the idea of being lost. The writing is also full of misplaced lyrical indulgences that detract from the somewhat sporadic historical references that seemed otherwise well researched and interesting. Maybe Solnit couldn't come up with enough material, mayb
Aug 20, 2015 Ellie rated it really liked it
A Field Guide to Getting Lost is a collection of essays? reminiscences? random but somehow connected thoughts by Rebecca Solnit. Solnit meditates on how, to paraphrase a quote from Meno that she uses towards the beginning of the book, we can look for that we do not know about. And, ultimately, the only way to discover this unknown unknown is to get lost, in time or space.

Solnit tells many stories in this collection, all of which I enjoyed greatly. She talks about explorers who got lost in the Am
Lara Shipley
Jun 14, 2007 Lara Shipley rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
She does rambling right; lots of great quotes and ancedotes.

For instance, this one by Virginia Woolf from "To the Lighthouse":
"For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of-to think; well, not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible
Dec 31, 2016 Ken rated it really liked it
Reads a bit like Annie Dillard, what with its gentle contemplation of nature and our place in it. Some essays stronger than others. Particularly liked the section on settlers' children taken and adopted by Indians in violent raids along the frontiers. The "lost" become "found" once they fully assimilate to the new culture, to the point where many do not want to return to "civilization" (a word empowered by whomever gets a chance to define it).

Also interesting riffs on life in the desert, tortois
Jan 19, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing
This sure wasn't what I expected, based on the title. I thought the book would be full of big thinks and big wanders, all based on the idea of getting lost--in terms of actual space and place, like in the wilderness or an unfamiliar city, whether by accident or with purpose--and moving through the world in a literal sense.

Instead, Solnit touches on the many many meanings of getting lost--emotional, psychic, physical, misplaced items, lost species, death, love--by interweaving a seemingly random
May 02, 2013 Matt rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Solnit - A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Admission: I haven't read any Solnit (beside the occasional Orion essay?) in years. I remembered appreciating her tendency toward collage, connecting strings between seemingly disparate worlds, showing us how anything can relate to, well, anything. Here, though, it's clear that she'd one good essay (her introduction) and several good ideas... but that not quite everything is quite so connected as she'd have us believe. Here, her ideas felt overblown, overexp
Elizabeth Schlatter
meh... Am I the only one who doesn't fall in love with Solnit's writing? Maybe this just wasn't the right book for me. I enjoyed the chapter on artist Yves Klein, but otherwise the essays seemed somewhat random and occasionally hard to follow. And, as my father rightly says, there's nothing more boring than listening to a person tell you about their dreams (their actual zzzz dreams, not aspirations). This was true for me in the case of this book, I'm afraid.
Jul 27, 2009 Jimmy rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
For starters, thanks Jacob, you were right.

Solnit takes the historian's, as well as the environmentalist's approach to an analysis of loss, or what it means to be lost. Many of the essays here are personal explorations of mystery and human uncertainty, which eventually branch out into seemingly random connections that Mrs. Solnit has ostensibly pulled from research on many of her other books. Field Guide certainly does a fair share of wandering in itself, but the book's philosophical musings ne
Nikki Duvall
Nov 26, 2013 Nikki Duvall rated it it was amazing
There are writers who can tell a good story and there are writers who create good characters, but there are few writers who have a lyrical style that makes reading like listening to music. This book spoke to me in so many ways, mostly in her description of the desert and the wildlife she found there. A mixture of memoir and philosophy for those of us seeking a higher understanding of our relationship with the world.
Jun 03, 2007 Leah rated it liked it
Recommends it for: philosophers and people from the bay area
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
A lovely non-fiction work centered on the idea that in order to find yourself, you first must lose youself. Rebecca Solit writes cleanly and elgantly, and always returns to her central theme. It was, however, unclear whether this book was to be taken as one piece or as a collection of essays. I think the author was striving for the former, but aside from the thematic consistancy there isn't a strong through-line in the book as a whole after the first three chapters/sections.
Aug 31, 2012 Lydia rated it it was ok
Shelves: female-authors
I did not connect with this book. Too rambling, too random, too breathlessly poetic, too self-absorbed, too... something. Not for me.
Oct 24, 2013 Rosana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2014
I am not sure why I had this book in my reading list. I must have read a review somewhere and added it without much thought. Then, I sometimes feel I should rest from fiction and should include the odd non-fiction book in my reading – like sorbet to cleanse the palate.

So I didn't know what to expect from these essays. I guess I anticipated something in the lines of Joan Didion or Anna Quindlen, essays grounded in journalism and social critique. But Rebecca Solnit delivered something new. It is n
Francesca Marciano
Sep 08, 2013 Francesca Marciano rated it it was amazing
This book is hard to describe, it makes me think of a constellation, a dot to dot thinking process, rambling and fascinating prose that takes you in unexpected places at every page. Getting lost means many things at once: it means to lose, to be lost, to disappear, to fail, and so much more. Rebecca Solnit takes you through all these places, telling different stories. Her writing is as sharp as a blade, sentence after sentence she clears her way in the maze that she's crossing. A very unique boo ...more
Jun 25, 2007 Minh-Ha rated it it was ok
It's an OK read but it wears a little -- too many tidy observations disguising themselves as philosophy.
Sep 17, 2009 Mara rated it it was amazing
I read a lot of this book while walking. I'd carry it with me while walking my son to school and take a really long route back home so I could read more of it because it is one of those books perfectly suited to reading and walking if you're into that kind of thing (and how grateful am I to live in a neighborhood where this doesn't especially raise eyebrows?) And walking I wouldn't get frustrated that it was a library book and I couldn't underline in it and instead got to carry it back to my jou ...more
Aug 30, 2014 Danielle rated it liked it
My book club just finished this one by Rebecca Solnit. As always, her writing is poetic and lyrical. Her work often has a memoir-quality to it, and this is no different. I was surprised that she seemed so distant and impersonal. She focused mostly on other people who are lost in one way or another, and didn’t really describe her own experience fully. My group wondered if it’s because maybe Solnit herself isn’t comfortable with the loss of control, and so her way of looking at this subject matter ...more
Jan 28, 2013 Penny rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
What a wonderful book - a collection of beautifully written essays that lead effortlessly on from one subject to another. Only someone with a huge intellect and highly imaginative mind could have even begun to write in this way.
But I honestly believe that Solnit could make any subject she chose to write about interesting.
Nov 22, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A really lovely philosophical exploration of the concept of being lost, in all its various meanings.
Ana Feliciano
Apr 06, 2017 Ana Feliciano rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic, 2017-reads
Rebecca Solnit is in so many ways a life guide for me. This book is gorgeous and it provided me with a comfort I didn't know I needed. She mixes her personal life experience with historical and anthropological background to explore marching into the unknown, how it's okay to not know one's way, to explore and wander and face life's uncertainties.
Jul 23, 2012 Brynn rated it it was amazing
"The question then is how to get lost. Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra incognita in between lies a life of discovery."

"…It suggests too that to reside in comfort can be to have fallen by the wayside. Go to hell, but keep moving once you get there, come out the other side. "

"Of course to forget the past is to lose the sense of loss that is also memory of an absent richness and a set of clues to navigate the presen
Aug 08, 2010 Jana rated it really liked it
This little book lived for months half-read and near neglected in my bedside table until I polished it off a couple of weeks ago. It's not that I wasn't enjoying it or finding it meaningful, but only that life was getting too busy for pleasure reading. That being said, the impetus for reading it in the first place was to feed ideas in my studio practice, which it did, and not so much for pure pleasure (though the two aren't mutually exclusive).

My ideas were particularly fed on the four chapters
Laura J. W.
Nov 18, 2012 Laura J. W. rated it it was amazing
"The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water. Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deeper the blue. The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the bl ...more
Nicolás Rivas
Mar 12, 2015 Nicolás Rivas rated it really liked it
I know some guys that speak like machine guns. I guess we all know them. Most of them I try to avoid, being myself an introvert, but two or three are also good at telling stories and have interesting things to say, thus I look forward to meet them. Being with them is like going to a show, you don't talk at all but when you're done you want to comment what you just heard. This book feels like hearing one of these guys. Rebecca Solnit just goes on, doesn't stop for anything and never looks back, b ...more
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Rebecca Solnit is an American author who often writes on the environment, politics, place, and art. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications in print and online, including the Guardian newspaper and Harper's Magazine, where she is the first woman to regularly write the Easy Chair column founded in 1851. She is also a regular contributor to the political blog TomDispatch and to LitHub.

More about Rebecca Solnit...

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“The art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.” 160 likes
“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.” 154 likes
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