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Arctic Dreams

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4.21  ·  Rating details ·  5,975 ratings  ·  428 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
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Paperback, 496 pages
Published October 2nd 2001 by Vintage (first published 1986)
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Donna Yes, he does discuss artists who painted the Arctic and how they were influenced by the odd light conditions there and by shipwrecks and hardships.

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Average rating 4.21  · 
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Kenneth
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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Huan-hua
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Joy D
Extremely readable and beautifully written nonfiction covering almost every aspect of the arctic. This book contains elements of biology, zoology, botany, archeology, anthropology, ecology, ornithology, geography, oceanography, meteorology, geology, cartography, and more. It includes segments on muskoxen, polar bears, beluga and bowhead whales, narwhals, seals, walruses, migration patterns, where its people originated and how they live, hunting, ice and snow, the aurora borealis, history of its ...more
Francisco
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Quo
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Naturalists, Philologists & those with a keen intetrest in the Arctic..
Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez is an extraordinary work that encompasses far more than just nature or the Arctic; rather, one could suggest that the book is a very lengthy consideration of finding one's humanity through nature, in this particular case via the experience of the Arctic. Throughout the long work by Lopez, the author gives ample evidence of a heightened sensitivity to the natural world that is almost matched by his fascination with & his expressive use of the English language.



Even if
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Paul
The Arctic has captivated people for centuries, it has held the promise of wealth, is a place of unspoilt beauty whilst being one of the toughest places to survive in. It has drawn explorers and writers, adventurers and artists who use the landscape for inspiration. But it is an incredibly harsh environment; it takes no prisoners.

The celestial light on an arctic cusp

This hostile landscape is a place that Lopez has returned to time and time again to discover the people and animals that navigate a
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Diane
Sep 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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Ms.pegasus
Jun 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  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 66°33' 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
Sher
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Stunning a real 5 for me! The writing is lyrical- a meditation on the Arctic- its animals, its ways and the humans who have interacted with it since the early explorers and also the Eskimos. The chapter on the polar bear and the musk oxen were fantastic. I learned a lot about these animals I did not know. This book captures how the Arctic "captures" the imagination, dreams, and desires of humans.
Shows the Arctic is so much more than a frigid desert- in fact its not barren in any way- its filled
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J.K. Grice
I liked what Lopez is presenting here with wildlife and the natural world of the arctic. However, the passages sometimes suffer from writing that is too dry and not engaging enough to hold the reader's interest. ARCTIC DREAMS was a book I hated to quit on, but I could only make it about half way through.
Sarah
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"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
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Claire
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Rebecca
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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James Murphy
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've known about Arctic Dreams since its publication. My reading it now, 33 years later, stems from my becoming convinced Barry Lopez's newest book, Horizon, is one I want to read. Because he was untasted, I thought it wise to get a feel for the man's writing and ideas before committing to the bigger read and, also important, the bigger purchase. I'm pleased with the result.

Arctic Dreams is impressive. Even understanding it's his masterpiece, I'm still astonished at the perceptive, lyrical prose
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Josh
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A thorough examination of the Canadian arctic's wildlife, people, landscape and history. Probably a must-read for the arctic-obsessed. Lopez's writing is outstanding and thoughtful. The arctic is mesmerizing, amazing, and beautiful, but a thoroughly brutal place. The landscape is hospitable only to the supremely well-adapted, but even then will turn on animal or human populations in a way that better climates won't. A stretch of bad days in temperate climates will inconvenience you--in the arcti ...more
Philippe
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ecology, travel
I read this book a long time ago. Halfway my military service training camp I broke my foot. I spent endless days waiting in the military hospital for treatment and check-ups. Lopez' Arctic Dreams pulled me through that nasty period. It was balm for my soul. A lifelong fascination for boreal territories was the result. Soon after my military service I traveled to Greenland where I trekked to the Inlandsis with a friend. Truly unforgettable memories ...
Rosie Rios
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I connected to about half of the chapters, mostly the chapters about arctic wildlife. I never thought I would get emotional reading about a muskox but the chapter was so beautifully written! I really appreciated the imagery of the arctic but some chapters were so overloaded with information that it was difficult to get through.
Ashes
A beautiful and solid classic about the Arctic, written in a perfect mix of hard science, history, and - dare I say it - poetical musings. I'm just still in awe, so this review won't be long.

Because Barry Lopez covers a lot of ground here - from the lives of polar bears, narwhals and musk oxen, through physics and geology, to the Eskimo culture and the history of Arctic exploration and beyond - it may not all be of interest to any single person. At the same time, it's so thorough, thoughtful, in
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Joshua Buhs
Interesting, but unsatisfying. Part of which is me; part the book.

I've known about this book for years and years, but never got around to it. If I had read it when I was 12 or 13, I think I would have considered it one of the best books ever and really sunk into it. I would have been captivated by how smart López seems and tried to memorize so many of the facts he presents, and the stories. Now, not so much.

For all that the book is about connecting to the land, and its intimacies, López has a ve
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Abby
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
“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
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flannery
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"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
Suzanne
Originally published in 1986, Arctic Dreams is a collection of essays about the northernmost part of the earth, with an examination of the land, wildlife, peoples and history of the Arctic. It was also a National Book Award winner, so what's not to love?

Well, I didn't love it. I was looking to travel (through the book) to the North Pole, observing the wonders of the natural world there. I was happy to receive historical background on Arctic exploration, and a scientific look at the environment.
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Carol Douglas
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful book. I was fascinated by the descriptions of the permafrost, the arctic blooming season, polar bears, musk ox (which are not oxen), narwhals, and other animals. Because the book was written many years ago, it includes the misinformation that lemmings commit suicide when they are too abundant, which has since been shown to be false.

Lopez spent much time in different parts of the arctic -- Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and more. He undertook difficult tasks that he disliked -- s
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Nostalgia Reader
3.5 stars.

Lopez is an excellent memoir writer, but not the greatest non-fiction writer, so although I enjoyed the wide-reaching topics covered here, I can't bring myself to round the 3.5 stars up to 4.

This is a lengthy study of the Arctic, with chapters covering specific wildlife, the history of the exploration of the region, weather and ice phenomena, and some of the general scholarly research that has been done on the Arctic. It's an intense read, sometimes because of the sheer amount of info
...more
Robin
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book has been on my TBR list for years. I'm not sorry I waited, it really came off the shelf at the right time. This is a meditation and work of art on landscape - what we see, how we relate to it. So beautiful and so relevant to present discussions of natural history and climate
Allie
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I spent nearly half a year working my way slowly through Arctic Dreams. It's a lovely, meditative book on the natural history of the Arctic. López's prose is densely informative, but also thoughtful, literary, and respectful of the very human history of a land often thought to be "empty" by its colonizers.

Some of the book's ecological concerns are dated in a way I find particularly depressing - in 1986, the author's biggest concern was industrial development. He had no conception of climate cha
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Sarah
Dec 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Laurie
Jul 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: NG Traveler
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.
Northpapers
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Anmiryam
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of my favorite non-fiction books of all times! I can't believe I hadn't marked it as read here on Goodreads.
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Barry Holstun Lopez is an American author, essayist, and fiction writer whose work is known for its environmental and social concerns.

Lopez 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
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As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of young ...
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“What does it mean to grow rich?
Is it to have red-blooded adventures and to make a ‘fortune,’ which is what brought the whalers and other entrepreneurs north?

Or is it, rather, to have a good family life and to be imbued with a far-reaching and intimate knowledge of one’s homeland, which is what the Tununirmiut told the whalers at Pond’s Bay wealth was?

Is it to retain a capacity for awe and astonishment in our lives, to continue to hunger after what is genuine and worthy? Is it to live at moral peace with the universe?”
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“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.” 27 likes
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