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Arctic Dreams

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  6,515 ratings  ·  520 reviews
Winner of the National Book Award

This bestselling, groundbreaking exploration of the Far North is a classic of natural history, anthropology, and travel writing.

The Arctic is a perilous place. Only a few species of wild animals can survive its harsh climate. In this modern classic, Barry Lopez explores the many-faceted wonders of the Far North: its strangely stunted forest
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 4.23  · 
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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
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. ...more
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. ...more
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
Brendan Monroe
I have always felt drawn northward. There's just something about the north — be it the relative isolation, the cold, the light/darkness — that has always lent it a sense of mystery in my mind.

The title "Arctic Dreams" encapsulates this attraction perfectly. There is something dreamlike about this fascination with the north, and everything set in it (Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy comes to mind).

Even today, if I find out that a particular story is set in some northern location — 
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
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 ... ...more
I limped along just a few pages at a time before admitting defeat and skimming to the end (it was the 20 pages on musk oxen that really did me in). For me, the reading experience was most akin to The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen in that both are about a literal journey in an extreme environment, yet what stands out are the philosophical musings. Where Matthiessen was animated by Buddhist ideas about selfhood and loss, Lopez takes the secular long view of human life and responsibility in lig ...more
This book gets four-stars from me for the quality of its prose and the scope and depth of the research. No one can write exhaustively about a continent, but Lopez writes in great depth about the Arctic and the Northern Polar regions, and this is a book of great ambition and thought. At times, I found my attention wandered, but this was because, due to the scope of the book, Lopez tackles subject that do not interest me, as well as ones that do, and so I can't criticize him too harshly for the ti ...more
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
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
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
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
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.
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If I wasn’t already obsessed by the Far North, this book has pushed me off the deep end in the best way. Lopez is such a thoughtful writer, and yet his descriptions of his journeys and natural observations don’t lose any vividness. You feel like you are in the presence of a smart, compassionate, and gracious guide. Lopez’ conceptions of the Arctic land are wonderful to read and it is great to have this white author bring so much indigenous culture and knowledge into the book. He regards the land ...more
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
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
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
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
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.
Oct 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
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
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 ...more
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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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