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Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World

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3.98  ·  Rating details ·  94 ratings  ·  18 reviews

At once far flung and intimate, a fascinating look at how finding our way make us human.

"A marvel of storytelling." —Kirkus (Starred Review)

In this compelling narrative, O'Connor seeks out neuroscientists, anthropologists and master navigators to understand how navigation ultimately gave us our humanity. Biologists have been trying to solve the mystery of how organisms have the ab

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Kindle Edition, 354 pages
Published April 30th 2019 by St. Martin's Press
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Ben Babcock
This may not be the best book I read all year, but it is the best non-fiction book I’ve read so far in 2019, and any future non-fiction book this year is going to have to work hard to unseat this one. Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World snuck up on me. When I received my eARC from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press, I was anticipating a mildly interesting book about navigation: maps and charts and compasses and whatnot. Instead, what I ended up with was an intense, fasc ...more
Kim
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
At one point or another, each of us has likely gotten lost. And as twenty-first-century technophiles, we have likely used a global positioning system to get ourselves un-lost. But before GPS and even before paper maps and compasses, our ancestors spread out across the world and learned to navigate vast swathes of seemingly featureless landscapes. How did they do it, and how do their descendants still do it? How does learning to navigate affect our brains? Did the ability to learn to navigate and ...more
Erin
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When’s the last time you meandered through space—anywhere vaguely unknown to you—without that magical Marauder’s Map in your pocket? Can you remember being lost & not reaching for a phone-GPS?
🧭
The first time I set out for college (2000+ miles from home) I got a US road atlas & painstakingly highlighted my route through each state. I visited AAA for more detailed maps (remember TripTiks?). And I carried my mother’s hand-drawn directions to my first night’s stop: my grandparent
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Jake Epstein
“Wayfinding” is, quite possibly, one of the most unique books I have ever read. I cannot think of another book that presents such detailed scientific research alongside interview-driven “folk knowledge” as M.R. O’Connor does here. Both the science and the human-centric anecdotes are amazingly well researched and you can tell the author took care to meticulously check her facts in the writing of this work. For the scientific end of book, the author weaves in insights from countless interviews wit ...more
Natalia Iwanyckyj
“In 2008, the year I got a smartphone, just 8 percent of American mobile phone owners used a navigation application to access maps and find their way; by 2014, 81 percent of owners were using them.”

How did we find our way before Safari and Google Maps and Waze? “Wayfinding” explores the question of how people in the past navigated tundra and forest and praire — and rarely lost their way.

“Fifteen or twenty years ago, the old Inuit couldn’t believe when people started getting lost. Th
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Steven
I'd thought this book might be similar to John Edward Huth's The Lost Art of Finding Our Way . O'Connor does interview Huth and they do talk about some of the same groups, but her approach is a bit different.

O'Connor uses the experiences of Inuit, Aboriginal and Polynesian cultures to illustrate different aspects of scientific inquiry into how human's approach getting around in the world. For the Inuit, this involves intense knowledge of what to our eyes might seem a barren environment
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Sarah Boon
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and clearly written, despite containing enough research material for several books. Reviewed it for The Centre for Humans and Nature Minding Nature blog.
Cat
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't finished this book yet and it may be a bit before I do, But I am enjoying it very much! I read an article in the paper about the hippocampus and the gps devices recently which intrigued me, too. My friends and I used to love to get lost when we traveled, even around town and also in the woods near our homes. We weren't going anywhere and felt we had all day to get un-lost, or that we would discover cool new places. It was entertaining! I read horror stories about gps devices leading to ...more
Emily
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, science
There's a lot of fascinating neurology and anthropology and linguistics and history in this book, but the meta-story is what really affected me, in reading. It's a story about how immensely capable humans are of creating and destroying knowledge. A dramatic advance in understanding brain functions followed by the revelation of how smartphone and GPS use degrade those functions. Incredible engineering of transportation technology like planes and automobiles, and how the burning of fuel to move th ...more
Nathaniel E
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It spoke to me not only in this moment but to me at each step in my life. It was a book that captured my own exploration or journey as I've navigated this life.

I've always been fascinated with (my) place in this world - and O'Connor has presented such a rich and varied way of looking at place (and space) through an examination of science, history, and sociology.

She takes us around the world -- from the Australian Outback to Northern Canada to Fiji -- to
...more
Anna
Sep 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting information about the brain and what is going as we navigate through the environment, as well as fascinating stories of expert "way-finders" from the arctic, Australia, and Oceania. There was a surprising amount of overlap here from a book I have read previously on memory (funnily enough, I can't at the moment remember the title of that book). I have never been a GPS user but the last few chapters make me reluctant ever to start.
Marcia Robinson
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book because I learned not only about other cultures and their respective history of wayfinding, but also a lot about the brain. Plus, I came away with an extensive list of more books to read. I do agree with a lot of the other comments I read that the biggest drawback to this book was that it got quite technical in some of the chapters. It was definitely worth the effort though.
Du
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: planning
Really interesting scientific look at how we make our way, and how there are some intuitive, yet not explainable techniques and skills that have been developed by indigenous people. There is a level of expertise and a level of curiosity involved in the writing that is different than the usual make uo of this book.
Heidi Hoelscher
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book! It was kind of a slow read and had sections that seemed to get bogged down in a lot of details. My only complaints are about the last 1.5 chapters of the book which started to take on a kind of preachy tone. But the rest of the book was great and made me think about navigation and the way we interact with the world a little more deeply.
Teresa
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, non-fiction
3.5
Victoria
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was excellent.
Foggygirl
A great fascinating read
Marguerite Czajka
I liked this book, but given my love of wandering, I thought I'd like it a lot more. It was a little dry to me.
Tiffanie
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Sep 14, 2019
Carolyn Barone Franz
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Nov 12, 2019
Jessica Starkey
rated it it was amazing
Jul 30, 2019
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