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Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  109 ratings  ·  13 reviews
The collaboration of two friends-one a novelist, one a novelist, one a marine biologist-produced a volume in which fascinating popular science is woven into a narrative of man's dreams, his ideals, and his accomplishments through the centuries. Sea of Cortez is one of those rare books that are all things to all readers. Actually the record of a brief collecting expedition ...more
Paperback, 656 pages
Published July 8th 2009 by Penguin Books
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Laura Leaney
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not to be confused with the edition called The Log From the Sea of Cortez, this book is a synthesis of Steinbeck's observations while traveling the Sea of Cortez, philosophical musings, and explorations into the biological life of the ocean. It integrates the specimen notes of Ed Ricketts (marine biologist) with Steinbeck's own journal. I read most of it in anticipation of my week in San Carlos, which is featured in Steinbeck's travels.

Despite bogging down a few times (the thing is lengthy!!) t
François Vigneault
Oct 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I bought this book this during a trip to Baja California Sur (shout out to Allende Books in La Paz, an English-language bookstore well worth a quick visit if you ever find yourself there).

The book is at turns charming, incisive, bizarre, rambling, and very much of its time. Due to the nature of the subject matter, the book is chock full of somewhat discomforting descriptions of the killing of animals, and not always for strictly scientific purposes. Not sure if I would say it's an essential read
Apr 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, non-fiction
This was the passage that stayed with me:

Some time ago a Congress of honest men refused a appropriation of several hundreds of millions of dollars to feed our people. They said, and they meant it, that the economic structure of the country would collapse under the pressure of such an expenditure. And now the same men, just as honestly, are devoting many billions to the manufacture, transportation and detonation of explosives to protect the people they would not feed.

Steinbeck wrote this in 1941
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2013
A strange, rare, hybrid beast of a book, but a beautiful one. Steinbeck and Ricketts (though it's a little unclear, in this case, where one begins and the other ends) recount their trip to collect marine specimens. We end up with anecdotes (often hilarious), descriptions of marine life, and musings upon nature, philosophy, "nonteleological thinking", and art.

Not for everyone, I suppose, but a delight for the right person.
Kevin Driskill
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, science
I think it is refreshing for scientific prose to be so eloquently written and Steinbeck brings a deft hand to the table. There are so many memorable parts and side stories that This tale stands out as one of Steibeck's greats.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Such a fun mix of marine biology, human reflection, and story telling.

Here's an example of classic Steinbeck story telling:

"Hearing a burst of chicken voices, we looked over a mud wall and saw that there were indeed chickens in the yard behind it. We asked then of a woman if we might buy several. They could be sold, she said, but they were not what one calls "for sale." We entered her yard. One of the proofs that they were not for sale was that we had to catch them ourselves. We pick out two wh
Joe McMahon
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lyrical and funny travelogue of a biological collecting trip to Baja California.

This version is probably mostly written by Ed Ricketts, not Steinbeck himself; Steinbeck did edit it. There are definite resemblances in style, most likely due to Steinbeck's editing, but there's a lift and solidity to the philosophical sections that betray another author's hand. Steinbeck wrote well about Monterey and its surroundings, but the fierce love of the shore, the ocean, and its animals are all Ricketts.
Dave Carroll
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Steinbeck Not Glenn Beck continues!

It took me longer then expected to get through "Sea of Cortez" as the science which comprised two-thirds of the work was a bit dense.

However, the actual story telling in this maritime science adventure taking place on the threshhold of World War II featured more humor than is typical for Steinbeck.

Up next... "Bombs Away." In 1942, the Army Air Force commission...ed Steinbeck to depict life for a B-17 bomber crew. Hemingway and many other anti-war writers of
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Steinbech goes on a marine collecting journey around the Baja Peninsula. This travelogue is combined with several essays. Steinbeck joined his longtime friend, Ed Ricketts who was the model for the character of "Doc" in his novel Cannery Row for this scientific expedition. Steinbeck also came upon the Mexican legend which formed the basis of his future novel, the Pearl.
Aug 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Not sure how I feel about this edition. While the copious notes, photographs and illustrations are interesting, I’m not sure how useful they were and they didn’t seem well labeled – meaning that I wasn’t often able to find the photograph that corresponded to the animal collected on the expedition. That may also be because of the photographic failures by the crew. The biggest crime committed by this edition is that it omits the essay about Ed Rickets that is contained in the Penguin Classics edit ...more
Ken Randall
Nov 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And eloquent travel journal with timeless reflections

A very thorough travel journal with timeless reflections on human nature mixed with in each chapter. I say timeless because what Steinbeck wrote in the late 1930s and early 1940s seems to apply as much then as it does now. Though the descriptions can be a bit long sometimes, it was a eloquent travel journal – perhaps the best I've ever read.
Bonnie Irwin
Mar 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Part travelogue, part story, part marine biology guide, Sea of Cortez is a collaboration of Johbn Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts, each of whom, presumably, takes the readers on asides in their respective interests. I admit I enjoyed the marine bio asides far more than Steinbeck's philosophical musings. Having just seem a Monterey Bay Aquarium exhibit on Baja, however, I enjoyed this book for its depiction of where the creatures I saw came from.
Edward Renehan
Mar 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Both science and literature of the highest order. A neglected classic ... and a precursor to the eloquence of Rachel Carson.
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John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley

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