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A Field Guide to Getting Lost

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  8,574 ratings  ·  1,085 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, 209 pages
Published June 27th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2005)
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3.99  · 
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 ·  8,574 ratings  ·  1,085 reviews


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Melanie
May 03, 2013 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
...more
Michael
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, favorites
Introspective, while still attentive to the world outside herself, Solnit meanders in this slow-moving collection centered on the concept of "getting lost." The essays read as mosaics of cultural history, autobiography, nature writing, and aesthetic criticism: the depth of Solnit's insight, as well as the vivid contrasts between each essay's parts, rewards careful reading. Those familiar with Solnit through her recent fast-paced political work—typically published first online, later organized in ...more
Dolors
Oct 24, 2016 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
...more
Forrest
Aug 23, 2015 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
...more
ValerieLyn
Apr 09, 2008 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
...more
Lynne King
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Rebecca Solnit does indeed have a way with words. The prose is exquisite and she has added a new dimension to getting lost, not only when looking for a place, but also within oneself.

I could feel myself accompanying her on her peregrinations and it has indeed taught me a few things about myself that I didn't know.

That's all that needs to be said - buy the book, read it, put your feet up, and lose yourself in this remarkable work.
Vipassana
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
...more
aloveiz
Sep 06, 2007 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
...more
El
I like Rebecca Solnit a lot. Mostly as a person as the only thing I have read of hers (outside of the occasional Harper's Bazaar essay), the only other book-length writing of hers, has been Wanderlust: A History of Walking. I liked that one; Solnit is a fellow wanderer, which I can appreciate, and she respects the art and culture of pedestrianism, if that's a thing (which I am now claiming is). I have several of her other books marked as To-Read, I even own a couple. But as a person, she general ...more
Coffee&Quasars
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Will review over the weekend. Piecing together my thoughts on this will take a while.
Liz
Mar 22, 2015 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
...more
Sonja Yoerg
Jun 11, 2014 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
...more
T.D. Whittle
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
Solnit is so very quotable. Whenever I read her essays, in this book or elsewhere, I find myself jotting down excerpts every few minutes. This collection is filled with lovely reflections of her many interests, written eloquently. Overall, it was a true pleasure to read.

My only quibble is that during some passages of my reading I found myself thinking that it is possible to overdue metaphors and similes. Much as I like them and understand that creating good ones is an art in itself, I became fru
...more
Matt
May 02, 2013 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
...more
Ken
Dec 31, 2016 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
...more
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.
Ellie
Aug 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Lydia
Aug 31, 2012 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.
Marc
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Rebecca Solnit is one of the most interesting cultural-historical writers of the moment. You can be denigrating or praising about her being a leading progressive feminist, and she certainly is, but Solnit really digs deeper, especially in this book. "A Field Guide to Getting Lost" is a collection of essays that stand seemingly separate from each other, but they have a clear thread (in this case a 'blue' thread): Solnit muses about the different forms of "getting lost" in life , and how essential ...more
Deea
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Get lost to find yourself
Recommended to Deea by: Dolors
4.5*

Whenever I go to the Mediterranean, I indulge in floating. I do know to swim, but probably because I have not learnt to do this as a child, I still have a fear of water that hinders me from letting go of control and relaxing profoundly in less salty waters. While I float, I feel free. Really free. And I can detach from everything. I assume this feeling is very much alike to what the Buddhists call emptying the mind. It feels liberating. It feels like getting lost, but actually finding yourse
...more
Lara Shipley
Jun 14, 2007 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
...more
Laura
Jan 19, 2012 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
...more
Wayne
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Have you ever been trapped at a cocktail party by someone who, while undeniably smart (and perhaps in a different context might be interesting), is so full of themselves they imagine every single thing they've ever done or thought or experienced is fascinating and you need to hear about it in excruciating detail—for your own good? Mixed tapes, Renaissance painting, rattlesnakes, The Inferno, and love are all in the mix. Naturally, they never once pause to let you participate. Imagine you try to ...more
Viv JM
I think Rebecca Solnit has a beautiful way with words and there were parts of this essay collection that took my breath away. However, other parts I did find to be a little too rambling and meandering to hold my interest, and I preferred the two other books of hers I have read (Men Explain Things to Me and The Mother of All Questions). I definitely still plan to read more of her work though.
Minh-Ha
Jun 25, 2007 rated it it was ok
It's an OK read but it wears a little -- too many tidy observations disguising themselves as philosophy.
Jimmy
Jul 27, 2009 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
...more
Nikki Duvall
Nov 26, 2013 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.
Rosana
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, non-fiction
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
...more
Leah
Jun 03, 2007 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.
Ana Yarí
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
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The F-word: November NONFICTION selection A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST 5 36 Dec 13, 2017 12:24PM  
Booze & Book Club: A Field Guide To Getting Lost 1 3 Aug 22, 2017 02:20PM  
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3,213 followers
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.

Soln
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“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.” 229 likes
“The art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.” 203 likes
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