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A Field Guide to Getting Lost

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  12,786 ratings  ·  1,395 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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Reading Cat If you like creative nonfiction, it's a must read. She takes us from history to art to music to relationships to geography, in a series of essays abou…moreIf you like creative nonfiction, it's a must read. She takes us from history to art to music to relationships to geography, in a series of essays about place and self and lost-ness. (less)

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 ·  12,786 ratings  ·  1,395 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, recs
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
Cecily
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cecily by: Dolors
The Blue of Distance

I’m feeling somewhat lost of late
Perhaps I need to embrace that
To lose myself in a book
A book about getting lost
To find myself in the unknown

I’m intermittently blue, too
Drawn to “the colour of distance”
Seeking happiness and wholeness
A different hue
Maybe a different “who”


Image: Voyage, by Lee Jungho (Source.)

I yield to the languid beauty of distant hues of blue
“The most submissive abandonment…
the dissolving of one’s being in a lake whose surface is infinitely tactile” (Calv
...more
Cecily
Profound and erudite essays about distance; introspective but painted on a multi-dimensional canvas. They focus on place (deserts, forests, mountains, cities) and loss (abandonment, separation), all mediated through culture (literature, music, and art) and relationships.

Solnit’s connecting theme is the need to be lost before you can find yourself. It sounds like the opposite of Matthew 7:7, "seek and you will find”, but it’s not: being lost is part of seeking, and you can’t be found until you’v
...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.
Vartika
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Throughout this book, I couldn't get Picasso's The Blue Room out of my mind. Just like the painting, A Field Guide to Getting Lost holds a deep sense of intimacy; of isolation, the slippage of time and memory; a yearning for and appreciation of the outside. As with the painting, there is a hidden portrait between the covers of this book, a life composed and painted over with disparate, affective visuals, to be lost and found.
The Blue Room (1901), 21 x 24 Oil on Canvas
There is something abou
...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
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
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
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 th
...more
Cheryl
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
"We fly; we dream in darkness; we devour heaven in bites too small to be measured."

With each day we traverse, do we even know who we truly are, where we come from, where we are going? Getting lost is physical and mental, a state of mind, for "the mind too can be imagined as a landscape." We despair whenever we get lost, but what if getting lost is not a problem to be solved, only a necessary route?

Solnit often employs 'place' within her writing to expound upon universal truths or to encapsu
...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
...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
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
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.
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
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.
julieta
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This is my third try of reading Solnit, and I just have to admit, although I like some of the thoughts she brings, she jumps around too much, and my interest usually starts to wane. I did enjoy some parts of this book, some passing thoughts, but I think she is simply not a writer for me to keep reading.
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
Jimmy
My rating can be misleading because I REALLY LOVED about 35% of this book. I would have given it 5 stars if I had felt as strongly about (or even nearly as strongly about) the rest of the book. But there were chapters that I just didn't feel much of a connection to. Which is frustrating because I can tell from the good parts that Solnit can write and can arrive at some amazing insights.

My favorite parts were:

The Blue of Distance (1) - where she talks about how distance creates the illusion of bl
...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
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
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. ...more
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Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books on feminism, western and indigenous history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering  and walking, hope and disaster, including  Call Them By Their True Names (Winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction),  Cinderella Liberator,  Men Explain Things to Me, The Mother of All Questions,  and  Ho ...more

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The word “essays” may bring up memories of tedious composition classes, but today’s collections are anything but dull. Whether it’s...
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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.” 280 likes
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