History – Exploration and Discovery

Focus on: Exploration and Discovery
The Man Who Ate his Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest…
by Anthony Brandt

The search for the elusive Northwest Passage to Asia — a way across North America by boat — consumed 19th-century British explorers, but their expeditions were dangerous and often fatal. In addition, public interest and support for Arctic exploration waxed and waned. Britain’s numerous and dangerously optimistic attempts to explore the frozen waters north of Canada sent many men to their deaths, including Sir John Franklin, some of whose crew may have resorted to cannibalism before succumbing to disease and starvation.The Man Who Ate His Boots engagingly recounts these sometimes tragic efforts and the politics that drove them.

The Vikings: A History
by Robert Ferguson

The History Channel has made Viking exploration familiar to history buffs in recent years; readers who want a comprehensive and accessible book on these Norse traders and raiders will find it in Scandinavian studies specialist Robert Ferguson’s The Vikings. While material gain inspired the voyages of many of these warriors and seamen, Ferguson also details more subtle influences on their lives. Discussing archaeological findings, language, literature, and genetics, he also brings to life Norse mythology and the influences of Christianity. Informative to scholars and accessible to general readers, this book provides a compelling, thorough introduction.

River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana’s Legendary Voyage of Death and…
by Buddy Levy

Conquistador Francisco Orellana accomplished fame and fortune during the 16th-century Spanish expeditions to South America. A relative of the Pizarro family, Orellana participated in their conquest of the Incas, but his name is familiar today more because his party were the first Europeans to navigate the entire length of the Amazon River. In River of Darkness, journalist Buddy Levy recounts Orellana’s exploits, giving particular attention to the Amazon region’s geography, flora and fauna, and native peoples. This well-paced account offers not only compelling adventure, but also engaging history that benefits from recent archaeological and anthropological discoveries.

Red Rover: Inside the Story of Robotic Space Exploration, from Genesis to the…
by Roger Wiens

Among other achievements, geochemist Roger Wiens was instrumental in building the ChemCam, a device mounted on NASA’s Rover Curiosity — transmitting from Mars since 2012 — that uses a laser to reveal the mineral composition of Martian rocks. In this memoir, Wiens recounts his career in science, discussing personal triumphs and setbacks, as well as reviewing the political, financial, and bureaucratic hurdles that routinely hobble space research. Red Rover will appeal to readers fascinated by astronomy, especially those intrigued by robotic exploration on Mars. For more on the development of Curiosity, check out engineer Rob Manning’s insider account, Mars Rover Curiosity.

The Ice Balloon: S.A. Andrée and the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration
by Alec Wilkinson

Of those who tried to reach the North Pole before 1900, Swedish explorer Salomon Andrée was the only one to go by balloon, but he never returned. The Ice Balloon is author Alec Wilkinson’s account of this unique attempt, launched in 1897. Drawing primarily on the personal records of Andrée and his two companions — discovered in 1930 along with their remains — Wilkinson paints an evocative portrait of the explorer and recounts the party’s ordeal after their balloon crashed. For a fascinating account of the tribulations of polar exploration, don’t miss this “captivating” (Library Journal) book.

List created 7/7/16 – James Hartmann

Adapted from Nextreads.

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