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The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas

by Jerry Dennis

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Yet another example of fantastic science writing. And my second of two in a row that puts the author front and center in the drama surrounding the science.

Clearly, I am not correct in thinking that Rebecca Skloot was unique in making her personal story an important and integral part of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Because that's also what Jerry Dennis does in this volume-- in order to tell the story of the Great Lakes, he actually journeys them, describing his feelings and his crew mates' feelings about the adventure, interspersing the adventurous sections with science, history and discussions of pest control.

And in the process, you learn a lot about the Lakes while being entertained. I live smack dab between 3 (4 if you count interestingly) of the Lakes, so this was more interesting to me than perhaps for most peopled. But I'd be surprised if people around the world wouldn't be alternately thrilled, saddened and educated by this book. It's quite well written-- he has a poetic side that does him credit for a book of this scope. How do you appropriately describe waves? Dunes? Vast expanses of blue? Poetry has to be in your blood to do that.

Also, water in general? I have a far healthier respect for all aspects of it than I did before reading this. ( )
  khage | Feb 10, 2013 |
Even though I live in Michigan, I was a little concerned when I picked up this book that my interest in the topic wouldn't last the length of the book. Dennis turns out to be an excellent storyteller, however, and provides evocative descriptions of history and his own experiences on the Great Lakes. The thread through the book is a trip he and a mostly seasoned crew took across the Great Lakes, up the Erie Canal, to the Atlantic Ocean, to deliver a tall ship to its new owner. Along the way he fills out the narrative with historical and natural details about the areas they sail through. This sort of book isn't a typical read for me, but it turned out to be an excellent companion this summer. ( )
  Sandhiker61 | Aug 14, 2011 |
For three years, my family and I lived in South Bend, Indiana. In slightly more than 30 minutes, we could be on a beach on the southeast shore of Lake Michigan. My kids dug in the sand and played in the waves, while my husband and I took pictures of sunsets and fell in love with Lake Michigan. We still vacation there often, and this year, I picked up Jerry Dennis's book at a small bookshop in Leelanau.

The Living Great Lakes is part natural history, part travel memoir, and part cautionary environmental tale. Much of the book recounts Dennis's trip from Traverse City, MI to Bangor, ME as a crewmember aboard a tall schooner. Along the way, he peppers his adventures with historical stories and present-day challenges faced by the Great Lakes. The end result is a book that helped me better understand the breadth of the impact of these lakes on the economy, the environment, and the people who take the time to find the heart of them. ( )
  porch_reader | Nov 14, 2010 |
Mostly well-written book, built on a trip by boat from Traverse City to Bar Harbor. Lots & lots of other stories are fit in, and lots of facts about the Great Lakes. He also talks about the Erie Canal & Long Island Sound. It gives a good sense of the history & geography of the Great Lakes.
  franoscar | Jan 2, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312331037, Paperback)

If fresh water is to be treasured, the Great Lakes are the mother lode. No bodies of water can compare to them. One of them, Superior, is the largest lake on earth, and the five lakes together contain a fifth of the world's supply of standing fresh water. Their ten thousand miles of shoreline bound eight states and a Canadian province and are longer than the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. Their surface area of 95,000 square miles is greater than New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island combined. People who have never visited them -- who have never seen a squall roar across Superior or the horizon stretch unbroken across Michigan or Huron -- have no idea how big they are. They are so vast that they dominate much of the geography, climate, and history of North America. In one way or another, they affect the lives of tens of millions of people.

The Living Great Lakes is the most complete book ever written about the history, nature, and science of these remarkable lakes at the heart of North America. From the geological forces that formed them to the industrial atrocities that nearly destroyed them, to the greatest environmental success stories of our time, the lakes are portrayed in all their complexity. The book, however, is much more than just history. It is also the story of the lakes as told by biologists, fishermen, sailors, and others whom the author grew to know while traveling with them on boats and hiking with them on beaches and islands.

The book is also the story of a personal journey. It is the narrative of a six-week voyage through the lakes and beyond as a crewmember on a tallmasted schooner, and a memoir of a lifetime spent on and near the lakes. Through storms and fog, on remote shores and city waterfronts, the author explores the five Great Lakes in all seasons and moods and discovers that they and their connecting waters -- including the Erie Canal, the Hudson River, and the East Coast from New York to Maine -- offer a surprising and bountiful view of America. The result is a meditation on nature and our place in the world, a discussion and cautionary tale about the future of water resources, and a celebration of a place that is both fragile and robust, diverse, rich in history and wildlife, often misunderstood, and worthy of our attention.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:13 -0400)

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