What We Are Reading May 31 2013

This week we celebrating Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways, a snippet from Rebecca Solnit’s forthcoming book, our singing planets and the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of Mt. Everest!

“The object we call a book is not the real book, but its seed or potential, like a music score. It exists full only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside of the head of the reader, where the seed germinates and the symphony resounds. A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another.”

Rebecca Solnit has a new book, The Faraway Nearby, coming out in June. Here’s an excerpt on the power of storytelling and reading courtesy of Guernica.

What is the sound of a planet moving through space? NASA shares a video for your ears.

“The landscape is not something to be viewed and appraised from a distance, as if it were a panel in a frieze or a canvas in a frame. It is not the passive object of our gaze, but rather a volatile participant – a fellow subject which arches and bristles at us, bristles into us. Landscape is still often understood as a noun connoting fixity, scenery, an immobile painterly decorum. I prefer to think of the word as a noun containing a hidden verb: landscape scapes, it is dynamic and commotion causing, it sculpts and shapes us not only over the courses of our lives but also instant by instant, incident by incident. I prefer to take ‘landscape’ as a collective term for the temperature and pressure of the air, the fall of the light and its rebounds, the textures and surfaces of rock, soil and building, the sounds (cricket screech, bird cry, wind through the trees), the scents (pine resin, hot stone, crushed thyme) and the uncountable other transitory phenomena and atmospheres that together comprise the bristling presence of a particular place at a particular moment.”

Several of us have been reading and exclaiming over Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot. He’s a gifted observer and writer who may become your favorite literary traveling companion. Here’s an insightful review from The Guardian.

Expeditions to Mount Everest have generated a mountain of books. Here’s a quick survey of the literature including this year’s additions on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the first ascent by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.


This is yet another in a series of posts about what we’re reading at Whole Earth: stories about the environment, ecology, travel, outdoor living, ideas, art, writing, history, science, and creativity, and the people who make it happen. Have a suggestion? Please leave us a comment so we can add it to our reading list.