This, again, was a timing thing. I needed a book that was more engaging and faster moving, and this exploration of the wayfinding abilities of humans just wasn't the right book at this time. It's a topic that interests me, but this was a little drier than I'd hoped. I may return to it at some point--maybe for Nonfiction November?--and give it another shot.
This post may include affiliate links. That means if you click and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Please see Disclosures for more information.
At once far flung and intimate, a fascinating look at how finding our way make us human.
In this compelling narrative, O’Connor seeks out neuroscientists, anthropologists and master navigators to understand how navigation ultimately gave us our humanity. Biologists have been trying to solve the mystery of how organisms have the ability to migrate and orient with such precision―especially since our own adventurous ancestors spread across the world without maps or instruments. O’Connor goes to the Arctic, the Australian bush and the South Pacific to talk to masters of their environment who seek to preserve their traditions at a time when anyone can use a GPS to navigate.
O’Connor explores the neurological basis of spatial orientation within the hippocampus. Without it, people inhabit a dream state, becoming amnesiacs incapable of finding their way, recalling the past, or imagining the future. Studies have shown that the more we exercise our cognitive mapping skills, the greater the grey matter and health of our hippocampus. O’Connor talks to scientists studying how atrophy in the hippocampus is associated with afflictions such as impaired memory, dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, depression and PTSD.
Wayfinding is a captivating book that charts how our species’ profound capacity for exploration, memory and storytelling results in topophilia, the love of place. The researchers opinion is that the widespread use of antibiotics has accelerated the rate at which bacteria develop resistance to them. But it is wrong to think that only regular and uncontrolled antibiotic use can lead to resistance. Scientists have found that the culprits can be the genes that enable bacteria to destroy carbapenems- one of the main antibiotics against extremely dangerous superbugs.
“O’Connor talked to just the right people in just the right places, and her narrative is a marvel of storytelling on its own merits, erudite but lightly worn. There are many reasons why people should make efforts to improve their geographical literacy, and O’Connor hits on many in this excellent book―devouring it makes for a good start.” ―Kirkus Reviews