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Round about the Earth


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About the Author

Joyce E. Chaplin is the James Duncan Phillips Professor of History at Harvard University. She is the author of four previous books of nonfiction, including The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius (2006), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (Science and Technology Category), and winner of the Annibel Jenkins Prize of American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.


Hardship, frolic, barnstorming, and spiritual enigma shape this scintillating history of round-the-world travel. Harvard historian Chaplin (The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius) traces evolving styles of circumnavigation from the Age of Sail's epics of scurvy and shipwreck through the chic, precisely scheduled luxury-liner tourism of the late British Empire to modern times, when globe-trotting on everything from bicycles to airplanes and space capsules could be an exercise in long-distance banality, a political statement, or a solo voyage of self-discovery. Along the way she lucidly explains the innovations and soggy pitfalls of developing transport technologies, explores the cultural meanings-her exegesis of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days is a gem-and outlines the human experience of circumnavigation; one constant, she notes, is the need for reassuring companionship, whether pets or local navigators kidnapped to point the sea routes forward. The book's heart is its profusion of entertaining travel picaresques with their gallery of colorful figures on grand, eccentric, or piratical quests. These anecdotes are so many and so repetitive that the text occasionally feels like it's going in circles, but Chaplin is such a charming, perceptive raconteur that we're happy to drift in the eddies of her prose. Photos, 4 maps. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Nov. 13) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

People who set out to travel around the world are a special breed, distinct from other explorers and travelers, says Chaplin (history, Harvard Univ.; The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius). What makes them so special? Chaplin posits that it's their ability to think on a planetary scale and that their voyages are measured in time, space, and death. Her book is divided into three acts of "geodrama," a term the author uses to describe how the around-the-world voyage requires the traveler to give his or her whole self over to the endeavor, initially to master the earth and, later, to protect it. "Fear" covers Magellan to Cook (1519-1775), when round-the-world travel was extremely dangerous and such explorers were lucky to survive. "Confidence" covers from the 1780s to the 1920s, when colonialism, and improvements in technology, made circumnavigation less risky. "Doubt" extends from the 1920s to the present, a period in which new modes of transportation took the traveler to new heights and dizzying speeds and even farther from terra firma. VERDICT This accessible and well-researched book offers a concise and compelling history of circumnavigation. It deserves a spot on all library shelves, especially libraries with exploration and geography collections, and is recommended to all armchair explorers.-Margaret Atwater-Singer, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

"A richly textured narrative. ... Colorful adventures ... fill the pages of this unconventional world history...Chaplin knows how to tell an absorbing story, weaving compelling reflections together with captivating vignettes. Augmented by first-person accounts, her prose can call to mind the late Samuel Eliot Morison, another Harvard historian whose dramatic narratives frequently unfolded at sea." * Wall Street Journal *
"By chronicling the way humans have traveled around the world in the past 500 years, Joyce Chaplin shows the interplay of aspirations and technology, from sail and steam to jets and rockets. More profoundly, she explores what it means to circle our globe, act on a planetary scale, and encompass both figuratively and literally the whole earth." -- Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs
"[Chaplin writes] with a storyteller's brevity and dry wit in this captivating account of world-rounding expeditions." * The New York Times Book Review *
"In this thrilling history, Joyce Chaplin has illuminated one of the greatest dramas of humankind: the quest to journey around the globe. She not only brilliantly brings to life these mad-cap explorations; she shows how they transformed our understanding of the planet." -- David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z
"This history, the first of its kind, is a lively charge through 500 years of worldwide exploration (and beyond)....Chaplin's greatest feat is convincingly demonstrating that circumnavigation is not just a series of dates, death tallies and speed records... In the present day, that sense of collective, global history is more urgent than ever." * Los Angeles Times *
"Weaving myriad connections among disparate voyagers, Chaplin combines acute insights with amazing adventures in a vastly entertaining narrative." [Starred Review] * Booklist *
"Hardship, frolic, barnstorming, and spiritual enigma shape this scintillating history of round-the-world travel...The book's heart is its profusion of entertaining travel picaresques with their gallery of colorful figures on grand, eccentric, or piratical quests...Chaplin is such a charming, perceptive raconteur that we're happy to drift in the eddies of her prose." [Starred Review] * Publishers Weekly *
"All the voyagers who have ventured fearful into the vast unknown spaces of our planet have a patron saint: Harvard historian Joyce Chaplin. Did she, like them, really appreciate what she was getting into when she set sail to track the adventures of the circumnavigators by sail, steam, and spaceship over 500 years?
The risks for Chaplin, as the first complete chronicler of the globe-circlers, were that she would either get becalmed in a Pacific ocean of research, or lose the narrative thread in unloading all her plunder.
The reader may safely embark with eager anticipation. She can be welcomed home with garlands. Her book is a treasure of thrilling stories, replete with insights into the advances of science, technology and medicine, and it's reflective, too. The planet we encircle and embrace is our only home in the cosmos." -- Sir Harold Evans, author of The American Century
"Joyce Chaplin is a great historian with a fresh eye and a sure touch. She is a story teller with keen insight, command of the material, a sense of whimsy, and a flair for portraying human drama. What a wonderful way to go around the world." -- Evan Thomas, author of Ike's Bluff
"Rich in detail, fresh perspective and even wit, it's a sweeping discourse that covers the 500 years from Portuguese explorer Magellan to contemporary times. It's a tale of adventure, danger and fascinating insight into what has, for five centuries, compelled humans to `take on' the planet... marvelous...fascinating." * American Profile *

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