(guest) book beginnings on Friday: The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by Wade Davis, from Pops

Thanks to Rose City Reader for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.

Pops has a book beginning he felt moved to share.

Here’s Wade Davis’s The Wayfinders (2009). Both the first sentence and first paragraph (only two sentences!) strike me as exceptional, especially for non-fiction. With this, we not only get a glimpse of the author’s subject & writing style, but also the way he works & perceives. Opening this book I had only spare awareness of his theme, but my appetite was already whetted; with this beginning my cup of expectations runneth over!


Wade Davis is an anthropologist & ethnobotanist. This book publishes in entirety a series of 5 lectures he delivered in 2009 in short sequence (1 month) for a prominent regular program on CBC Radio out of Toronto (CBC Massey Lectures.) That is a unique medium today, both as spoken-word and audio-only; I wonder if that had any influence on his dense & evocative style. I would need to read one of his other books to find out!

One of the intense pleasures of travel is the opportunity to live amongst peoples who have not forgotten the old ways, who still feel their past in the wind, touch it in stones polished by rain, taste it in the bitter leaves of plants. Just to know that, in the Amazon, Jaguar shaman still journey beyond the Milky Way, that myths of the Inuit elders still resonate with meaning, that the Buddhists in Tibet still pursue the breath of the Dharma is to remember the central revelation of anthropology: the idea that the social world in which we live does not exist in some absolute sense, but rather is simply one model of reality, the consequence of one set of intellectual and spiritual choices that our particular cultural lineage made, however successfully, many generations ago.

Well, for what it’s worth, Pops, I enjoyed Davis’s Into the Silence years ago, and credit him with engaging writing, although my memory is dim beyond that, I’m afraid. The concept behind this one does sound interesting to me, too, and the format is an especially intriguing detail. We’ll be looking forward to your review!

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