Saturday, May 7, 2011

Under a Lucky Star

Written by: Roy Chapman Andrews

First line: Often I have had to sit on a lecture platform when I was going to speak, and listen to a long introduction.

Why you should read this book: Roy Chapman Andrews, often cited as the real-life inspiration for the character of Indiana Jones, was a lifelong adventure junkie who channeled his love of the outdoors and overall affability into a career as a world explorer who increased the world's knowledge base, particularly in the areas of cetology, Asian biology, and paleontology. Dodging bullets, combating seasickness and dangerous weather, navigating the intricacies of New York society and Chinese bureaucracy with cool competence, he planned and executed expeditions to travel where no white man had ever set food, bringing back the treasures of the natural world for his beloved American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he paused just long enough to write down his findings and raise funds for his next trek into the unknown. His descriptions of the animals he stalks, the people he encounters, and the ways he narrowly escapes death, time and again, make for an enchanting story.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Andrews was a man of his time, writing in the midst of World War II, which means that he has some decidedly racist things to say about the Japanese people, and also that his method of scientific investigation involves shooting thousands and thousands of animals, including endangered and cuddly ones, and that sometimes he just shoots things for fun.

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