Road Trip Reads – Part 2

Last year I took a water resources class taught by Melissa Hinten, Ph.D. of the Geography Department here at the University of Tennessee. I thoroughly enjoyed the level of engagement and the teaching style that Dr. Hinten brought to the already interesting subject of water management and its history. (In class we read Water 4.0 by David Sedlak, which was informative but still light enough to read for leisure. If you are interested in the history behind the management of our water, look into this book, and count it as a bonus suggestion.)  In her work, Dr. Hinten focuses on biogeography, land use and land cover change, GIS, and geography education. She was kind enough to contribute her perspective with these thought-provoking recommendations for readers. I hope you enjoy them!

Dr. Melissa Hinten:

“1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus” by Charles Mann.

1491 is one of my favorite books and I refer to it often in my courses. It is the book that I think of when I think of a connection to nature.  1491 is a nonfiction account of the Americas prior to Columbus and the Age of Discovery.  A dominant narrative was, and still is to some degree, that the “New World” was sparsely inhabited and the people that lived there were primitive. Mann builds a new narrative using archaeological and archival evidence to argue that the population of the Americas was much more densely populated with advanced societies on par with those of the “Old World”.  This is my book selection for connecting with nature because as I look at the landscape after reading this book I have a great appreciation for humankind’s long history of influence on the land.  For example, Mann dispels the myth that the Amazon rain forest is a pristine and primordial forest that has never been influenced by human intervention.  What Mann explains is that the South American rain-forest has for millennia been purposefully manipulated and tended to by South American peoples.

“The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World” by Eric Weiner.

The Geography of Bliss inspired me to be adventurous, or at least planted the seed of new travel destinations.  Eric Weiner travels to ten countries in search for what makes a country and its population happy.  He chooses the countries based on sociological rankings of the happiest, or in one instance the least happy, countries in the world.  The Geography of Bliss is a humorous account of the search for what truly makes populations happy.  Some of the countries he visits seem like obviously happy populations – like the Netherlands and Switzerland, but he also visits countries like Qatar and Iceland that seem less obviously happy.  The Geography of Bliss is a delightful read for anyone interested in exploring the world and understanding the meaning of happiness.

“Incognito: the Secret Lives of the Brain” by David Eagleman

Incognito is my wildcard choice for a book to read.  I found this book absolutely fascinating and it led me to read other brain science books, which are a hot topic these days.  Incognito is a well written and easy to read book about our perception, about what it means to consciously know something from a neuroscience perspective.  David Eagleman uses fascinating case studies and examples to illustrate his arguments – this book will be a gateway book for anyone interested in learning more about neuroscience and cognition.