Armchair Explorations

The Serpent and the Rainbow

By Wade Davis

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“A Harvard scientist’s astonishing journey into the secret societies of Haitian voodoo, zombies, and magic.”
Not to be confused with the movie!

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The Spears of Twilight: Life and Death in the Amazon Jungle

By Philippe Descola

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“The Jivaro Indians of Amazonian Ecuador have earned a somewhat sinister reputation among travelers and anthropologists because of their custom, only recently abandoned, of shrinking the decapitated heads of enemies. Descola, an anthropology professor in Paris, spent three years living among a Jivaro tribe, and this engrossing, minutely detailed chronicle of daily life gets past exotic stereotypes to delineate a band of individualists oscillating between gentle anarchy and factional solidarity. Obsessed with bloody vendettas against neighbors or relatives, the tribal group nonetheless reverentially communicates with a world of spirits, plants and animals, with the wandering souls of both the living and the dead. Descola explores Jivaro shamanism, dream interpretation, polygamy, marital violence against wives and the Jivaros' loose-knit, fluid cosmology, which makes no effort to impose coherence on the world. Sprinkled with Jivaro songs, chants, myths and the author's line drawings, this lyrically precise exploration of a people's lifestyle and consciousness is a work of enchantment.” (Publishers' Weekly)

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The Stars, the Snow, the Fire: Twenty-five Years in the Northern Wilderness

By John Haines

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For 25 years the poet John Haines lived, trapped, and hunted on the windswept hills above the Tanana River east of Fairbanks, Alaska. In this remarkable collection of essays he turns a poet's eye on his existence there and captures a life lived for the sake of survival.
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Two Years Before the Mast

By Richard Henry Dana

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The narrative of the author's journey from Boston around the Cape Horn and landing at a port in the western coast of the United States. A classic work of non-fiction that inspired Melville.

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Unfinished Conquest: The Guatemalan Tragedy

By Victor Perera

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Spanning thirty years of civil war in Guatemala, Unfinished Conquest portrays an embattled country and traces the subjugation of the Maya population from the Conquest to the present. Victor Perera weaves personal narrative with reportage and oral testimony to reveal a society torn apart by violence, poverty, and injustice. (From the summary)

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Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour

By Kate Fox

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A bestseller in the UK, Watching the English is a biting, affectionate, insightful and often hilarious look English Society. Putting the English national character under her anthropological microscope, Fox finds a strange and fascinating culture, governed by complex sets of unspoken rules and bizarre codes of behavior. Through a mixture of anthropological analysis and her own unorthodox experiments-even using herself as a reluctant guinea-pig-Fox discovers what these unwritten codes tell us about Englishness. (from the publisher's description)
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