Saturday, March 29, 2008

Five best: books about the search for Eden

Jonathan Rosen, the editorial director of Nextbook and author, most recently, of The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature, picked the five best books about the search for Eden for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on his list:

Tristes Tropiques
By Claude Lévi-Strauss

"I hate traveling and explorers," writes the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss on the first page of "Tristes Tropiques," a memoir of travel and exploration. (It was ably translated for Penguin by John Weightman in 1992.) In 1935, Lévi-Strauss sailed from France to Brazil to search for primitive Amazon tribes, the ones most untouched by civilization. But civilization trails him everywhere -- to his disgust, he cannot get a Chopin nocturne out of his head as he wanders through the jungle. Indeed, it is the balance of contradictory elements -- the awareness of barbarism's rise in Europe under Hitler and the waning primitivism of the Amazon, the romantic yearning for an "unspoiled" world painstakingly recorded by a scientific eye -- that gives the book its power.

See which book topped Rosen's list.

--Marshal Zeringue