Sense of the World

Roberts, Jason. Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler. New York: Harper Collins, 2006.

Roberts, Jason. Sense of the World. Read by John Curless. Price Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2007.

Reason read: James Holman was born in October.

Fourth-born Britain James Holman was destined for the clergy. Instead, he got bit by the travel bug. Like any decent explorer, James Holman bucked authority. After inexplicably going blind at the age of 25 he refused to stand still. When doctors wanted him to languish in the warmer climates of the Mediterranean for his health, Holman instead ignored their advice and set out for France by himself.¬† Naturally Holman didn’t stop there. He joined the Navy to continue his travels through far reaching places such as Siberia and Africa.
Despite Holman’s remarkable ability to perceive the world as though sighted he was mostly viewed as a novelty and when he passed away his fifteen minutes of fame were quickly up. Roberts decided to resurrect Holman’s biography because he simply couldn’t believe the world had forgotten about this remarkable, yet blind, traveler. He best describes Holman as such, “Alone, sightless, with no prior command of native languages and with only a wisp of fund, he had forged a path equivalent to wandering to the moon” (p 320). Pretty remarkable.

I must start of by saying I learned a great deal from reading this book. For starters, I was unaware that there was a point in history when you could buy your rank: for a gold star on your uniform it would cost you an average of 400 pounds. On that same note I must confess I didn’t know what a phaeton looked like so I had to look it up.

Quotes I liked, “What nature wishes us to guard with care, it wreathes abundantly in pain receptors” (p 56), and “It was time to learn how to be blind” (p 67).

Author fact: Jason Roberts was a journalist at the time of Sense of the World’s publication.

Narrator & audio trivia: I couldn’t get over the way John Curless pronounced the word ‘lieutenant’. Must be the accent.

Book trivia: There are some fabulous portraits of Holman in Sense of the World. The coolest thing is for every portrait Roberts describes there is a picture to refer to.

Nancy said: Nancy included Holman in her list of travelers but disagreed with Roberts on the subtitle, How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler saying it is “somewhat arguable” (p 84).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simply chapter called “Explorers” (p 83).

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