Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going where Captain Cook has gone before by Tony Horwitz

Captain James Cook died in 1779 at the age of 51.  In those 50 years, he traveled around the world 3 times and discovered much of the now known world.  I can barely handle a weekend trip to the beach.  My sense of wonderment at this is nothing short of Tony Horwitz’s, which inspired him to follow in Cook’s footsteps and search for the man behind the legend.

In Blue Latitudes, Horwitz endeavours to tell the story of Captain Cook’s life and his own story of following in Cook’s footsteps.  Cook rose from an impoverished farm boy to the one of the greatest explorers of all time.  His travels took him around the world and made him one of the first Europeans to visit places like Australia, Tahiti, Easter Island, New Zealand, and further.  Horwitz covers Cook’s life and travels, yet in search of the real man hidden from the history books, sets off on his own journey that will take him around the world searching for the traces of Cook. Retracing Cook’s travels, Horwitz explores the farflung corners of the world and encounters the strange legacies of Cook’s visit.  He meets many interesting people all the way; some who love Cook, some who hate Cook, and all help Horwitz piece together his own idea of the man.

Horwitz, best know for his book Confederates in the Attic, is the master of combining history with his own modern day observance and humor.  Blue Latitudes is a delightful mix of biography and travelogue chock full of interesting facts and laughs.  Yet, Horwitz is also able to be thought-provoking about the effects of Cook’s journey on native populations both then and now.  He manages to produce one of those great books that makes you laugh, think, and hopefully remember some interesting facts for dinner parties.  Did you know that Captain Cook is the reason we call them kangaroos?

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