On the occasion of its debut in the fall of 2004, I thought I'd reminisce about this fine book. I am very grateful for it having been written at all, and that I 'accidentally' discovered it in 2006.
"THE WORLD AND ALL THAT IS IN IT is our theme, and if we can't find anything to interest ordinary people in that subject we better shut up shop . . . . "
~ Alexander Graham Bell, to Gilbert H. Grosvenor, in a letter dated in 1900.
I can never begin to recommend this book enough. Other than the centennial book (eg, "100 Years" ,,, by C.D.B. Bryan in 1987), there's no other book which so thoroughly chronicled the origins, genesis, and evolution & growth of the Society and its Magazine.
Mr. Poole does center the narrative around the nexus of the Hubbard, Bell, and Grosvenor family(-ies), but there's nothing wrong with that, for the pure fact of how integral they were. To wit: there simply would not have existed a Society or the Magazine we all know, without them; the Society would have "died" in time, back in the early 1900's most likely, or remained a closed, small group of Washington D.C. residents, existing in obscurity.
Mr. Poole writes with a very easy, warm writing style. I chuckled here or there, rolled my eyes sometimes, or thought - "nicely put, Robert Poole". It's hard to believe this book is now 10 years old, and I still lament that it was never announced, or presented in NGM itself at time of release, or on NG's website. Mr. Poole does not simply write a love letter to the Society, yet nevertheless, he had great admiration and respect, appreciation for the organization. Indeed, he writes forthrightly about the ... "unpleasant" changes which began to occur in the 90's, and accelerated under the then-new leadership of John Fahey, into the 2000's. To his credit, the author resigned his position as the Executive Editor (#2 person) at the Magazine to work on this book -- he secured the cooperation and blessing of Chairman Grosvenor, President Fahey, and other key people. He knew many of these people; he was able to interview other legendary folk in advance of their passing away in the ensuing interval (such as Ted Vosburgh, Mabel Grosvenor, Luis Marden, Tom Abercrombie, etc.).
This book is not so much about the programs, expeditions, or celebrity people like Goodall, Cousteau, Ballard, Capt. Stevens, Peary, TR, per se, though they all figure in the narrative and were important. This truly is a history and survey of the organization, from behind the curtain. It is an excellent companion to Bryan's "100 Years..." book.
* I would also recommend other books such as:
- From Botswana to the Bering Sea ~ Thomas Canby
- Of Laughter, Lands, and Legends - Carolyn Bennett Patterson
- Odysseys and Photographs: Four National Geographic Field Men (re: Maynard O. Williams; Volkmar Wentzel; Luis Marden; Thomas Abercrombie)
- National Geographic: 125 Years .... ~ Mark C. Jenkins
- From the Field ..... ~ edited by Charles McCarry
- Worlds To Explore .... ~ ed. by Mark Jenkins
1963's "Great Adventures with National Geographic" ; "The Art of National Geographic" (1999, Alice Carter) ; "Stories on Paper and Glass" (2001) ; "Odyssey" (1988, Jane Livingston) ; "Inside || Out" (1998, ed. Allen Carroll, et. al.) ; National Geographic & Its Magazine (1957, like a mag. issue by Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor; John Oliver LaGorce)