An American History of Getting Lost
Yale University Press
Americans have been in motion for centuries, and with all the movement, many of them have gotten lost. The experience of getting lost has changed – as travel has morphed into transportation and as the amount of information about where we are and where we are going has increased. The changing nature of getting, and staying, lost says much about who we are.
In Led Astray: An American History of Getting Lost, environmental historian Jon Coleman looks at how people, animals, and things have managed to go missing, in spite of the vast amounts of energy and information that have been dedicated to keeping them on track. Getting lost produced a range of responses, and provoked people to grapple with big ideas and essential truths. After getting lost, Americans revised their thoughts about nature, God, and humanity. It’s a story that will make readers think anew about how they move through the world today.
In the end, Jon argues that getting lost is good for you, though not for the reasons most often given today. Getting lost does not move us closer to nature or bring us to our authentic selves. It offers no escape from the onslaught of information or the speed of modernity. Rather, getting lost dumps us into the unfinished projects of centuries of North Americans who altered the world to match the spaces in their heads. It dumps us into history, where nature and imagination created each other, and it teaches us that despite our smartphones, our Fitbits, and our ADHD we are both very different, and not so different at all, from the generations that wandered before us.