Memoir Review: A Man of the World

December 26, 2022 Uncategorized 0 ★★★½

Memoir Review: A Man of the WorldTitle: A Man of the World: My Life at National Geographic
Author: Gilbert Grosvenor
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: The occasionally self-aggrandizing tone of this memoir is offset by a charming enthusiasm and a fascinating life story.

Gilbert Grosvenor is the fifth member of his family to have been editor of National Geographic and president of the associated society. He led a fascinating life, with tons of travel and encounters with world leaders. He also shares some interesting internal politics and stories about how National Geographic evolved over time.

There are a few places where this book suffers from being a subjective memoir instead of an objective history. The author gives the NatGeo society a lot of credit for the work of explorers and scientists they fund. Some paragraphs just feel like a bunch of name dropping. And it’s a bit grating for the author to tell us about the 37-room mansion his family inherited from Alexander Graham Bell and then follow that with “but isn’t racist a bit harsh for old NatGeo coverage, though?”.

The author’s personal affection for National Geographic has some good points too. His enthusiasm for travel, his dedication to keeping the magazine running well, and his passion for geography education all help bring this story to life. His descriptions of his personal experience with travel and internal society politics were the high points of this memoir for me. The author has had a ton of interesting experiences and his passionate writing helped me feel like I was there too. I also appreciated that the author was willing to share cases where he made mistakes, including some humorous incidents while doing photography abroad. Not a perfect memoir, but unique and well worth a read.

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