Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Reviews of The Museum of Whales You Will Never See by Kendra Greene

The Museum of Whales You Will Never See

And Other Excursions to Iceland's Most Unusual Museums

by Kendra Greene

The Museum of Whales You Will Never See by Kendra Greene X
The Museum of Whales You Will Never See by Kendra Greene
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    May 2020, 272 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Bintrim
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Mythic creatures, natural wonders, and the mysterious human impulse to collect are on beguiling display in this poetic tribute to the museums of an otherworldly island nation.

Iceland is home to only 330,000 people but more than 265 museums and public collections, ranging from the intensely physical, like the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which collects the penises of every mammal known to exist in Iceland, to the vaporously metaphysical, like the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, which poses a particularly Icelandic problem: How to display what can't be seen?

In The Museum of Whales You Will Never See, A. Kendra Greene is our wise and whimsical guide through this cabinet of curiosities, showing us, in dreamlike anecdotes and more than thirty charming illustrations, how a seemingly random assortment of objects--a stuffed whooper swan, a rubber boot, a shard of obsidian, a chastity belt for rams--can map a people's past and future, their fears and obsessions. "The world is chockablock with untold wonders," she writes, "there for the taking, ready to be uncovered at any moment, if only we keep our eyes open."

Arrival

Lilja collects me from the airport bus under a gray morning sky and, swinging my bag into her little silver car, asks if I got her message not to worry about the volcano. Because you shouldn't, and it won't affect your trip, and these things happen all the time.

The whole trans-Atlantic approach from Boston to Reykjavík takes less than five hours, which is scarcely time enough to fall asleep or start a third in-flight movie or convince yourself of the proper pronunciation of every unfamiliar letter in the Icelandic alphabet—eth and thorn, especially—but it is apparently long enough to board an airplane and cross half an ocean without having any idea you are aimed straight at a sudden increase in seismic activity.

Not that it should be surprising. Just the 45 minutes from the international airport to the bus terminal downtown is a misty drive through old lava fields and venting hot springs, a gradual accumulation of houses and buildings tracing the ocean's edge...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

"Museums...are collections sorted and arranged into stories, given order and explanation and sense," A. Kendra Greene writes in The Museum of Whales You Will Never See. Greene's roving, ranging book of essays takes the reader on a tour of a handful of them. But this is no mere travelogue. Greene's work is itself a collection of varied, disparate pieces—long-form journalism, personal essay, history, academic treatise—arranged into winsome stories that seek to give "order and explanation and sense" to the author's journey to understand one question: How does a collection become more than the objects within it?..continued

Full Review (502 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Lisa Bintrim).

Media Reviews

Newsweek
Unseen treasures are hidden in the corners of Iceland—and inside this book. Glittering with whimsy and speckled with small drawings, The Museum of Whales provides a much-needed detour to a place most of us won't ever get to see.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Almost as hard to classify as it would be not to enjoy, Greene's expertly assembled blend of travel writing, history, museum studies, and memoir proves as memorable as any museum exhibition.

Kirkus Reviews
A beguiling and witty assessment of a country's obsessive urge to curate ... There's an air of Italo Calvino's fantastical Invisible Cities wafting its way throughout.

Library Journal
For travelers and those interested in museums, collecting, Icelandic history and culture, and a poetic look at the country's museums.

Author Blurb Ben Fountain, bestselling author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
A masterpiece. By way of exploring the many humble, arguably eccentric museums of Iceland, Greene gives us a portrait of humanity that is quietly, cumulatively thrilling, as startling in its many revelations as the collections and collectors she portrays. Greene is the best kind of guide: funny, probing, generous of mind and heart, fully alive to the essential human yearning expressed in these miraculous little museums. Read this book. You will be happier, and richer in spirit, for it.

Author Blurb Elena Passarello, author of Animals Strike Curious Poses
Greene's voice is probing and hilarious; her sentences are vivacious and wild. This is the gold standard by which all future essays about Icelandic penis museums will be measured.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Geography of Iceland

Map of Iceland showing Eyjafjallajökull volcanic site As A. Kendra Greene writes in The Museum of Whales You Will Never See, "Everywhere in Iceland is some kind of remote. It is almost always a word I reach for when describing a place here, though I mean it differently every time." Greene makes it clear that understanding Iceland requires understanding its geography, which affects not only where people live but how they live and how they see themselves.

Iceland sits in the Atlantic Ocean, between Greenland and the United Kingdom. About the size of Kentucky, it has around 3,100 miles of ragged coast, pocked by long, deep fjords and bays. Largely formed of plateaux interspersed with mountain peaks, volcanoes and ice fields, the majority of the country—about 80 percent, including most...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Museum of Whales You Will Never See, try these:

  • Lands of Lost Borders jacket

    Lands of Lost Borders

    by Kate Harris

    Published 2019

    About this book

    A brilliant, fierce writer makes her debut with this enthralling travelogue and memoir of her journey by bicycle along the Silk Road—an illuminating and thought-provoking fusion of The Places in Between, Lab Girl, and Wild that dares us to challenge the limits we place on ourselves and the natural world.

  • In Manchuria jacket

    In Manchuria

    by Michael Meyer

    Published 2016

    About this book

    More by this author

    A combination of memoir, contemporary reporting, and historical research, presenting a unique profile of China's legendary northeast territory.

We have 4 read-alikes for The Museum of Whales You Will Never See, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Big Time
    Big Time
    by Ben H. Winters
    Big Time, the latest offering from prolific novelist and screenwriter Ben H. Winters, is as ...
  • Book Jacket: Becoming Madam Secretary
    Becoming Madam Secretary
    by Stephanie Dray
    Our First Impressions reviewers enjoyed reading about Frances Perkins, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's ...
  • Book Jacket: The Last Bloodcarver
    The Last Bloodcarver
    by Vanessa Le
    The city-state of Theumas is a gleaming metropolis of advanced technology and innovation where the ...
  • Book Jacket: Say Hello to My Little Friend
    Say Hello to My Little Friend
    by Jennine Capó Crucet
    Twenty-year-old Ismael Reyes is making a living in Miami as an impersonator of the rapper/singer ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
A Great Country
by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
A novel exploring the ties and fractures of a close-knit Indian-American family in the aftermath of a violent encounter with the police.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Stone Home
    by Crystal Hana Kim

    A moving family drama and coming-of-age story revealing a dark corner of South Korean history.

  • Book Jacket

    The House on Biscayne Bay
    by Chanel Cleeton

    As death stalks a gothic mansion in Miami, the lives of two women intertwine as the past and present collide.

Win This Book
Win The Funeral Cryer

The Funeral Cryer by Wenyan Lu

Debut novelist Wenyan Lu brings us this witty yet profound story about one woman's midlife reawakening in contemporary rural China.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

M as A H

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.