Skip to main content


Book Review: A Man of the World: My Life At National Geographic

Thursday, October 6, 2022


Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  How has your week been so far?  Mine has been busy with fun things, like walking our dogs around our new and improved lake trail in our neighborhood and decorating my art studio for fall.

Today I want to share with you a memoir:  A Man of the World: My Life at National Geographic by Gilbert M. Grosvenor.

About the Book According to Goodreads:

Format:  320 pages, Hardcover
Published September 13, 2022 by National Geographic

The captivating inside story of the man who helmed National Geographic for six decades is a front-row seat to audacious feats of exploration, from the successful hunt for the Titanic to Jane Goodall's field studies. Offering a rare portrait of one of the world's most iconic media empires, this revealing autobiography makes an impassioned argument to know—and care for—our planet.

Though his career path had been paved by four generations of his family before him, Gilbert M. Grosvenor left his own mark on the National Geographic Society, founded in 1888 and recognized the world over by its ubiquitous yellow border. In an unflinchingly honest memoir as big as the world and all that is in it, Grosvenor shows us what it was like to "grow up Geographic" in a family home where explorers like Robert Peary, Louis Leakey, and Jane Goodall regularly crossed the threshold. As staff photographer, editor in chief and then president of the organization, Grosvenor oversaw the diversification into television, film, books, as well as its flagship magazine, which under his tenure reached a peak circulation of nearly 11 million. He also narrates the shift from a nonprofit, family-focused enterprise to the more corporate, bottom-line focused world of publishing today.

For Grosvenor, running National Geographic wasn’t just a job. It was a legacy, motivated by a passion not just to leave the world a better place, but to motivate others to do so, too. Filled with world travel, charismatic explorers, and the complexities of running a publishing empire, A MAN OF THE WORLD is the story of one man, a singular family business, and the changing face of American media.

My Review:

I have always enjoyed National Geographic Magazine and their television programming, so  I thought I'd enjoy this memoir.  For the most part I did enjoy it, but there are a lot of people mentioned in the book (many I'd never heard of before), so I found myself Googling them to learn more about them.  It took a minute for me to get through this book!

Gilbert M. Grosvenor was born into privilege:  Alexander Graham Bell was his great-grandfather, and his great-great-grandfather Gardiner Greene Hubbard was the National Geographic Society's first president.  There were thirty three men who founded the society at the Washington, D.C. Cosmos Club (ever notice how elites love the number thirty three?) on the evening of January 13, 1888.  Obviously he was also born to be a part of the National Geographic family as both his father, his grandfather, and eventually Gilbert himself headed the organization, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.  

Gilbert had a fine childhood and enjoyed nature at his family's various estates and clubs, especially during summers.  After prep school he attended Yale because he wanted to be close to his recently divorced mother who was living in Connecticut at the time.  He was not a stellar student, possibly because he lacked direction from his parents about what he should study.  After college, he interned briefly at the society before being drafted (1954) during the Korean conflict.  Perhaps due to his studying and designing statistical psychology projects at Yale, he was sent to the U.S. Army Psychological Warfare Center in Fort Bragg, North Carolina after basic training.  He was then shipped out to a psychological warfare unit at Fort Shafter, Honolulu which was the Army headquarters for the Asia-Pacific theater.  I found this time in his life extremely interesting.

The society and its grants gave Gilbert access to many fascinating scientists and explorers.  I enjoyed reading about Jacques Cousteau and Jane Goodall best. The stories of his interactions with them as well as the editorial process of the magazine fascinated me.  Gilbert was adamant that he never wanted the magazine to be political because he thought that it would destroy the society's members' trust.  Unfortunately, National Geographic did not heed his warnings and critics have accused them as having gone hyper-political, which in turn has turned-off many subscribers.  However, the book is lovely:  Not only are the anecdotes inspiring and entertaining, the book also has two sections of iconic National Geographic photographs as well as personal photographs taken by Gilbert.  If you enjoy reading interesting memoirs, are a member of the National Geographic Society, or have enjoyed the society's publications and programming, then you should enjoy this book.  

Disclosure:  I received a copy of A Man of the World from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Below is an IndieBound affiliate link.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. That sounds like a good book, Ricki. I am not all that fond of books where they mention people that I have no idea who they thus go to Google like you did.
    I hope you have a blessed, wonderful weekend. xo Diana

  2. It sounds fascinating and brings back childhood memories of having stacks of the yellow bordered magazines at my house, and then continuing the tradition of a subscription when my children were very fact there is still a stack in the attic {very dusty!}


Comments are friendly!


I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

Follow me on Instagram