Barrera's obsession is contagious. Her graceful sentences ensnare tidbits of history and tantalizing glimpses of her own life, accompanied by delicate sketches of lighthouses she's visited, making this book a refuge from everyday life, a place of enchantment and safety.
A slim, idiosyncratic history of these structures and their appearances in literature—from Robert Louis Stevenson, whose father and grandfather engineered them, to Virginia Woolf, to Ray Bradbury—the book allows the reader flashes of Barrera’s emotional life amid the accumulated detail ... universality is key to the charm of Barrera’s subject. She’s aware of the lurking dangers of sentimentality, and of how unoriginal her lighthouse obsession is. It’s oddly cheering to know, while you fantasize about escaping everybody else, that most all of them are thinking the very same thing.
... six poignant personal essays ... what comes through is a dark and often obsessive meditation on what it feels like to squirrel yourself away from the world and embrace isolation in the name of pursuing a passion ... Though slight in stature, On Lighthouses is perhaps best read in more than one sitting. Given Barrera’s brooding and all the skipping about from topic to topic, too much in one dose might seem like overload. But for readers lured in by the striking cover and looking for lighthouse trivia, there’s plenty of that to go around.