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Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation's backroads. William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about "those little towns that get on the map-if they get on at all-only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation's backroads. William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about "those little towns that get on the map-if they get on at all-only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi." His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation of the true American experience.


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Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation's backroads. William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about "those little towns that get on the map-if they get on at all-only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation's backroads. William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about "those little towns that get on the map-if they get on at all-only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi." His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation of the true American experience.

30 review for Blue Highways

  1. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    What a huge disappointment. I am predisposed to enjoy this kind of book. I love to travel and to take the roads less traveled. I've been to many places in America and I throughly enjoy exploring everywhere I haven't yet been. Back in High School, I would read Michael Crichton's Travels, some parts many times over, just imagining what it would be like to be able to visit the places he wrote about. Since then, I've read quite a few recollections of random journeys...and I can safely say that Blue What a huge disappointment. I am predisposed to enjoy this kind of book. I love to travel and to take the roads less traveled. I've been to many places in America and I throughly enjoy exploring everywhere I haven't yet been. Back in High School, I would read Michael Crichton's Travels, some parts many times over, just imagining what it would be like to be able to visit the places he wrote about. Since then, I've read quite a few recollections of random journeys...and I can safely say that Blue Highways is the worst of them. The author takes his trek around the forgotten parts of America after the failure of his marriage and the loss of his teaching job. He decides to drive all around the country in his van (named Ghost Dancer), just taking the back roads, which used to be labeled blue on maps. To find himself? To look for "America?" To get a better perspective on his lot in life? I don't know, and he never quite says. He starts the journey angry and bitter and those emotions never change. William Least Heat-Moon supposedly speaks with many of the people that inhabit these small towns, and yet he might as well have just spoken with one of them. Each and every person he finds to chat with "sounds" exactly the same. They all talk in a short, clipped way. No matter what the background or biography, they all have a folksy wisdom-y way of getting their stories across. The same lack of sentence structure, the same lack of pronouns, et.al gets old fast. Moon also seems less than honest and forthcoming about his intentions towards his subjects. For a while, he seems to keep the fact that he's going to be writing a book about the people he talks to a secret. He will say he's "just passing through," for example, keeping it mysterious. He will chat with someone for dialog-heavy pages, and then move on. But then... there's the middle of the novel, which has pictures of some of these folksy people. So obviously he told his subjects far more than he is telling us. For example: after chatting with some guys who are hang-gliding, they randomly invite him back for dinner and drinks to talk about hang-gliding. According to Moon's account, he barely says three sentences during all of this, and those words are all about the hang-gliding. The suspension of disbelief is constantly tested in this way. The reason this is a problem is there is no other reason for Moon to be out where he is, having the conversations he's having other than for the purpose of the book. For a contrast, take Bill Bryson's work. Bryson also travels and writes about his experiences. And yet, be it Australia, England, or backpacking on the AT, each experience he relates feels far more authentic --even when Bryson might be exaggerating for comic effect. The people he meets seem like individual people and the reason for his interactions come directly and logically out of his circumstances. It would also help if William Least Heat-Moon was a likable person; someone we could get behind and enjoy this journey with. Alas, he's a miserable bastard at his worst and just a depressive bore at his best. Every one of his encounters results in the opportunity for him to either chat with "someone" or be highly critical of what he is witnessing. There's no big insight, no humor, no drama.... just moments of "read my thoughts on or about these people" or variations of "this sucks...." The only exceptions are when he throws in a random Walt Whitman quote and he does this so often, you could make a decent drinking game out of it. My last complaint is about how often Moon wants his readers to know how horrible modern life, big cities, and big highways are. And of course, in contrast, how much better are those blue highways and the little towns. Having traveled quite a lot myself, I can, with full confidence claim that this is utter bullshit. There are good cities and bad. There are good highways and bad. I would love to never have to drive in I-93 around Boston again. The sprawl and endless mini-malls and tourist traps of Cherokee, North Carolina? Horrible. But what about The Blue Ridge Parkway? That's a national highway, and it is utterly beautiful. 469 Miles of Awesome. Or Highway 1 along the California Coast: one of the most memorable and beautiful things I have ever seen. Just because something is remote and forgotten doesn't mean that it's inherently better than what is popular. Sometimes something is popular for a good reason--because it is good. I would love to be able to drive around and explore for the amount of time Moon did. In fact, my grandparents took a year out of their retirement and did just that. They came back with wonderful stories and pictures. They went to the popular places and the places hidden away from progress. They talked of that experience for the rest of their lives and it always brought smiles to their faces. And ultimately, that is what Blue Highways lacks. There is no joy in the journey and so it is not worth taking.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    I feel awfully guilty not taking the time to give back to this book what it gave to me; its carefully shaped and caressed words of observation and wisdom. It deserves much more, but, like Heat-Moon, I am on my own journey right now, writing my own inner book. In it, he sets out in a spartan van named "Ghost Dancing," roughly following the "blue highways" (the most rural of rural roads) along the entire border of the Lower 48 to discover himself, the country, or, whatever, after losing his job an I feel awfully guilty not taking the time to give back to this book what it gave to me; its carefully shaped and caressed words of observation and wisdom. It deserves much more, but, like Heat-Moon, I am on my own journey right now, writing my own inner book. In it, he sets out in a spartan van named "Ghost Dancing," roughly following the "blue highways" (the most rural of rural roads) along the entire border of the Lower 48 to discover himself, the country, or, whatever, after losing his job and his marriage. Heat-Moon encounters people and places in America clinging to fast-disappearing ways and attitudes of life. As a document of this transition taking place three decades ago, the book is invaluable. The end result is the best travel memoir I've ever read, rich in detail and soulfulness. I took it slowly and in its own spirit, sipping and nibbling at it for a whole month and chewing lazily to taste it fully. In the same way that some people read the Bible almost exclusively, I think, were I to have only one book to re-read over and over on a desert island, this could easily be that book. Maybe someday--once the immediate concerns of my practical life are settled--I'll dig into my notes and provide a review that captures the flavor and strengths of this special work.

  3. 5 out of 5

    W

    This is supposedly a travel classic,though I was left scratching my head,as to how it qualified for such an exalted status.The most interesting thing about it is the name of the author,William Least Heat Moon. It is about a trip through the backwater American landscapes and the people who inhabit them,published in 1983. According to some glowing reviews,it is supposed to have subtle,kindly humour and vivid details of sights,smells,wildlife and down home talk with at least a hundred memorable chara This is supposedly a travel classic,though I was left scratching my head,as to how it qualified for such an exalted status.The most interesting thing about it is the name of the author,William Least Heat Moon. It is about a trip through the backwater American landscapes and the people who inhabit them,published in 1983. According to some glowing reviews,it is supposed to have subtle,kindly humour and vivid details of sights,smells,wildlife and down home talk with at least a hundred memorable characters. Well,for me,it was a slog.I skimmed a great deal and it still felt like hard work.I couldn't care less about the people and landscapes described by the author.It wasn't humorous. I was reminded of The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson,which is also a trip through small town America.Though not Bryson's best book,it is still a lot more interesting than Blue Highways. This is yet another book,which makes me rather wary of the term,"travel classic." One star,or at best,1.5 stars.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    I started this book about a month ago and tried to fit it into a hectic schedule. This weekend I decided to give it a serious go and see where it would end up. The author decided to do a circle route of America when his life was destined to fall apart. He lost his job and his marriage was in trouble. Broke both in wallet and heart, he started putting together the trip he wanted to do for several years. He always wondered whether he could cross the United States by auto without ever using a federa I started this book about a month ago and tried to fit it into a hectic schedule. This weekend I decided to give it a serious go and see where it would end up. The author decided to do a circle route of America when his life was destined to fall apart. He lost his job and his marriage was in trouble. Broke both in wallet and heart, he started putting together the trip he wanted to do for several years. He always wondered whether he could cross the United States by auto without ever using a federal highway. In his atlas he followed the back roads, those off the beaten tracks printed in blue. In the spring of 1978 he set out and traveled 'as long as money, gumption, and the capacity to fend of desolation' would hold up. Fourteen thousand miles, it turned out to be. He wished for the road to lead him to a new life, one that did not daily promise him more fruit of his failures. "I had no idea whether people in rural America would open up to an intinerant, a fellow more lost than otherwise. Wouldn't their suspicions of a bearded stranger stifle any attemps to talk with them about their lives? I had not then heard novelist John Irving's assertion that there are, at the of heart of things, only two plots, two stories: a stranger rides into town, a stranger rides out of town. Without knowing it, I had a chance for both." He would remember the lines from a Navajo Wind Chant: " Then he was told: Remember what you have seen, because everything forgotten returns to the circling winds." Several reasons drove me to buy this book. My very first interest in the faraway America started when an American friend subscribed me to the Country magazine. That was many years ago. What a revelation! For fiteen years I kept the subsription going, totally in love with a fascinating country and its people, which I would never experience in its entirety. Then another American friend sent me her old copy of Peter Jenkins' book A Walk Across America and I followed the author's route in total awe. It took some effort to find his other book Looking for Alaska . The day it was delivered, was one of the best ever! It did not take long to discover the British comedian Billy Conolly's rendition of Route 66 as a television series. It just got better and better. So when I found William Heat-Moon's book, ' Blue Highways' on GR, I was mentally and emotionally packing my bags for another imaginary trip through a country of dreams. The distance of the circular trip would encompass the equivalent to half the circumference of the earth. I will never see it, I know. But with the help of Google and maps, I was able to virtually drive the few thousand miles with William Least Heat-Moon in his delivery truck called Ghost Dancing. " My wife, a woman of striking mixed-blood feautures, came from the Cherokee. Our battles, my Cherokee and I, we called the 'Indian wars.' For these reasons I named my truck Ghost Dancing, a heavy-handed symbol alluding to ceremonies of the 1890s in which the Plains Indians, wearing cloth shirts they believed rendered them indestructible, danced for the return of warriors, bison, and the fervor of the old life that would sweep away the new. Ghost dancers, desperate resurrection rituals, were the dying rattles of a people whose last defense was delusion -- about all that remained to them in their futility."His pseudonym has a charm of its own. William Least Heat-Moon, byname of William Trogdon is an American travel writer of English, Irish and Osage Nation ancestry. He is the author of a bestselling trilogy of topographical U.S. travel writing. His pen name came from his father saying, "I call myself Heat Moon, your elder brother is Little Heat Moon. You, coming last, therefore, are Least." The author's love affair with English ensured that this book would become the voice of Americans in literary form. With his Ph.D. in English, and also serving as a professor, he had the knowledge, experience and curiosity to turn an ordinary travelogue into a travel masterpiece. To the Siouan peoples, the Moon of heat was the seventh month, a time also known as the Blood Moon. William Heat-Moon had seen thirty-eight Blood Moons during his lifetime. His age carried its own madness and futility. He aimed to visit those towns that get on the map--if they get on at all--only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi." Many people would open up their lives and homes for him and with an ease in the art of interviewing people, his ability to portray their history, way of life and language onto paper, he brought a country alive that is not so visible to the naked, and unsuspecting eye. With the addition of well-research history notes, the book becomes much more than a travelogue, or only a personal journey in which he hoped to find himself and his future. It becomes a masterpiece of American society with the spotlight switched on brightly. It is one of the best travel books I have read so far. Another firm favorite of mine in the travel genre is The Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee by Stewart Lee Allen. I actually reread this book in between, after having a very lively discussion of it last week with a guest. So it was a period of mental travelling for me these past few weeks. Nothing beats a well-written travel journal, at least for me. I guess it is that instinct in all of us to visit distant shores. It feeds our instinct, our curiosity, our dreams. Blue Highways has become my second favorite. This book illustrates so well that the journey beats the destination hands down. Since its first publication date in 1982, it has appeared on the New York Best Seller's list for several weeks, and have been reprinted several times. This alone, should convince the readers of history and travel genres to try it. In 2012 a new book was published: BLUE HIGHWAYS Revisited by Edgar I. Ailor, Edgar I Ailor IV (Photographer), William Least Heat-Moon (Foreword), Edgar I. Ailor, Edgar I Ailor (Photographs). The author and his son revisited all the places and compiled a photographic memory of all the people and the towns. A video of an interview with William Least Heat-Moon, as well as some photographic footage of the above-mentioned book is available on Youtube . Blue Highways Audiobook free copy

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    Even though written almost forty years ago now this is still an awe-inspiring travelogue. We are taken through the backroads of rural Americana as the author travels in his small van going through towns with odd names. He chats up a wide range of folks – a poor wandering Bible thumper, a barber, a retired teacher, farmers, activists… He captures their integrity, humor, and eccentricities - and sometimes just the fact that some are simply obnoxious. I confess that maybe because I am somewhat older Even though written almost forty years ago now this is still an awe-inspiring travelogue. We are taken through the backroads of rural Americana as the author travels in his small van going through towns with odd names. He chats up a wide range of folks – a poor wandering Bible thumper, a barber, a retired teacher, farmers, activists… He captures their integrity, humor, and eccentricities - and sometimes just the fact that some are simply obnoxious. I confess that maybe because I am somewhat older now, I would never venture into some of the bars (taverns) that the author dropped into meeting some of the less savoury local denizens. I also wonder how many of these little towns and businesses still exist today and if they have been laid by the wayside by the various drug epidemics that have ravaged the rural U.S. since the 1980’s. This is a wonderful read – a life journey of a road trip with philosophical musings. A favourite quote (page 397) from a retired school teacher (Alice Venable Middleton) in Maryland: “Having the gumption to live different and the sense to let everybody else live different. That’s the hardest thing hands down.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    FRANKFORT is a tale of two cities. Once the citizens called it Frank’s Ford after Stephen Frank, a pioneer killed by Indians in 1780 near a shallow crossing in the Kentucky River..... A traveler coming from the west sees no hint of the town because the highway abruptly angles down a bluff into a deep, encircled river valley that conceals even the high dome of the capitol. If you’re ever looking for the most hidden statehouse in America, look no further than Frankfort. Blue Highways is a 1979 trav FRANKFORT is a tale of two cities. Once the citizens called it Frank’s Ford after Stephen Frank, a pioneer killed by Indians in 1780 near a shallow crossing in the Kentucky River..... A traveler coming from the west sees no hint of the town because the highway abruptly angles down a bluff into a deep, encircled river valley that conceals even the high dome of the capitol. If you’re ever looking for the most hidden statehouse in America, look no further than Frankfort. Blue Highways is a 1979 travelogue penned by William Least Heat-Moon. A Vietnam vet and Native American, Heat-Moon details his four month driving trip through the backwaters of America. He starts the book heading out east from his home in Missouri. He drives and sleeps in his 1975 Ford Econo-line van. Once he makes it to Virginia he drives clockwise around the rough border of the lower 48. This is about as good as road trip travelogues get. It is a series of daily vignettes remarkably absent of self-indulgence, a hard thing to steer clear of in a memoir. His stories feel a little dated not because of the writing but because the country has after all changed quite a bit in the past forty years. When Heat-Moon writes about the landscapes his writing is very captivating. The humor in the book comes infrequently so the book feels serious but rarely pretentious. The history of various towns when he chooses to write about them is also top-notch. Heat-Moon does spend more time than I would have liked writing about the random people he meets along the way. The interactions some times are only a few minutes while others might be hours. Some are memorable, some are just sad. Here is one of the more memorable interactions with the country bumpkins. “Govnor comes out and shoots you personally if you say against tobacco in this state. I smoked thirty-odd years. Did my duty and got a right to talk. Truth is you cain’t buy a real, true cigarette anymores. That’s why they name them that way—tryin’ to convince you what ain’t there. Real. True. Nothin’ to it. They cut them long, they cut them skinny, they paint them red and green and stuff them with menthol and camphor and eucalyptus. What the hell, they’s makin’ toys. I’ll lay you one of them bright-leaf boys up in Winston-Salem is drawin’ up a cigarette you gotta plug in the wall. Nosir, your timber’s comin’ down to make toys.” “You don’t smoke now?” “Why smoke what’s no taste to it? Same as them light beers and whiskies: no flavor. Americans have just got afraid to taste anything” 4 stars. Very good read. The whole idea of driving around the country via the ‘blue highways’ in combination with Heat-Moon’s descriptive writing, when he chooses to do so, is pretty near a 5 star combination. The book did drag on in a few spots where nothing terribly interesting was happening on his journey.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    the classic hippie travel tale of a shrinking rural america, far from feeling dated blue highways seems to become more and more relevant with each passing generation. heat-moon (a professor at my college, the university of missouri, in the '80s when i was a student) traveled the country in the 1970s taking only the "blue highways" of his antique road map -- the non-interstate back roads, that is. what he found was a cultural america rapidly disappearing, being replaced with the ka-chings of a mi the classic hippie travel tale of a shrinking rural america, far from feeling dated blue highways seems to become more and more relevant with each passing generation. heat-moon (a professor at my college, the university of missouri, in the '80s when i was a student) traveled the country in the 1970s taking only the "blue highways" of his antique road map -- the non-interstate back roads, that is. what he found was a cultural america rapidly disappearing, being replaced with the ka-chings of a million mcdonald's and wal-marts even then. an important book, one worth reading, that happens to be wickedly funny at points too.

  8. 5 out of 5

    El

    On the old highway maps of America, the main routes were red and the back roads blue. Now even the colors are changing. But in those brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk - times neither day nor night - the old roads return to the sky some of its color. Then, in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue, and it's that time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest, when the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself. (p 1) I love open road boo On the old highway maps of America, the main routes were red and the back roads blue. Now even the colors are changing. But in those brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk - times neither day nor night - the old roads return to the sky some of its color. Then, in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue, and it's that time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest, when the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself. (p 1) I love open road books. I can't help it. But then, I also love the open road, so it makes sense that I'd be drawn to books like these. I've spent the better part of an hour with my mom searching for O. Henry's grave in Asheville, North Carolina, finding, accidentally, Thomas Wolfe's grave as well; I've been dog-sledding in Alaska with my mom and her sister; I once got stranded at the Heartbreak Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee and probably questionably got a ride back to my dad's office by a young shuttle driver named Sam; I once woke up in the car with my family in Utah on my oldest brother's birthday, with the sun coming up behind us, making the cliffside wall in front of us turn pink; I've had a variety of different kinds of fish fries in Wisconsin with my grandparents over the years. I've wanted to read this book for a long time. The author is from the same town in Missouri that I am from, and this book has forever been recommended to me. I couldn't get through the first couple pages the few times I tried reading it in the past, but looking back I think the reason was I wanted to get out of Columbia, Missouri so much at that time that reading a book that was so closely related with the town was too much for me. I needed to put a few hundred miles between me and Columbia before I could really feel comfortable having anything to do with the town again, including reading authors from there. It may be silly to most people, but I really hated it there. But I've been away over a decade now, a safe enough distance. While I have no desire to go back, the few mentions in this book to Columbia and its immediate surroundings actually gave me an "Aww, I know what he's talking about!" feeling. But more than that, I could relate to Least Heat-Moon's need for the open road. After some pretty life-changing moments, Least Heat-Moon hit the road to circuit the United States. He wanted to stick to the "blue highways", the back roads that used to be blue lines on old highway maps. Along the way he met several people, many of whom are described in detail here, including their conversations. I've seen a few reviews that complain that there is not much difference in the way people talk in the different places Least Heat-Moon stopped. Maybe those reviewers haven't been to small towns throughout the country, but in reality there's not always a lot of change. Small towns are pretty similar all over the country, whether you're in the south, the north, the west, or the east. There's some tedium here, which I think is unavoidable. The open road, for all of its adventures and excitement, can become tedious. Life can become stale. I say this without having done a full circuit of America as Least Heat-Moon did, so I cannot even imagine how stale life might have been for him. This was before iPhones and iPads and portable DVD players. He was on the road with his vehicle, Ghost Dancing, with: 1 sleeping bag and blanket; 1 Coleman cooler (empty but for a can of chopped liver a friend had given me so there would always be something to eat); 1 Rubbermaid basin and a plastic gallon jug (the sink); 1 Sears, Roebuck portable toilet; 1 Optimus 8R white gas cook stove (hardly bigger than a can of beans); 1 knapsack of utensils, a pot, a skillet; 1 U.S. Navy seabag of clothes; 1 tool kit; 1 satchel of notebooks, pens, road atlas, and a microcassette recorder; 2 Nikon F2 35 mm cameras and five lenses; 2 vade mecums: Whitman's Leaves of Grass and Neihardt's Black Elk Speaks. (p 9) I can say with certainty that two books would not be enough for me on a trip around the country. Hell, two books are not enough for quick weekends to Baltimore. This makes me want to travel. I loved the characters Least Heat-Moon met along the way, and how he got a little something out of all of those interactions. He wanted to hit as many strangely-named out-of-the-way towns as he could (Nameless, Tennessee; Dime Box, Texas, etc.), and he tried to learn the different histories of the people and the towns he encountered. Most people don't have the patience to do things like that. Most people don't even like to leave the safety, the certainty of the interstate. Most people like the comfort of corporate gas stations and fast food chains. I admire Least Heat-Moon for having standards enough to try to find the best possible diners in the country and never going through a drive-thru. It's summer now. In the past our family used to take trips, usually in August. The five of us cramped in a small Nissan, three of us in the backseat, all legs and elbows, me always sitting in the middle. It was claustrophobic to be sure. There were fights and arguments and many tears, but I have to admit I miss those trips. Falling asleep on my brothers' shoulders, flashlight batteries dying and trying to read by the lights of the cars behind us, and just experiencing the country (even on small trips) to the best of our ability with a limited income. Now that we're all growed up, we'll never have those moments again. But reading books like these sort of brings it back to me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    Author Bill Trogden/Least Heat-Moon travels across America in the 1980s, travelling via the highways marked in blue on the map. These smaller roards take him into out-of-the way communities far away from the interstates. This is a really fascinating read, giving you a look at bits and pieces of America from North to South and East to West. I imagine much of it has since vanished. The travelogue is skillfully interspersed with Trogden's own personal struggles: he decides to take the trip because Author Bill Trogden/Least Heat-Moon travels across America in the 1980s, travelling via the highways marked in blue on the map. These smaller roards take him into out-of-the way communities far away from the interstates. This is a really fascinating read, giving you a look at bits and pieces of America from North to South and East to West. I imagine much of it has since vanished. The travelogue is skillfully interspersed with Trogden's own personal struggles: he decides to take the trip because his marriage and job are in the pits, and as he travels America he comes to grips with his own inner world as well. Best piece of travel writing I've ever read, and one of the best things I read in college.

  10. 5 out of 5

    James

    Ugh... I didn't mind Into the Wild, and I couldn't make it through Zen & the Art.... But when I think back, what I liked about ItW, the most, was when he was working in the fields in Idaho. And it was written by Krakauer -not first person. So, here's one of the other warhorses of the male-discovery-road-trip canon. In discussing reading this book with other people, one person pointed out that what makes for interesting discovery-road-trip writings are when the character is forced to set out (I'm th Ugh... I didn't mind Into the Wild, and I couldn't make it through Zen & the Art.... But when I think back, what I liked about ItW, the most, was when he was working in the fields in Idaho. And it was written by Krakauer -not first person. So, here's one of the other warhorses of the male-discovery-road-trip canon. In discussing reading this book with other people, one person pointed out that what makes for interesting discovery-road-trip writings are when the character is forced to set out (I'm thinking the early parts of The Glass Castle), rather than "Look at me! I'm going on a journey! -and it's the journey not the destination!" And I think that's the root of the issue with BH. Take the title alone -a certain sense of holier-than-thou I-won't-travel-on-your-interstates-ness. When he's talking with strangers and listening to and telling their stories, it can have its moments. And these moments are what made me finish the book. The hope that there were more of these coming (though, the longer I read, the more these weren't interesting either). When he's driving around quoting Whitman and shaking his head in contempt, I couldn't read on quickly enough (and perhaps there's an irony there). Here again, we find me enjoying the stories about backwoods/backroads quaintness - the thing that makes me want to read Carolyn Chute. But even here, he talks about The Pine Barrens, and it makes me yearn to be reading McPhee instead. I read a recent review of Heat-Moon's new book, Road to Quoz, that mentioned how it's a shame to see how cynical he'd gotten, that he'd lost his whimsy. Well, frankly, I'm not sure it was ever there :(

  11. 5 out of 5

    Moonkiszt

    Blue Highways William Least Heat-Moon is a delight to read.. . just crack open the door and slide into “shotgun” position and GO. The road trip with the author, his philosophizing all the while, with spontaneity leading the way reminded me of my people. When the air in our home crackled and a change was needed, my parents both loved a ride. Us kids were tucked in the back (no seat belts to constrain us in a station wagon that had its own pasture) and every one could “do” the ride in their own kin Blue Highways William Least Heat-Moon is a delight to read.. . just crack open the door and slide into “shotgun” position and GO. The road trip with the author, his philosophizing all the while, with spontaneity leading the way reminded me of my people. When the air in our home crackled and a change was needed, my parents both loved a ride. Us kids were tucked in the back (no seat belts to constrain us in a station wagon that had its own pasture) and every one could “do” the ride in their own kind of quiet. Or not. Maybe it was a conversation without seeing faces. But most often it was the blessing of a change of focus, a change of mind. So lovely. Listening from place to place with WLHM, it was comfortable and freeing, regardless of the chore I was doing. My mind’s eye was right there with him due to his skillful wordsmithing and artistry of description. Having listened to the book, I’m now on the hunt for a hard copy. I heard many more quotable bits than GR has in its quotes database. I laughed out loud on numerous occasions and a few scraps of memory and talk moved me to misty, and I didn’t find those available to “like.” It’s interesting to me how much a reader can learn about the author from what they focus on, and what they don’t., what they offer to the reader for consideration, and when. . . . .you learn far more about the writer than you do the story, narrative or characters. I lived in the days and many of the places traveled through and it amazed me how familiar it felt – genuine authenticity sitting there. I’m 5 starring here, just thinking about it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessaka

    I hate making a review on this book and keep changing my mind about doing so, because I am not giving it 4 stars at least. William Least Heat-Moon is an excellent writer, and you can envision the places where he traveled. But it was a long book, it was hard to keep reading it, and yet I wanted to finish it so I wouldn't miss anything. I don't know if I liked it or if it was okay to me. And I think I would give him 4 stars for his descriptions. Maybe I am just used to more action, or as one perso I hate making a review on this book and keep changing my mind about doing so, because I am not giving it 4 stars at least. William Least Heat-Moon is an excellent writer, and you can envision the places where he traveled. But it was a long book, it was hard to keep reading it, and yet I wanted to finish it so I wouldn't miss anything. I don't know if I liked it or if it was okay to me. And I think I would give him 4 stars for his descriptions. Maybe I am just used to more action, or as one person said, a book by Bill Bryson. Or to me, even Steinbeck's "Travels with Charlie." Or maybe I want more adventure than either of these anymore, such as "Kon-Tiki, "Paddle to the Amazon", and "Into a Desert Place." I can understand some people giving it 5 stars, and I would say that he deserved it. I really liked his quotes from Black Elk, so I ordered "Black Elk Speaks" --a book I should have read years ago and maybe have.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    This was an interesting juxtaposition to Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America which I also read recently. Similar trip, similar-ish accommodations (Steinbeck's was posher); Heat-Moon disparaged Steinbeck's book and while his trip might have been more genuine and more honest, I preferred Steinbeck's art. This was interesting enough, but it ended up as a nearly interminable series of undifferentiated stories in undifferentiated voices. It dragged. This was an interesting juxtaposition to Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America which I also read recently. Similar trip, similar-ish accommodations (Steinbeck's was posher); Heat-Moon disparaged Steinbeck's book and while his trip might have been more genuine and more honest, I preferred Steinbeck's art. This was interesting enough, but it ended up as a nearly interminable series of undifferentiated stories in undifferentiated voices. It dragged.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Barbara K

    I read this back in the 1980’s and loved it. For some reason the section on building the rock wall has really stayed with me. I’ve lost my copy in the course of many moves. I’m thinking it might be due for a re-read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I have finally read this book! It has been in my basement for a number of years. It was recommended to me by my sister and when I ran across a copy, I bought it. It's the story of a man who drove across the US in his van, avoiding interstates whenever possible and talking to people along the way. He wanted to see America before it all got paved over with shopping malls and all the mom-and-pops were run out of town and sometimes it was too late. I spent quite a bit of time reading this book. It di I have finally read this book! It has been in my basement for a number of years. It was recommended to me by my sister and when I ran across a copy, I bought it. It's the story of a man who drove across the US in his van, avoiding interstates whenever possible and talking to people along the way. He wanted to see America before it all got paved over with shopping malls and all the mom-and-pops were run out of town and sometimes it was too late. I spent quite a bit of time reading this book. It didn't seem like a book to be rushed, although I admit I did a bit of rushed reading at the end because I was eager to finish it. For most of the book, I read just a few chapters at a time. It took the author many months to travel across the country and I didn't feel the need to read it quickly. William Least Heat-Moon meets some interesting characters as he travels through the small towns of America. He seems to be a bit of a character himself. The entire time I'm reading this, I'm thinking "He sleeps in his van all across the US? Is that a seventies thing? Could someone do that now? What about bathing? Is that why sometimes people look at him askance? What would I think if I saw him today on this journey? Would I be a nice stranger or one of those that gave him a weird look?" I learned a lot of things about the country that I didn't know before. The author appeared to be in a melancholy state of mind as he did this journey (he had just lost his job and his marriage). Sometimes reading it was relaxing, other times it was disturbing. At the end, I wanted him to find what he was looking for, but as he said he didn't know if he had learned what he wanted to know because he didn't know what he wanted to know.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Here is a summary of the book so far: Least-Moon travels the back roads in his Wagoneer to a small town in the middle of nowhere, such as "Nameless, Tennessee." Then, you wade through much detailed description of the man-made and natural structures. Next, he meets a local, asking about the history of the town. A long, very specific re-telling of some minor player in American history ensues, ending with "Then, the government [or national chain] came in and took all the land. Things ain't like the Here is a summary of the book so far: Least-Moon travels the back roads in his Wagoneer to a small town in the middle of nowhere, such as "Nameless, Tennessee." Then, you wade through much detailed description of the man-made and natural structures. Next, he meets a local, asking about the history of the town. A long, very specific re-telling of some minor player in American history ensues, ending with "Then, the government [or national chain] came in and took all the land. Things ain't like the old ways." This scenario is repeated throughout the book. I admit I'm giving up on page 75. He's a good writer, but I just don't care enough about what he's writing about. Sorry Dad!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    The author of this book is part poet and part philosopher and part Indian. I have liked this book just a little bit less each time I have read it and that is not to say anything against the author. When I first read it I could imagine myself going on his physical journey and I am sure at the time I wished I could do it. Now about 40 years after he wrote the book and not quite that long since I first read the book I have traveled my share of blue highways although most of them were not made of as The author of this book is part poet and part philosopher and part Indian. I have liked this book just a little bit less each time I have read it and that is not to say anything against the author. When I first read it I could imagine myself going on his physical journey and I am sure at the time I wished I could do it. Now about 40 years after he wrote the book and not quite that long since I first read the book I have traveled my share of blue highways although most of them were not made of asphalt. I have now come to a time in my life where listening to this book brought an incredible number of memories to mind. I have been at one time or another been in many of the places where this author takes us in his 13,000 mile journey a circle journey around the United States. My travel these days is more in my mind then in my car. I don’t want to say that my traveling days are done but I don’t feel the urge to travel in reality when I can make many journeys in my mind that are extraordinarily enjoyable to me. This may be the time to take a look at blue highways Revisited which I have in the hardcover version and hopefully also in the audible version! The new version of the book in the book and audible book also includes a 1999 after word by the author which mentions a couple of additional books that he has written. I should definitely look into those. I read this such a long time ago when it was first published. I am old enough to remember the days BEFORE the Interstates when the Blue Highways were THE Highways. I remember this being one of those books that I thought changed my life in one of those very middle class ways. Maybe I will try to search it out again one day and see if my lingering fondness in my memory is warranted. Would it be wrong to read a book like this as an ebook?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Blueskies18

    Another travelog. A little slow and quite serious. Yet I learned a few things and found myself consulting goodgle maps to locate some of the more interesting small towns he encountered. But it took me a long time to finish it. I could only handle a half dozen pages at one sitting. I like travelogs, but I prefer Bill Bryson's books because I can breeze through them as if I were reading a 'beach book' with interesting information and a bunch of belly laughs to boot. No one does it better than Brys Another travelog. A little slow and quite serious. Yet I learned a few things and found myself consulting goodgle maps to locate some of the more interesting small towns he encountered. But it took me a long time to finish it. I could only handle a half dozen pages at one sitting. I like travelogs, but I prefer Bill Bryson's books because I can breeze through them as if I were reading a 'beach book' with interesting information and a bunch of belly laughs to boot. No one does it better than Bryson. Phyllis if you haven't read 'A walk in the woods' please put that one of Bryson's on your 'gotta read it' list.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)

    Two stars instead of three for this book, because it starts with a dishonest premise. We are told that the author lost his marriage and his job, and "just decided" to take a road trip to find himself or whatever. He lived in his van--feasible in 1978, but dangerous if not foolhardy today. The idea held for a portion of the book...until I read all those verbatim conversations. How could he remember all that? I asked myself. One or two conversations that really spoke to you, maybe--but dozens? The Two stars instead of three for this book, because it starts with a dishonest premise. We are told that the author lost his marriage and his job, and "just decided" to take a road trip to find himself or whatever. He lived in his van--feasible in 1978, but dangerous if not foolhardy today. The idea held for a portion of the book...until I read all those verbatim conversations. How could he remember all that? I asked myself. One or two conversations that really spoke to you, maybe--but dozens? Then we get to the part about him sitting down with his tape recorder and outlines to do some work. Oh. So it wasn't quite the spontaneous thing you present it as, was it? And then all those pro-quality (more or less) photographs--all very obviously posed.Why not be honest, sir, and say, "I decided to try my hand at some anthropological field-work type stuff, to make a record of the vanishing grassroots America" or something of the sort? Why pretend? It was an okay read, though it could have been cut down a bit to advantage; it started to go on far too long, in too much extraneous detail. I could have done without the numerous and lengthy quotes from Walt Whitman, but that's just my personal taste (or lack of taste for Whitman's work.) I could also have done without the constant bashing of Christians and their beliefs; if he doesn't share them, well and good--but surely if a person doesn't believe something to be true, in a sense it is not real for that person--and therefore shouldn't have quite such a hold on them? I personally don't believe we have direct contact with aliens from other planets,for example but I don't feel the need to go on and on about it, or to mock those who do. Ridiculing the convictions of others does not necessarily make the mocker look better, or more mature--it just makes your issues more evident. I did find it interesting that the books written by Native Americans that I have read do not feel the need to use the PC appellative to speak of themselves and others like them; the term "Indian" is used, or in this case, the author repeatedly uses the "unacceptable" term "red man" to refer to himself and others of his ethnic background. However, I found it curious that in his dealings with African Americans etc, they didn't seem to consider him non-Caucasian, either. About the "wall calendar rule" for truckstops, diners and smalltown eating houses: never heard of it, and I've eaten in a lot of all of them in my time. I will say, the number of trucks parked outside is a good indicator. The number of men in baseball-type caps with agricultural logos of one type or another on them is a good indicator. And if they have a print of those poker-playing dogs on the wall, the food is probably excellent.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Left Coast Justin

    Though it no longer serves that role, for a while this book was my vade mecum, a term that I incidentally learned while reading this. I was probably in my early teens when I first read it, and it's a perfect book for your more inquisitive young adult; probably equally valuable to somebody in their eighties. The composer Leonard Bernstein once wrote, "The Beatles are the last great consensus in popular music. Not liking them is like not liking the sun." I think the same thing applies to this book Though it no longer serves that role, for a while this book was my vade mecum, a term that I incidentally learned while reading this. I was probably in my early teens when I first read it, and it's a perfect book for your more inquisitive young adult; probably equally valuable to somebody in their eighties. The composer Leonard Bernstein once wrote, "The Beatles are the last great consensus in popular music. Not liking them is like not liking the sun." I think the same thing applies to this book. How could you not enjoy reading about.... ...An energetic and elderly woman on Smith Island in Chesapeake Bay "who makes getting old seem like something to look forward to"; ...A barber in small-town Texas who interrupts the proceedings mid-haircut and makes the author wander back with half-cut hair to admire some old photos in the back of his shop; ...Feeling lonely and sorry for himself while writing notes on a lonely Oregon back road, a raven-haired, long-legged beauty gallops up on a horse and makes conversation for a while, lifting his spirits; ...Finding people in Minnesota very reserved with strangers, he takes to taking photographs of bare walls downtown, hoping somebody will wander up and ask him what he's doing (no dice); ...Eating a tube of airy, home-made ash bread with a Hopi student in his dormitory, the bread dissolving into smoky-tasting nothingness the instant it touches his tongue; I could give dozens more examples. This is simply a feel-good book worth reading, and deserves its wide acclaim. People are fascinating creatures, and the United States was once a wonderful country.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ned

    William is from my home state, traveled the outside of our country on only back roads in his beat up van, collecting experiences from random Americans. He works in a lot of history and either has the best ear for remembering dialogue or had a tape recorder well concealed. This is told factually, but fresh with interior dialogue, as he works his readings of Black Elk Speaks, Leaves of Grass and Lewis and Clark's account of their adventure. William only hints at what drove him to this three year s William is from my home state, traveled the outside of our country on only back roads in his beat up van, collecting experiences from random Americans. He works in a lot of history and either has the best ear for remembering dialogue or had a tape recorder well concealed. This is told factually, but fresh with interior dialogue, as he works his readings of Black Elk Speaks, Leaves of Grass and Lewis and Clark's account of their adventure. William only hints at what drove him to this three year sojourn, finally revealed near the end in cryptic yet emotional release. It is interesting to hear his discourse on the problems of modernity back in 1978. It is a time I remember well, just starting college myself, making it more relevant for me personally. This is a story of America, history, and its people then, much like today. An excellent read, broken into nice segments and easy to pick up and read in spurts. Being distracted by personal matters, this worked for me even though I took a long time to read it. I'll definitely be reading his other two accounts. Having a penchant for traveling outside of the allotted tourist traps, he gives me inspiration. Might even look him up sometime!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Actually, I first read this book about 15 years ago, but I was sick, it was there, and one thing leads to another.. The first time I read this, it was a great road trip, full of interesting places to visit and cool people to talk to and relics of a disappearing America. Now I'm older and much closer to the author's age when he wrote this, and a bit more familiar with how things don't always work out the way you expect. It's still a great book, but the extra layer of the personal journey makes the Actually, I first read this book about 15 years ago, but I was sick, it was there, and one thing leads to another.. The first time I read this, it was a great road trip, full of interesting places to visit and cool people to talk to and relics of a disappearing America. Now I'm older and much closer to the author's age when he wrote this, and a bit more familiar with how things don't always work out the way you expect. It's still a great book, but the extra layer of the personal journey makes the entire journey far more interesting. At a rough time in life, a man heads out looking for answers, and to see what's out there. 13,000 miles later, he has found a few moments of clarity and no answers... but what an experience! This is still my favorite of the various 'road trip' books that I've read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    How disappointed I was, on driving across the country on the interstates (by necessity) that my trip was nothing like this one. To take a trip on blue highways still remains an ambition of mine. R

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rex Fuller

    “The night had been full of dreams moving though my sleep like schools of ocean fish that dart this way, turn suddenly another way, and...the currents bending and enfolding me as the sea does fronds of eelgrass.” That’s one example of why I should have read this years ago, as I intended. And the vocabulary! Wen. Quodlibet. Tumulus. Helot. Numen. Coppice. Drupe. And a good many I leave for your discovery. Histories, both tribal and immigrant. But most of all, the stories. “A sheriff [near Jonesboro “The night had been full of dreams moving though my sleep like schools of ocean fish that dart this way, turn suddenly another way, and...the currents bending and enfolding me as the sea does fronds of eelgrass.” That’s one example of why I should have read this years ago, as I intended. And the vocabulary! Wen. Quodlibet. Tumulus. Helot. Numen. Coppice. Drupe. And a good many I leave for your discovery. Histories, both tribal and immigrant. But most of all, the stories. “A sheriff [near Jonesboro, Tennessee] once branded a horsethief’s cheeks with H and T before nailing him by the ears to a post; later to set him free, he cut them off.” Small town America. On the Blue (map color) Highways, not the interstate. Startling. Charming. Welcoming. Clannish. Funny. And whatever else you might look for. Heat-Moon takes us there with prose so seductive hours disappear. Beginning at Columbia, Missouri, the route formed a flattened capital G. East through the land of moonshine. “‘Shine bought a lot of college. Bootleggin’ never did.” Mules, mill races, and hard living. “Took thirteen months a year to grow ‘bacca.” Smoke houses. Repairing everything: “Nobody ever heard of junk then. Junk’s a modrun invention.” On to the Outer Banks. The Low Country. Selma, and the bridge. Natchez Trace. Bayou Teche. The Hill Country. Desert, after Austin. A tiny corner of the Gadsden Purchase. Hopi Reservation in Utah. Bombing Range in Nevada. Little of California. Crater Lake. Across the Cascades to Astoria. Tracking the Columbia to the Palouse. Straight across Montana and North Dakota prairie on the High Line. Through the Minnesota North Woods. Ferry across Lake Michigan. On to the Thumb. Shortcut across Canada to the Finger Lakes. Ferry Lake Champlain to Vermont. The Green Mountains. The White Mountains. Newport. Long Island. The Pine Barrens. On an island in the Chesapeake. Then turn west, and home. He discovered the Hopi symbol for the renewal of life, and left it obvious to the reader it is shaped much the same as his trip. Come here. You go hardly a page without a secret smile of guilty pleasure.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tuck

    at least my 3rd reading and still as pertinent and beautiful a travel-the-usa-by-yourself-in-the-pickup book as you could ever find. beats "travels with charley" hands down and torrey's travel too. least heat-moon covers usa pretty thoroughly and is not afraid to talk to the locals, work for them too (he was damn poor) and go where most do not, crossing color and class lines handily. he did this in late 1970's but valid for 21st century. and note there has just been an coffee table book re-publi at least my 3rd reading and still as pertinent and beautiful a travel-the-usa-by-yourself-in-the-pickup book as you could ever find. beats "travels with charley" hands down and torrey's travel too. least heat-moon covers usa pretty thoroughly and is not afraid to talk to the locals, work for them too (he was damn poor) and go where most do not, crossing color and class lines handily. he did this in late 1970's but valid for 21st century. and note there has just been an coffee table book re-publishing some of his many photographs with new ones too and re-visiting some of the people and places he investigated. truly, it's as if the last 34 years never even happened on a lot of usa places and cases. Blue Highways Revisited

  26. 4 out of 5

    John

    I very rarely re-read the same book; I listened to the audio narrated by the author years ago, and re-listened a year or so ago. Just as good the second time around - America has changed since his trip, yet the book didn't seem particularly "dated" at all. Moreover, it's a long book, but breaks neatly when the author reaches the west coast (Portland, OR), so putting it down and coming back later at that point worked quite well for me. I very rarely re-read the same book; I listened to the audio narrated by the author years ago, and re-listened a year or so ago. Just as good the second time around - America has changed since his trip, yet the book didn't seem particularly "dated" at all. Moreover, it's a long book, but breaks neatly when the author reaches the west coast (Portland, OR), so putting it down and coming back later at that point worked quite well for me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sean O

    The writer as traveler. Bigger and better than Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie (and I liked that quite a bit.) It’s rural America of the late 70s, and speaking as someone has lived through it, Least Heat-Moon nails it. There were lots of great tales and only a couple of weak spots. Recommended to anyone who ever wanted to pick a direction and road trip.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ciahnan Darrell

    I know this will be unpopular, but skip On the Road and read this, The energy is great, the cadence of Heat-Moon's prose, remarkable, and his emotional journey compelling. I know this will be unpopular, but skip On the Road and read this, The energy is great, the cadence of Heat-Moon's prose, remarkable, and his emotional journey compelling.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dov Zeller

    Part poetry, part journalism, part travel-journal, made up of a person's desire to escape the present through a nostalgia for a past he thought he would find lurking in small, off-the-beaten-path towns, this is a gorgeous, extrospective (?) road trip book and introspective inner-journey book. Sometimes I thought of it as a much more layered, intelligent and respectful toward human beings "On The Road" and occasionally it got a little to close to "On The Road" for comfort in its objectifications Part poetry, part journalism, part travel-journal, made up of a person's desire to escape the present through a nostalgia for a past he thought he would find lurking in small, off-the-beaten-path towns, this is a gorgeous, extrospective (?) road trip book and introspective inner-journey book. Sometimes I thought of it as a much more layered, intelligent and respectful toward human beings "On The Road" and occasionally it got a little to close to "On The Road" for comfort in its objectifications and absorptions. I can't say I loved this book all the way through, or that I didn't sometimes get frustrated with the monotony or repetitions, but all in all I would say it is a stunning and brilliant book. Brilliant and stunning in its observations, reflections and tenderness, and a needful window into...certain places and times and the people who he came into contact with there. Here's the opening for you. Eastward 1 Beware thoughts that come in the night. They aren't turned properly; they come in askew, free of sense and restriction, deriving from the most remote of sources. Take the idea of February 17, a day of canceled expectations, the day I learned my job teaching English was finished because of declining enrollment at the college, the day I called my wife from whom I'd been separated for nine months to give her the news, the day she let slip about her "friend"—Rick or Dick or Chick. Something like that. That morning, before all the news started hitting the fan, Eddie Short Leaf, who worked a bottomland section of the Missouri River and plowed snow off campus sidewalks, told me if the deep cold didn't break soon the trees would freeze straight through and explode. Indeed. That night, as I lay wondering whether I would get sleep or explosion, I got the idea instead. A man who couldn't make things go right could at least go. He could quit trying to get out of the way of life. Chuck routine. Live the real jeopardy of circumstance. It was a question of dignity. The result: on March 19, the last night of winter, I again lay awake in the tangled bed, this time doubting the madness of just walking out on things, doubting the whole plan that would begin at daybreak—to set out on a long (equivalent to half the circumference of the earth), circular trip over the back roads of the United States. Following a circle would give a purpose—to come around again—where taking a straight line would not. And I was going to do it by living out of the back end of a truck. But how to begin a beginning? A strange sound interrupted my tossing. I went to the window, the cold air against my eyes. At first I saw only starlight. Then they were there. Up in the March blackness, two entwined skeins of snow and blue geese honking north, an undulating W-shaped configuration across the deep sky, white bellies glowing eerily with the reflected light from town, necks stretched northward. Then another flock pulled by who knows what out of the south to breed and remake itself. A new season. Answer: begin by following spring as they did—darkly, with neck stuck out.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I have mixed feelings about this book. It has taken me forever to read, and not because I was just savoring it. It's not a particularly long book, I could just only stand to read so much of it at a time. Least Heat Moon tells interesting stories and meets some fabulous people in this journey, but he tends to be long-winded. After losing his wife and his job, and figuring he has nothing holding him back, William Least Heat Moon turns his van into a somewhat camper and decides to just drive. As a u I have mixed feelings about this book. It has taken me forever to read, and not because I was just savoring it. It's not a particularly long book, I could just only stand to read so much of it at a time. Least Heat Moon tells interesting stories and meets some fabulous people in this journey, but he tends to be long-winded. After losing his wife and his job, and figuring he has nothing holding him back, William Least Heat Moon turns his van into a somewhat camper and decides to just drive. As a unique point of his roadtrip, he doesn't take the more common roads and highways, but instead what he calls the "Blue Highways". Those roads that are in an old atlas marked in blue and not commonly used for travel anymore. He starts out in MO and makes a trek to the eastern shore, from there he heads south, and then West, eventually making a complete circle around the United States and ending back in MO. He enjoys most of his travels, although, like some of the other travel books I've read, he didn't have all pleasant experiences in the South. While he encounters racism in different parts of the United States, most of the ones he writes about are in this region. He meets some very interesting people and his stories of them were some of my favorite parts of the book. The shipbuilder, who over the years has been building his own boat for him and his wife to live on once its complete. The barber who gave him one of the best haircuts of his life. The traveling "missionary" who liked to hitchhike and was headed towards South America by way of Montana. There are several other characters, but these were the main ones that stood out to me. He also, thoughtfully, includes pictures of these individuals so we can picture who he's talking to. The other parts of the book are more of a "poetic" description of his feelings and what he is learning from this trip. This isn't a bad thing to have in a book really. But he tends to ramble on a bit in these sections and to me they weren't as relevant at times as I would have liked. I found myself losing interest when confronted with several of these chapters at a time and it probably explains why it took me so long to read this book. Least Heat Moon is a good writer. Everything is clear and richly descriptive. He just seems to like his words so much that he can't be as concise as most writers. When he's writing about other people he's excellent. Writing about himself is just a whole different style for him. I liked a good half of the book I would say. It's always interesting to read travelogues and I especially like it when author's focus on what they are seeing and who they are meeting, rather than their thoughts on how the trip is changing their life. In this book, I got half of each. I would recommend reading it, as he does have some interesting accounts in the book. Blue Highways Copyright 1983 411 pages + map and afterword Review by M. Reynard 2010

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