Blue Highways

By William Least Heat-Moon,

Book cover of Blue Highways

Book description

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…

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Why read it?

9 authors picked Blue Highways as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This is classic literature in the realm of American travel.

I had no idea that “blue highways” existed, and even though Heat-Moon went cross-country back in the 1970s in his van equipped with his igloo cooler and makeshift bed (not like the $100k fancy campers you find today), the type of people you meet and experiences you have in this amazing country are still relevant today.

In Blue Highways Revisited, I was shocked to read how long it took for this book to get published and the stacks of printed-out drafts he had of it (I think it was…

I happened to see the author on a documentary about Lewis and Clark, and I was drawn to his quiet and thoughtful manner. This made me pick up his book, and I am glad I did.

The author embarks on a journey across America to discover what is truly at the core of the quintessential American.

Shunning the interstates and major highways, he travels the backroads that are marked in blue in his Atlas. Along these routes, he seeks out the average person and engages them in conversation or activity so that he can get a sense of what drives…

This book has a special place in my heart: it was gifted to me during my 50-state travels by an English professor I interviewed at a Baptist college in Arkansas.

My research was originally more politics-forward, but I was immediately inspired by the soul of Blue Highways and saw that the quintessential American road trip was often a search for meaning. As William Least Heat-Moon recounts his travels along the back roads of America, he explores the common humanity of Americans, a theme I too found on the road.

This introspective journey allowed me to reflect on the beauty of…

Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

By Bruce Tate,

Book cover of Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

Bruce Tate

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What is my book about?

The plan was insane. The trap seemed to snap shut on Bruce and Maggie Tate, an isolation forced on them by the pandemic and America's growing political factionalism. Something had to change.

Maggie's surprising answer: buy a boat, learn to pilot it, and embark on the Great Loop. With no experience, and knowing little about seafaring, diesel motors, or navigation, Maggie, Bruce, and the family dog decided to take on the six-thousand-mile journey down inland rivers, around the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and across the Great Lakes. They would have to navigate canals, rivers, seas, and locks. But along the way, they made new lifelong friends and were forever changed.

For nine months, Bruce and Maggie navigated shallow rivers, bottomless lakes, joy, and loss. Against all odds, they conquered the Great Loop, and along the way, found common cause across political divides with new friends while blowing the walls off their world.

Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

By Bruce Tate,


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Ah, the lure of the back roads, the unbeaten paths, the “blue highways”—to use the term popularized by William Least Heat-Moon in his stirring, soulful travel book of that name. From the first pages, I heard the song of the open road as I read, and the music didn’t stop until the last paragraph. Kerouac’s novel was published the year before I was born. Least Heat-Moon’s book appeared a quarter-century later, when I was a young man yearning to find myself on the open road. Blue Highways was cathartic: it showed me that a journey on America’s back roads—and a…

Blue highways are the roads on maps that are less traveled. Least-Heat Moon follows those roads all over the country, experiencing small-town America. He is a curious man who is not in a hurry and is open to discovery. I’ve read this book several times and it has never failed to inspire me in the underlying goodness we can find if we are open to discovering it, and a reminder to get out of my comfort zone and explore. If you like his writing, you could also read River Horse which tells about his solo trip across the country in…

The fact that this book has stayed in print since it first came out in 1982 is a testament to its timelessness. It’s a classic of travel writing about the USA. The author sets off on a journey along America’s back roads with no other purpose than to explore the unknown, including discovering the history of those US places that have strange names, from Why in Arizona to Whynot in Mississippi. He describes an America that is filled with character, and with characters, and he writes about both it and them in thoughtful prose. Finding it on the bookshelves and…

If On the Road is a mad rush for connection, Blue Highways is a thoughtful professor’s journey on America’s back roads—represented by blue lines on 20th-century road maps. Much like John Steinbeck did twenty years earlier with his Travels with Charlie, William Least-Heat Moon takes to the road to discover 20th century America, reflecting the spirit of place and people, and how they are interconnected. Contrasted with Jack Kerouac—an impetuous young man thumbing his way across America on the “red line” highways—this mature writer explores the “blue line” back roads in his 1975 Ford Econoline van. Of English,…

Considered a travel writing classic, this book derived from a series of major changes to William Least Heat-Moon. After separating from his wife and losing his job as an English professor, he decided to drive alone in 1978 along the back roads of America, the roadways that are usually marked in blue on maps. He met an array of characters that could fill a novel, from an evangelical hitchhiker to a rural Nevada call girl. And it was all true, unlike novelized classics such as Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

From Kevin's list on road trips in the USA and beyond.

No list like this is complete without William Least Heat-Moon's Blue Highways. Mid COVID-19 pandemic I contacted Heat-Moon and asked him what he thought of the virtual zoomesque trips stranded travelers were considering as substitutes for the real road. "Peter," he wrote, "a genuine journey outweighs a virtual journey by a factor I can't even calculate." His intimate and classic trip to America and Americans proves the point.

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