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