The Oregon Trail

By Francis Parkman,

Book cover of The Oregon Trail

Book description

Keen observations and a graphic style characterize the author's remarkable record of a vanishing frontier. Detailed accounts of the hardships experienced while traveling across mountains and prairies; vibrant portraits of emigrants and Western wildlife; and vivid descriptions of Indian life and culture. A classic of American frontier literature.

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Why read it?

2 authors picked The Oregon Trail as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I began to read this book in childhood because it was in our house (sent as a present from an Aunt living in America) and it intrigued me by the title and the illustrations of buffalos, coyotes, bears, the landscape, rivers, canyons, and the covered wagons in a circle with people and their belongings, bedding down by campfires under the starry skies […] The episodes easily captured my attention. Parkman is documenting the first settlers crossing the Mid-West Plains towards the Rockies. This is really ‘a page turner’ and classic of travelogue adventure, even though I had never heard the…

Published in 1849 to popular acclaim, this is the memoir — part travelogue, part bildungsroman  of a 23-year-old Harvard grad who went west in the summer of 1846. Parkman only made it as far as the Rockies before turning back, but he packed a great deal of adventure into those two months. While Parkman’s portrayal of the Sioux will strike readers today as ungenerous, if not racist, his descriptions remain fascinating as a first impression of the west by a young easterner.

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