Blue Highways: A Journey into America
  • Blue Highways: A Journey into America
  • Blue Highways: A Journey into America

Blue Highways: A Journey into America

3.7 27
by William Least Heat-Moon

ISBN-10: 0316353299

ISBN-13: 9780316353298

Pub. Date: 10/19/1999

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

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:…  See more details below


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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Little, Brown and Company
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5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.25(d)
980L (what's this?)

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Blue Highways: A Journey into America 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon is a wonderfully written recollection of a cross-country adventure taken by the author. Armed only with his van (ghost dancing), his 'desperate sense of isolation' and longing to leave his present situation, he sets out across the country traveling only on rural state and county roads, which are marked in blue on his old atlas (5). Heat-Moon describes an America, which travelers rarely see from the many interstates that now crisscross the country. His detailed account of the journey, and the many people he interacts with gives the reader insight into the character of the American people. He meets people of various backgrounds and culture, learning something from each, and describes the passing landscape painting a picture as clear as if the reader was sitting in the passengers seat. His journey begins and ends in his home state of Missouri, taking him in a circular path around the country. This circular journey 'represents the direction of natural forces', according to the Plains Indians (418). With each new route, and each new town Heat-Moon is able to capture the essence of the America not yet commercialized. He meets Bob Androit, who is restoring a nineteenth century log cabin. Heat-Moon envied the fact that Androit was 'rebuilding a past he could see and smell, one he could shape with his hands' (14). He also meets Bill Hammond and his wife Rosemary, who are building a boat the author spied from the road. 'You'll walk off before I get tired of talking boats' was Hammond's response once he realized Heat-Moon wanted to talk about the boat. Through the people he meets, the author gets a feel for the changes in character, attitude, and dialect, as he moves across the country and is able to present this well on paper. When asked where he is headed next by storeowner J.T. Watts, the author responds, 'I don't know' to which Watts adds, 'cain't get lost then' (35). This book is loaded with dialogue, which is the fabric of the journey, for without the stories of the characters he meets the book is simply a description of the changing landscape and the roads he travels. Heat-Moon's conversations with the many people he interacted with were not degrading and pompous, but were informative and witty. The author's ability to weave comedy and light hearted jabs into conversation with locals added a great deal to the readability of the book. He describes a gas station attendant as 'a surly fellow who could have raised mushrooms in the organic decay of his front teeth' (243). Humorous reoccurring themes carry throughout the novel such as his rating system for diners in which the number of calendars hanging about determines the quality of the diner, and the newspaper headlines he envisions when in certain situations such as 'Drifter Blown Away In Bar' during an evening spent in a Dime box, Texas bar (267). Heat-Moon is mostly a listener and an observer who lets the people tell their stories. Throughout the book are photographs of the people who Heat-Moon has had the most engaging conversations with. This adds reality to the journey, and is a reminder that these are real people, with true stories. Recounting his journey Heat-Moon says ' In my own country, I had gone out, had met, had shared. I had stood witness' (406). Heat-Moon is able to recount his journey in such a creative way and take the reader with him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I stumbled across a used Hardcover edition while visiting a friend in Pennsylvania. This is one of my all time favorite books! I used to love traveling across the country alone exploring new places, so this book fit me perfectly! A must have for anyone who loves cross-country traveling!!!!
AnnieBM More than 1 year ago
This book is a bit dated but still a pleasure to read and perhaps more important because it is dated. It is a good piece for reflection in these tough and trying times. William Least Heat-Moon paints with his words the journey in his van across much of the USA when small towns and little known roads could still be found. These are places that hold on to their own local feeling, still connected to past history that is also personal. Great contribution to Americanbilia. I recommend reading it slowly over days, weeks even -- let it steep and sink in.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In William Least Heat-Moon¿s Blue Highways, he tells his personal experience of his travels across the country. He feels his life is turned upside down and he needs to escape it. Taking his van, Ghost Dancing, for the ride, he has the adventure of a lifetime. He comes to points in his journey where life is more exciting than others, and places where the wind never blows. Overall, he meets several people on his way across the country and stays in several towns. He learns the variety of ways god is believed in, the history of flying, and the way that¿s several of the towns he visits was started. If you like to read about other peoples travels, than I suggest this book to you. It will be hard to find at a local library, but it can be found. The author goes into detail on several different points and is very organized. He tells the story just as it seemed to happen and doesn¿t confuse the reader one bit. This story is very educational and leaves the reader with the want to travel the country, as did the author of this book.
HillaryPlatte More than 1 year ago
I think it was page 40 or so, where the narrator is just having some pedestrian conversation with some random stranger, where I realized "Hey, there's NOTHING going on in this book! ...But I like it anyway." That's the draw of Heat-Moon's descriptive style - he doesn't try too hard to share insights about everything, or focus too much on himself - he's just there to help you enjoy the ride. Not every part is exciting, but not every part of life - and the backroads of America - is exciting.
LongBoardBergman More than 1 year ago
William Least Heat-Moon is a man who lived in Columbia, Missouri and is an English professor. Over the course of a single month, he loses both his wife and his job. He decides to try and turn around his life by driving across America on all the blue highways or routes marked blue on a road map. He drives a small Ford van which he converted into a small camper, and sets off on his journey with six gas credit cards and the remainder of his savings account. On his journey he meets people and places that seem to be stuck in time. He discovers places that have deep roots in the history of America. He learns where go to and where to not go on his road trip. He recalls meeting many people he would never introduce himself to if he hadn't been on the trip. Throughout his trip he meets great people who invite him in for great pie, or just a good conversation. This is a great book to read for anyone who loves down to earth writing. I received this book for my birthday and I loved it. The imagery makes you think about the more simple times in life and makes you reminisce about times when you felt free. While a little slow in some spots, the book is a joy to read. Heat-Moon has a distinct style of writing that puts you in the story so close you can almost feel the wind in your hair. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a great American story, or just a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heat-Moon's Blue Highways is a view into America that few have seen. In this book he is completely focused and the writing is reflective of that. He has clearly had the first person experience that allows him to tell the stories of the people he meets in the way that is almost like fiction. The dialog is excellent and Heat-Moon uses excellent descriptive language when he is in the back woods of Louisiana, he makes the reader feel as though they are in the river valley eating fried chicken. The mood changes by state and his feelings. When Heat-Moon gets a cold the book drags and when its cold the writing is fast and accurate as if it had been sharpened. The shear task of driving around the country is an undertaking most mortals wouldn't think of attempting especially on the slow back roads, but Heat-Moon has given the country a gift with his entertaining account of the people and places that he encounters on his captivating journey. In the end Blue Highways is an excellent book and worth your time and could be considered one of the finest travel guides ever!
nprfan1 More than 1 year ago
A little over twenty-five years ago William Trogden, who took the name of his Native American ancestors and called himself William Least Heat Moon, set out on a journey across America in what was basically the ancestor of the modern SUV, a small truck which he named Ghost Dancing.

Initially he did this because he had lost his job and his wife in the space of a month, but his journey turned into much more than just an attempt to forget. It became a classic search for and journey into the heart of the country.

This is not a trip into the weirdness of America, although Least Heat Moon encounters plenty of strange sites and people on his journey. It is more of a trip into the heart and soul of the country - figuratively as well as literally. There have been many books written over the years about people leaving home to find America, but even after twenty-five years this is still one of the best such books ever written.

My only complaint is that he quotes Walt Whitman a little too much. I can understand his references to Black Elk, given his background and ancestry, but his overuse of Whitman is a bit jarring at times. But if you work around the Whitman quotes you will love your journey across America's blue highways with William Least Heat Moon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! I've been to some of these areas and found the descriptions to be accurate. I enjoyed the descriptive writing and his sense of humor. I highly recommend both bok and activity (getting off the Interstates) to get to know our country.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The notion behind the book Blue Highways lies within self-discovery. The man behind the autobiography, William Heat-Moon, decided his everyday life didn’t have the appeal he was looking for. He left behind his day job, neighbors and acquaintances, and took to the rode in his 70’s Chevy van. With everything he didn’t want to leave behind, he hit all the back roads throughout the United States, staying off of main highways and taking state highways all over the country. His desire was simple; come full circle from where he would start.  William believed there was more to life than the early rise, 9-5 workday that had little meaning to life. He didn’t have many people to lean back on, so he could either let himself fall apart, or try and find new meaning in life. Although he doesn’t have any idea of what to look for on his journey, he takes a step in hopes that he can learn not only some things about other people, but also about what he is looking for in the last half of his life. He makes references to his favorite books that had quotes to help him wrestle negative emotion. On his country loop, William discovers that there are so many types of people and so many ways to live that he forgets his own sorrows in order to keep up with new people that he meets. From people dealing with racial tension in the South, to the far northwestern areas where people are looking for warmer clothes, William discovers it all in his journey that is equivalent to half of the circumference of the earth.  While reading, I noticed how easily the storyline ran. Heat-Moon tells the story in first person narrative style writing, which led to very detailed thoughts and stories. This also helped to show how other people that he met along his trip felt about certain topics, involving religion, race, and gender equality. No matter how they spoke, William would write word for word what his new acquaintances would say about a topic. Many times I was amazed that certain people talked the way they do, but I remembered the time period the book took place in and it wasn’t so out of the norm then.  There wasn’t much I didn’t like about this book. I chose to read it because I love adventure books, and this one was no different. William did go into a lot of detail in some places of the book that may not have needed so much detail, but other than that I fully enjoyed reading this book. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a narrative style adventure story with a touch of irony and humor. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Elizabeth_Anderson More than 1 year ago
This story elucidates what it would be like to have things fall apart and go on an epic journey in one of the most cherished corners of the US, blue highways. I found it to be an enjoyable read. I would recommend this product along with Eighteen In Cross-country Odyssey by Benjamin Anderson, a tale about an eighteen-year-old’s journey across the United States between his high school and college careers, fraught with quirky encounters and beautiful scenery. Make sure not to miss either book.
RTCOMC More than 1 year ago
One of the best travel books ever written!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
captainbrian More than 1 year ago
The books of William Least Heatmoon are like water to a man lost in a literary desert of worthless meanderings. Please save yourselves and pick up any one of his books and you will waft off to a far better place in literary treasure.
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Not my cup of tea. Trying to get back into it but for me it's hard.