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The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  14,335 Ratings  ·  1,786 Reviews
The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring —and until now, untold — story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. After risking the hazardous journey across the Atlantic, these Americans embarked on a gre ...more
Hardcover, 558 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group (first published January 1st 2011)
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Les Misérables by Victor HugoA Moveable Feast by Ernest HemingwayA Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensMy Life in France by Julia ChildThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
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21st out of 462 books — 479 voters
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Best Non-fiction American History Books
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Community Reviews

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Jun 10, 2011 Grumpus rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, audiobook
Dear Goodreads Community:

This is not easy for me to do and I am sorry to have to do this in this forum. I realize it is a bit cowardly and beg your understanding but you need to know it is not you, it’s me—well, maybe it is you.

Yes, over the last four years we’ve had some good times and I will cherish those books you’ve recommended through your insightful reviews and ratings. Those were wonderful times and I trusted you then. However, over the past year or so, it seems more and more that you’ve
Oct 13, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it
This book made me wish I could travel back in time to Paris in the 1830s. The collection of artists and writers there was remarkable.

In "The Greater Journey," David McCullough tells stories of a varied group of Americans who went to Paris in the 19th century, and then returned home with new ideas, new art, new writings and even new inventions. The group included James Fenimore Cooper, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe,
Oct 14, 2016 Chrissie rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure how much I would like this even though I know I like the way David McCullough and his team put together books. I was hesitant because the book focuses on many different individuals, all Americans residing in Paris from the late 1820s through 1900. Would I get adequate depth about each? The answer? Many individuals are mentioned and yet I was interested in so many because of the fascinating information provided. I did not get complete biographies of any, but the book does focus in m ...more
Jul 03, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, autographed
We went to see McCullough 'launch' this latest offering. He's 78 now but still looks and sounds like God. (With apologies to Morgan Freeman and Alanis Morissette, who some people also think look like God). He spoke without a note for over an hour with only a rare misspeak, telling the wonderful stories that he unearthed about 19th Century Americans in Paris.

Context: I was always a reader, but McCullough's Path Between the Seas is one of the handful of books that turned me into an addict. And, I
Randy Auxier
Mar 03, 2013 Randy Auxier rated it it was amazing
(This review appeared in the Carbondale Nightlife, February 28-March 6, 2013, p. 14.)

David McCullough became a household name in the most unlikely way. He wrote a biography of John Adams, who was tedious on his best day. Somehow the little guy came to life in McCullough’s prose. But there’s a back story. McCullough’s great secret? He’s not a history professor; he’s a writer. He has nothing beyond a Bachelor’s degree, and that’s in literature (albeit from Yale, where he studied with Thornton Wild
Stephen Escalera
May 23, 2011 Stephen Escalera rated it it was amazing
Ever since I picked up John Adams, I have been an avid fan of David McCullough. His biography of Harry Truman is perhaps the best one I’ve ever read. McCullough has a knack for taking people or things that perhaps have escaped the popular limelight (such as the Panama Canal or the Brooklyn Bridge) and writes a completely captivating history of them. You do not simply read a McCullough book, you experience it.

When I first heard that McCullough was penning a new work focusing on the impact that Pa
Dec 02, 2012 Rachel rated it liked it
I can see how, in all the wild Sturm und Drang of this modern world, you just might get in the mood for a couple of peaceful evenings in the parlor listening to a softly ticking clock and a mild, grandfatherly-type person amble gently through his stock of anecdotes. And if you happen to like your anecdotes very gentle and discursive indeed, and you’ve a yen to untangle bits about some pretty interesting Americans in Paris between 1830 and 1900 from the anecdote skein, then this is the book for y ...more
This was the first book I read after returning from a trip to France, and it was a perfect choice. Not only did I enjoy revisiting various Parisian sites in my mind’s eye, I was also fascinated to see the city through the eyes of other Americans. Nineteenth century Americans at that.

Told in McCullough’s engaging style, this book explores the voyages of various influential Americans to Paris between the 1830s and 1900. I was struck by the unique and changing relationship between the two countrie
Clif Hostetler
Oct 06, 2011 Clif Hostetler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is the story of Americans who traveled to Paris during the seven final decades of the 19th century. It's a history of the young years of individuals who ended up being famous and important Americans in their later mature years. Generally speaking, many of them were single, affluent individuals (mostly men) in their 20's intent on learning the artistic, scientific, and medical skills of the French who were perceived to be leaders in these fields.

I too spent some time traveling in Europe when
I LOVE David McCullough; as a matter of fact, I ran out, bought this book, and read it just because it had his name on it. However, The Greater Journey is not John Adams, Truman, or Mornings on Horseback. While McCullough excels at writing investigating the life of a man facing extraordinary circumstances (the topic of all three above books listed), he falters at writing about many men and women being influenced by Paris. The first third of the book is choppy, confusing, and riddled with short p ...more
Feb 27, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it
Recommended to Paul by: Jacques & Amanda
This is the second David McCullough work that I’ve read and I must admit I’ve had the same basic reaction to both - extremely well researched, highly informative, wonderfully interesting. Yet this journey was a bit of a slog – not a book to be run through in a few days like some light mystery.

This work deals with Americans who traveled to Paris during the 19th Century and the effect that “The City of Light” had on their careers, their insights, their accumulation of knowledge. From medical peop
Dec 05, 2011 Andy rated it it was ok
I read 200 pages, then the last chapter and the epilogue. Although any given page was well-written and interesting, I kept waiting for some pay-off of synthesis explaining the point of McCullough's endless lists of loosely connected unimportant events. Do I really need to know about the sordid details of the love life of Augustus Saint-Gaudens? The historian is maybe supposed to be "objective" but the choice of stories and details is a subjective editorial decision and it would have helped to ma ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Magnifique! I should have known--McCullough is one of my favorite history writers, and he's writing about nineteenth-century Paris, one of my favorite places to read/think/dream about. This was even better than I thought it'd be. When I was young I always wanted to go to Paris--but not Francois Mitterand's Paris. No, I wanted Degas' Paris, Balzac's Paris, Toulouse-Lautrec's Paris. Well, this was an extended visit to that same Paris but through fresh eyes. Much of what was in this book I knew lit ...more
Jun 12, 2015 TL rated it it was ok
I really did feel like I was in Paris back then and the atmosphere was wonderful but the novel itself...

I wish he would've gone more in dept on the people themselves... We get a little info about them then its on to the next section then sometimes they appear in a section about someone else. It felt a little dry and confusing after awhile.

I don't mind lookin up different things from a book time to time, but not every other person in the book.

For me this was a dud, David McCullough is a wonderfu
I very much enjoyed this look at Americans who journeyed to Paris in the 1900's to "broaden their horizons." I really enjoyed learning more about those whose names I recognized and learning about those whom I did not know. The audio was good and held my attention.

Some of the profiles are of those who went to study medicine, such as Oliver Wendell Holmes (father of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.) and Elizabeth Blackwell (the first American woman physician). Many of the profiles
Sep 24, 2012 Nell rated it liked it
While the book made enjoyable reading and I learned a lot, the theme of Americans in Paris over decades wasn't strong enough to hold the book together very tightly. Our discussion group agreed that the section on the medical students is the strongest, since it covers several people who formed a cohesive community and paints a vivid picture of the state of medical science before antibiotics and anesthesia. The section about the diplomat Elihu Washburne also holds together well since it coalesces ...more
A fine history, but unfortunately not up to McCullough's (extremely) high standards.

McCullough is an excellent biographer, and an excellent narrative historian. However, this book, trying to cover such a broad topic as Americans in Paris in the 19th century, he seems to almost flounder. Many of the chapters are excellent, and his usual skill shines here.

Unfortunately, some of the order and presentation of all this information seems erratic. There are lots of interesting narrative stories, and b
Aug 21, 2016 Allie rated it liked it
With a nod to Rachel's excellent review, this was the literary equivalent of a cup of cocoa (the chalky kind from a tin, without marshmallows) with your grandfather. It was perfectly pleasant and you will learn quite a few things about various American intellectuals and reformers who spent time in Paris during the 19th century, but the slow pace and overly detailed anecdotes are apt to make you nod off. Also, the lack of clear connections between the various characters (other than the fact that ...more
May 24, 2011 Gail marked it as to-read
Because in case we haven't established here, I'm a sucker for any story that involves Americans in Paris.

Kelly Walter
Excellent writing; clear organization; fun to read; made history alive.
Apr 20, 2011 Robin marked it as to-read
How could I NOT plan to read this book? Love McCullough's writing, love history, love Paris!
John Hood
Jul 30, 2011 John Hood rated it it was amazing
Bound: Paris in Its Spring
Time-Traveling with Some Exemplary Americans
SunPost Weekly July 14, 2011 | John Hood

Returning home from Paris, no matter where home happens to be, is never an easy thing. It’s especially difficult to do after a hundred year trip. So it was with some discomfort — and deep reluctance — that, after more than a century away, I came back to Miami last week. Yes, it was the same hometown that I’d left. But it wasn’t Paris, of the 19th century or otherwise.
I really enjoyed this book about Americans who traveled to Paris between 1830 and 1900 to live and learn/hone their craft. It focuses mainly on artists and people studying medicine and it portrays the great influence that their experiences and studies had on the development of culture in America in the 1800's. I loved learning more about people whose names are familiar but about whom I had only a cursory understanding - Samuel Morse, James Fenimore Cooper, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Augustus St. Gau ...more
Jul 02, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
McCullough, David. THE GREATER JOURNEY: Americans in Paris. (2011). ****.
McCullough, an eminent historian with a gift for writing popular histories, has here taken a look at Paris as a focal point in the lives of gifted, or soon-to-be-gifted Americans who travelled there in the 19th century to experience what the city would offer that would provide additional inspiration to their careers. He has mostly concentrated on the periods of about two decades each on each side of our American Civil War.
Bob Pearson
Nov 29, 2011 Bob Pearson rated it it was amazing
If you wanted to escape into a world of enchantment for Americans in the 19th century in Paris, this is your book. McCullough is already a favorite of mine, and this book just reconfirms my admiration for him. Yes, the 19th century - like most centuries - in reality wasn't all that great, but McCullough invites you to put on the rose-colored spectacles and walk with intelligent, artistic, enthusiastic young American women and men through the transformations in their lives that came from living i ...more
Sep 03, 2011 Barbara rated it liked it
I am a great fan of David McCullough and have all of his books. This book is different from any of his others. While reading the book I felt as though I was sitting in a corner of his writing shed, listening to him talk about all the people who spent time in Paris during a certain time period. The book had the feel of an elderly gentleman reminiscing about times passed. Names and ideas flew by.

I had to read the book with a computer handy. He describes painters and their paintings, and there are
Jun 17, 2013 Susie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listened to the audio version with the print as back up (and I was glad I had immediate access to the many referenced works of art). Edward Herrman does a wonderful job with the reading. I simply adored the chapters about changes in medicine and the advantages of going to Paris for training. The numerous chapters on artists bogged down a bit for me; yes I understand the St. Gaudens process of creating the Farragut statue was painstaking, but it could have been edited a bit.

I think one measure of
May 24, 2013 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
What a delight! A thoroughly enjoyable read, and an introduction to the 19th century, about which I recently realized I understand nothing beyond the Civil War.

Everyone’s here. You'll read how Charles Sumner, the great abolitionist, found moral enlightenment in a chance encounter at a Paris lecture; about the beginnings of American medicine in Parisian classrooms; all the great American painters; a succession of French kings and dictators; even Mark Twain makes a cameo appearance. Along the way
Wayne McCoy
May 15, 2011 Wayne McCoy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
When I initially read the synopsis for this book, I wasn't sure if I would like it. Sure, I love David McCullough's writing, but the subject seemed to lack a certain cohesion in the descriptions I was reading. Americans travelling to Paris in the years from 1830 to 1900. It seemed a bit vague.

I needn't have worried. McCullough pulls together an array of interesting individuals who thread their way through the book. The cohesion is the city itself, with it's art, culture, revolutions, scandals, w
Oct 25, 2011 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Between the years 1830 and 1900, Paris was considered the world's center of culture--art, architecture, literature, sculpture, and dance. It was also the center of science, especially medicine. Thousands of Americans travelled to Paris--not as tourists but to learn from, and be inspired by, its surroundings and people. I was skeptical about this book, but decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did! This meticulously researched book gives us an insider's view of Paris as seen through the eyes of Am ...more
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  • Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris
  • Seven Ages of Paris
  • Eiffel's Tower: And the World's Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count
  • Paris: The Secret History
  • Americans in Paris: Life and Death under Nazi Occupation 1940-1944
  • Paris to the Past: Traveling through French History by Train
  • Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-1939
  • How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City
  • Venice: Pure City
  • The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture
  • And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris
  • Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends
  • Henry Clay: The Essential American
  • Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light
  • For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus
  • 1861: The Civil War Awakening
  • A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War
  • Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910
David McCullough has been widely acclaimed as a “master of the art of narrative history,” “a matchless writer.” He is twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, twice winner of the National Book Award, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

(update: His most recent book is The Wright Brothers, published on May 5th 2015 by Simon & Schuster.)

Mr. McCullou
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“George P. A. Healy; "I knew no one in France, I was utterly ignorant of the language, I did not know what I should do when once there; but I was not yet one-and-twenty, and I had a great stock of courage, of inexperience—which is sometimes a great help—and a strong desire to be my very best.” 10 likes
“Vivez joyeux” was the old saying. “Live joyfully.” 4 likes
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