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Driving Home: An American Journey

3.4  ·  Rating Details ·  158 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Charting a course through the Pacific Northwest, through American history and recent world events, 'Driving Home' is a must for fans of Jonathan Raban, as well as the perfect introduction to anyone not yet familiar with his writing.
Kindle Edition
Published (first published February 7th 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jan 03, 2016 Alex rated it liked it
Another series of essays confusingly presented as a memoir. There were many excellent pieces in here, and many themes that got tedious to read about over 500 some pages. Raban is talented and does excellent deep dives on subjects like the Pacific Northwest, boating, and American culture, but mashed together in this opus there is not a lot of breathing room.
May 12, 2012 Florence rated it really liked it
Jonathan Raban has included essays on a wide range of topics in the this volume; the Pacific Northwest, literary criticism, fly fishing, politics, sailing, homesteading, the character of life in small towns in the United States and in England, where he was born. All of them are thoughtful and original, and reflective of human foibles. I read all of them closely, mining the words for each subtle and entertaining morsel. I especially liked the theme of the wildness of mountains, forest, and sea in ...more
Carolyn Haley
Oct 31, 2011 Carolyn Haley rated it it was amazing
I loved-loved-loved this collection of essays. See my review at NY Journal of Books:
Mark Noble
May 27, 2015 Mark Noble rated it liked it
I discovered Jonathan Raban when I read "Old Glory: An American Voyage" shortly after I moved away from Seattle. Raban is a British writer and began as a travel specialist. "Old Glory" recounts his trip down the Mississippi, recreating the route of Huck Finn, one of his childhood heroes. In addition to the ability to capture the essence of a place, Raban also easily connects with people, draws them out and then paints lasting pictures of their personality. I also loved his ability to look at ...more
Jun 23, 2014 Edward rated it really liked it
This collection of forty-four pieces originally appeared in various periodicals most of them comments on his experiences of living in and traveling about the states for 20 years, after emigrating from Britain. . His introduction, "Readings "gives you a sense of his mindset, a literary background, heavy on the classics.

One book he says particularly influenced him was William Empson's SEVEN TYPES OF AMBIGUITY which taught him to slow down his reading, "to read at the level of the word, the phrase
I have always thought that Jonathan Raban was incapable of writing a dull sentence. His beautifully crafted prose kept me spellbound right through from Old Glory in 1981 to Passage to Juneau in 1999. It took him years to write each one, but they were precious treasure chests of words, well worth waiting for.

Then something happened, perhaps not unconnected with a marriage break-up. Silence fell. Then he published two competent but uninspiring novels about his new home, Seattle, 3 years apart (Wax
Mar 17, 2015 Janice rated it really liked it
This collection of essays is thought-provoking, engrossing, and sometimes laugh out loud funny, covering many subjects, including travel, politics, small town life in the U.S., literary criticism, sailing, and the Pacific Northwest. Several times Raban returns to themes around the city of Seattle, to which he emigrated in 1990 from England. These pieces, and his nature depictions, were my favorites.

In one essay, written about heading back toward Washington from a trip to Montana, Raban began po
Mar 19, 2012 M rated it liked it
I think Jonathan Raban is one of "our best authors," and I think I've read all of his books. I definitely like the nonfiction better than the novels. This collection of essays, intros, and reviews took me a while to finish, in part, I think, because they are not all thematically connected. I never got "into" it as a book -- as a whole -- and so didn't get sucked in and want to keep reading.

I would have rather seen two slimmer editions, one with musings on the land around Seattle, one with everyt
Eliot Boden
Jun 03, 2016 Eliot Boden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: united-states, travel
This was overall an excellent collection of essays that could have been much improved with more selective editing. Raban is at his best in essays that explore his relationship to his adopted home of Seattle through the lens of the ever-present conflicts between city and country, conservation and development, working-class and software-rich that define the geographical and social history of the Pacific Northwest. I felt several essays would have been more appropriate in a different volume, none ...more
Excellent collection from a favorite author. Jonathan Raban migrated to the Northwest at about the same time (and time of life) that I did. Originally a Britsh travel writer increasingly obsessed with the US, he brings a literate and perceptive view to every subject in this collection. Descriptions of Seattle people and culture of the '90s and 2000's are right on, with background from the art and history of the greater Northwest. And essays on American politics from 9/11, wiretapping, and Sarah ...more
Jessica Culhane
Jan 04, 2016 Jessica Culhane rated it did not like it
Am I a bad reader? I couldn't finish this. OK, I'll be honest - I couldn't even finish the first essay, and it was about the part of the country where I live (the Pacific northwest).

I'm not even sure how this book got on my to-read list. It's a book of essays, and I usually dislike books of essays or short stories. I'm sure someone with more patience could glean a lot from this; the writing was good, if dull, but I like more story in my stories.
Oct 13, 2011 Larry rated it really liked it
English-born, Raban moved to the US in the 70s, and has lived here and written about it ever since. His essays deal with the ambiguous nature of his understanding of our culture. They are uneven, ranging from OK to wonderful, but they echo his really great books ("Badlands" and "Hunting for Mister Heartbreak," say). His writing is worth attention. (His essay on Shackelton and Robert Scott, tucked away toward the end, could merit a whole book.)
While a number of these essays did not interest me a bit, hence the 3 star rating, those about the geography and culture of Washington State and the West warranted 5 stars. Three of those essays in particular, Second Nature, Mississippi Water, and Driving Home, were incredibly good and by themselves they made reading this collection worthwhile.
Although I enjoyed this book, I was glad I got it from the library rather than buying it, because more of the book than I thought reasonable consisted of a mishmash of unrelated book reviews and essays. But when on topic, I enjoyed Jonathan Raban's ruminations on his adopted home of Seattle, and on the wider Pacific Northwest.
Christopher Fox
Apr 29, 2015 Christopher Fox rated it liked it
This series of essays was, for me, a patchwork affair. Some of the more travelogue oriented essays, like the extended first one, are vibrant, interesting and accessible. Those more concerned with literary criticism, less so. Raban is a craft writer with elegant turns of phrase and evocative diction.
Josephine Ensign
Dec 07, 2013 Josephine Ensign rated it it was ok
Highly uneven as a collection of somewhat linked essays. I like his earlier writing better than more recent pieces. Way too many references to 'hinterland' and 'VWs' in the Seattle area in the early 1990's.
Don  Kent
Nov 18, 2011 Don Kent rated it liked it
I thought this was an intriguing collection of essays, but it was a bit ponderous in spots. This Englishman's views of his adopted country are interesting and it helps a good deal that politically he swings firmly to the left.
Jul 06, 2012 Mttabor rated it it was ok
Shelves: summer-2012
A few nice descriptive pieces on Seattle, but Raban writes on the Northwest with an outsiders eye and is pretty uneven in his scholarship or empathy. The political essays are now dated and not worth revisiting.
Nov 07, 2011 Kerri rated it it was amazing
Just finished this amazing collection and it debuts as the first review in my new column at Bookslut, "Locus Pocus" - Here's a link to get you there:
I was expecting the whole book to be about an Englishman traveling in the Pacific Northwest, but it's not. In fact, most of the essays are not. The rest dealt with topics in which I had not interest. The author is an excelllent essayist; the problem with the book was in me, not him.
Lynn Kearney
Dec 09, 2011 Lynn Kearney rated it really liked it
This is a stunningly good book of essays on a wide variety of subjects: expatriotism, the Pacofic northwest, sailing, seascapes, Philip Larkin, and much more. His writing is wonderful and so are his observations.
Jan 04, 2012 JulieK rated it liked it
Shelves: northwest
A mishmash of essays previously published in venues ranging from Outside to the Financial Times to Vogue. I picked the book up for his writing about the Northwest, and skimmed or skipped much of the literary criticism and politics.
May 20, 2013 Ali rated it liked it
A collection of essays spanning 20 years - some attempts to explain the Pacific Northwest or, God help us, American politics to a British audience interspersed with book reviews.
Jun 06, 2012 Anne rated it really liked it
Enjoyable series of essays, mostly set in the Pacific Northwest - local author, lives in Queen Anne - has a good eye for observational detail.
Oct 14, 2011 Wesley added it
raban is an exceptional writer and this is a wonderful addition to his body of work. elegant, intelligent, and wide-reaching, nothing has ever made me homesick for seattle in such a visceral way.
May 14, 2015 Marni rated it liked it
The author has a wonderful way with words. I did not read the whole book - it moves slowly and I wasn't in the mood for that.
May 29, 2012 Phyllis rated it liked it
This collection of Raban's writings has some great travel pieces. I did not like the more political observation essays.
Apr 02, 2012 Tina rated it it was ok
I read the essays about the Northwest, and I skimmed through the rest of the book. I would only recommend this one to people who have a fondness for Oregon and Washington.
Alan Hassler
Alan Hassler rated it it was ok
Dec 20, 2012
Kj rated it really liked it
Jul 20, 2015
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