Crazy River A Plunge into Africa
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Crazy River A Plunge into Africa

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  200 ratings  ·  49 reviews

Traveling with explorers, ex-safari guides, and historians, Grant documents life, landscape, and the history of white exploration in East Africa.
Paperback, 273 pages
Published 2012 by Little Brown (first published October 25th 2011)
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I enjoyed reading this book while I was travelling through Malawi - many of Grant's observations and insights about African culture and travel resonated with my experiences and with the stories I'd heard from other travellers, and I agreed with his views on aid.

I'm not a big fan of travel writing in general, though. Reading books like this usually makes me feel like I'm swapping tales with other travelers (which I do enjoy), except without being able to relate my own experience or get into deep...more
Martin Budd
Richard Grant is rapidly becoming the master of "Trepidation Travel" writing.

Crazy River is an account of his experiences in attempting to undertake the first complete journey down a major river in Tanzania. The book has nothing in common with the type of travel writing that is a commentary on monuments, meals and modes of transport and is about as far removed from a tourist safari as it is possible to be. He really experience's life in the raw, and his perceptive and challenging account of life...more
Phil Overeem
This is a third about Grant's ill-advised attempt to trek the full length of the Malagarisi, a third parallel history followed the legendary British explorer Richard Burton, and a third commentary on the joys and horrors of East Africa. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Matt Farrelly
Having visited many of the places mentioned in Richard Grant's "Crazy River", this was a very enjoyable read which had me reminiscing and wanting to return to Africa.From his starting point on the Spice Island of Zanzibar to his final destination in Rwanda, the book maintained a good pace throughout which kept me engrossed.

His failed attempt at travelling the distance of the Malagarasi River highlights the real dangers of the continent and also the continued drain on it's native wildlife which w...more
Sarah Shaikh
Easily one of the best books I've read. This book offers a wealth of knowledge about African geography, culture and history. Amazingly, this is interwoven with the author's exploration of the Malagarasi river in Tanzania.

Below are some notable tidbits from the book that I especially found interesting:
- Human bondage (slavery) is as ancient as prostitution and has been practiced all over the world. African tribes were slaving on each other long before the first Europeans arrived, and 90% of the...more
I don't think the title really prepares you for what you are going to encounter in Crazy River. Richard Grant, a travel writer and adventurer, sets out with the primary purpose of navigating the entire length of the Malagarasi River in central Africa (apparently the only unexplored river left in Africa). The journey to the source of the Nile seems to be rather an afterthought and is notable primarily because it was an immense let-down. His narrative begins in Zanzibar and what a begining it is....more
I wavered about how many stars to give this book. Grant is an honest writer, who freely admits his own ignorance and fears when appropriate. He admits, for example, that one of the major purposes and driving necessities of his trip to the Malagarasi River in Tanzania is to be able to write a book about it. He roughly follows Richard Burton's attempt to find the source of the Nile, starting in Zanzibar and traveling through Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. His description is vivid and interesting. I...more
Richard Grant follows in the footsteps’ of Richard Burton as he heads towards the source of the Nile. But this isn’t his all-consuming purpose. He sets out to explore a continent quite new to him by trying to navigate the Malagarasi River, one of the last seemingly uncharted rivers. On the way he discovers the intertwined lives of Zanzibar, the underbelly of Tanzania, the ravaged beauty of Burundi and manages to interview the president of Rwanda, a country still one step away from the next genoc...more
Justine Philyaw
Grant is a seasoned travel writer, and I will definitely be picking up the rest of his books now. Funny, honest, curious, and yes, a little crazy, Grant tried to be the 1st person to descend the Malagarasi River in Western Tanzania. He comes to realize why no one else has tried it yet and learns quite a bit about East Africa and its people along the way. I enjoyed that Grant mingles the account of his 2009 trip with details about the trips of 19th century explorers whose paths he is retracing.

Linda Nichols
Outstanding! Changed many things I had thought about Africa -- I will never look at foreign aid the same way again, and I will never look at dictatorships the same way again. The trick is to find the beneficial in both. When foreign aid ends up in a corrupt dictator's Swiss bank account, or in a restaurant to feed rich foreigners, rather than helping the squalidly poor people it was meant for, something must be changed -- either in the way it is distributed, or just cut off entirely. A "good" di...more
As with his other book, God's Middle Finger, Grant goes exploring in a pretty extreme place and once again writes another perfect travel novel. If you're writing about traveling, especially traveling in Africa, you almost have to immediately apologize for being the sort of douche who'd wax poetic about the beautiful places afflicted by such horrors. But rather than take the Theroux route of turning it into a self-serving spiritual journey like Eat, Pray, Love, Grant is blunt and honest about wha...more
Everyone should read this book. Why? Richard Grant, like the explorers of old, has balls. He travels to scary, far off places that sane people dream about seeing but avoid out of common sense and fear. He makes you have not just a sense of a place, but makes you see it, feel it, smell it and learn its history...all in a captivating travelogue that never dries up or diverts from its entertaining path. Africa, despite whatever attempts have been made is still the dark continent...unfortunately, du...more
One of the best things about travel writing is learning about places you will likely never get to Visit. With Richard Grant's latest book, he continues the theme he started with his last book God's Middle Finger and that is writing about places you would not go to unless you are insane! In God� s Middle Finger he travels to the Sinaloa region of Mexico to learn more about life there. This is rather entertaining considering it is the home of the most violent drug cartels in history. Where horrifi...more
Ken Mannion
May 06, 2013 Ken Mannion marked it as to-read
Shelves: travel-to-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sharon Watkins
For a volume entitled "Crazy River," there was relatively little crazy OR river in this book. Richard Grant, like most adventure travel writers I have read, is one of those people who is never quite settled when he is home and is always looking for the next adventure. Here, he tells the story of his obsession with navigating the Malagarasi River in Tanzania. He takes the reader from Zanzibar to Dar es Salam, and into rural Tanzania. Along the way he encounters the requisite cast of colorful char...more
A travel book about Grant's attempt to travel the length of the Malagarasi River in Tanzania, then travel through Burundi and Rwanda to visit the source of the Nile and interview the president of Rwanda.

As a travel book, it's a bit underwhelming. The source of the Nile is a disappointment and he doesn't come close to accomplishing what he set out to do on the river. Mostly, it reads as an often-humorous example of the things that can go wrong on an adventure vacation. The book works much better...more
Starting out in Dar es Saalam Grant journeys through Tanzania, Borundi, Rwanda and Uganda to trace the origin of the Nile River much in the same manner as Burton and Speke did in the late 1800's.

More interesting however than the journey itself are the conclusions he draws as to the future of these countries, the attitudes of the present day citizens towards white people, and the existing corruption in most of their governments. He touches on the conflict between the Tutsis and the Hutus and whe...more
Peg Lotvin
Poor title, but possibly Richard Grant didn't choose it. Other than that, Crazy River is a wonderful book full of real-life Africa. Wonderful descriptions of African cities, not always sympathetic, but always real. I just finished reading Running the Rift and this one dovetails neatly with descriptions of the Hutu/Tutsi problems that shell shocked the world with its vicious war.
Grant aids the reader with information from early expeditions to Africa that Burton and Speke made in the 1800s
Canadian 135
Very entertaining travel literature - loosely built around Grant's decision to attempt to be the first white man (!) to travel the Malagarasi River in Tanzania (which in fact cannot be traversed....) Very evocative descriptions of Zanzibar, some of the characters he meets up with, the sheer miserableness of the attempt to travel the Malagarasi, the relative peace of Burundi, and finally a quite powerful portion on Rwanda and his ultimate trip to the source of the Nile. He makes some attempt to w...more
Wow. Thank you, Free Press, for selecting me as a goodreads giveaway winner of this book. At first I did not know what to think of this travel journal and I will admit, there were times that, for me, the book lagged in some areas. However, I came away with a very different perspective of Grant's work, and his careful attention to the history, geography, philosophy and politics of East Africa. This book will raise the awareness of any Western thinker about the political and economic dilemmas faci...more
Nancy H
What an amazing book! Before I read this book, I knew nothing about the geography, culture, and people of Tanzania and Burundi, and only a smidgeon about Rwanda. Grant's journey through these countries is truly eye-opening, and his contrast of the politics and culture of Burundi and Rwanda paint a more accurate picture of the differences between the two countries than many other sources. His attempts to navigate the Malagasi River and his later interview with the president of Rwanda are truly en...more
Insightful and interesting from a "this sensitive guy can travel anywhere and not die" sort of way with a good deal of sincere observation of weighty topics like the potential influence of China in Africa; it is poorly titled. The author may be crazy but not the river which occupies but a small part of the book and the journey.
Lindsey Wallis
Grant is an aging travel writer, never satisfied to stay in one place long. For his latest attack of wanderlust, he decides to charter a course along an "unexplored" river in Tanzania. His adventures start on Zanzibar with a drunk and some-time golf pro, then wend their way through armed conflict, sickness and local colour as he travels the river with his guide. The book ends in Rwanda, where he interviews the president.

The begining of the book is strong, with humorous escapades threaded with hi...more
Richard Grant is a brilliant travel writer, and his latest tale of journeying through Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda bears his trademark of combining adventure with keen political and social commentary. Grant is reflective and analytical without being judgmental, and willing to admit his frailties without appearing self-deprecating. He provides a balanced portrayal of everything from African aid money to genocidal Rwandans, and I appreciate that he brings back stories from places I might never vi...more
Entertaining account of a trip to East Africa to attempt to "explore" the Malagarasi River, the second longest river in Tanzania. There is a reason the Malagarasi has never been completely navigated, as the author discovers to his despair and this reader's delight. Although the difficult topics of the Rwandan genocide, extreme poaching, deforestation, drunkeness, and violence are fully delved into and commented upon, the general theme is one of hope for the future of Africa. That being said, bas...more
A great retracing of the early African Explorer routes. The author concludes his amazing visit to East Africa by visiting the Rwandan museum established to memorialize the victims of that country's genocide. In summarizing his thoughts he reviews the other genocides of the last century and arrives with great discomfort upon the conclusion that the only balance for humankind's propensity toward genocide and war might just be consumerism. Shopping may be the only interest of our species that is gr...more
David Sachar
Grant writes with incredible honesty about many different facets of Africa as he does more death defying travel. More in step with God's Middle Finger but mixed with some of Into Thin Air. Grant sets out on a goal and puts himself in harms way trying to get there. His humor also shines in this one as he describes the absurd in Africa that only he could turn up. His interview with Kagame in Rwanda is tense and telling. Loved the book. Read it along with others about similar subjects (King Leopold...more
Confirms all your doubts about ever going to East Africa.
I really enjoyed this book. I love cultural anthropology. Discusses some important issues, such as whether or not NGOs actually do any good, government corruption, European/American guilt over exploiting Africa, and having a population comprised mostly of children who have had limited moral guidance and suffered great trauma. I appreciated the author's honesty in portraying two sides to each issue when possible and admitting when he can't.
Great read. Richard Grant sets out to travel an as-yet unmapped river in Tanzania. Richard Burton, the great explorer, was the last to do it 100+ years ago and it essentially killed him. Grant's scheme is of the hairball variety but you have to admire his pluck. This is what they would call an "unflinching" portrait of travel in Africa; no Tourist Board imprimatur here. In fact I don't think I'll be going to Zanzibar after all, thanks.
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Richard Grant is a freelance British travel writer based in Arizona. He was born in Malaysia, lived in Kuwait as a boy and then moved to London. He went to school in Hammersmith and received a history degree from University College, London. After graduation he worked as a security guard, a janitor, a house painter and a club DJ before moving to America where he lived a nomadic life in the American...more
More about Richard Grant...
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