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Crazy River A Plunge into Africa

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  343 Ratings  ·  65 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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Jan 31, 2012 Vanessa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, africa
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
Melissa Lindsey
Books like these are why I love reading around the world so much -- In just a few short days, I was able to travel down a wild and crazy river through Tanzania and then overland to Burundi and on to Rwanda. Along the way, I had a fabulous tour guide who took the time to carefully explain the historical significance of these areas, as well as give me a crash course in Burton's travel exploits in these areas.

All the fun and adventure, with none of the risk -- other than those associated with sitti
Martin Budd
Jan 30, 2014 Martin Budd rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 21, 2016 Lorraine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first I wasn't sure if I would like this book because Richard Grand begins by wanting to re discove for himself the source of the Nile. I thought...another journalist that just wants to make a name for himself as an adventurer. But what I discovered was a man who realized his limits and compared himself and his expectations to those of the great exploreres like Burton...he found himself after 3 weeks somewhat lacking. He describes the harshness of the environment even with 21st century techno ...more
Julian Walker
Jun 29, 2015 Julian Walker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author has a plan – to travel the length of the Malagarasi River from source to mouth, in Lake Tanganyika, one of Africa’s Great Lakes. Unfortunately his plan is waylaid by an eclectic mix of rogues, poachers, presidents, thieves, hookers, parasites and the river itself – yet the reader is all the better for his meanderings.

Great descriptive writing brings us a wry take on African adventure, compared with Burton and Speke’s own historic explorations. The author provides us with a view into a
Nov 15, 2015 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating, occasionally grueling, insight into contemporary East Africa, with parallel analysis of previous exploration (Burton, Speke, Grant, Livingstone).
Phil Overeem
Jun 16, 2012 Phil Overeem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 17, 2014 Matt Farrelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kelly Anderson
Jul 07, 2015 Kelly Anderson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a gift brought to me because I currently reside in East Africa. Even after living here for a year, this book was incredibly insightful. Grant's viewpoints offered a perspective I had been unable to recognize, shook my understandings with complete agreement and answered both questions I had been longing to solve and ones I had never contemplated. This was an excellent read. I recommend it to anyone, ex-pat or not, living in East Africa, anyone planning to move here--shout out to all ...more
John Mccormack
I wish I could do justice to this book.It has the best of travel writing,anthropology,history,political science...a jillion subjects.There are some laugh aloud writings and revelations that are tearful.I became quite angry at the"self appointed altruists",NGO's,politicians,and civil servants.There is no shortage of self serving people in Africa,black and white.Grant evened things out by fair descriptions of the kindness of several people he encountered.The biggest surprise to me was that a dicta ...more
Sarah Shaikh
Feb 20, 2013 Sarah Shaikh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 19, 2011 Doug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 12, 2011 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, travel
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
May 01, 2012 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 13, 2012 Justine Philyaw rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 05, 2013 Linda Nichols rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 10, 2012 Trey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-fun
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
Oct 09, 2011 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
Jul 17, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
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 horrific ...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.
Dec 10, 2014 Alice rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book and the author's surprisingly insightful contemplations of life and the future for Africa. The reason I found it surprising is that the author also seems overly interested in talking about every whore he meets and every beer he drinks. The asides about (the explorer) Richard Burton seemed to be filler more than really interesting or relevant, but it was still a good book none-the-less.
Jun 27, 2014 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good read with interesting & informed observations about the communities he explores, with relevant & astute political & social discoveries/relevations. i didn't enjoy this book as much as his others, but that may be more a function of the subject matter, i.e., a tortured quest to make this particular "exploration" more than it could be/was, or my own high expectations re: outcome.
Sep 25, 2015 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Grant's viewpoints and observations in this part of Africa resonated with my personal experiences there (and others who have lived and worked in that region). Working in international development, i find his observations of the problems caused by foreign aid spot on. I loved his candidness, documenting all the different true emotions travelers experience.
Sharon Watkins
Dec 22, 2012 Sharon Watkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 08, 2015 Joel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, africa
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
Nov 14, 2011 Diana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Peg Lotvin
Jul 09, 2013 Peg Lotvin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 28, 2011 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, first-reads
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
May 07, 2013 Nancy H rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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