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Blue Highways (The Travel Trilogy #1)

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  11,467 ratings  ·  662 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 428 pages
Published October 19th 1999 by Back Bay Books (first published 1982)
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A Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertInto the Wild by Jon KrakauerInto Thin Air by Jon KrakauerIn a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Favourite Travel Books
14th out of 1,141 books — 2,230 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Evan
I feel awfully guilty not taking the time to give back to this book what it gave to me; its carefully shaped and caressed words of observation and wisdom. It deserves much more, but, like Heat-Moon, I am on my own journey right now, writing my own inner book. In it, he sets out in a spartan van named "Ghost Dancing," roughly following the "blue highways" (the most rural of rural roads) along the entire border of the Lower 48 to discover himself, the country, or, whatever, after losing his job an ...more
Scott
What a huge disappointment.

I am predisposed to enjoy this kind of book. I love to travel and to take the roads less traveled. I've been to many places in America and I throughly enjoy exploring everywhere I haven't yet been. Back in High School, I would read Michael Crichton's Travels, some parts many times over, just imagining what it would be like to be able to visit the places he wrote about. Since then, I've read quite a few recollections of random journeys...and I can safely say that Blue
...more
Jason Pettus
the classic hippie travel tale of a shrinking rural america, far from feeling dated blue highways seems to become more and more relevant with each passing generation. heat-moon (a professor at my college, the university of missouri, in the '80s when i was a student) traveled the country in the 1970s taking only the "blue highways" of his antique road map -- the non-interstate back roads, that is. what he found was a cultural america rapidly disappearing, being replaced with the ka-chings of a mi ...more
El
On the old highway maps of America, the main routes were red and the back roads blue. Now even the colors are changing. But in those brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk - times neither day nor night - the old roads return to the sky some of its color. Then, in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue, and it's that time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest, when the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.
(p 1)

I love open road boo
...more
Steve
Jan 19, 2008 Steve rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people with wanderlust
Shelves: fun-nonfiction
Actually, I first read this book about 15 years ago, but I was sick, it was there, and one thing leads to another..

The first time I read this, it was a great road trip, full of interesting places to visit and cool people to talk to and relics of a disappearing America. Now I'm older and much closer to the author's age when he wrote this, and a bit more familiar with how things don't always work out the way you expect.

It's still a great book, but the extra layer of the personal journey makes the
...more
Rex Fuller
“The night had been full of dreams moving though my sleep like schools of ocean fish that dart this way, turn suddenly another way, and...the currents bending and enfolding me as the sea does fronds of eelgrass.”

That’s one example of why I should have read this years ago, as I intended.

And the vocabulary! Wen. Quodlibet. Tumulus. Helot. Numen. Coppice. Drupe. And a good many I leave for your discovery. Histories, both tribal and immigrant. But most of all, the stories. “A sheriff [near Jonesboro
...more
James
Ugh...

I didn't mind Into the Wild, and I couldn't make it through Zen & the Art....

But when I think back, what I liked about ItW, the most, was when he was working in the fields in Idaho.

And it was written by Krakauer -not first person.

So, here's one of the other warhorses of the male-discovery-road-trip canon.

In discussing reading this book with other people, one person pointed out that what makes for interesting discovery-road-trip writings are when the character is forced to set out (I'
...more
Ruth
Aug 01, 2007 Ruth rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: americana
Author Bill Trogden/Least Heat-Moon travels across America in the 1980s, travelling via the highways marked in blue on the map. These smaller roards take him into out-of-the way communities far away from the interstates. This is a really fascinating read, giving you a look at bits and pieces of America from North to South and East to West. I imagine much of it has since vanished. The travelogue is skillfully interspersed with Trogden's own personal struggles: he decides to take the trip because ...more
Blueskies18
Another travelog. A little slow and quite serious. Yet I learned a few things and found myself consulting goodgle maps to locate some of the more interesting small towns he encountered. But it took me a long time to finish it. I could only handle a half dozen pages at one sitting. I like travelogs, but I prefer Bill Bryson's books because I can breeze through them as if I were reading a 'beach book' with interesting information and a bunch of belly laughs to boot. No one does it better than Brys ...more
Ruth
How disappointed I was, on driving across the country on the interstates (by necessity) that my trip was nothing like this one. To take a trip on blue highways still remains an ambition of mine.

R
Patrick Gibson
William Least-Heat Moon, writes of a journey taken away from the "interstates" of the human experience. In the near-forgotten places and continental corners he passes through, life manages to persist in ways that it does not in the change-racked "fast lane" so many of us are swept into. Nearly three decades have passed and the book is no less relevant in what it says about modernity: In the chain-store franchise, places increasingly appear like every other place, and local color and richness fad ...more
Melissa
I have mixed feelings about this book. It has taken me forever to read, and not because I was just savoring it. It's not a particularly long book, I could just only stand to read so much of it at a time. Least Heat Moon tells interesting stories and meets some fabulous people in this journey, but he tends to be long-winded.

After losing his wife and his job, and figuring he has nothing holding him back, William Least Heat Moon turns his van into a somewhat camper and decides to just drive. As a u
...more
Joe
I love this book because Mr Least Heat-Moon describes a trip I've been dreaming of taking forever: driving around the backroads of the entire country with no particular plan other than to eat good foods, meet folks, and learn about different cultures. One thing I would do differently is stop in more cities to take in some music and arts and baseball games and added variety. Oh and I'd want to invite some friends and family to join for parts of the trip. Because after 300 pages his small town sto ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Two stars instead of three for this book, because it starts with a dishonest premise. We are told that the author lost his marriage and his job, and "just decided" to take a road trip to find himself or whatever. He lived in his van--feasible in 1978, but dangerous if not foolhardy today. The idea held for a portion of the book...until I read all those verbatim conversations. How could he remember all that? I asked myself. One or two conversations that really spoke to you, maybe--but dozens? The ...more
Sara
I have finally read this book! It has been in my basement for a number of years. It was recommended to me by my sister and when I ran across a copy, I bought it. It's the story of a man who drove across the US in his van, avoiding interstates whenever possible and talking to people along the way. He wanted to see America before it all got paved over with shopping malls and all the mom-and-pops were run out of town and sometimes it was too late.

I spent quite a bit of time reading this book. It di
...more
Kaitlyn Barrett
This book was on the NY Times bestseller list for 42 weeks. I’ve been trying to figure out why. It’s good. It’s well written and thoughtful but it’s also lonesome. Least Heat Moon writes about travel in a way that feels like the last precinct of a desperate man and I'm not sure what about that appeals to the armchair travelers of the USA.

All good travel books have an interior journey wedded to an exterior journey. His exterior journey is a several week road trip around the outskirts of the US c
...more
Melissa
I'm a sucker for travel memoirs. I just love hearing about the author's trip and the people they meet along the way. But a travel memoir is only as good as the author's writing and this one is wonderful. It reminded me a lot of Steinbeck's Travels With Charley.

Heat-Moon loses his job as a professor and separates from his wife. These two events motivate him to take a van and drive around the entire country. He tries to stick to the back roads instead of the interstates. He is truly gifted at des
...more
Sean
I'm not sure why it took me 20 years after first receiving this to read (a different copy). But I'm glad I waited until I'd made my own cross-country pilgrimage, and that it was fresh in my mind.

The downside of this is that the America Heat-Moon describes has receded that much further into the past. But change - and often an accompanying feeling of loss - is perhaps the one thing about America that's eternal. Heat-Moon reminds us what's really interesting are the varieties of ways that people an
...more
Adam K
Apr 29, 2009 Adam K added it
When I'm not traveling, anticipating traveling, or traveling, travelogues are one of my favorite things to read. It occurred to me that I had never read one that involved traveling through the US, so I picked this book up.

The title refers to the smaller, one-lane, back-country highways being depicted in blue on road maps (the interstates represented with red). Heat-Moon was experiencing a turbulent time in his personal life, and decided to take some time to see if he could travel around the coun
...more
Tom M
The Good: A 13,000 mile, three month journey using U.S. and State Routes (and on a rare occasion, the interstate). Least Heat Moon experiences a vivid collection of people, personalities and locations on his journey. His descriptions of the people he meets are fantastic, and he captures their regional linguistic quirks perfectly. He also provides detailed information in the roads he used, so you can follow along on a map. It's interesting to see some of the places he describes in 1978 on Google ...more
Laura
This book was what I like to call a "Spirit Book" - a spirit guide, only in book form. I began this book right when I started my life as a touring musician, and unbeknownst to me, ended up travelling to many of the places Least Heat-Moon writes about in mostly the same order. I read about how these places were in the 80s as I traveled through them in 2012. The synchronicity of that experience was downright magical.

All the woo-woo aside, Least Heat-Moon has the art of storytelling down. His descr
...more
Stephen
“Other than to amuse himself, why should a man pretend to know where he’s going or to understand what he sees?” writes author William Least Heat-Moon. Indeed.

On the cover of my copy of Blue Highways, Robert Penn Warren is quoted as calling the book “a masterpiece.” Yes. It’s a magnificent ramble across America, a visit with some of its most curious places and people. It’s also a journey of self-discovery, made at a time when the author needed to take stock in his life and redirect his course.

“Wh
...more
Karen
Oh, I just love this beautifully written book. It is my dream to travel the back roads of America some day in a self-contained van, as he does (easier for a young man than an old woman, I know.) Least Heat-Moon paints gorgeous images of the scenery, tells hilarious stories about the quirky places he visits, subtly teaches the reader some geography and science, and writes touchingly of his own reactions to his journey and to the people he meets along the way. Although he only writes a few short p ...more
Dеnnis
I am listening to an audiobok edition of this gem. And I would say this is the best way of devouring this text since a great deal of it is comprised of dialogues and conversations with people from different areas, social layers and walks of life. The narrator provides an excellent rendition of local accents, tones etc., - something we foreigners would have never envisioned by plain reading. Besides it is not just a mundane travelogue, but a veritable encyclopedia of people's USA. The author love ...more
Jon
4 stars.

Stranger Than Fiction discusses this book Wednesday evening at the Kansas City Public Library Central branch with the author. Followed by his talk on writing Blue Highways.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
I read this back in the early eighties and immediately added it to my favorite reads of all time list.

Now, after completing my first reread, I would have to say that this remains a favorite. Pretty good book if it hangs in there almost thirty years later.

Heat-Moon travels America after losing his job and his wife in rapid succession. He takes to the blue highways, the roads on the map where few travel. He finds, for the most part, that solace and quiet companionship and time for reflection that
...more
Tim Basuino
Until I did it with my wife last month, it had been a lifelong dream of mine to take a coast-to-coast trip. We spent 13 days travelling from Portland, Maine to the Bay Area, staying for the most part in mid-tier hotels in mid-tier cities, primarily (but not exclusively) travelling by interstate. In all we went 4,360 miles.

In 1979, William Least Half-Moon did about two and a half times that distance, creating a sort of sideways heart-shaped route beginning and ending in Missouri. Unlike us, he sp
...more
Saskia Marijke Niehorster-Cook
It took me the better of a year and some months to read this book. I could only take so much at a time. It is not that it is a bad book per se, it is just that it is very condensed, not only in ideas but also on references that have to do with American History and literature and not always things that are in pop culture or easily recognizable. It is obvious that Mr. Least Heat-Moon is an intellectual that lives outside main stream America and that his thinking is not only outside the box, but so ...more
Jason
This book is dated enough now in 2014 to wonder if these sorts of local characters of such individual traditions and dialects still exist. America seems to be bulldozed flat and replaced by strip malls and subdivisions with no identity other than american chain business. Americans like predictability in all parts of life and travel is not any different. You can sense this even in the authors writing when he tries to relate all kinds of people from all over the country by the common factor of his ...more
Patrick Ross
This book has long inspired me. I read it a second time before I engaged in a cross-country road trip in 2010, and a third time in 2011 when working on my own travel writing. It's fairly lengthy--although apparently a lot shorter than his earlier drafts--but he does a great job of weaving together encounters with interesting individuals; insights on the places he's traveling; and personal reveals. A classic travel memoir for a reason.
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Kansas City Publi...: Blue Highways (May 2014) 1 9 May 14, 2014 05:20PM  
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From wikipedia:

William Least Heat-Moon, byname of William Trogdon is an American travel writer of English, Irish and Osage Nation ancestry. He is the author of a bestselling trilogy of topographical U.S. travel writing.

His pen name came from his father saying, "I call myself Heat Moon, your elder brother is Little Heat Moon. You, coming last, therefore, are Least." Born in Kansas City, Missouri, H
...more
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“What you've done becomes the judge of what you're going to do - especially in other people's minds. When you're traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don't have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” 35 likes
“Instead of insight, maybe all a man gets is strength to wander for a while. Maybe the only gift is a chance to inquire, to know nothing for certain. An inheritance of wonder and nothing more.” 18 likes
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