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The Last American Man

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  7,005 Ratings  ·  905 Reviews
At the age of seventeen, Eustace Conway left his suburban existence to live in the wild--thirty years later, he's still there...
The Last American Man is the true story of Eustace Conway, an unforgettable American original. For more than thirty years, Conway has made his home in the Appalachian Mountains, mastering the art of self-sufficient living. Over decades, he has evo
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Published April 28th 2002 by HighBridge Company (first published 2002)
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As a librarian, people often ask me for my book recommendations, and then I get discouraged when they stubbornly refuse to take them. The Last American Man is a book that I wish I could get more people to read.

You may recognize the name Elizabeth Gilbert from her bestselling memoir Eat Pray Love. The problem with a massive success like EPL is that people seem to have pigeonholed Gilbert into only one genre, when the truth — as my fellow readers already know — is that good writers are artists an
G (galen)
Jun 21, 2008 G (galen) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my introduction to Elizabeth Gilbert. It was a random meeting, a freak of fate. Walking into my local public library I saw this book on a shelf I was passing, and thought "What... there aren't any men in America anymore?" Intrigued, I picked it up, positive it was some take-back-the-country-from-the-feminists spiel from some conservative talking head. I was a bit surprised to see it was written by a woman. What the heck… I’d check it out (mostly to see what had happened to all the men i ...more
Jeff Nicholson
Jan 18, 2008 Jeff Nicholson rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has a huge crush on Eustace Conway
Shelves: i-give-up
Eustace Conway could teach us all a thing or two about how we should live on this earth. Unfortunately, all Elizabeth Gilbert wants to teach us is about his father issues and his relationships with women. There is almost no wilderness ethic to be had; the book reads like the diary of a 12-year-old girl smitten by a mountain man. It's difficult to think of Gilbert as a serious journalist when she constantly fawns over her subject and actually appears (unflatteringly) in the narrative herself. She ...more
Jul 09, 2008 Donna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jim Heetmann
I picked up The Last American Man thinking I was going to read about some environmentalist guy livin' out in the woods to prove a point to the world. While that is basically what the book is about- the author outlines a very different kind of man than you would expect to be living life in the woods. Eustace Conway is not only living on his 1000 acres of land, killing his own food and making his own shelter and clothing from surrounding materials- he is surprisingly a well versed businessman, a t ...more
I love this story.
I love people who dream an intense, crystal clear dream, and then arrange their lives to see it come true.
I love people who work hard.
I harbor a strange and conflicted love for old-fashioned living and values, and for primitive living. Gilbert describes the conflicts I feel so acutely. The wilderness life she descries combines backwards attitudes about gender and the impracticality and seeming irrelevance of it all with sublime moments, connection with nature, and the inner str
Jul 31, 2007 Brice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Last American man is attempting to save our once great nation from its own greed and sloth by living in harmony with nature. Which obviously is not the exciting part of the book. Eustace Conway’s smaller and more successful journeys may be the exciting part of the book. What this guy has done in the name of fun, adventure, and self exertion kept my attention through the first halfish. Then rooting for Eustace to save our nation from the sedentary lifestyle, TV, and stupidity kept me in it fo ...more
Sep 14, 2012 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eustace Conway is a terribly fascinating and tremendously unique individual, exactly the sort of person that deserves a biography. Unfortunately, this is not the book he deserves.

Too many biographers (which is to say, more than none) make the mistake that Elizabeth Gilbert makes here. She has trouble staying out of the way of the story that would be conveyed by nothing more complicated than a straight narrative with some judicious focus on key events. That, I believe could have made for an excep
Mar 23, 2008 Angie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After devouring Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, I ran to the bookstore and picked up this fascinating biography of Eustis Conway, who may or may not be the Last American Man, but he IS the last person you would want to live with or work for. He is in his own idealistic world that shuts out others and has no tolerance for varying levels of compentence or preferences that differ from his. Gilbert attempts to show why Conway is who he is, and the reader does develop empathy for this lost, misplaced-in-t ...more
Jul 07, 2013 Shawn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I rarely read books about people unless it is someone I greatly admire. My brother gave me this book and suggested I read it, with the caveat that he had not read it yet but wanted to – so I gave it a shot.

As I read this book, I had multiple feelings about it. As it started I really like the book – the stories of Conway’s youth were interesting, his abilities at a young age to survive outdoors were admirable and I could see him maturing into someone worthy of a book, looking forward to learning
3.5 stars - It was really good.

Every time I drive by my local high school and see a metrosexual boy in his skinny jeans with his emo hair, I thank God that I narrowly missed that dating pool selection. Masculinity is not exactly what it used to be, is it?

It would be difficult to explain what this book is about because it touches on so very many different topics, but the change in American culture, particularly the sharp decrease in self-sufficiency, is the main focus. There is also an explorati
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's got it all; history, spirituality, primitive living skills, botany, you name it! I came across this book some where many years ago and have always meant to read it. I'm glad I finally took the time to do so.

As a therapist who specializes in working with folks on the Autistic Spectrum I was only in to the 2nd or 3rd chapter when it struck me; "Holy cow, this guy has Asperger's!" Just like a textbook example he had all the special interests (his interest in nat
Written by Elizabeth Gilbert, before her hit Eat, Pray, Love, this compelling story of Eustace Conway is one I won't soon forget. I'm surprised it isn't more well-known considering the popularity of Gilbert and the similar storyline to the outdoor tale of Into The Wild. This story doesn't have a tragic ending like Into The Wild, but there are many parallels in the early lives of Christopher McCandless and Eustace Conway.

Gilbert writes an endearing, witty, humorous, heartfelt, and detailed accoun
Julianne Patterson
I knew of Eustace Conway before reading this and that was the only reason I read it because I didn't like Eat, Pray, Love. I think this would have been a more successful book about "the last american man" had it been written by Jon Krakauer. Gilbert annoyed me yet again and this book is not really about living a life more like Eustace Conway, it is a book psychoanalyzing his personality, relationship and family issues. Which gets really old, really quick. She tries to argue that Americans are fa ...more
Rosie Nguyễn
Jul 13, 2014 Rosie Nguyễn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was in a bad mood, wanting to leave for a transcontinental trip and settling somewhere on the Himalayas, then I checked this book and it saved my day. Definitely my favorite. I always love Elizabeth Gilbert's writing, and I'm fascinated by Eustace Conway's lifestyle. Ingenious and intelligent, adventurous and ambitious, living simply and close to nature, he leads a dream life that we all want but scared to follow. I also feel a deep empathy with his characters and ideas of life, strict to hims ...more
Mary Ellen
Dec 16, 2010 Mary Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked Gilbert's lively, well-rounded portrait of Eustace Conway, but my enjoyment was tempered by one overriding thought: "Boy, that guy is a DICK." This has nothing to do with Gilbert's breezy, funny style. As a matter of fact, in anyone else's hands, I would have filed Conway's story in the "dull, thudding tract" section of my library. It boggles me that a man who is so aware of his natural surroundings, who lives WITH the earth, who conforms himself to the seasons and doesn't expect Nature ...more
Diane Barnes
3 stars for the writing, 2 stars for the subject, so I'll round up to 3 since that's only fair to the author. I only started/finished this book because I have seen Eustace Conway on a reality show called "Mountain Men" and considered him to be an Appalachian buffoon who makes a mess out of everything. When my friend Joey told me there was a book about him, I had to check it out. Imagine my surprise when I saw it was written by Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the mega-bestseller, "Eat, Pray, Love". ...more
Oct 14, 2010 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
First of all, anyone can tell from reading some of these other reviews that Eustace Conway is a jerk. He just is; there’s no getting around it. I would even go so far as to say he’s a hypocrite. There’s no doubt that this man is talented and hard-working, and has at some point done all the things he has preached to other people about. And there may have been a point in his life in which he had the proper attitude and motivation to change the world, like he claims he wants to, but here’s where th ...more
Carla Baku
Jul 24, 2013 Carla Baku rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have intended to read this book for years and am so glad I finally took the time to do so. After hearing Eustace Conway on the radio some time ago (This American Life) and seeing him recently on television (Mountain Men on History Channel), I was primed to know more.

The beauty of Elizabeth Gilbert's portrait of Eustace is that she comes from a position of knowing him personally; her love for him is obvious. The depth of her narrative comes from her willingness to explore problematic nuances, t
Dec 13, 2008 Michelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had high hopes for this as it seemed an interesting subject (the life and times of a guy who lives quite literally off the land - a "pioneer" if you will.) I have no idea what the point of this book was supposed to be - it is disorganized and strange, the author switching tones, style, and storyline within the same paragraph. I found myself wondering more about the relationship between the author and the subject (as in, when did she sleep with him and how long afterwards did she convince him t ...more
To review the book or the man? It is so hard with biographies.
Let us start with the man- there are so many, SO MANY things that we could all learn from Eustace Conway. This man lives primally but intelligently, he challenges our history and our definitions of pioneers and manliness in a modern day where we sit on a couch, ignorant of the weather, and revoking ‘man cards’ when a guy can’t chug a shitty beer quickly enough. There is a pervasive nostalgia throughout the book, brought forth by Eusta
Mary Miller
Jun 12, 2014 Mary Miller rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Here I go again. I know i should be more 'forgiving' with authors, but I really like good books and books that are well written, when they aren't written well, I have to move on. I didn't like "Eat, Pray, Love" as one person here pointed out so eloquently; she writes endlessly enamored with her voice and herself.

Biographies, regardless auto or otherwise, should give us a glimpse into the person's life. The flavor of the book should represent the person being written about, not the author, can b
Jim Johnson
I'm fairly certain that I could not stand to be in the presence of Eustace Conway. From reading this book and watching videos of his interviews, I would think that he and I would be at odds. His values are skewed from mine and that is the most disappointing aspect of learning about such a man. He takes a fragment of my individualist, libertarian ideals and twists them into a "my way or the highway" way of spreading the propaganda of his legend. But this is not a review of Conway's substantial ch ...more
Jen Hirt
One day, I happened to watch "Mountain Men" on the History channel, and like just about everyone else watching, I was struck by the visage, skill, and pure oddity of Eustace Conway. Unlike the other mountain men, he was not in the west or Alaska -- he was in North Carolina. And unlike the others (with the exception of Tom Orr, my other favorite), he was using little technology, seemed more interested in honoring wildlife rather than trapping it, and seemed really, really smart. And so I Googled ...more
Apr 17, 2011 Marianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Last American Man is the first non-fiction book by Elizabeth Gilbert, written four years before her highly-successful memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. It tells the story of Eustace Conway, an American Man who believes his mission in life is to show the American population that they can be strong and resourceful, grow their own food, fabricate their own clothes, make fire with 2 sticks, and save the planet. Eustace was taught and encouraged to learn the survival skills he needed to be able to live in ...more
Jan 16, 2009 Marissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this in the car, again. Found it to be well-written and interesting, about a real man, Eustice Conway, whose goal in life is to live as naturally as possible, meaning on his land, in a teepee, growing his own food, etc. He also wants everyone else to live this way.

I didn't find Eustice to be a very nice guy, overall, although he did have some redeeming qualities, so I guess he's just pretty human, but so driven and so ego-centric that he was almost unlikeable. The story chronicles
Mar 27, 2014 Colby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth Gilbert (yes, of "Eat, Pray, Love" fame) presents in "The Last American Man" the story of Eustace Conway, a man who left home at the age of seventeen to live a more authentic life, surviving off of the land. Raised by a father who found him to be a complete disappointment and a mother who taught him the skills he would hone to become America's most prominent outdoorsman, Conway determined that he was a "man of destiny" and that his destiny was to shake Americans out of their materialis ...more
Apr 15, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is one of those books that stir up strong opinions and heated controversy. Eustace Conway, the back-to-nature mountain man of the title, is someone you can see as a living American myth or a nut case. The author's portrait of him, full of ironies right from the title onward, lends itself to either point of view. And depending on how the book is read, you can see either admiration or skepticism in what she says about Conway.

Or you can see subject and author in all of these ways which, as I u
Linh Bún
Mar 31, 2014 Linh Bún rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Captivating, which I'd never expected when I picked up this book. I had to finish it before turning to my boring textbooks to study. It is so hard to believe that this is a biography. One reason is it's quite unbelievable that this is based on the life of a real person, who lives, and still, is living when I am writing these words (yeap it feels unusual to read about something quite extraordinary but still real). There is so much in the image of Eustace Conway that is fiction-like. The best way ...more
Torre DeRoche
Jul 08, 2011 Torre DeRoche rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You don’t have to be a fan of Eat, Pray, Love to like Gilbert’s biography about the extraordinary (and peculiar) life of Eustace Conway. Gilbert reveals a story of a man who rejects society from an early age to live in the wild. In the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, Eustace Conway hunts his own food, sleeps in a teepee and wears, at times, nothing but an animal-skin loin cloth. Preaching his philosophies to any listening ear, Eustace urges greedy, earth-destroying Americans to sell up t ...more
Oct 15, 2013 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for three reasons. First I like Elizabeth Gilbert. I don't care if that is cliche these days. I loved Eat, Pray (and the follow up - Committed)and her witty sarcastic style appeals to me. So don't hate.

Second, I'm a sucker for anything written that even remotely references (however indirectly) Chris McCandless and Everett Ruess. I am FASCINATED by those who can leave society behind to become one with nature, the land, what have you. I also think this desire is buried deep down
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PLEASE HELP EUSTACE!!!! 1 43 Dec 09, 2012 07:00AM  
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Elizabeth Gilbert is an award-winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her short story collection Pilgrims was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award, and her novel Stern Men was a New York Times notable book. Her 2002 book The Last American Man was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award.

Her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, spent 57 weeks in the #1
More about Elizabeth Gilbert...

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“I live in nature where everything is connected, circular. The seasons are circular. The planet is circular, and so is the planet around the sun. The course of water over the earth is circular coming down from the sky and circulating through the world to spread life and then evaporating up again. I live in a circular teepee and build my fire in a circle. The life cycles of plants and animals are circular. I live outside where I can see this. The ancient people understood that our world is a circle, but we modern people have lost site of that. I don’t live inside buildings because buildings are dead places where nothing grows, where water doesn’t flow, and where life stops. I don’t want to live in a dead place. People say that I don’t live in a real world, but it’s modern Americans who live in a fake world, because they have stepped outside the natural circle of life.

Do people live in circles today? No. They live in boxes. They wake up every morning in a box of their bedrooms because a box next to them started making beeping noises to tell them it was time to get up. They eat their breakfast out of a box and then they throw that box away into another box. Then they leave the box where they live and get into another box with wheels and drive to work, which is just another big box broken into little cubicle boxes where a bunch of people spend their days sitting and staring at the computer boxes in front of them. When the day is over, everyone gets into the box with wheels again and goes home to the house boxes and spends the evening staring at the television boxes for entertainment. They get their music from a box, they get their food from a box, they keep their clothing in a box, they live their lives in a box.

Break out of the box! This not the way humanity lived for thousands of years.”
“Show up for your own life, he said. Don't pass your days in a stupor, content to swallow whatever watery ideas modern society may bottle-feed you through the media, satisfied to slumber through life in an instant-gratification sugar coma. The most extraordinary gift you've been given is your own humanity, which is about conciousness, so honor that consciousness.
Revere your senses; don't degrade them with drugs, with depression, with wilful oblivion. Try to notice something new everyday, Eustace said. Pay attention to even the most modest of daily details. Even if you're not in the woods, be aware at all times. Notice what food tastes like; notice what the detergent aisle in the supermarket smells like and recognize what those hard chemical smells do to your senses; notice what bare feet fell like; pay attention every day to the vital insights that mindfulness can bring. And take care of all things, of every single thing there is - your body, your intellect, your spirit, your neighbours, and this planet. Don't pollute your soul with apathy or spoil your health with junk food any more than you would deliberately contaminate a clean river with industrial sludge.”
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