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Shantyboat: A River Way of Life

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  84 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
"Shantyboat" is the story of a leisurely journey down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. For most people such a journey is the stuff that dreams are made of, but for Harlan and Anna Hubbard it became a cherished reality. In the fall of 1944 they built a houseboat, small but neatly accommodated to their needs, on the bank of the Ohio near Cincinnati, and in it ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 31st 1977 by University Press of Kentucky
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Sep 07, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it
HEADLINE: Here is the real secret to their contentment: They did not have any children!

It is not difficult to understand the appeal of the idea embodied in the book Shantyboat: A River Way of Life. A couple in the prime of life construct their own shantyboat from salvaged materials in 1946. After fitting out the boat and provisioning it, they set themselves adrift on the Ohio River in the vicinity of Cincinnati and float down that river onto the Mississippi and then to New Orleans. They tie up o
Aug 08, 2012 Rico rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoyed Kon Tiki, Farley Mowat, Huck Finn, and Thoreau
How come it took me more than four decades to discover this book? Seriously, when people saw that my favorite books were Kon Tiki and Never Cry Wolf and Huck Finn and Henry David T. and a hundred other real-life and fictional adventures, someone should have said, "Okay, stop. Read this."

I feel like anything I could say about Harlan Hubbard has already been said. Yes, he's the real deal, authentic, remarkable, unbowed, all those things. But something I didn't hear said about Shantyboat and Harlan
Feb 24, 2008 Janie rated it it was amazing
Harlan Hubbard lived the life I wish I could've lived. At age 40 he built a boat of driftwood and set out with his wife to travel the Mississippi River from Ohio to New Orleans. Winters they floated; spring and summer they tied up along the banks, sustaining themselves on whatever they grew, fished, or bartered through his paintings. How cool is that? No permit, no license, no insurance. All you needed was a good idea and the wits to pull it off. Apparently, there was a whole subculture of shant ...more
Max Carmichael
Jun 23, 2014 Max Carmichael rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Re-reading this little-known treasure, which is one of my central touchstones of ecological and sociological wisdom, I'm reminded of why it's not on high school or college reading lists. If more idealistic young people came across a story like this in their formative years, perhaps fewer of them would continue their formal education with its virtually irrevocable indoctrination into the dominant paradigm and treadmill of individualistic consumer society.

My hope lies with the constructive dropout
Bob Peru
Dec 14, 2013 Bob Peru rated it it was amazing
anna and harlan hubbard. it's like if thoreau had been married and ventured down the ohio and mississippi rivers.
Apr 19, 2016 Jo rated it really liked it
This has taken me over a month to read which is an astoundingly long time for me! But given the journey it describes takes pleases over several years and is a drifting shantyboat down the Rivers Ohio and Mississippi, then it would seem so wrong to rush it. This is a book that needs to be savoured. It is a relaxing read taken at that pace.
It is the prequel to Payne's Hollow which I read earlier and totally loved. This book has a similar lovely style and is as well written, but sometimes the scen
Hannahhippo vvverst
Jul 13, 2008 Hannahhippo vvverst rated it it was amazing
tells magic spells of an ohio river i have never known and never will, a river i can only dream of after putting this fine book down each night. and not very long ago atall, but seems to be just in time. yes, i have friends who've spent summers as water parades of sorts along the mississippi in junk boats of their own design. but to slink along the ohio at a pace accomodating to actually living of the river and its shores, that is something magic. today these channels are so terribly toxic i don ...more
Apr 13, 2016 Brandon rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! A fully Thureauesque dismissal of the modern world is a radical proposition. Those who manage it always fascinate us, and seem to quietly admonish the pace, the disconnect from nature, and the sheer grinding labor of contemporary life. This travelogue does just that, telling the tale of a husband and wife in a years-long drift down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in a homemade shantyboat. You'll feel like you were along for the ride, and wish you had the guts to drop it all an ...more
Kathleen Brown
Jan 19, 2016 Kathleen Brown rated it it was amazing
I love how reading one book often leads me to another. And so I was led to Shantyboat in a roundabout way. Harlan and Anna Hubbard drift down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers over a period of years starting in the 40s, gardening, fishing, bartering and meeting people along the way. I was utterly fascinated with this true story and sorry to come to the end. I now look forward to their following account of settling down in Payne's Hollow.
Max Marbles
Dec 28, 2014 Max Marbles rated it really liked it
I sure as hell would have liked to have had a beer with this guy.Really cool drawings and a start to finish treatise on shantyboats and the hard times that made them. This was one of my first "on the water" reads and it has drifted downriver at the lead of almost all others.
Sue Robishaw
Feb 29, 2016 Sue Robishaw rated it it was amazing
It's very easy to become merged into the story and their life aboard and about their boat. Even if you don't desire to float the river as they did it's an enticing and thoroughly enjoyable read. Inspiring in many ways!
Dec 14, 2015 Stephanie rated it liked it
What an important primary resource for Indiana and Kentucky life in the 1940s living on the river. Harlan and Anna are great pioneers for living off the land and river. It is a journey to experience.
Doug Tattershall
Oct 10, 2011 Doug Tattershall rated it really liked it
When it seemed all America was headed to the suburbs, a man and his wife took to the land by taking to the water. This is an odyssey as much about staying put as about a journey. The Hubbards lived their traveling life with a goal in mind (reaching New Orleans via the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in their homemade boat), but with their eyes set no further than the next bend. The book must have had a profound impact on readers of his age, especially those who still recalled rural homelands left be ...more
Oct 28, 2012 Rides2far rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book of a fearless, really interesting couple. They are a very educated couple who in the 1940's who happen to love the river, so they build a shantyboat our of scrap wood, move in and float from Cincinnati to New Orleans over several years. He's an excellent writer and the amount of skill it takes to avoid ice flows, tricky currents and barges while drifting are amazing. Their ability to improvise and make friends with people along the way while stopping to raise summer gard ...more
Marty Nalley
Mar 20, 2013 Marty Nalley rated it it was amazing
A fascinating story of a bygone time....I've read this book many times and never tire of the fascinating journey of Harlan and Anna Hubbard. My favorite passage: "The voyage often begins near headwaters, or on one of the river's tributaries. At one place after another the hopeful boatman lays over for a spell, until disillusioned, he lets his craft be caught up again by the river's current, to be carried like the driftwood, farther downstream. At last he beaches out for good somewhere in the sou ...more
Nov 09, 2009 Jen rated it it was ok
Being that I'm not terribly interested in American commentary, wilderness narratives, or journal-type writings, this was absolutely not the book for me (I had to read it, though). It felt excruciatingly long with no real plot, very little dialogue, and a scattered cast of barely-described characters--right on par for what is essentially a published journal. If this is your thing, this is a great example of travel narratives from the 50s.
Jan 30, 2012 Brian rated it really liked it
This is a book sent to me by Al Parker about a couple who builds a shantyboat and lives aboard for about 7 years on the Ohio river.
May 28, 2014 Paul rated it liked it
wish it had more about his thoughts and feelings, not just a list of day to day activities.
Todd Kelley
Apr 05, 2013 Todd Kelley rated it it was amazing
reading as meditation
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