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Crazy River: Exploration and Folly in East Africa
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Crazy River: Exploration and Folly in East Africa

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  551 ratings  ·  88 reviews
NO ONE TRAVELS QUITE LIKE RICHARD GRANT and, really, no one should. In his last book, the adventure classic God's Middle Finger, he narrowly escaped death in Mexico's lawless Sierra Madre. Now, Grant has plunged with his trademark recklessness, wit, and curiosity into East Africa. Setting out to make the first descent of an unexplored river in Tanzania, he gets waylaid in ...more
Paperback, 323 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Free Press
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Dec 28, 2011 rated it liked it
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
May 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
A Random Assortment of Insightful and Thrilling Escapades from the Heart of Africa

From the comfort of your living room chair, Richard Grant takes you on a chaotic adventure starting with his dodging of thieves and prostitutes in insalubrious bars in Zanzibar through to a tense interview with the first democratically elected president of Burundi. In just over 200 pages Grant manages to cram in seafaring the Indian ocean in a cargo dhow, navigating the whole of Tanzania's Malagarasi river in
Phil Overeem
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating, occasionally grueling, insight into contemporary East Africa, with parallel analysis of previous exploration (Burton, Speke, Grant, Livingstone).
Cathy Savage
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it
This is essentially a travelog about the author's travels through East Africa. It details the journey from Zanzibar across to Tanzania to make the first descent of the Malagarasai River. He also is looking to see the origins of the White Nile for himself and interview the president of Rwanda. This story gives the short story of the woes of travel in East Africa, health issues encountered along the way as well as introducing us to the cast of people who helped him along the way. The writing is ea ...more
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Suffers a bit from being unfocused. I'm not ruining anything to say the canoe trip Grant had planned didn't work out, so he wrote a book about 4 different locations which sort of ties together.
Having said that, it's a really excellent read; thoughtful, intelligent and well written. He tackles the past, present and future of central Africa and leaves you to draw your own conclusions.
Not my favourite of Grant's books, but that's only because the standard is so high
Mike Fantauzzi
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another fantastic African travelogue. Grant travels through some far flung East African locations, meets very interesting people and re-counts the fascinating history of Burton & Speke traveling a similar route many years earlier. His writing is honest and insightful and I felt I learned so much about the history and present landscape of this beautiful & troubled part of the world. I will surely check out his other efforts.
April U.
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
Crazy River is a great travel memoir, particularly if visiting far away lands is in your blood. Grant captures perfectly the mindset of the career traveler, where you most appreciate the comforts of home when you are away. He also deftly weaves African history and culture throughout his story, creating an entertaining and informative picture of modern-day life in East Africa.
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love the way Richard Grant writes. I love his adventurousness. He has a great way of capturing people that I really enjoy. If he has one fault, it is that he tends to overstate some points and opinions. Specifically, I felt that the criticisms of all aid work were overdone. Still loved the book and will read more by him.
Carol Chapman
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I got this book from a kiosk where you leave 1 book and pick up another. I had mixed feelings about it. I enjoyed learning more about Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda, but thought the author was a bit nuts.
Jo Ann
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love the adventures of Richard! This is my second read. I also enjoyed Postcards From Pluto. Oddly enough, I've been to Tanzania several times on mission trips and I found his descriptions spot on of the region and people. Good read!
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Richard Grant is excellent.
Thomas Ryan
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book that I read while traveling in East Africa a few back.
William J. Wood Jr MD
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
A trip that went so bad you can only laugh. Excellent end section of interviews with the golden boy President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. I'm a big fan of Grant's writings. He used to be a Tucsonan.
Steve Bera
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the most interesting reads of Africa I have ever read. Highly recommend. Not so much about paddling as about the history and current conditions there.
Sarah Shaikh
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Richard Grant is a master of description. His books pull you in and take you to place he so aptly describes and he is a compassionate observer of people and places. This is the third book of his I've read and all of them have been fantastic.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty damn good. I definitely learned something. I learned that I'll never go to East Africa.
Jul 05, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Dec 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Linda Nichols
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Justine Philyaw
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.

Dec 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Martin Budd
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Ken Mannion
May 06, 2013 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-to-read
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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