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Northland: A 4,000-Mile Journey Along America's Forgotten Border
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Northland: A 4,000-Mile Journey Along America's Forgotten Border

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  646 ratings  ·  128 reviews
A quest to rediscover America’s other border―the fascinating but little-known northern one.

America’s northern border is the world’s longest international boundary, yet it remains obscure even to Americans. The northern border was America’s primary border for centuries—much of the early history of the United States took place there—and to the tens of millions who live and w
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published July 3rd 2018 by W. W. Norton Company
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David Dunlap To be truthful, not all that much. There are extensive glimpses of Samuel de Champlain and other French explorers and vignettes of Canadian…moreTo be truthful, not all that much. There are extensive glimpses of Samuel de Champlain and other French explorers and vignettes of Canadian individuals encountered along the way. In his 'A Note on Sources,' the author writes: "It should be said that this book was researched and written from the perspective of an American looking north at the border, and that many Canadian figures and historical events have been omitted. This was not done out of bias, but merely because, having grown up in Maine, that was the path I took and the story I chose to tell." -- Perhaps some enterprising Canadian will take up the challenge and write a book from his/her perspective! (Hope this helps!)(less)

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3.66  · 
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 ·  646 ratings  ·  128 reviews

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Robert Bothwell
This was an easy read, but it was really a quick journey to disappointment. The framework is a series of vignettes as the author alights on various parts of the Canadian-American border -- the Ste Croix river, the Great Lakes (via a Canadian laker), the Grand Portage/Quetico region, central North Dakota (100 miles from the actual border), Glacier National Park, and finally the Peace Arch between Washington state and British Columbia. The vignettes are spliced with little bits of history -- Champ ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
(Note: I received an advanced electronic copy of this book from NetGalley)

The pages of this travelogue will fly by fast for readers as they follow the author along on an informatively enjoyable journey from Maine to Washington state through the US’s northern border, a fascinating boundary land that has become seemingly forgotten in this day and age.
Ryan Judd
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it
The books isn't BAD, BUT it could have been so much better. I think the project got away from the author. It became too much for him--understandably so, he's literally trying to "cover" 4,000 miles, countless cultures, sub-cultures, diverse groups of native peoples, 300 years of history including the very strange present day, geography, ecology, etc. When I first heard about this book before it came out I was expecting something similar in length and depth to Ian Frazier's "Travels in Siberia" w ...more
Vince Tuss
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
As someone who has spent time in the Northeast, Great Lakes and Northwest, I find it intriguing to read them all grouped together as the Northland. I learned a lot about the start of the Boundary Waters. Most importantly, the end chapter with more reading intrigues the most, starting with “Champlain’s Dream.” And I am insanely jealous of a freighter ride across the Great Lakes. If you want to learn more about the U.S.-Canada border, how it was defined, how it has changed since 2001 and how it is ...more
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this adventure with historical info. I read along with my tablet on Google Earth to follow along and get a better feel for the territory being traveled.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very interesting read in the travel mode -- taking a journey east to west along the US border with Canada. I found his prose style to be excellent and he does a great job of weaving the actual narrative of the trip to the history of the areas he travels through. There were many things I learned and was not aware of regarding these areas, both current and historically. If you enjoy books that take you on a journey, this is one to try.
"Academics who study borders call either side of a new boundary where the line is vague and where the populations on both sides are still interconnected a 'borderland.' As the border becomes more defined and enforced, the borderland evolves into 'bordered lands' - where movement and commerce are restricted. What was once a singular region becomes two, and both sides develop individual identities, economies, and cultures. Land on either side of the US-Canada border exists somewhere between these
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is heading into the dead of winter! Want to read a book that will make you want to camp with every fibre of your being? What if that book also gave you a history lesson using beautiful language? Yes?

*Northland* follows Porter Fox's journey along the border separating Canada and the US, from Maine to Washington, by foot, canoe, and car, camping throughout. It's a love song to the landscapes and cultures he encounters alone the way. The book has a decidedly American slant, but much of the hist
David Dunlap
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book, but difficult to classify -- it is part adventure story, part travelogue, part history, part political commentary. The author undertook a voyage of discovery: to trace (most) of the border between the United States and Canada. I was impressed by the vividness of his descriptions, especially of the people and various localized cultures he encountered in his travels. Along the way, there are character studies/mini biographies of some of the most prominent historical figures assoc ...more
Janette Mcmahon
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Readable nonfiction on the US's northern border. Perfect blend of history and geography. Highly recommend for readers of travelogues and history.
Dana Tuss
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this trip across the northern border. Good mix of history, politics, current events and human interest stories. Learned lots of little tidbits.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it
There is a lot of interesting information here. It has big digressions into the history of Native Americans and modern issues like DAPL.

I expected something more like William Least Heat Moon’s River Horse or even Blue Highways.

I wish the book veered more into the lives and encounters with people on his journey and it ends up being a lot more sterile than I had hoped for a travelogue. He deals almost entirely with the US and almost nothing at all with the Canadian perspective.

Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Northland recounts Porter Fox's intermittent east to west three year journey along America's northern border with Canada by foot, canoe, automobile, and Great Lakes freighter. Throughout Fox presents the history of the region dating back to the original Native American tribes, the French and Indian Wars, the several US attempts to invade Canada, the Louisiana Purchase, and the opening of the Far West by wagon train and railroads. Nor does he neglect environmental issues and the ecology of the r ...more
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Telling the history from the 1500s to the present of the Native settlements and the U.S., British, and French (not necessarily in that order) occupation and imperialization of North America, including determining the border between the U.S. and Canada, this great read has many more proper nouns than I’ll ever remember. What I will remember is the mood evoked during the good times and the struggles and the bloodshed. Especially tender for me are the stories of Standing Rock. A few weeks before mo ...more
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful little book that can be read in an evening. The narrative about the creation of the USA-Canadian international border is the story of the birth, creation and exploration of the United States. Well written up until the "Medicine Line".

My only complaint is that he covered the last 800 to 1000 miles westward far too quickly. There is plenty more about the "Medicine Line" extending from western North Dakota to the Pacific worthy of discussion. A whole chapter could have been expended on t
John Benson
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
After finishing a 1993 book about a trip along the US-Mexico border as the first book in my book pile, it seems appropriate that the last book was a more recent trip along the US-Canada border. Porter Fox writes it in 5 episodic segments beginning with canoeing along the Maine-New Brunswick border, then riding a freighter across the Great Lakes, canoeing once again in Minnesota's Boundary Waters, visiting the DAPL protests in North Dakota and finishing with a drive near the 49th Parallel in Mont ...more
Patrick Macke
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
The concept is that this guy's gonna travel from east to west along the entire U.S./Candian border and tell us what's on either side as he goes. It is indeed a long, remote and mostly forgotten border and he uncovers many interesting and worthwhile facts and stories along the way, but he gets so sidetracked by history and treaties and land disputes that he seems to forget the "forgotten border" and a great idea finally slides off course short of the intended objective. Still, to the author's cre ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great mix of travelogue, nature writing, and historical narrative that relates the formation of the border between the US and Canada and the people who have lived near it. Interesting read. My only complaint is that he didn't mention anything about passing under the Blue Water Bridges between Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Ontario.
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 At a time when we are largely obsessed with our southern border, Fox's book adds a healthy reminder that more is going on in the world. This journey is interesting to go on and the history is just the right touch.
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This was not exactly what I had hoped for, which I guess was maybe a more literal ‘walk along the border’ cause when he was on a plane going to Minneapolis I was like Wait that’s cheating.
There were some cool facts and anecdotes though.
Tim Barrable
Excellent read! For a non fiction travel book this was a was a highly engaging and interesting read. I usually read non fiction a bit at a time over months and often never finsish them; but this one, I couldn't put it down.
Matt Pack
Jan 07, 2019 rated it liked it
First book of 2019
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book especially the history sections. I would have a couple of criticisms. He seems to forget that Alaska is on the same continent as the lower 48 and he doesn’t travel the entire length of the border of the contiguous states. Very readable and interesting.
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good travel book. We talk about our southern border all the time these days but we don’t even think about the northern border. In this book, the author not only travels the full northern border of the contiguous 48 states, he also describes the history and the people around the border. He is a very good writer. I found the book to be very interesting.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed it immensely. A non fiction book with lots of history along with poignant descriptions of nature.
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a pleasant surprise. The premise was interesting and from the outset I found the author to be a great story teller who did well mixing history with his own experiences. From traveling rivers in the upper east on the border, to speaking of the Indian wars and continuing challenges of native people along the North Dakota and Montana line, I was sucked in throughout.

I will definitely be on the lookout for more reads by Porter Fox. Loved it.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: adultnf
The descriptions of scenery were lovely. The history section of each border area varied; some were interesting, while some read like a dumping ground to show off all the author's research. My real problem with the book was with the portrayal of the people the author ran into along his travels. Almost every one of them was unpleasant. I do understand that it was a travelogue not a character study, but I wonder if the people who spoke to the author for the book regretted it.

I did like this book,
John Mulholland
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Interesting from the standpoint that I learned a lot about our northern border. I live just 19 miles from the Canadian border in upstate NY. Fox was also favorable to the native tribes that once occupied these same territories. Overall a well written and informative piece of literature. Well worth the read.
Patricia Burgess
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Intriguing presence: hike, hike, ride freighters, drive, along the 4,000 mile US/Canadian border from Maine to Washington. The author captures the history, the explorers, the wars (many), the displacement of First Nations peoples, as he strives to understand the longest border in the world. Unique travel book, encouraging us to understand more this often great wilderness.
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is another chapter in a trend of books that tries to tell us a larger story by picking a certain geography and moving along it. Porter Fox continues to make these stories weak by working to hard to describe interesting people rather than the unique stories found along it. No mention of the uniqueness of living along the border just vignettes of a random, very random, selection of people found along it. He seems to get interesting when he starts to talk about the enhanced, post 9/11 border b ...more
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Porter Fox was born in New York and raised on the coast of Maine. His book Northland, about travels along the U.S.-Canada border, will be published by W.W. Norton in July, 2018. He lives, writes, teaches and edits the award-winning literary travel writing journal Nowhere in Brooklyn, NY. He graduated with an MFA in fiction from The New School in 2004 and teaches at Columbia University School of th ...more
“Politicians, federal agents, pundits, and most Americans focus on the line with Mexico, even though its northern cousin is more than twice its length and many times more porous. The only known terrorists to cross overland into the US came from the north. Fifty-six billion dollars in smuggled drugs and ten thousand illegal aliens cross the US-Canada border every year. Two thousand agents watch the line. Nine times that number patrol the southern boundary. According to a 2010 Congressional Research Service report, US Customs and Border Protection maintains “operational control” over just sixty-nine miles of the northern border.” 0 likes
“Ninety percent of Canadians live within a hundred miles of their southern border. Twelve percent of Americans live in the northland, and most of them in cities like Seattle, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, and” 0 likes
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