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Blue Highways

(The Travel Trilogy #1)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  20,821 ratings  ·  1,127 reviews
A book that describes Heat-Moon's 13,000 mile journey exploring the backroads of the United States.
Paperback, 421 pages
Published November 14th 1991 by Mariner Books (first published 1982)
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Kate If you click on the Editions link it will show you other languages Blue Highways has been printed in. I read it in English.
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  20,821 ratings  ·  1,127 reviews

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Mar 22, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 08, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, ugh
This is supposedly a travel classic,though I was left scratching my head,as to how it qualified for such an exalted status.The most interesting thing about it is the name of the author,William Least Heat Moon.

It is about a trip through the backwater American landscapes and the people who inhabit them,published in 1983.

According to some glowing reviews,it is supposed to have subtle,kindly humour and vivid details of sights,smells,wildlife and down home talk with at least a hundred memorable chara

I started this book about a month ago and tried to fit it into a hectic schedule. This weekend I decided to give it a serious go and see where it would end up.

The author decided to do a circle route of America when his life was destined to fall apart. He lost his job and his marriage was in trouble. Broke both in wallet and heart, he started putting together the trip he wanted to do for several years. He always wondered whether he could cross the United States by auto without ever using a federa
Mikey B.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though written almost forty years ago now this is still an awe-inspiring travelogue. We are taken through the backroads of rural Americana as the author travels in his small van going through towns with odd names. He chats up a wide range of folks – a poor wandering Bible thumper, a barber, a retired teacher, farmers, activists… He captures their integrity, humor, and eccentricities - and sometimes just the fact that some are simply obnoxious.

I confess that maybe because I am somewhat older
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
FRANKFORT is a tale of two cities. Once the citizens called it Frank’s Ford after Stephen Frank, a pioneer killed by Indians in 1780 near a shallow crossing in the Kentucky River..... A traveler coming from the west sees no hint of the town because the highway abruptly angles down a bluff into a deep, encircled river valley that conceals even the high dome of the capitol. If you’re ever looking for the most hidden statehouse in America, look no further than Frankfort.

Blue Highways is a 1979 trav
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
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
Aug 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Blue Highways

William Least Heat-Moon is a delight to read.. . just crack open the door and slide into “shotgun” position and GO. The road trip with the author, his philosophizing all the while, with spontaneity leading the way reminded me of my people. When the air in our home crackled and a change was needed, my parents both loved a ride. Us kids were tucked in the back (no seat belts to constrain us in a station wagon that had its own pasture) and every one could “do” the ride in their own kin
Dec 17, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

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'm th
Mar 04, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure-true
I hate making a review on this book and keep changing my mind about doing so, because I am not giving it 4 stars at least. William Least Heat-Moon is an excellent writer, and you can envision the places where he traveled. But it was a long book, it was hard to keep reading it, and yet I wanted to finish it so I wouldn't miss anything. I don't know if I liked it or if it was okay to me. And I think I would give him 4 stars for his descriptions. Maybe I am just used to more action, or as one perso ...more
This was an interesting juxtaposition to Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America which I also read recently. Similar trip, similar-ish accommodations (Steinbeck's was posher); Heat-Moon disparaged Steinbeck's book and while his trip might have been more genuine and more honest, I preferred Steinbeck's art. This was interesting enough, but it ended up as a nearly interminable series of undifferentiated stories in undifferentiated voices. It dragged. ...more
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William is from my home state, traveled the outside of our country on only back roads in his beat up van, collecting experiences from random Americans. He works in a lot of history and either has the best ear for remembering dialogue or had a tape recorder well concealed. This is told factually, but fresh with interior dialogue, as he works his readings of Black Elk Speaks, Leaves of Grass and Lewis and Clark's account of their adventure. William only hints at what drove him to this three year s ...more
Larry Bassett
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author of this book is part poet and part philosopher and part Indian. I have liked this book just a little bit less each time I have read it and that is not to say anything against the author. When I first read it I could imagine myself going on his physical journey and I am sure at the time I wished I could do it. Now about 40 years after he wrote the book and not quite that long since I first read the book I have traveled my share of blue highways although most of them were not made of as ...more
Jan 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Here is a summary of the book so far: Least-Moon travels the back roads in his Wagoneer to a small town in the middle of nowhere, such as "Nameless, Tennessee." Then, you wade through much detailed description of the man-made and natural structures. Next, he meets a local, asking about the history of the town. A long, very specific re-telling of some minor player in American history ensues, ending with "Then, the government [or national chain] came in and took all the land. Things ain't like the ...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
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Sean O
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The writer as traveler. Bigger and better than Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie (and I liked that quite a bit.)

It’s rural America of the late 70s, and speaking as someone has lived through it, Least Heat-Moon nails it.

There were lots of great tales and only a couple of weak spots.

Recommended to anyone who ever wanted to pick a direction and road trip.
Oct 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Dov Zeller
Part poetry, part journalism, part travel-journal, made up of a person's desire to escape the present through a nostalgia for a past he thought he would find lurking in small, off-the-beaten-path towns, this is a gorgeous, extrospective (?) road trip book and introspective inner-journey book. Sometimes I thought of it as a much more layered, intelligent and respectful toward human beings "On The Road" and occasionally it got a little to close to "On The Road" for comfort in its objectifications ...more
Rex Fuller
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
at least my 3rd reading and still as pertinent and beautiful a travel-the-usa-by-yourself-in-the-pickup book as you could ever find. beats "travels with charley" hands down and torrey's travel too. least heat-moon covers usa pretty thoroughly and is not afraid to talk to the locals, work for them too (he was damn poor) and go where most do not, crossing color and class lines handily. he did this in late 1970's but valid for 21st century. and note there has just been an coffee table book re-publi ...more
Dec 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
I very rarely re-read the same book; I listened to the audio narrated by the author years ago, and re-listened a year or so ago. Just as good the second time around - America has changed since his trip, yet the book didn't seem particularly "dated" at all. Moreover, it's a long book, but breaks neatly when the author reaches the west coast (Portland, OR), so putting it down and coming back later at that point worked quite well for me.
Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜
Yes! Finally finished it!
Like the book, reading it is an adventure! That's all I can really say or else I'll accidentally spoil something. X)
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice bit of writing. A journey down the secondary highways and byways of the United States in (and this is important)1978. It immediately reminded me of John Steinbeck’s book Travels with Charley: In Search of America in which that author made a similar trip in 1960, so it didn’t surprise me when Least Heat-Moon later referred to it as one of his inspirations. No dog in this one. He is not quite, in my opinion, up to John Steinbeck’s level but that doesn’t mean the writing here isn’t terrific. ...more
Jan 26, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
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
Kaitlyn Barrett
May 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-related
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
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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

Other books in the series

The Travel Trilogy (3 books)
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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.” 65 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.” 34 likes
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