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American Nomads: Travels with Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers, and Bullriders

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  655 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Fascinated by the land of endless horizons, sunshine, and the open road, Richard Grant spent fifteen years wandering throughout the United States, never spending more than three weeks in one place and getting to know America?s nomads ? truckers, tramps, rodeo cowboys, tie-dyed concert followers, flea market traders, retirees who live year round in their RV?s, and the ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 7th 2005 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 2003)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  655 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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Start your review of American Nomads: Travels with Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers, and Bullriders
Great jump out of the starting gate; ran out of gas down the home stretch; stumbled across the finish line. ”
Christie Bane
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is a Brit who came to America to wander. Literally, he understood that the great open spaces of the American West are made for wandering in a way that nowhere in Europe is. To say I'm jealous of this guy would be an understatement. What wouldn't I give to be able to just leave it all behind and hit the road!

Anyway, enough about me. This book covers both modern-day (railroad tramps, RV-ers, Rainbow gatherers) and historical (cowboys, Indians, mountain men) wanderers. There's quite a
Aug 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
I found the subject matter fascinating and the writer's attitudes frustrating. It's been pointed out to me that Grant has mainly written for Esquire, and so expecting any kind of approach that took women into account as full human beings was, perhaps, overly optimistic of me. The INS "thank you" is a joke that falls flat about how it took the fear of deportation to make him finally get married. There's no real examination of what would make a person choose to be a nomad, and there's an explicit ...more
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was eye-opening to me in a way that the author probably did not intend. In this part travelogue/part research, the author set about finding out more about how and why various groups have chosen a nomadic existence, against the status quo, "normal" routine of settling down in one place, choosing a place to call home and be situated, etc.

To conduct his research the author, somewhat of a nomad himself, spent a considerable amount of time with the various groups to live their lives for a
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Superbly well-researched, reported, and written. The prose is both densely packed and economical. Worth reading more than once, as well as viewing the documentary, which only partially shares material.
Theo Logos
May 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
American Nomads was part of my summer reading list, a little lighter reading than my usual fare I thought. While Grant's book delivered as an enjoyable and swift read that was not too heavy, it also surprised me with its grasp of Western history and valuable insights.
Richard Grant is a Brit with an inclination to ramble. He fell in love with the wide-open spaces and endless road of the American West, and began a life of rambling all over the West at will. When he ran out of money, he returned to
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in traveling in America.
I have been fascinated with wanderers, drifters, hobos and nomads for much of my life. Perhaps that comes from living within the sound of passing trains and the whistle (more of a horn) that I would fall asleep to as a child. I love to travel and I wish I had a copy of this book "American Nomads" at my side years ago.
Richard Grant is a wanderer at heart and in the tradition of Paul Theroux and Bruce Chatwin, he is a careful observer and recorder of the sights and sounds of life on the road. In
May 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Humans
Shelves: favorites
A really fascinating mixture of American history and good yarns which covers everything from Native Americans and early settlers to migratory retirement communities, hippies and truckers.

Possibly the author over-romanticises somewhat, but as I've not read a great deal on the subject before or since I couldn't say for sure. My instinct is that, the author being British and obviously enamoured with the North American landscape and the American ideal long before experiencing either, it's probably
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sort of a travelogue/popular history hybrid in the Sarah Vowell mode, although perhaps a better analogue would be the overeducated-and-undermotivated*-Brit-interacts-with-colorful-locals-in-an-exotic-locale gonzo journalism of Peter Robb , Geoff Dyer , or Duncan McLean . I read this because I had really enjoyed God's Middle Finger , a similarly structured account of Grant's travels in the Sierra Madre published five years after the present volume. Like American Nomads, it was smart and ...more
Natalie Awdry
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't too keen when I started reading this book and saw that it was about the tales of a disenchanted London journalist trying to "find himself" in America, but I was wrong.

I had not expected the amount of research and the level of detail that Grant would go into to make this, not only a personal account of his travels around the wilds of the USA, but also the history of those "colonisers" who had gone before him. My reading list has expanded enormously as a result and I was really pleased
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The road is America's preeminent symbol of freedom, and this is understood by consumers of American culture all over the world." (5)

"In London, I would not have reacted to a relationship breakup by walking out to the highway and raising my thumb. These restless, roaming urges, this ache for the balm of motion: it was something that happened to me in America..." (25)

"The wold had the keenest senses and was the most difficult to stalk. The grizzly bear was the most dangerous and thrilling. After
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
First of all... I love Richard Grant's writing. If you have not read any of his other books like "Dispatches from Pluto" or "God's Middle Finger" you should! But, back to "American Nomads". Grand is a UK citizen living in the US and he has a fascination for the American traveler. Americans are born travelers. After all, most European immigrants left their home and crossed at least one ocean to get here. Once they got here they kept going to until they reached another ocean.

European immigrants
Julian Edge
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed all the parts of this book — the historical, the apocryphal, the reportage and the reflections. I have this slight (and perhaps unfair) feeling of disappointment that those elements didn't (for me) all gel into the book that this might have been. It drifts at times and sometimes becomes repetitive. My response has doubtless been influenced by coming to this title after the same author's Dispatches from Pluto, which I found to be more of an integrated success. But they are both very ...more
Julian Walker
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An alternative America vividly brought to life with some excellent descriptive writing and a host of characters from the less ordinary side of life.

Mixing history with modern travelers' tales, the author looks for a common theme between some of the great wanderers from yesteryear with current people who live outside the accustomed parallel lines of life today.

Eye opening, engagingly written, and skillfully mixing travel, history, politics and biography, this was an unexpected gem of a book.
Ghojuh Singh
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really amazing look into western nomadic, semi-nomadic and sedentary life in America. Filled with tons of cool history that I was never taught in school (thanks school system!!)

I'd highly recommend it if you're interested in learning about nomads, drifters, vagrants, history of the united states and the history of the west.
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An exceptional book about America, the early Explorers who weren't looking to discover new land but escape from the land already populated, and how that lifestyle still exists today -
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very intriguing, want to read more by Grant. He does a really good job of bringing in historical events that parallel current ones. The only complaint I have is some chapters are very dense, lots there and a little hard to get through. Still great reading.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh to live in a country that big (with perfect health since the founding fathers forgot to include any health rights) doubt things have changed since it was written but it made me want to hit the road Jackie
Steve Bera
I believe this is the oldest of the authors books. Many of the story lines are repeated in later books. Still enough new information to justify reading. Just not stellar.
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
A nice mix of travelogue and historical context of the roaming peoples of America. I liked his subtle humor in language and his ability to engage with a wide variety of wanderers give great insight into a segment of society most know none about. His thinking is balanced and fair to both the sedentary and the nomad as to their life choices.
Jared Cook
Sep 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Grant is a magazine column writer, and it shows. His chapters are really standalone pieces; they are loosely connected to each other, and circles back to some common themes and images, and while you can tease out the threads that connect these pieces, there was never really a good setup to make you know what those themes are, so that they resonate when you meet them. That may be intentional: in a book about wandering, it is perhaps fitting that the reader has to wander a bit to get the point of ...more
Apr 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Richard Grant is an English journalist who, unable to handle English winters, moved to the American Southwest in the mid-1980s and for 15 years traveled around, rarely spending more than a few weeks in one place. For Grant, the vast open spaces of the West were an invitation to roam, and he's encountered many sorts of people who came to live on the road. Some of these men -- and they are nearly always men -- are described in AMERICAN NOMADS (released as GHOST RIDERS in the UK): truck drivers, ...more
Martha Kuhn
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Entertaining, educational, thought-provoking and a love story for the American West.
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Richard Grant has a way of ingratiating himself with people on every status level and uses that to great success so that readers can vicariously travel the west in railroad cars, campers, and trucks with people who would scare the S--- out of them if encountered in some wild open place.

Rodeo riders looking to win the big prize so they can squander the money on booze and "Belt Bunnies", Hobos,tramps and other rail riders as well as the organized gangs that prey on these riders, A-campers - the
Apr 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Interesting book. Good discussion as to whether we (Americans) have a class of Nomads. We do have the RV crowd who travel according to the weather. We have Those few who are on the professional entertainment circuit be they rodeo riders, musicians, or actors.

But in reality, none of those groups actually raise families on the road, nor do they pass along the education of nomadic life to the next generation. If there is a class of people who are true nomads that travel from place to place and
Robin Riopelle
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I lent American Nomads to a friend about five years ago, and only got it back last week. During that time, I have missed it. A lot. The themes have stayed with me, and have helped inform my own writing enormously. The impulse to move away from people and civilizations is not one I understood before, is something quite alien to me. Along with Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild (also terrific), American Nomads sketched in that blank empty space with something if not necessarily alluring (the road does ...more
Nov 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I selected this book at the library because I have always secretly wanted to be a traveler and always wondered if I would like RVing. About half way through the book I almost quit reading it, thinking this Richard Grant was just trying to justify is own wanderlust and not having any responsibilities. I was also learning more than I really wanted to know about Cowboys, Hoboes, Mountain Men, Indians, Truckers, etc. (I will be hardpressed to really admire many of them again.) Anyhow, as I drew ...more
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Travel writer Richard Grant explores the American Nomad, from Native Americans right up to present day RV owners, covering the majority of the American Midwest during the course of his trips.

I'm finding myself strangely fascinated by tales of the "old West" these days. This is a great book, full of facts and information on a myriad of Native American tribes, the settlers they fought with and how nomadism is defined today. Who knew the Ulster Scots had such a say in how America is shaped?

Emily Duchon
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm learning to really value this author, whose off-beat stories of nomads, rogues, and people of the wild bring alleyways and truck-stops to life more than any other. Most profoundly, I learned more about railroad "gangs", how some truckers raise families on the road, and why mankind seeks to roam. In an acting class in college I mentioned I wanted to be a trucker one day (sort of meant it...I taking a lot of road trips and though I could get paid for it) and was I was "negative". As in, that ...more
Aug 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
I picked up a copy of this because I really liked Grant's most recent book "God's Middle Finger..." Of all the types of folks listed in the title Indians and Conquistadors get the most attention. Not a bad thing except I was hoping that there would be more accounts of Grant's first hand encounters with hoboes, train hoppers, hitchhikers, etc. There is quite a bit of text dedicated to the history of interaction between Native Americans and lesser known early American explorers. The sections on ...more
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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