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William Least Heat-Moon

Author of Blue Highways: A Journey into America

18+ Works 6,084 Members 107 Reviews 19 Favorited

About the Author

William Least Heat-Moon was born of English-Irish-Osage ancestry in Kansas City, Missouri. He holds a doctorate in English and a bachelor's degree in photojournalism from the University of Missouri.
Image credit: Photo by Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons


Works by William Least Heat-Moon

Associated Works

Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery (1997) — Contributor — 424 copies
The Best American Travel Writing 2005 (2005) — Contributor — 211 copies
Heart of the Land: Essays on Last Great Places (1994) — Contributor — 105 copies


20th century (25) adventure (44) America (165) American (30) American history (32) Americana (53) autobiography (29) biography (50) boats (28) essays (36) fiction (41) geography (36) Great Plains (16) history (119) journey (33) Kansas (81) Kindle (23) memoir (241) Native American (28) nature (30) NF (19) non-fiction (476) North America (16) own (23) photography (25) prairie (20) read (62) rivers (39) road trip (52) signed (17) to-read (228) travel (967) travel narrative (19) travel writing (65) travelogue (59) unread (39) US (21) US travel (17) USA (197) William Least Heat-Moon (22)

Common Knowledge



A classic American road trip. Since author William Least Heat Moon is Osage, he’s about as classic American as you can get. In something of a funk over loss of his job and deterioration of his marital relationship, he packs a sleeping bag and some cooking equipment in his van and heads out, passing through Nameless, Tennessee; Ninety-Six, South Carolina; Dime Box, Texas; Shelby, Montana; and miscellaneous other cities, towns, and villages. Least Heat Moon mostly stays on the fringes of the country; he covers the center in a later book, Prairy Earth.

He stops and talks everywhere, and people open up to him; and he does a lot of self-contemplation, thus making this as much an autobiography as a travel book; in fact there isn’t that much description of geography (although there’s quite a bit of history). This is an easy and rewarding read; recommended.
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1 vote
setnahkt | 62 other reviews | Dec 12, 2023 |
One of the first audio books I ever "read," back when they were on cassette. I practically fell in love with William Least Heat-moon , and I am pretty sure he was a big influence on my back-roads adventuring ways.
Kim.Sasso | 62 other reviews | Aug 27, 2023 |
The author goes by the dignified name of William Least Heat-Moon, and the front cover of his book shows a tiny speck of a boat puttering serenely on a river that meanders through the green hills. I don’t think I can be entirely faulted for anticipating a read that was more sedate, less angry, and less cynical than this one turned out to be.

Some miscellaneous comments:

1) There’s no denying that the author is a very talented writer.
2) I got tired of his profanity pretty quickly.
3) The book’s dedication makes it sound like the copilot was a composite of seven different people. If so, they all had pretty much the same personality.
4) “The Photographer” is one of the main figures, but very few photographs of any worth made it into the book.
5) The author despises the partying frat boys he encounters along his way, but he and his friends sometimes act like superannuated frat boys themselves.
6) The author is angry about the environmental state of the country, and he’s not shy about sniping at those he feels are to blame. I doubt that he turned very many of his readers Green. I think he would have been more successful if he had either molded his anger into a cogent argument or had very clearly led by example. What was the environmental cost of his journey? How would he possibly have made this journey if engineers had left the wilderness alone? That last question is actually posed to him by someone he meets on his voyage. His response was weak, I thought.
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cpg | 9 other reviews | Jun 23, 2023 |
This was another buddy read with my dad, since we enjoyed PrairyErth so much. William Least Heat-Moon is an excellent writer, and there are so many beautiful turns of phrase and fascinating observations here. I did not enjoy it quite as much as PrairyErth, however. Part of that is just my attachment to the prairie (oh, I lit up when we got to his descriptions of the northern prairie in this book!), but part of it lies in Heat-Moon's attitude toward women, surely colored by the fact that this entire trip was in no small part motivated by the collapse of his relationship.

This sexist feeling isn't everywhere or even a constant theme, but it shows up often enough that it really started to drag on me. There are a couple (at least) of men who, when telling their life stories, spend a lot of time blaming women for their sorry states, and Heat-Moon listens sympathetically. Then when he picks up a young woman hitchhiking, who describes the objectively abusive home life she is fleeing, he argues with her, telling her it couldn't have been all bad, and maintains a disapproving attitude. Then there are the number of times women are described based primarily on their attractiveness, including some random speculation on what one woman (who does not flirt with him in any way) would be like in bed. YES, I GET IT. YOU ARE PROCESSING YOUR FAILED/FAILING RELATIONSHIP, BUT I AM HERE FOR THE DESCRIPTIONS OF AMERICANA, CAN WE NOT MAKE THEM SO ENTANGLED WITH YOUR FEMALE BAGGAGE, PLEASE?

That said, there was so much to love in this book. Scenes that spring to mind are the conversations on racism in the Deep South, the observations on sovereign lands in Northern Arizona, the bit on hang-gliding, the hitchhiking Seventh Day Adventist, the guy who ran a maple syrup operation. All of these tiny little hyper-local ways of life that are mostly inconceivable to people living a few states away. Amazing.
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greeniezona | 62 other reviews | May 29, 2023 |



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