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Old Man River: The Mississippi River in…
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Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History

by Paul Schneider

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An easy read but the history was rather shallow. To do the massive subject justice the book would need to be thousands of pages long. Try to review the history of the Mississippi watershed from early pre-historic times until today just could not be covered well in such a short work.

What was there was interesting but I would have liked much more detail & depth. Very few pages or time was spent on modern history and the history/impact of floods over time. ( )
  labdaddy4 | Mar 11, 2014 |
A thoroughly entertaining read spanning prehistory through present day about a lifeline through the heart of the U.S. Having traveled along the Mississippi River so many times, I was quite familiar with a number of towns and sites mentioned in the book as well as the general history. However, there was so much more that Schneider brings to light that makes me want to explore the length of this great river all the more. Also, the book is written in a relaxed and engaging manner. If you're looking for an interesting and comprehensive read in preparation for your Mississippi River exploration, I recommend this book to you. ( )
  KateBaxter | Dec 24, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A big sprawling book as wide as the Mississippi drainage in its scope, and as meandering as the lower course of the river. Beginning five hundred million years ago, Schneider briefly traces the history of the land through drifting and rifting continents, seaways, and mountain ranges to the formation of the proto-Mississippi sixty five million years ago. He then leaps forward to 1841 and the discovery of dinosaur fossils in Missouri. Then it's back and forth through Folsom points and glaciations, early civilizations and the author's own wanderings, Spanish and French exploration, and (eventually) the Civil War. The short chapters keep the narrative moving, and if there is more coverage of the east half of the drainage and its relatively recent human history than I would have liked, as opposed to the westward expansion - well, I suppose an author can't please everyone. I did eventually read the whole book and mostly enjoyed it, but for me it's not a keeper. YMMV. ( )
  gwernin | Oct 29, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Author Paul Schneider has characterized this book as more a biography that a history. 'Old Man River' tells the stories of the Mississippi River - - its tributaries and drainages. Tracing the history from its prehistoric, ice age, Paleolithic roots, Schneider touches on geologic history, archaeological evidence, and anthropological findings to weave together the tales and legends of this river system. The river has been the scene of historical events with ancient cultures followed by the arrival of European explorers and American settlers. Schneider's book continues to present day examination of this busiest waterway of the planet - - a natural wonder that has been shaped and reshaped. It's modern history is American history. (lj) ( )
  eduscapes | Oct 20, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Paul Schneider’s Old Man River is a book that defies easy categorization. It touches on history, geography, geology, archaeology, and flood-control engineering—with elements of travel narrative and popular natural history thrown in—but is not, strictly speaking, about any of those things. The geographic scope of the book is equally broad: not just the river itself, but its tributaries and drainage basin, which encompasses nearly half of North America. Old Man River, like Walt Whitman, contains multitudes.

How well all this works for you will depend, to a great extent, on what you want out of the book. Old Man River is neither a conventional, steadily paced narrative history, like John Barry’s Rising Tide, nor a sharply delineated but well-rounded study of a place, like John McPhee’s The Pine Barrens. It is a loosely organized collection of self-contained, stand-alone pieces—some chapter-length, others little more than vignettes—that suggests a more accurate subtitle might have been: “Things about the history of the Mississippi Basin that interested me.” Antebellum river pirates thus get attention out of all proportion to their historical significance, while the drier subject of the Mississippi’s role in industrialization and the rise of the “rust belt” goes begging. The discovery of the famous Folsom and Clovis (NM) archaeological sites in the 1920s lose most of their historical context, and are related instead to Schneider’s own discoveries of Native American artifacts.

None of this makes Old Man River a bad book, or even an unsuccessful one. Schneider writes beautifully, and readers whose interests match his will likely be enthralled. It is, however, a book more likely to please fans of literary nonfiction than those seeking a serious, detailed study of the Mississippi and its impact on the humans around it. ( )
1 vote ABVR | Oct 14, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 080509136X, Hardcover)

A fascinating account of how the Mississippi River shaped America

In Old Man River, Paul Schneider tells the story of the river at the center of America’s rich history—the Mississippi. Some fifteen thousand years ago, the majestic river provided Paleolithic humans with the routes by which early man began to explore the continent’s interior. Since then, the river has been the site of historical significance, from the arrival of Spanish and French explorers in the 16th century to the Civil War. George Washington fought his first battle near the river, and Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman both came to President Lincoln’s attention after their spectacular victories on the lower Mississippi.

In the 19th century, home-grown folk heroes such as Daniel Boone and the half-alligator, half-horse, Mike Fink, were creatures of the river. Mark Twain and Herman Melville led their characters down its stream in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Confidence-Man. A conduit of real-life American prowess, the Mississippi is also a river of stories and myth.

Schneider traces the history of the Mississippi from its origins in the deep geologic past to the present. Though the busiest waterway on the planet today, the Mississippi remains a paradox—a devastated product of American ingenuity, and a magnificent natural wonder.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:02 -0400)

A fascinating account of how the Mississippi River shaped America.

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