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Summary

Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation's backroads. William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about "those little towns that get on the map-if they get on at all-only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi." His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation of the true American experience.

©1982 William Least Heat-Moon (P)2013 Hachette Audio

What listeners say about Blue Highways

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An interesting travel tale of life on the road

As a huge fan for decades of Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road' I decided to Google for a list of the best books depicting life on the road. I purchased this title and was not disappointed. Fascinated with the author's mixed Native American/ white American ancestry, it was a treat to hear William Least Heat-Moon offer regular slices of information about the various indigenous tribes who once lived freely upon the land before white settlers came. His travels in a camper around the back highways of the USA is filled with glimpses of daily life as experienced by the ordinary people he chanced across in his travels. We see an America still very much struggling with racial divisions at the most basic level, a segregated society where nonetheless many mourn the melting away of traditional values under the threat of a more industrialised, monogonous culture. It's a theme almost every generation since seemed to have struggled with, a harking back to the 'good old days' being a not uncommon thread we have heard from almost every corner of humanity. Nonetheless, this story brought many a smile and the occasional laugh at the author's rather dry but apt humour, whilst offering a rich appraisal of the majesty of the country's vast and varied natural beauty alongside an engaging depiction of the many peoples who call America home. The narration style by Joe Barrett was warm and easy to listen to. It's one of those rare audiobooks I can imagine myself using as a regular bedtime companion, listening through to it time and again to be my doorway into dreams.

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Blue highway

Lovely book I really enjoyed it . I thought it started slow and wasn’t sure about it but got me hooked witty,funny with rewarding insights into America

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superb...great narration

Excellent story, thought provoking and great narration throughout....fantastic range of American accents consistently executed throughout the book

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An epic journey i'd love to take.

I loved it. a gigantic journey full of interesting people and descriptions of places. Ok i could'be done without the rambling metaphysical nonsense and a tendency to quote the same few people over and over but what the hell, i was captivated by this book. 40 years on, i wonder how this journey would look and sound like today.

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A beautiful book, beautifully narrated

A deep and very thought provoking story describing the journey of a highly intelligent man as he journeys through some really fascinating and diverse parts of the US. His fusion of native American and European ancestry makes for a refreshing and entertaining perspective on what makes those remote and sometimes isolated communities tick. I loved following William Least Heat Moon's journey on Google Earth or Google Maps as I commute to work on the train.

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  • Mr.
  • 25-01-13

A new Mark Twain... this is a great book

I loved this book. The title intrigued me but with a new author you never know, especially with no ratings. The book grabbed me right from the beginning and never let go. It is very well written. It is funny, interesting, quirky, just an overall good experience. If you want to go on a road adventure through the back roads of America and into local peoples homes and lives try this book. I do not think you will be disappointed.

48 people found this helpful

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  • Joe Bloggs
  • 03-03-13

A Journey into the Heart of America

What did you love best about Blue Highways?

The people William Least Heat Moon met. They made this book, without them the book would be lacking.

What did you like best about this story?

A man sets out across America with a few gas cards, little money and a van to live in. He's searching for something, maybe himself, what America is to him, history, peace of mind, adventure? He doesn't fully understand it himself. Recently divorced, out of work and generally down on his luck, Least Heat Moon is taking a stab at a long time dream to drive across America on the back roads, avoiding mainstream everything. He does it and this book documents his journey.

Have you listened to any of Joe Barrett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, but the performance is excellent. The voice changes and inflection capture the essence of the words and make you feel as if you are there.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The encounter with the guy in the desert. The guy is depressed and a bit strange. I can't really describe it here, but somehow the whole incident becomes a metaphor for two different ways to solve your problems or to look at the world.

Any additional comments?

What is this book? It's part local lore and history of various places in America, part travel adventure, part introspective and all excellent writing. America is a different place than it was in 1978 when the journey was made, but I think the basic fabric of America that Least Heat Moon discovered is still there.

33 people found this helpful

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  • girorv
  • 08-03-16

You don't read this one for the excitement !

We listened to this as we drove ourselves from eastern Canada to southern Texas. Very often we listened with the map open to give ourselves a sense of place. We don't know many of the places William Least-Moon visited . This was an introduction. Least-Moon is a very lyrical writer. Using Joe Barrett's voice to hear his writing was a wonderful experience. Long parts of the narrative were boring, but we kept listening because every once in a while he would paint a picture or give us quote that made it all worth while. We , as well as he, enjoy our "wheel estate".

18 people found this helpful

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  • adam bc
  • 24-09-15

Vast and Sweet

The audio version of Blue Highways has one perk not available in the text version and that is the wonderfully performed, but not over done, variety of accents from across the country.
The story is compassionate and insightful and inspirational.
A nostalgic look back that would be easily translated into a PBS tv series of "where are they now" type shows on the many town and people William introduces us to. If someone could make that happen, it's a free idea for you.

11 people found this helpful

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  • C Brose
  • 22-04-19

I finished it cuz I'm no quitter

A few years ago I read The kindness of Strangers, the true account by a man who embarked on a cross country backpacking trip with no money. The characters were memorable because the author respected them and brought them to life on the page. It was memorable.

Throughout the first three quarters of Blue Highways I was tempted to quit. Except for the author's encounter with an old hitchhiking Indian, the book was largely boring because it seemef the author was disinterested in the geography of the areas and in the people he met.

When he came to New England though his entire attitude changed. He was fascinated with the characters he met and interacted with them more . He was less fearful and suspicious. The history and geography of the area held his interest and he communicated that effectively.

If II were asked if this book was a worthy read, I would say read the last quarter and forget the rest.

10 people found this helpful

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  • BVerité
  • 07-12-13

Lovely book!! Outstanding.

This is an outstanding story!! It has a magic quality that I can't put my finger on, but I loved it so much that I went and bought other books by the author when I was only 1/2 way through!!

This adventure is actually born of tragedy in the author's life. William Least Heat-Moon was separated from his wife when he lost his teaching job. With no prospects for the near future, Moon decides to travel the country using back roads and sleeping in his truck, which he converted it into a sort of make-shift RV. Along the way, he meets many interesting, compelling and charming people. He travels to a variety of fascinating destinations, some unknown and some famous, and some with really strange names! He delves into all kinds of issues with the people he meets. Some issues are serious and important, and some are just strange and humorous. The result of it all is the adventure of a lifetime. A true JOY to read!

Im pretty sure Blue Highways was first published in 1983. Fortunately, I didn't know that when I started listening. I might have skipped the book, considering it too dated to be of interest for me. In fact, Least Heat-Moon began his drive through the U.S. in 1978, the year I was born. After only a few chapters though, I was hooked. This book is anything but dated!! Don't get me wrong, some of his experiences don't reflect the the current state of things; for example, his encounters with racism in the Deep South were shocking to me and far worse in 1978 than in 2013. But this is incredibly relevant. It feels really good to see how far we've come as a country. It gives hope that the positive changes will continue. Moon also discusses the changes in the cities he visits. Exploring the histories with the people who live there and love their city.

For me, the most touching aspect of the story involves issues that are timeless, issues that involve the complexities of human nature. The search for spiritual balance, the contrast of the religious and the secular, the desire to be isolated or to be social, the fundamental need to connect and understand people of different cultures, ages, and backgrounds...

I was really blown away by Moon's beautiful writing style. It's very human, thought provoking, and quite clever! As an audiobook, this was a sheer joy!

Highest recommendations!!

10 people found this helpful

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  • Addicted to Audible
  • 08-08-15

Quiet but beautiful journey

This is a quiet journey that is best with full attention rather than multitasking but the lyrical descriptions will reward your focus . I took breaks at times for something faster paced but came back. My favorite parts are his conversations with folks on the East Coast near the end. If you are looking for a story of everyday people from across the country mixed with poetic descriptions of geography, listen to this book. Oh and the reader did a fantastic job, changing voices, tone and cadence to fit the region and gender and age.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Gypsy Wife
  • 29-03-13

A wonderful book made better by Joe Barrett

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. I read the book years ago, and Joe Barrett's narration brought it back to life for me.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Blue Highways?

I can't say; everything about this book is memorable.

What does Joe Barrett bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His voice with its gruff edge brings forth the writer's sense of humor along with his respect for people of all walks and means.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Matthew Rickman
  • 10-09-17

Fantastic book for anyone seeking to fulfill an American wanderlust.

Loved the story and prose. The subtle sense of humor and sly wit gave this book a lift that kept it aloft from the get go.

It's like travels with Charlie - but better (and seemingly genuine).

6 people found this helpful

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  • Ricky D. Bridges
  • 02-04-15

Extraordinary Narration

Would you consider the audio edition of Blue Highways to be better than the print version?

I have not read the print version.

What other book might you compare Blue Highways to and why?

The only thing I have read that is remotely similar is On the Road.

Have you listened to any of Joe Barrett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This is the fist time I heard Joe Barret. It is an extraordinary performance. I think he is the most talented narrator I have heard so far. His narration is extremely versatile with great accents for the huge number of people encountered in this book from all across the United States.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The afterward where he talks about getting this published. Also, the desription of his day on the fishing boat was particularly vivid.

6 people found this helpful