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Life on the Mississippi: an Epic American Adventure
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * "Audacious...Life on the Mississippi sparkles." —The Wall Street Journal * "A rich mix of history, reporting, and personal introspection." —St. Louis Post-Dispatch * "Both a travelogue and an engaging history lesson about America's westward expansion." —The Christian Science Monitor

The eagerly awaited return of master American storyteller Rinker Buck, Life on the Mississippi is an epic, enchanting blend of history and adventure in which Buck builds a wooden flatboat from the grand "flatboat era" of the 1800s and sails it down the Mississippi River, illuminating the forgotten past of America's first western frontier.
Seven years ago, readers around the country fell in love with a singular American voice: Rinker Buck, whose infectious curiosity about history launched him across the West in a covered wagon pulled by mules and propelled his book about the trip, The Oregon Trail, to ten weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Now, Buck returns to chronicle his latest incredible adventure: building a wooden flatboat from the bygone era of the early 1800s and journeying down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.

A modern-day Huck Finn, Buck casts off down the river on the flatboat Patience accompanied by an eccentric crew of daring shipmates. Over the course of his voyage, Buck steers his fragile wooden craft through narrow channels dominated by massive cargo barges, rescues his first mate gone overboard, sails blindly through fog, breaks his ribs not once but twice, and camps every night on sandbars, remote islands, and steep levees. As he charts his own journey, he also delivers a richly satisfying work of history that brings to life a lost era.

The role of the flatboat in our country's evolution is far more significant than most Americans realize. Between 1800 and 1840, millions of farmers, merchants, and teenage adventurers embarked from states like Pennsylvania and Virginia on flatboats headed beyond the Appalachians to Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Settler families repurposed the wood from their boats to build their first cabins in the wilderness; cargo boats were broken apart and sold to build the boomtowns along the water route. Joining the river traffic were floating brothels, called "gun boats"; "smithy boats" for blacksmiths; even "whiskey boats" for alcohol. In the present day, America's inland rivers are a superhighway dominated by leviathan barges—carrying $80 billion of cargo annually—all descended from flatboats like the ramshackle Patience.

As a historian, Buck resurrects the era's adventurous spirit, but he also challenges familiar myths about American expansion, confronting the bloody truth behind settlers' push for land and wealth. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced more than 125,000 members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, and several other tribes to travel the Mississippi on a brutal journey en route to the barrens of Oklahoma. Simultaneously, almost a million enslaved African Americans were carried in flatboats and marched by foot 1,000 miles over the Appalachians to the cotton and cane fields of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, birthing the term "sold down the river." Buck portrays this watershed era of American expansion as it was really lived.

With a rare narrative power that blends stirring adventure with absorbing untold history, Life on the Mississippi is a mus­cular and majestic feat of storytelling from a writer who may be the closest that we have today to Mark Twain.

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Format:
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Street Date:
08/09/2022
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781501106392
ASIN:
B09JPHNCVX

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APA Citation (style guide)

Rinker Buck. (2022). Life on the Mississippi: an Epic American Adventure. Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Rinker Buck. 2022. Life On the Mississippi: An Epic American Adventure. Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster.

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Rinker Buck, Life On the Mississippi: An Epic American Adventure. Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster, 2022.

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Rinker Buck. Life On the Mississippi: An Epic American Adventure. Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster, 2022.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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      • bioText: Rinker Buck began his career in journalism at the Berkshire Eagle and was a longtime staff writer for the Hartford Courant. He has written for Vanity Fair, New York, Life, and many other publications, and his work has won the PEN New England Award, the Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award, and the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award. He is the New York Times bestselling author of The Oregon Trail, Flight of Passage, and First Job. He lives in Tennessee.
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * "Audacious...Life on the Mississippi sparkles." —The Wall Street Journal * "A rich mix of history, reporting, and personal introspection." —St. Louis Post-Dispatch * "Both a travelogue and an engaging history lesson about America's westward expansion." —The Christian Science Monitor

The eagerly awaited return of master American storyteller Rinker Buck, Life on the Mississippi is an epic, enchanting blend of history and adventure in which Buck builds a wooden flatboat from the grand "flatboat era" of the 1800s and sails it down the Mississippi River, illuminating the forgotten past of America's first western frontier.
Seven years ago, readers around the country fell in love with a singular American voice: Rinker Buck, whose infectious curiosity about history launched him across the West in a covered wagon pulled by mules and propelled his book about the trip, The Oregon Trail, to ten weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Now, Buck returns to chronicle his latest incredible adventure: building a wooden flatboat from the bygone era of the early 1800s and journeying down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.

A modern-day Huck Finn, Buck casts off down the river on the flatboat Patience accompanied by an eccentric crew of daring shipmates. Over the course of his voyage, Buck steers his fragile wooden craft through narrow channels dominated by massive cargo barges, rescues his first mate gone overboard, sails blindly through fog, breaks his ribs not once but twice, and camps every night on sandbars, remote islands, and steep levees. As he charts his own journey, he also delivers a richly satisfying work of history that brings to life a lost era.

The role of the flatboat in our country's evolution is far more significant than most Americans realize. Between 1800 and 1840, millions of farmers, merchants, and teenage adventurers embarked from states like Pennsylvania and Virginia on flatboats headed beyond the Appalachians to Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Settler families repurposed the wood from their boats to build their first cabins in the wilderness; cargo boats were broken apart and sold to build the boomtowns along the water route. Joining the river traffic were floating brothels, called "gun boats"; "smithy boats" for blacksmiths; even "whiskey boats" for alcohol. In the present day, America's inland rivers are a superhighway dominated by leviathan barges—carrying $80 billion of cargo annually—all descended from flatboats like the ramshackle Patience.

As a historian, Buck resurrects the era's adventurous spirit, but he also challenges familiar myths about American expansion, confronting the bloody truth behind settlers' push for land and wealth. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced more than 125,000 members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, and several other tribes to travel the Mississippi on a brutal journey en route to the barrens of Oklahoma. Simultaneously, almost a million enslaved African Americans were carried in flatboats and marched by foot 1,000 miles over the Appalachians to the cotton and cane fields of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, birthing the term "sold down the river." Buck portrays this watershed era of American expansion as it was really lived.

With a rare narrative power that blends stirring adventure with absorbing untold history, Life on the Mississippi is a mus­cular and majestic feat of storytelling from a writer who may be the closest that we have today to Mark Twain.
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        March 1, 2022

        In this follow-up to the New York Times best-selling The Oregon Trail, Buck relates building a wooden flatboat like those used in the early 1800s and sailing down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, aiming to relive the initial expansion of the United States by white settlers who included farmers, merchants, and hopeful pioneers. History and adventure: lots of danger dodging cargo barges and rescuing a first mate swept overboard. With a 250,000-copy first printing.

        Copyright 2022 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        June 13, 2022
        Journalist Buck, who documented his travels by covered wagon in The Oregon Trail, returns with a captivating and occasionally cantankerous account of the 2,000-mile, four-month flatboat journey he made in 2016 down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. Inspired by Pennsylvania farmer Jacob Yarder, whose 1782 expedition to Louisiana helped launch the flatboat era, and Harlan and Anna Hubbard, married artists who documented their own seven-year journey down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in the 1944 book Shantytown: A River Way of Life, Buck built his own flatboat and assembled a politically and geographically diverse crew to help navigate it down some of the most treacherous waters in America. Throughout, he interweaves intriguing discussions of U.S. political, cultural, and economic history with sharp critiques of “traditional historians” who neglect “the hardscrabble, edgy lives of most 19th-century Americans,” reveries on how the light reflects off riverine landscapes, and tense accounts of modern hazards, including extensive lock-and-dam systems and barge traffic. He also draws memorable sketches of local characters he meets along the way, and offers fascinating tidbits about Newburgh, Ind.; New Madrid, Mo.; and other river towns. Rough-edged, well informed, and honest about his own blind spots, Buck is a winning tour guide. American history buffs and armchair adventurers will relish the trip.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        September 2, 2022
        It took a year for Buck to build a 10-ton poplar flatboat and sail it two-thousand miles through massive barge traffic and the notoriously dangerous waters of the Mississippi to New Orleans. The author, who previously traveled the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon, convincingly makes the case that the explosion of inland-river travel in the early-nineteenth century set the stage for the westward expansion of settlers. In this inventive melding of history and travelogue, he manages to largely ignore the warnings that he'll die on the journey and learns to trust his instincts. Along the way, he deals with some unmanageable crew members and meets both generous and unsavory characters. Even while reveling in following in the wake of early flatboaters, Buck explores the darker impact of the push west on Indigenous people and the enslaved. After several months and some broken ribs, seesawing between exhaustion and elation, Buck finds that his travels free him from the myths of history to see the complex reality of both past and present life on the mighty Mississippi.

        COPYRIGHT(2022) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        July 1, 2022

        This book tells the story of journalist Buck's (The Oregon Trail; Flight of Passage) quest to sail a flatboat 2000 miles down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans with a varied crew and many helpers along the way. As the adventurous Buck writes, this four-month journey traced the inland water route often taken in the years between the American Revolution and Civil War. The narrative works as a memoir, a history treatise, and a travel adventure. The author comes to terms with his mother's death on this journey, but he also places his traveling adventures into a broader historical framework of how flatboats epitomized frontier resilience and ingenuity. Simultaneously, he also explores modern politics and culture, reflects on economic realities both past and present, and considers both ugly and uplifting aspects of American history. VERDICT The author's use of cited local history books in libraries along his journey gives the book a strong factual basis as a history text, and his incorporation of literary words from writers of the flatboat era infuse his own writing with humor and poetic charm. Highly recommended for all libraries.--Karen Bordonaro

        Copyright 2022 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from June 1, 2022
        An invigorating blend of history and journalism informs this journey down Old Man River. Buck walks the walk, or perhaps rows the row: As with his previous book on the Oregon Trail, he follows the path of preceding generations in the hope of seeing something of what they saw. That's not easy in the case of the Mississippi River, which, along with one of its principal tributaries, the Ohio, is "jointly managed by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers exclusively for the benefit of commercial barge traffic." With those massive strings of barges, some as many as 25 containers long, clogging the river, traversing it by means of an old-fashioned wooden flatboat seems an invitation to disaster. Yet that's just what Buck did, building his own craft in the manner of the 19th-century pioneers who saw in the river system a means of knitting far-flung territories into a nation. Building the boat was a challenge, and the author "would shortly learn that the flatboat was indeed an ideal school for acquiring a knowledge of human nature." Buck populates his invigorating narrative with a memorable cast of characters, some people who traveled with him, some people he met along the way. The author was courtly to all of them, save a loudmouth Trumper who "considered it absolutely vital to explain to me that the ''nited states of 'merica' was being ruined by 'librals and buree-cats.' " Buck's adventures alternate between nearly being swamped by massive commercial vessels and dealing with more mundane disasters; as he noted to his first mate, "Clusterfuck is our new normal." Besides being a willing and intrepid traveler, Buck is also an able interpreter of history, and it's clear that he's devoured a library of Mississippiana. It all makes for an entertaining journey in the manner of William Least Heat-Moon, John McPhee, and other traveler-explainers. For armchair-travel aficionados and frontier-history buffs, it doesn't get much better.

        COPYRIGHT(2022) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * "Audacious...Life on the Mississippi sparkles." —The Wall Street Journal * "A rich mix of history, reporting, and personal introspection." —St. Louis Post-Dispatch * "Both a travelogue and an engaging history lesson about America's westward expansion." —The Christian Science Monitor

The eagerly awaited return of master American storyteller Rinker Buck, Life on the Mississippi is an epic, enchanting blend of history and adventure in which Buck builds a wooden flatboat from the grand "flatboat era" of the 1800s and sails it down the Mississippi River, illuminating the forgotten past of America's first western frontier.
Seven years ago, readers around the country fell in love with a singular American voice: Rinker Buck, whose infectious curiosity about history launched him across the West in a covered wagon pulled by mules and propelled his book about the trip,...
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