By December 24, 2009 0 Comments Read More →

A Blue Highways Christmas

blue-highwaysI’ve been wandering with William Least Heat-Moon for the last couple of months. Normally, a book that takes me that long to get through is not something to celebrate, but something about Blue Highways defied quick reading, even though I loved it. It just didn’t seem right to race through the towns any faster than the author.

Blue Highways resulted from a journey Heat-Moon took in 1978. It was not a good year for him: his first wife had left and the University of Missouri had dropped him. In response, the author jumped in a van he christened “Ghost Dancing” and set out on the road. Initially, he had no destination, only the plan to stick to small roads (those marked in blue in his trusty Rand-McNally). When in doubt, he headed for the town with the strangest name. Eventually, his wanderings would take him in a ring around the edges of the entire country.

Least Heat-Moon has causes and philosophies, but happily, he doesn’t obsess on them. He simply goes from place to place, talking to the people he encounters about their lives (and snapping some great portraits, included in the book), uncovering the interesting secrets of dozens of tiny towns. This result of this approach is that–despite the fact that we’ve lost even more of these quiet places in America–his book hasn’t aged much at all. It’s still relevant thirty years after the journey that inspired it.

Blue Highways or any of Heat-Moon’s three other works would make a great choice for your book group. Bring your Rand-McNallys so you can follow along. Talk about what has changed and what hasn’t, about your own journeys to small America, about what travel does for the spirit. about the nature of our country. When it’s time to leave, you’ll have to decide for yourself which road to take, whether or not you want to go home.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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