Sunday, March 27, 2011

A River Runs Through It

This list is a surprise because it is unintentionally the longest.  I didn't intend to collect river books but I think rivers serve a special place for explorers, travelers and story tellers.  There's a defined purpose to start at the mouth of the river and move upstream to its source.    Rivers have served as the source of religion, mythology, cradles of civilization, and cultural inspiration.  For the Greeks, there was the River Styx, which divided the underworld from the world of the living.  Mark Twain used the flow of the Mississippi to tell the story of America in Huckleberry Finn.  Lewis and Clark followed rivers during much of the Voyage of Discovery.  Joseph Conrad used the river of the Congo for the path of Marlow to find Kurtz in Heart of Darkness.   

Books about rivers have proved captivating for readers and publishers.  In making the list, I discovered at least two different series that had been published on rivers--the Great Rivers of America and the Great Rivers of the World.  I also discovered there a few I  haven't read (those are the ones without comment).

Also a pleasant surprise that most of my all time favorite writers have "river books." 

1.  The Hudson, Tom Lewis (2005).   Mile for mile, the Hudson may have more American history embedded in it than any other river.  Some have argued it has characteristics of a Fjord.    Bought from the author at a book event gathering of 50 authors.   

 The Hudson: A History
2.   River Horse, William Least Heat Moon (1999).   WLHM set out to cross he United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific following only rivers and other waterways (only one point at the Continental Divide requires a fording of about 30 miles).  He succeeds in telling as fascinating a story as he did in Blue Highways.  Bought new. 

River-Horse: The Logbook of a Boat Across America 

3.   Slowly Down the Ganges, Eric Newby (1966).  I almost hate to include my all time favorite travel writer here (he will get his own list later) but the 1,200-mile journey down the river, which he took in 1963 with his wife and changing cast of crew was motivated in part by Newby's lifelong and fascination of rivers: "I like exploring them. I like the way in which they grow deeper and wider and dirtier but always, however dirty they become, managing to retain some of the beauty with which they were born."  Bought used.

Slowly Down the Ganges. by Eric Newby 

4.  The Mekong, Milton Osborne (2000).   Bought used. 

5.  Mississippi Solo: A River Quest, Eddy Harris (1988).  Bought used.

6.  Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain (1876).    Part of a complete set of Mark Twain I bought because I thought I "needed it."

7.  Running the Amazon, Joe Kane (1989).  Bought used. 

Running the Amazon 

7.  In Trouble Again: A Journey Between the Orinoco and the Amazon, Redmond O'Hanlon (1988).   Part of the Atlantic Traveler Series.  Bought used.

8.  Explorers of the Amazon: Four Centuries Along the World’s Greatest River, Anthony Smith (1990).   Bought used. 

9.  Land Gone Lonesome: Inland Voyage Along the Yukon River, Dan O'Neill (2006).   Bought used. 

A Land Gone Lonesome: An Inland Voyage Along the Yukon River 

10.  The Last River: The Tragic Race for Shangri-la, Todd Balf (2000).  In 1998, a group of American explorers and kayakers set out to trace what may be the the world's last major unexplored river, the Tsangpo.  It snakes out of the Himalayas between giant mountains peaks--some that are complete vertical drops of thousands of feet. Bought used.

The Last River: The Tragic Race for Shangri-la  

11.  Blue River, Black Sea: A Journey Along the Danube into the Heart of New Europe,   Andrew Eames (2009).   Bought used on Amazon.

12.  The Black Nile: One Man’s Amazing Journey Through Peace and War on the World’s Longest River, Dan Morrison (2010).   On wish list and received as a Christmas gift.

13.    The White Nile, Alan Moorehead (1960).  Describes European fascination with the world's longest river and the various expeditions to find its source.  Covers years 1856 to 1900.  Companion to the Blue Nile.  Bought used.  

14.  The Blue Nile, Alan Moorehead (1962).  Companion to the White Nile above but covers earlier period, 1798 to 1850.  Bought used. 

15.   The Columbia, Stewart Holbrook (1956)    Part of a series of books called the Rivers of America that included some 50 rivers.  This edition published in 1956 was marked as the “Lewis & Clark Edition”.   Bought used.

16.  A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia, Blaine Harden (1996).   Bought used Warrenton Library. 

17.  The Seine, Anthony Glyn (1966).  Part of the Great Rivers of the World Series.   Bought used Warrenton Library

18.  Down the Yangtze, Paul Theroux (1995).  Taken in 1980 when rural China was still in the shadow of Mao.  More of a booklet, that a book, this was part of the Penguin 60s series, published to mark Penguin publishing's 60th anniversary.   Another favorite, Theroux has written over a dozen travel book and I hope to give him his own list later.  Bought used for 50 cents. 

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