Life on the Mississippi by Rinker Buck

Life on the Mississippi

Life on the Mississippi is an epic adventure that blends history and travel. The author, Rinker 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.

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 main themes of the book are change and progress, both culturally and technologically. Two other strong themes are the power of observation and the value of travel as a learning experience. 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.

Weaving together a tapestry of first-person histories, Buck portrays this watershed era of American expansion as it was really lived.

What I Liked

ALL THE THINGS! This is one of the best history travel nonfiction books that I’ve ever read.

What I Did Not Like

Nothing – it’s incredible.

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