Blue Highways: A Journey Into America, by William Least Heat-Moon (Pimlico 2001, first published 1983)

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In 1978, Heat-Moon, who is of European and Osage descent, lost his job and his wife, and set off on a 13,000 mile journey around America, mostly by backroads. Along the way he talked to people from all walks of life, and here reports on the state of rural America, the landscape, the politics, the people, and the small towns which were already under threat, and the seeds of later political shifts were already present. He encounters kindness, racism, loneliness, adventure and much more. This is a classic travel narrative, echoing Steinbeck's Travels With Charlie as well as others. It hasn't dated a lot; Heat-Moon is a charming, erudite and opinionated travel companion, and his journey is well worth reading.