by William Least Heat-Moon
The author, an English teacher of Sioux descent, loses his job and his wife, and decides to tour the small towns of America. The blue highways, as he calls them, are the back roads, compared to the red highways on maps (that’s changed now, of course). Taking along nothing much, he sleeps in his truck, talking with the people about their lives, the past, their local history, their philosophies, etc.
Quoting Whitman and American Indian creeds every few pages, he makes his own views pretty clear: progress brings loss as well, military buildup is tragic, burger chains are boring as well as bad, etc. He reports at great length the conservationist tirades of old folks and local lore experts, but doesn’t stop to talk with people with whom he disagrees, letting their brief unbidden comments about those maniacs in Moscow represent their thoughts. All of which would be off-putting enough, but the book is way overlong at 420 pages. I realize it was a long journey (the circumference of the continental USA), but about three quarters of the way through I’d quite gotten his point about treasuring the past and traveling in order to find oneself.