Friday, September 11, 2015

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck


The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
by Rinker Buck
Simon & Schuster, 2015
451 pages

Simon & Schuster Audio
16 hours and 41 minutes
narrated by the author

My thoughts:

The term "participatory history" is new to me, and it's an apt description of Rinker Buck's new book. It had been over a hundred years since the last mule-crossing of the 2,000 mile Oregon Trail when Buck, his brother Nick, and a Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl traveled the entire distance in a covered wagon a couple of years ago.

Along with tales of their adventure, the book includes information about pioneers, their lives, and the significance of the westward movement. I enjoyed learning about wagons and mules - especially mules - and didn't even know I was interested in either!

There are some laugh-out-loud funny moments in the book, too. However RV enthusiasts and Mormons may find some of them offensive. Here are a couple examples of Buck's style:
Highway 36 through Kansas is, essentially, a motorized ghetto for the massive Winnebago and Gulf Stream motor homes that American seniors drive themselves around in these days... Spending six figures for a McMansion mounted on a bus chassis is truly an adventure in bad taste. 
The Mormons are effective because they exploit something so basic in the national psyche that most of us have lost the ability to see it. Americans on summer vacation, especially the RVers, are idiots, and haven't read anything in years. Their every cranial neuron has been erased by watching Fox News. The brains of American tourists will accept practically anything as truth because there is nothing else up there to compete with new information. Just say something, anything, preferably in bland thirty-six-point type, and it will stick.   
I approached this book as a read/listen combination, but ended up mostly listening. There were some maps, drawings, and photographs in the print version that I appreciated seeing, but overall I recommend the audio. Rinker Buck may be just average as far as narrators go, but listening to his voice added a certain authenticity to the experience. Additionally, at the end of the audio production, there is a wonderful conversation between Rinker and his brother. Don't miss it.

My rating:



Bottom line:
The Oregon Trail  is an entertaining mix of history and adventure - give it a try!


16 comments:

  1. I'm interested in reading this one or perhaps listening to it. Just the whole idea of The Oregon Trail is fun for me. When we moved to Oregon, years and years ago, I read all kinds of things about Oregon history and loved it.

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    1. Kay - Our trip out west this summer got me interested. Wish I'd read the book beforehand though... it may have altered our route a little. Now I want to plan another 'western adventure'!

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  2. There's something uniquely appealing about listening to a book narrated by the author! -- and I love the experience of not knowing you're interested until you are!.

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    1. Audrey - The mules, especially , caught my fancy. I've always loved horses, but who knew mules could be so interesting and endearing?

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  3. Glad you enjoyed this JoAnn. The term 'participatory history' is new to me.

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    1. Pat - I liked the term "participatory history". I suppose that would encompass all the Civil War re-enactments, too.

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  4. I really, really want to read this. I think I'll also do a combo read/listen. And I'll be sure to check out the end conversation.

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    1. Beth F - The cadence of the author's voice got me a couple of times while I was listening... switching to print was a nice break.

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  5. The concept behind this journey and the resulting book is such a good one.

    I do remember reading some old National Geographic articles where the writer or an expedition retraced a famous historical rout, sometimes using the historical transportation mode.

    I find this make for such interesting and enlightening reading.

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    1. Brian Joseph - I kind of remember those stories from National Geographic, too. My brother spent hours with the magazine, but I always glanced through and picked out an article here or there to actually read.

      I will make a point of visiting some of the places mentioned in the book the next time I plan a trip out west.

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  6. I've read (and watched) about this subject before, and enjoyed it! My kids even used to play the old-school PC game The Oregon Trail and I enjoyed watching them play, plus it was educational.

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    1. Rita - That old computer game got a lot of play in our house, too. I still laugh out loud when I remember how one of the girls tried to make the crossing with a load of grandfather clocks in her wagon!

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  7. I like the sound of this one. I don't know much about the Oregon trail so this will be a good read.

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    1. Athira - I though it was fascinating... and learned a lot, too!

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  8. Oh god, but I like those quotes! I'm going to have to get ahold of this one.

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    1. Lisa - I laughed out loud several times with this one... what an adventure!

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