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Crazy River: Exploration and Folly in East Africa Paperback – October 25, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Armchair explorers, rejoice! Richard Grant has gone where we dare not and brought back the news in all its rich, harrowing and lucid detail. The best book about Africa since Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari.” --T.C. Boyle, author of The Women and When the Killing’s Done

“Heading for Tanzania, intent on exploration- a first descent of the Malagarasi River-, Richard Grant instead finds himself in the shadow of Burton and Speke, Stanley and Livingston on an altogether unexpected frontier of the unknown- the reality of contemporary Africa. The result is a kaleidoscopic romp through chaos, contradiction, madness and wonder. A fierce account, honestly told, and refreshingly frank.” –Wade Davis, author of One River and Into the Silence

“In his last book when he was being chased by killers in Mexico for a couple days I questioned Richard Grant’s sanity in trying to be the first to travel the length of Tanzania’s Malagarasi River. The hippos and crocodiles are the problem, also the dreadful diseases that daily afflict you. This is a truly wonderful book about East Africa.” –Jim Harrison, author of Returning to Earth

“Way back when, we crawled out of the Great Rift in Africa. Richard Grant explains that this ancient womb is the theater of our future. This coming world will have a lot of people fighting over dwindling piles of junk. This future will looks a lot like murder. This time we are all going down Crazy River and forget the damn life jackets. They belong to the past we devoured. Let Richard Grant take you to your new home. But let me warn you: we will not get home before dark.” —Charles Bowden, author of Murder City

“As he did in God's Middle Finger, Grant takes us into a world where few willingly venture. His feverish journey from Zanzibar, down an uncharted river and into the broken heart of 21st century Africa is by turns funny, poignant, frightening and deeply disturbing. The future Grant shows us with such lucidity and compassion is one his predecessors, Stanley, Livingstone and Burton could never have envisioned.” –John Vaillant, author of The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

Fear and loathing in East Africa as travel writer Grant traverses the ravaged continent in search of a mysterious river and the source of the Nile...Dyspeptic, disturbing and brilliantly realized, Grant’s account of Africa is literally unforgettable." --Kirkus Reviews

"A mixture of offbeat characters and travelogue, an entertaining and informative first-person account of a man who’s very much out of his element but very keen to learn everything he can." --Booklist

"Grant’s gift for getting detoured...makes this one of the year’s most surprising adventure books, taking us well beyond jungle and river..part sociologist, part journalist, and “more interested in what happened along the way than achieving goals or reaching destinations.” --Men's Journal

"as detailed in this thoroughly engrossing new book, Crazy River: Exploration and Folly in East Africa, Grant's quest for adventure and discovery didn't go unrewarded." --Tucson Weekly

"This is Grant’s third travel book, and he strikes a wonderful balance between evoking the sepia-toned, blood-stained, imperialist past and the hungry, gritty independent realism of modern East Africa. Never one to focus on his own accomplishments, and slow to judge others, he manages to serve up equal portions of humility and pathos." --Lonely Planet

"To discover Africa is a quest that has burned away at the European soul since Ptolemy. Richard Grant goes on his own by bus, boat and foot to reach the source of the (White) Nile and find out what really drives Africa." --San Francisco Book Review

About the Author

Richard Grant is an award-winning author, journalist, and television host. His books include Crazy River, the adventure classic God’s Middle Finger, and American Nomads, which has since been made into a BBC documentary of the same name.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Original edition (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439154147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439154144
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #790,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By mzeina on November 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
this book is well written and educational pageturner. author gives a realistic and wide picture of life in Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. i will look forward to read more of his stuff, at least what he has available on kindle. and if the author ever reads this review - you are welcome to travel in south sinai. here are some wild places left and i know the beduin tribes and places. if you are interested please leave a note below this review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth on September 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Actually, despite the title of my review, I did enjoy this book considerably, it is just that there wasn't actually that much of the book that was truly about the river. It was a mostly enjoyable and entertaining read, though at times I got annoyed with the author or with his portrayals of the various characters he met along the way. I am a resident of Tanzania and have traveled in Burundi and Rwanda as well, therefore I feel competent to say there were times that his reflections were spot on, but other times, he seemed to rely on stereotypes and hearsay. It is true that in the few months he was on the road, it would be impossible for him to have a "complete" experience (if anyone ever can?!?), but sometimes he presented himself as a bit of an authority in things of which he has a pretty limited view.

The last irksome bit was the way in which he expressed such relief at being back in America- hah- he was only there a couple of months- how can you get so worn out by Africa in only a couple of months??

All that said, I have no trouble recommending this book for anyone about to embark on an African adventure, especially one in East Africa, or anyone who knows someone there. It is a pleasant way to spend an autumn weekend, curled up by a nice fire with a cup of hot cocoa, or in the hotter climate of Dar es Salaam- on the beach with a cold gin and tonic.

PS I read the kindle version which did not have a map. If don't know if the hard copy version of the book has a map of Grant's route in it, but it would have been a nice thing to have.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Cary Watson on September 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
Much like the African river author Richard Grant set out to try and raft the length of, his book about the trip ends up wandering into some dead ends, hits some snags, and comes to an unsuccessful conclusion. But there are some hair-raising adventures along the way and the trip is conducted with enthusiasm and an acute eye for detail.

Grant originally went to Africa to travel the length of the Malagarasi River, something no explorer has ever done. Grant freely admits he was indulging in a childhood fantasy of playing at explorer, and his somewhat successful journey on the river, led and organized by a professional guide with the help of several assistants, makes up the bulk of his story. This part of the book has a variety of scary moments thanks to rapids, hippos and trigger-happy poachers, not to mention the usual agglomeration of snakes, biting bugs, and insufferable heat. There's no doubt this was a dangerous adventure, but, like climbing Himalayan mountains, it's utterly pointless. Grant is putting himself in harm's way purely to satisfy his own ego and to entertain his readership. Grant is fairly candid about admitting his base motives for the river trip, but there's something monstrously selfish about this kind of life-threatening adventuring that I find off-putting. When Grant risks his life he's also putting the emotional lives of his loved ones at risk. Does he ever think how horrible his death would be for his parents? girlfriend? siblings? Is risking their grief worth the ephemeral and pointless honour of traveling an unknown river? Another thing that bothers me about it is that this kind of adventure is almost the ultimate expression of Western wealth and decadence.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By William J. Higgins,III on January 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
Richard Grant once again puts out a compelling travel extravaganza.

Not only a gripping adventure down Africa's Malagarasi River sidestepping bullets, bandits, poachers, crocs, hippos, tsetse flies and diseases, but also a shocking first-hand description of what is going on in east Africa today.

Hunger, poverty, greed, genocide and other inhumane conditions which further hinder development into modern times are mind-boggling.
An eye-opening account of culture, bribery, corruption and senseless tradition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By nancyv on March 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
Fantastic narration of journey through a continent full of mysteries. Read the last chapter if you are planning on writing a check to a 'worthy cause'! I made a list of pages to re-review for myself and discussed same with many friends. Highly recommend this book!!!NLV
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Okay, now that I've gone on record on Amazon about how actively I disliked Julian Smith's Crossing the Heart of Africa — an award winner? really ? — I feel it only right to explain exactly WHY I enjoyed Crazy River so much. Comparing the two, to me, is like comparing Paul Theroux with a college undergraduate essaying his way through first-year creative writing.

Grant is acerbic, witty and a keen observer of human nature. I have traveled extensively in Tanzania and on Zanzibar; Grant got Zanzibar spot on. And not a romanticized, 19th century version of Zanzibar, either, but Zanzibar as it is in 2015.

Grant has an expedition in mind — he's quite up-front about how quickly his plans fall apart, and his own shortcomings as a would-be explorer. Even though his plans fall apart, though, he stays on a linear course. Crazy River has a genuine beginning, middle and a real end. That ending, in Rwanda, following a face-to-face sit-down interview with Rwandan president Paul Kagame, immediately after being overwhelmed at the genocide memorial in Kigali, reads both true and profound, and is not at all what you might expect.

I cannot overemphasize how much I enjoyed Crazy River, and how much I appreciated being taken on Grant's journey with him. And make no mistake: This book is so sharp, so keenly observed, so well-written, so fascinating in every respect, that as a reader you are genuinely there with him, every step of the way.

I know a little bit of Africa. Not much, just what I've seen with my own eyes and experienced myself. I know people — expats and locals both — who live in Tanzania, Kenya and other countries, and have either chosen to make East and Central Africa their home, or have lived there all their lives.
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