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Showing 1-10 of 113 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 198 reviews
on August 23, 2017
If you are a To y Horowitz fan, you will like this one, too. I first read Confederates in The Attic by him, and liked it so much, that I read all of his books, basically what he does, is he gives you the history of the places he's going to visit. Then he visits the places and talks to the people who still live there today. It's always informative, often funny and always eye opening. I love this guy's books, thisone is about the early explorers in the Americas. You won't like most of them, but it gives a very good look at just what happened and what modern people think of it all today, people who still live there.
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on July 20, 2016
Very well researched, bringing life to many of the people involved in discovering the North American continent. The author also added some humor to the subject through his own travels to the main areas of discoveries. That being said, I feel that everyone of these people made their "discovery" for one reason: greed. There have to have been someone who settled this country for something other than gold or a new source of slaves. The book really struck me & made me ashamed that this entire country was stolen from many Indian tribes & if that wasn't bad enough, enslaved the survivors of their attack. It makes me feel angry and ashamed of my ancestors which in turn made me sorry for reading a book that made the same guilty parties into heroes. I know that it is not the authors fault - he had to work with the people that were there, good or bad. My biggest complaint was that I think the author devoted too much of his work on Columbus (who apparently never touched ground on the continent himself), Coronado, & DeSoto (licensed thugs, looking for people to kill rather than colonization) & too little time with Virginia & Plymouth - someone had to have survived on the East Coast to create the 13 original colonies & subsequent U.S. Overall good book, just too much emphasis on the bad guys!
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on February 12, 2016
Great gift for a history lover! I gave this as a gift for a history buff because I enjoyed it so much. There was so much information that I hadn't remembered and tons of detail that I have never even heard of. It is the type of book that you wish everyone was reading so you could talk about it! It is such an easy read in a friendly and self-depricating tone. I think it is a great book!
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on August 20, 2013
It was the quote by Rev. Peter Gomes that "Myth trumps fact, always does, always has, always will" towards the end of "Voyage..." that really sums up the book and for me neatly summarizes everything. To a certain extent as I began reading "Voyage" that it felt all too much like a different version of Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War a "naïve" American feels he doesn't understand the history of the United States and sets out on a lengthy travelogue to try and gain greater insight and a deeper understanding of what America was/is/will be to all the peoples who live here. And while that was quite novel and funny in "Confederates" it does start to wear and grate for readers who will quickly get a sense of déjà vu. That's not to say Horwitz isn't enjoyable or what he relates here isn't a new or fresh take, but it's all starting to feel a bit predictable and rote: the trips to rural backwaters to flesh out both sides of the stories, hiking through vacant wastelands with no real connection to an event that took place over a hundred or perhaps hundreds of years ago, the odd bits of Americana. It soon all starts to sound and feel like something I might see on "The Daily Show" and what was once novel now borders on the cloying; yes, I get we're a country that doesn't know or understand our past and what that significance means to our presence and our future...so how do we rectify or change it?!? To that Horwitz offers no remedies or ideas, he merely keeps plodding along with his kvetching about how we know nothing. Even as a historian I have to admit there were a few things I either didn't know or had forgotten and clearly he's very current on historiographical debates on many subjects. Like his previous books "Voyage" points to how dumbed down the teaching of American History has become at every level including College level, yet in fairness how much more can we cram into survey level courses? Unless you take an upper level course on the age of exploration at the college level you're not likely to get exposed to this. And unlike Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War there were few funny, poignant, or "AHA!" moments here. It seems almost as if Horwitz is forcing himself to follow these paths and explore these stories. Who else would go to such isolated and godforsaken places such as L'Anse aux Meadows or the vast barren stretches of the desert southwest?

Ultimately Horwitz does have some very interesting thoughts and observations about the peoples we cut out of American History or whom we gloss over, as they truly do relate more to who we are as a society rather than some phony ideal. The Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock sound like a great story, coming here for religious freedom, but the true story is actually a bit different as are the stories of the Puritans who later settled in what is now Boston. Narratives for these disparate groups were used by Consensus Historians to help frame a narrative of American Exceptionalism that whitewashes and overlooks certain elements while emphasizing others. There were many reasons why colonists came to what became the United States, but religious freedom was only one of many reasons why. Omitting the other reasons doesn't do us any favors nor does it present a balanced or nuanced portrait of our country or our people and those who came before us. The result is a diminished and demeaned understanding of who we are and what shaped our country and society. Horwitz certainly likes to poke fun at local historians, heritage and genealogical societies, and other historical groups for the biases and agendas and while I certainly fall in some of those categories and am a member of some of those groups I don't take offense as I'm well aware of the extremists that are out there. My point is not everyone who takes an interest in these groups is necessarily a nut case or whack job; there are many people who genuinely care about accurately and completely representing history and historical events. Its fine to poke fun at these groups but my concern is that as membership in these groups slowly fades out generationally what will take their place? What will likely happen is a diminishment and decrease in historic preservation, historiographical debate, and the contesting of public spaces which will further erode our understanding of our history. From a personal perspective I'd love to have Horwitz come up with something forward looking and actionable on what he feels needs to be done about our sad state of understanding and relating to history. It's easy to be an armchair quarterback criticizing everyone and everything, but it's another to come up with how to make things better. And quite honestly myth is easier to explain to people without the messy and complicated nuances, balanced explanations, opposing and contrarion points of view and more. It's hard to boil complicated issues down to a small panel is a museum (trust me...I know!) and to that extent it's an easier shortcut to go with myth. Why do you think ghost tours are so popular? It's not authenticity, it's the goosebumps factor of the myths and legends. People can chose to believe what they wish to believe and ignore the rest. Or as it was put in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", "when legend becomes fact, print the legend."
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on August 13, 2013
The book is roughly 400 pages. With 13 chapters and three parts it's organized pretty well. Part I explains the start of the discoveries about the New World and the different nations looking for riches in the new land. Part II is about the explorations made by the nations: Spain, England, French. Part III is about the colonization and the settlement in the New World.

I had to read this book for my summer reading for my APUSH class. Personally, I was never knew much about the history about the United States and its early stages but this book covers it from the first explorer to the establishment of Jamestown. Is the book boring? At some parts yes but other parts are surprisingly interesting. The author tends to spend half the chapter retelling historical events and the other half telling his journey as he travels to where each event occurred. Tony Horwitz made this a manageable read to new nonfiction readers but is no doubt still challenging. This was my one of the first historical books I've ever read and was bored because it only retold past events but I realized there is no other way to tell history. And this book with Horwitz's diction actually makes the book interesting at points.

The book contains maps to show the expeditions and pictures of significant conquistadors that not only save you from reading a page but help you visually see the trail people in the past traveled. I gave this book a 4/5 stars because Horwitz does sometimes go off topic (The Dominican Republic portion of the book) and tends to skip around when retelling the historical events. Nonetheless, the book does a phenomenal job about informing you about the past history of how the Europeans arrival to America and how they treated the Natives.

Overall, if you want to get a basic knowledge on the beginning stages of America this is a great book to read to get informed.
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"... history, in America, is a dish best served plain. The first course could include a dollop of Italian in 1942, but not Spanish spice or French sauce or too much Indian corn. Nothing too filling or fancy ahead of the turkey and pumpkin pie, just the way Grandma used to cook it." - Tony Horwitz

Growing up in the 50s and 60s as part of white, middle-class America, the essentials of U.S. history as taught in primary and secondary schools emphasized Columbus and then skipped to the English explorers, Jamestown, and Plymouth Colony. The 16th century Spanish explorers of the American Southwest and Southeast - principally Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, and Hernando de Soto - crossed the pages of the textbooks but briefly much as wraiths across the landscape. We remained blissful in our ignorance. Similarly (un)educated and suddenly confronted with his unawareness, author Tony Horwitz endeavors in A VOYAGE LONG AND STRANGE to delve into a more complete story of the early exploration of what was to become the United States.

Interestingly enough, and to put things in proper perspective, Horwitz begins his book with neither the English nor the Spanish, but rather with the Viking settlement in Newfoundland near L'Anse aux Meadows founded around 1000A.D.

Then, there are the couple of obligatory chapters centered on Columbus and the heavy-handed Spanish colonization of Hispaniola.

What I consider the meat of the volume is Part II, "Conquest", wherein the author recounts the epic marches of Alvar, Francisco and Hernando across the lower half of the Lower 48 during the period 1528-1543 oppressing, torturing and slaughtering the indigenous peoples as they went in the name of God and in search of gold.

Finally, Tony ends his narrative in Part III with the French and Spanish settlements in Florida and those of the English at Roanoke, Jamestown and Plymouth.

As an intellectual exercise, I was enormously fascinated and educated by the material which I'd heretofore so long ignored - the hard marches and hardships endured by de Vaca, Coronado and de Soto. I mean, they almost make Lewis and Clark look like sissies. Then, my iconoclastic streak was served when Horwitz does much to debunk the heroic myth of the Jamestown and Plymouth founders as well as the basis of that enduring opportunity for family dysfunctionality, Thanksgiving Day Dinner.

The author is perhaps less successful when, following along in the paths of the explorers and founders, he interacts with the locals looking for interesting, contemporary angles to the overall story. Some of his experiences, such as those in the Micmac sweat lodge (in Newfoundland) and while in search of an ancient Indian site in Florida are humorous and genuinely worth telling. About the latter he was particularly eloquent:

"I could barely see the ground for all the underbrush, and quickly felt my feet sinking into the muck. Groping to keep my balance, I stuck my hand into a three-foot-tall anthill ... Mosquitoes swarmed every inch of exposed flesh ... After a mile or so, I slumped on a rotted log and tried to imagine how alien and claustrophobic this landscape must have seemed to De Soto's men, most of them natives of Spain's arid, open backcountry ... I was soaked in sweat and half-mad from insects ... I reached a barbed-wire fence enclosing a hillock, apparently all that remained of the Indian settlement. Pushing aside huge, fanlike palm leaves, I went in for a closer look, and instantly sank knee-deep in stagnant black water. Invisible creatures rustled in the dense brush. Wretched and uneasy, I fled the mire and retreated ... No conquistador, I."

A VOYAGE LONG AND STRANGE contains many useful maps. Did you know that Coronado got as far as central Kansas? Though I myself have no desire to visit the place, I was suitably impressed with his effort.

I wish I'd been exposed to this volume in my formative years; it's history written in a way that makes one likely want to read it. Now, if somebody could only do the same service for differential calculus.
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on May 18, 2015
I love Horwitz & this book is among his best. The guy does excellent research on obscure subjects. After that: he travels to subject locations (where action took place 400+ years ago). Along the way: he educates readers re: obscure history. Bonus = "current characters" (funny does not cover it). Sadly: Horwitz confirms the current state of ignorance (general public ). Ignorance of history of course, but incredible ignorance re: almost any subject. Why be alive if the brain is atrophied?
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on July 31, 2009
Tony Horwtiz's style really appeals to me - I like his "gung ho" approach of reporting. It totally worked in Confederates in the Attic and in Blue Latitudes.

I heard about this book before its release in 2007. I was visiting the Jamestown settlement in Virginia and overheard a conversation about how Horwitz had been there doing some research for his new book. I knew he was living in Virginia at the time, so it didn't come as a big surprise, and the timing was right, since Jamestown celebrated its 400th anniverary in 2007.

When this book hit the market, I immediately added it to the queue and picked it up at the bookstore a few weeks later.

The premise of the book is a little jab at the American education system - the misinformation and the general laziness of historical education at the primary and secondary levels. Of course the educators alone are not at fault, but a general public who believe that Columbus landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, or that the pilgrims were at Jamestown. Dates and geography forgotten so easily... and Horwitz wants to fill in those gaps.

He sets out on this quest first by researching the *many* explorations through North America and the Caribbean by the host of imperial European powers. He starts with Columbus, and travels to the Dominican Republic and searches for signs of the explorer in the modern day country. This is his modus operandi for the book: go to the modern country/region/state, and look for signs of the past. He relies on several archival resources, but he really just likes to talk to people. So, he goes into museums, into bars, into public parks, and just talks to people. It's a kind of guerilla approach, but he shares some interesting anecdotes and meets many unique characters.

There were a few dry spells in the book, and I freely admit to skipping over some portions and starting on the next chapter/region. The chapters on the Southwest took me back to my New Mexico history class in middle school - we did learn many of the same things, so it was good to revisit. My favorite chapters in the book were the stories of the explorations in the southeast by the Spanish and the French - perhaps it is because I knew the least about that region's history, or because the stories were so enticing.

Horwitz does not cover completely unexplored territory here (to keep with the theme!) but he does it in a fun and readable way. The general idea is similar to Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me (Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong). One criticism that I had while reading this book - and I understand that we just don't have the documentation to truly "back up" the other party's experience - it all seemed so Euro-centric. I couldn't help but think that the book needed a little dose of Zinn'sA People's History of the United States: 1492-Present (Perennial Classics)... added to the mix for more palpability.

That being said, I enjoyed it and learned some great little tidbits. While reading, I felt the need to share said tidbits with family and friends :)
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on April 12, 2017
Fills in gaps of American history you didn't notice were missing. And Horwitz recognizes none of us (in the USA) were exposed to this.
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on September 12, 2009
Tony Horwitz does a brilliant job of sifting through the voluminous material available on the exploration and settling of America from the time of Columbus' first voyage to the West Indies in 1492 up through the Pilgrims landing in Plymouth in the early 1600s. He debunks many myths and fascinates us with information that should really be taught to any student in the U.S. before they graduate from High School. We learn that St. Augustine, Florida is really the earliest permanent settlement in the continental United States. It was Abraham Lincoln who proclaimed the last Thursday of November 1863 as Thanksgiving to acknowledge the sacrifices made for the Union -- not as a tribute to the Pilgrims. Horwitz acknowledges that he focused on ten historical episodes rather than attempting a comprehensive survey and it leaves us wanting to find out more. We don't hear about Samuel de Champlain or Henry Hudson, for instance. However, the work is accessible and engrossing and we come away with the knowledge that what is now known as the United States was abuzz with activity, both from indigenous peoples and European Explorers, long before the Mayflower sailed.
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