Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Favorite Reads: Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose

In My Favorite Reads each week I feature one of my favorite reads from the past. July is American History month, so I am featuring Undaunted Courage : Meriwether Lewis Thomas Jefferson And The Opening Of The American West by Stephen E. Ambrose, narrated by Barrett Whitener (unabridged audio).

Summary (from the publisher):
In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead a voyage up the Missouri River, across the forbidding Rockies, and -- by way of the Snake and mighty Columbia -- down to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis and his partner, Captain William Clark, endured incredible hardships and witnessed astounding sights. With great perseverance, they worked their way into an unexplored West and when they returned two years later, they had long since been given up for dead.

Lewis is supported by a variety of colorful characters: Jefferson and his vision of the West; Clark, the artist and map-maker; and Lewis -- the enigma, who led brilliantly but considered the mission a failure. After suffering several periods of depression -- and despite his status as national hero -- Lewis died mysteriously, apparently by his own hand.

Why I chose this book:
I was worried at 20 CDs that this would be dry and hard to follow, but it was the opposite. I found myself frequently staying in the car long after I had reached my destination to continue listening! As always with a history audio book I do feel like I missed out as there were likely some maps if not also photos int he book that I certainly didn't get on the audio, but on the plus side, Native Americans' names and unfamiliar place names that I wouldn't know how to pronounce, I didn't have to try to muddle through on my own. The book was masterfully written, exhaustively researched, yet not pedantic or tedious. In fact it was easy to follow, the characters really came alive, and the story was fascinating. Did you know that to this day the exact path they took can be tracked chemically? They thought mercury was basically a cure-all and they brought it with them both as a remedy and a preventative. So most of the party took mercury nearly daily throughout the journey, and one can trace the remains of the mercury that are still in the soil along their trail.


B said...

This sounds interesting! I don't read non-fiction very often but since you do, I like taking your recommendations. Thanks, Carin.

Alyce said...

This sounds amazing! History books are hit and miss for me, so I appreciate your recommendation. It's really sad how much people used to use mercury as a cure-all.

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

This does sound intriguing...I'm not a big fan of audio books, but I'm trying to psych myself up, since I got an audio book in the mail.

Here's my Favorite this week: