Undaunted Courage

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Undaunted Courage
by Stephen E. Ambrose

This sat on my shelf for years until a recent road trip out west sparked my interest in Lewis and Clark’s famous trip. This nonfiction account of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s incredible journey covers everything from the earliest planning stages to the final attempts at publishing the journals from the trip.

Written by the revered author of Band of Brothers, the book reads like a novel at many points. The men encountered Native American tribes (both hostile and friendly), diseases, wild animals, vicious turns in weather and a myriad of other obstacles to complete their goal. 

They traveled across the majority of the United States to reach the far west coast with canoes and horses as their only form of transportation. That alone is impressive, but then you realize that they also gathered and inventories dozens of new animal and plant species along the way. They worked on mapping out the entire area that they traveled along while also gathering new scientific data and establishing trade routes.

The project was a goal of Thomas Jefferson’s and when he became the president he began to put his plan into action. The book mainly focuses on Lewis’ life, his struggles and his role in blazing the trail out west. He was a brilliant, but troubled man and this trip was both the greatest and hardest endeavor of his life.

BOTTOM LINE: One of my favorite nonfiction books of the year. I know that traveling out west this fall certainly prompted my reading this book, but I think I would have loved it regardless of that. I learned so much about the individuals behind the trip and the sheer scope of what they accomplished. I highly recommend if you’re a fan of US History or just great nonfiction stories of accomplishment.

p.s. While in Montana we visited the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and the photos above are from those exhibits.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Some of the best reading experiences I've had is when the page collides with real life. And better yet if the page is easy reading (so often the non-fiction, history types are not). I felt that way about Philbrick's Mayflower. It makes your brain buzz.

Anne said...

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years waiting to be read. Thanks for the great review, I am hoping to get some time to read it soon!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I know! That's why I liked doing the Reading the States project. I love reading things set in a specific state before/during/after a trip there. It makes the book hit home in a different way.

Anne - I can't believe I waited so long to read it, but sometimes you just have to wait until the perfect time to read it.