THE MISSISSIPPI AND THE MAKING OF A NATION: From the Louisiana Purchase to Today

Stephen E. Ambrose, Author, Douglas G. Brinkley, Joint Author, Sam Abell, Photographer . National Geographic $40 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7922-6913-7

"The Mississippi River alone represents more than 2,350 miles of America's lifeblood," write Ambrose and Brinkley of the waterway known as Old Man River and America's River. This lively narrative is built around the authors' trip up the Mississippi—from New Orleans to Minnesota—on the 19th-century steamboat Delta Queen in celebration of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial. Ambrose, bestselling author of Nothing Like It in the World, and noted historian Brinkley (The Unfinished Presidency), weave regional history with their personal account of the sights, from the intersection of Highways 61 and 49 near Clarksdale, Miss., where legend has it that musician Robert Johnson "sold his... soul to the devil to play the meanest blues guitar in the region," to their encounter with a domesticated bald eagle at a sanctuary near the Twin Cities. They stress the economic and cultural importance of the river valley to the nation, recount quirky regional "firsts" (such as the debut of peanut butter at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair) and focus above all on the machinations that led to Jefferson's 1803 purchase of the territory from France. Combining an impressively broad overview of the region with a detailed account of the Louisiana Purchase, this absorbing book should please any lay enthusiast of American history. 150 pages of photos and maps.(Oct.)

Forecast:Given the eminence of the authors, the beauty of the photos, and the coming bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition, this should see very handsome sales.

Reviewed on: 09/30/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
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