cover image The Rush: America’s Fevered Quest for Fortune, 1848–1853

The Rush: America’s Fevered Quest for Fortune, 1848–1853

Edward Dolnick. Little, Brown, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-316-17568-5

This headlong narrative from former Boston Globe science writer Dolnick (The Clockwork Universe) covers the tumultuous years from the discovery of gold in California to the gold bubble’s burst. Dubbed “a new history of the gold rush,” it’s new in its color and descriptive riches, all enlivened by the author’s prose. However, it doesn’t break any new ground, offer new explanations for the action-filled scenes Dolnick portrays, or change our view of the mad scramble for riches in California’s rivers. Dolnick tapped into the diaries and memoirs of men and women of the era to bring brilliantly alive the experiences of so many thousands (1% of the U.S. population) who left the East Coast, Europe, and even Asia in the search for freedom (often found, if only briefly) and wealth (mostly never found). He also emphasizes the great irony that many of those who grew rich during the gold rush did so not from the panned gold but from provisioning the miners and camp followers with their necessities. Dolnick’s compulsively readable story is one that’s rarely been told better. (Aug.)