Nonfiction Book Club
Our discussions take place in our Community Room unless otherwise indicated. Copies of the books for discussion are available at our Checkout Desk for readers registering for the discussion.
The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
by Rinker Buck
Tuesday, March 1, at 6:30 p.m.
#1 New York Times Bestseller. An epic account of traveling the length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way—in a covered wagon with a team of mules, an audacious journey that hasn’t been attempted in a century—which also chronicles the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country.
Spanning 2,000 miles and traversing six states from Missouri to the Pacific coast, the Oregon Trail is the route that made America. In the fifteen years before the Civil War, when 400,000 pioneers used the trail to emigrate West—scholars still regard this as the largest land migration in history—it united the coasts, doubled the size of the country, and laid the groundwork for the railroads.
Rinker Buck brings the most important route in American history back to vibrant life. Traveling from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Baker City, Oregon, over the course of four months, he is accompanied by three cantankerous mules, his boisterous brother, Nick, and an “incurably filthy” Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Along the way, they dodge thunderstorms in Nebraska, chase runaway mules across the Wyoming plains, scout more than five hundred miles of nearly vanished trail on foot, cross the Rockies, and make desperate fifty-mile forced marches for water. The Buck brothers repair so many broken wheels and axels that they nearly reinvent the art of wagon travel itself. They also must reckon with the ghost of their father, an eccentric yet loveable dreamer whose memory inspired their journey across the plains and whose premature death, many years earlier, has haunted them both ever since.
The Oregon Trail is also a lively work of history. Buck introduces readers to the largely forgotten roles played by trailblazing evangelists, friendly Indian tribes, female pioneers, bumbling U.S. Army cavalrymen, and the scam artists who flocked to the frontier to fleece the overland emigrants. We learn how the trail accelerated American economic development. Most arresting, perhaps, are the stories of the pioneers themselves—ordinary families whose extraordinary courage and sacrifice made this country what it became. At once a majestic journey across the West, a significant work of history, and a moving personal saga, The Oregon Trail draws readers into the journey of a lifetime.
This discussion will be held upstairs in the library.