Riverman: An American Odyssey (Hardcover)

Riverman: An American Odyssey By Ben McGrath Cover Image
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Description


“This quietly profound book belongs on the shelf next to Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.” —The New York Times
 
The riveting true story of Dick Conant, an American folk hero who, over the course of more than twenty years, canoed solo thousands of miles of American rivers—and then disappeared near the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This book “contains everything: adventure, mystery, travelogue, and unforgettable characters” (David Grann, best-selling author of Killers of the Flower Moon).

For decades, Dick Conant paddled the rivers of America, covering the Mississippi, Yellowstone, Ohio, Hudson, as well as innumerable smaller tributaries. These solo excursions were epic feats of planning, perseverance, and physical courage. At the same time, Conant collected people wherever he went, creating a vast network of friends and acquaintances who would forever remember this brilliant and charming man even after a single meeting.

Ben McGrath, a staff writer at The New Yorker, was one of those people. In 2014 he met Conant by chance just north of New York City as Conant paddled down the Hudson, headed for Florida. McGrath wrote a widely read article about their encounter, and when Conant's canoe washed up a few months later, without any sign of his body, McGrath set out to find the people whose lives Conant had touched--to capture a remarkable life lived far outside the staid confines of modern existence.
 
Riverman is a moving portrait of a complex and fascinating man who was as troubled as he was charismatic, who struggled with mental illness and self-doubt, and was ultimately unable to fashion a stable life for himself; who traveled alone and yet thrived on connection and brought countless people together in his wake. It is also a portrait of an America we rarely see: a nation of unconventional characters, small river towns, and long-forgotten waterways.
 

About the Author


BEN McGRATH is a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker. He lives outside New York City in a small town on the Hudson, with his wife and two children. This is his first book.

Praise For…


“A portrait of forgotten American byways and the eccentric characters who populate them, a cursory history of river travel in America and, not least, an effort to solve the riddle of Conant himself — not only his whereabouts but also his elusive and irresistible nature.… In an age when everything is relentlessly online and the real world is increasingly mediated through screens, Conant and his canoe represent something slower and quieter, closer to nature.” 
—Gregory Cowles, The New York Times
 
“Superb...McGrath captures his subject with warmth and humor… A worthy addition to the literature of American restlessness, Riverman draws on what Mr. McGrath hails as the ‘river-trip canon,’ which includes Lewis and Clark and Huckleberry Finn…and… evokes comparisons with Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.” 
—Heller McAlpin, The Wall Street Journal
 
“Fascinating…A diptych…rich with detail…A story that wends its way through the fluid state of American masculinity in our tumultuous times.” 
—Lorraine Berry, StarTribune

"An intoxicating account of an American original named Richard Conant, an inveterate river wanderer whose travels throughout America revealed methodical planning, great endurance, a touch of foolhardiness and no small amount of physical courage for a man not in the best of health… A fascinating story with heart, grit and consummate flow."
—Bill Thompson, The Post and Courier

"Exquisitely written and deeply reported, Riverman is a gem of a book. It contains everything: adventure, mystery, travelogue, and unforgettable characters. Most of all, it illuminates the wonderful curiosities of life."
—David Grann, bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon

Riverman is as miraculous and hopeful as its protagonist, the Zelig of America's waterways, Dick Conant. It’s a great book for people like me, who read Into the Wild but have shed our self-destructive wanderlust and settled into middle-age. This book will make you want to buy a canoe and spend less time on Instagram.”
—Emma Straub, bestselling author of All Adults Here

“This is a beautifully told and near-mythical tale of one man’s quest to find peace through communion with nature, and through perpetual motion. My heart was deeply stirred by Riverman, and by Ben McGrath’s brilliant, clear, and humane storytelling. This one will stay with me for a long time.”
—Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of City of Girls

"McGrath’s reconstruction of Dick Conant’s tangled career and yearning soul is so meticulous, so obsessive, that Conant comes to life on the page as vividly as any character in American literature. Conant wanted his story told. Here it is, in all its pathos and sheer unlikeliness. You will never see rivers and the towns on their banks the same way after reading Riverman. Ditto, I predict, for expansive, raggedy strangers."
—William Finnegan, bestselling author of Pulitzer Prize winner Barbarian Days

"The captivating story of an inveterate river wanderer who left a mark on many he met along his journeys before suddenly vanishing... A paean to eccentricity and endurance and a study of a life that changed the chronicler’s own perceptions. McGrath’s writing is measured and confident, the product of a journalist’s persistence in investigating the truth behind so colorful and contradictory a figure... A memorable and intoxicating exploration of what we make of those who reinvent themselves."
Kirkus, starred

"McGrath retraces the remarkable life of this gentle man whose life on the water touched so many. Riverman honors a free-spirited American naturalist and modern-day explorer (a blend of Forrest Gump, Huck Finn, and even Don Quixote) who shucked a conventional lifestyle for complete freedom, at significant personal cost. A masterpiece of narrative nonfiction."
Booklist, starred

"An intriguing character study for anyone interested in the life of a man with an adventurous spirit and an engaging personality, who collected friends across the country.”
Library Journal
Product Details
ISBN: 9780451494009
ISBN-10: 0451494008
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: April 5th, 2022
Pages: 272
Language: English

How to read more

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How To Read More

If you love reading, but for some reason you read less and less, know that everything is fine. It happens.
Our lives today have so many things that distract us - how can we not put books away when all these movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, social networks and endless surfing in online stores are around ...
Yes, it's really hard to resist, but you certainly can!

In this article, we want to share with you some tips to read more often and more successfully.
These are some notes and some practices that we have collected for our SUNDOG BOOKS readers club.
And maybe it will bring more books into your life!

Why do we want/need to read more?

To start reading more, you have to understand why you need it.
And you will be surprised, but your goals can be quite varied:

- for work
If you read a lot on duty, then you definitely need to speed up the process. The logic here is simple: read faster → work faster → more time for books for yourself.

- for education
you need this for your educational career or sometimes you just want to read to learn. And, with all the new alternative ways to gain knowledge (podcasts, online courses and videos), the book still does an excellent job of this task too.

- for self-development
all exercises for increasing speed, one way or another, improve cognition and memory.

- for fun
because good books always = fun!

Book lovers have an additional special goal for reading more often. If you love literature, you will understand what we mean: you want to catch everything - to follow modern literature, and not forget about the classics, look into non-fiction and children's publications. And there’s so much you want to reread! The goals are ambitious, but attainable if you read a lot.

 

And so - How to read more:
We will tell you about the methods that we use ourselves. Perhaps some will suit you as well.

 

15 minutes a day

You've probably already heard this rule: if you want to start a healthy habit, devote 15 minutes a day to it. Once upon a time, we all read irregularly, in jumps and starts. Sometimes we cannot open a book we have begun weeks ago. Therefore, you should decide to create a rule: devote at least 15 minutes a day to reading. Try reading before bed, or maybe during lunchtime, or even when you are having your morning coffee.

You will see progress immediately. You will notice that almost always your 15 minutes will grow into half an hour or more. But the most remarkable thing is that in three weeks your hands themselves will be looking for a book.

 

50 First Pages
This method advises - If the book hasn't hooked you from the first 50 pages, put it aside! Life is too short to read uninteresting books.

It is necessary to change the approach to books. At first it will be hard for you to stop and put the book down. Even if we put the book away, it will seem to reproach us from the shelf, mocking us as quitters. But in the end we should come to one simple thought: if it doesn’t hook your attention, you should not force yourself to read it.

***Fifty pages is not a bad test. Not the most objective, but definitely effective. It helps to determine whether it interests you or not, and whether to spend time on things that do not excite.

 

Reader's Diary

This should be used to improve the quality of reading - to make it more conscious. For starters, it can be a simple notebook with headings:

  • Author
  • Year of publication
  • Main characters
  • Scene
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Quotes

And, yes, a reader's diary is not a thing about quantity, but about quality. But, it can also motivate. When you open your diary and start looking at quotes (especially quotes), you immediately really want to read.

 

Maybe a Book Bet?
Several people can participate. Members of the betting group can come from friends, family, and also your colleagues. And of course you can set your own rules for participation, but we'll give you a simple example:

Everyone in the group should read and review a book over the course of a month with weekly updates. Anyone who does not finish a review buys the book for all other participants for the next month.

 

Speed Reading

Another effective way to increase the amount you read is speed reading. The logic here is simple - the faster you read, the more books you can enjoy.

*There are many online courses on speed reading, and you can also study on your own using instructional books. But, it is worth noting that this is a serious learning process that will require some effort on your part.

 

Outcome

Reading every day is quite attainable, the main thing is to try to make it a habit.
Sometimes, instead of heading for Facebook, try opening a book and soon you won’t even remember why you needed to wander around social media.
And also - don't forget about audiobooks. They are a cool way to take the load off your eyes sometimes and just immerse yourself in the story. Some books are really strong in voice acting.

 
 
 

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