“A Voyage Long and Strange” by Tony Horwitz was one of the first books I chose from this year’s Notable Books List.
Horwitz takes a personal journey through the parts of North America where Europeans made contact between the landing of Columbus in 1492 and the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. His inspiration was a trip to Plymouth rock where he overheard conversations among the visitors, most of them indicating basic ignorance of the historical facts. Many referred to the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria landing there.
Horwitz tells his story of exploring the journeys of the Europeans who discovered, made conquests, and finally, settled in America. Along the way, he comments on restaurants, amusement sites, and the overall popular culture of each area he visits.
I learned a lot from this story, and found two points reinforced. One is that while I consider myself reasonably informed, there’s plenty for me to learn about the history of the United States. Another is a theme that is repeated in another Notable Book, “The Hemingses of Monticello,” that is, a place’s accepted history typically excludes crucial aspects.
I’d recommend “A Voyage Long and Strange” to people who enjoy history, or who savor travel books, especially when those are told by a quirky but curious author.