On Our Shelves Now
From the award-winning author of American Canopy, a dazzling account of the world’s longest road, the Pan-American Highway, and the epic quest to link North and South America, a dramatic story of commerce, technology, politics, and the divergent fates of the Americas in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The Pan-American Highway, monument to a century’s worth of diplomacy and investment, education and engineering, scandal and sweat, is the longest road in the world, passable everywhere save the mythic Darien Gap that straddles Panama and Colombia. The highway’s history, however, has long remained a mystery, a story scattered among government archives, private papers, and fading memories. In contrast to the Panama Canal and its vast literature, the Pan-American Highway—the United States’ other great twentieth-century hemispheric infrastructure project—has become an orphan of the past, effectively erased from the story of the “American Century.”
The Longest Line on the Map uncovers this incredible tale for the first time and weaves it into a tapestry that fascinates, informs, and delights. Rutkow’s narrative forces the reader to take seriously the question: Why couldn’t the Americas have become a single region that “is” and not two near irreconcilable halves that “are”? Whether you’re fascinated by the history of the Americas, or you’ve dreamed of driving around the globe, or you simply love world records and the stories behind them, The Longest Line on the Map is a riveting narrative, a lost epic of hemispheric scale.
About the Author
Eric Rutkow is an assistant professor of history at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and the author of The Longest Line on the Map. His first book, American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation (2012), received the Association of American Publishers’ PROSE Award for US history and was named one of the top books of the year by Smithsonian magazine. He earned his BA and PhD from Yale and his JD from Harvard.
“Rutkow offers a richly detailed examination of efforts to build a highway from Alaska to the tip of Argentina… A fresh, well-documented account of U.S.-Latin American relations.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Rutkow’s excellent, thoroughly researched, and unusual look at this complicated mix of infrastructure innovations and international relations will engage a variety of reading tastes.” —Booklist
“Everybody loves a shaggy dog story. A good one should be long and implausible but still on the edge of possibility. The chronicle at the heart of Eric Rutkow’s The Longest Line on the Map seems to qualify. The story involves the decades-long attempt to construct thousands of miles of railway—and, later, highway—to ‘link the Americas.’” —The Wall Street Journal
“Rutkow's fascination with the Pan-American highway is evident in this meticulously researched and vividly recounted drama. He combines a historian's eye for detail with a storyteller's skill at bringing to life the dynamic political and social forces that conceived and constructed the international corridor.” —Shelf Awareness, starred review
“A powerful argument against Washington’s growing embrace of isolationist policies at home and abroad. Highly recommended for U.S. and diplomatic historians, geopolitical scholars, and general readers.” —Library Journal, starred review
“Broad-ranging, engaging...[Rutkow’s] stories yield an original and often surprising take on American history.” —The Wall Street Journal
“A deeply fascinating survey of American history through a particularly interesting angle.” —Anthony Doerr, The Boston Globe
“Rutkow is clearly enraptured by his topic and, like another great popular historian, David McCullough, has a knack for making the reader enraptured as well. He tells history’s story as just that: a story, not a boring lecture.” —The Chicago Tribune
“Rutkow has cut through America’s use and love of trees to reveal the rings of our nation’s history and the people who have helped shape it.” —The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Sound and enlightening.” —The Washington Post
“[A] richly-distilled cultural history of our woods...an even-handed and comprehensive history that could not be more relevant.” —Bloomberg Businessweek
“Rutkow’s unique, eye-opening history helps us see clearly both the forest and the trees.” —Booklist, starred review
“For those who see our history through the traditional categories of politics, economics, and culture, a delightful feast awaits. In this remarkably inventive book, Eric Rutkow looks at our national experience through the lens of our magnificent trees, showing their extraordinary importance in shaping how we lived, thrived, and expanded as a people. A beautifully written, devilishly original piece of work.” —David Oshinsky, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“Both delightful and enlightening--a book filled with fascinations and surprises about a subject I had never though about (much less read about) before. That it’s written with such charm and grace only intensifies its appeal.” —Daniel Okrent, bestselling author of Last Call
“American Canopy marks the debut of an uncommonly gifted young historian and writer. Ranging across four centuries of history, Eric Rutkow shows the manifold ways in which trees—and woodland—and wood—have shaped the contours of American life and culture. And because he has managed to build the story around gripping events and lively characters, the book entertains as much as it informs. All in all, a remarkable performance!” —John Demos, Bancroft Prize winner and National Book Award finalist
"In American Canopy, Eric Rutkow works a wonderful magic. He takes the most obvious of things—trees—and weaves an astounding and complex narrative that ranges across American history." —S.C. Gwynne, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of Empire of the Summer Moon and Rebel Yell
"Right from its quietly shocking prelude—the cavalier and surprisingly recent murder of the oldest living thing in North America—Eric Rutkow’s splendid saga shows, through a chain of stories and biographical sketches that are intimate, fresh, and often startling, how trees have shaped every aspect of our national life. Here is the tree as symbol and as tool, as companion and enemy, as a tonic for our spirits and the indispensable ingredient of our every enterprise from the colonization voyages to the transcontinental railroad to Levittown. The result, both fascinating and valuable, is a short of shadow history of America. Toward the end of his finest novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald writes that the ‘vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams.’ American Canopy retrieves those trees and does full-rigged (on tall, white-pine masts) justice to the dream." —Richard Snow, author of Iron Dawn