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  • Published: 2 January 2018
  • ISBN: 9780143790990
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $19.99

American Journeys

Award winning.
A superb book about Don Watson's journeys around America. Featured as one of Newsweek’s 50 ‘What to Read Now and Why’ titles.

A superb book about Don Watson's journeys around America. Featured as one of Newsweek’s 50 ‘What to Read Now and Why’ titles.

Only in America - the most powerful democracy on earth, home to the best and worst of everything - are the most extreme contradictions possible. In a series of journeys acclaimed author Don Watson set out to explore the nation that has influenced him more than any other.

Travelling by rail gave Watson a unique and seductive means of peering into the United States, a way to experience life with its citizens: long days with the American landscape and American towns and American history unfolding on the outside, while inside a tiny particle of the American people talked among themselves.

Watson's experiences are profoundly affecting: he witnesses the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast; explores the savage history of the Deep South, the heartland of the Civil War; and journeys to the remarkable wilderness of Yellowstone National Park.

Yet it is through the people he meets that Watson discovers the incomparable genius of America, its optimism, sophistication and riches - and also its darker side, its disavowal of failure and uncertainty.

Beautifully written, with gentle power and sly humour, American Journeys investigates the meaning of the United States: its confidence, its religion, its heroes, its violence, and its material obsessions. The things that make America great are also its greatest flaws.

  • Published: 2 January 2018
  • ISBN: 9780143790990
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Don Watson

Don Watson is the author of many books, including the bestselling Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM, Death Sentence, Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words, Caledonia Australis, American Journeys and The Bush. In addition to books and essays, he writes films and gives occasional talks on writing and language.

Also by Don Watson

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Praise for American Journeys

The best book by an outsider about America since - forever -

David Sedaris

Traveling by train, the Australian author scans a post-Katrina America while racking up an impressive trove of insight and observation few natives could match.


There are passages in this book so good they demand to be read aloud, aphorisms worth turning and examining closely, the distillation of a life thinking about the glamorous America first seen in childhood, later complicated by a thousand contrary images, but still tugging at the imagination. Don Watson has written a profound and deeply personal work that makes for itself a place in the great tradition of American journeys.

Australian Book Review

Mark Twain, Jonathan Raban, Jack Kerouac and Andrew Ferguson would provide tough competition for anyone. Here, Watson competes with whimsy, with curiosity and with an open mind, all backed up by an extremely well-read, closely-watched, examination of wherever he happens to be.

Canberra Times

This thought provoking travel book takes its readers to the very heart of America.

TNT Magazine

Both [Watson and Tocqueville] are fascinated by the Americans, and make uncommon effort to see beyond the obvious. They share a preference for close observation, and a startling capacity to draw broader patterns from the small and familiar...Don Watson has produced an engaging meditation on the United States...The book is beautifully written, with a form that evokes W.G. Sebald's wandering across Europe...

The Canberra Times

This is not travelogue, it is dazzlingly eloquent and perceptive; it is the Tocqueville of damaged but persistent and enduring dreams. Like Tocqueville, and unlike much writing by foreigners about the United States, it is affectionate and comes across the many Americas and their oddities with an uncondemning eye. It is entertaining and celebrates the not-often mentioned capacity of Americans to talk, narrate their lives and utter orations, a tendency which has always interested me as a foreigner. It is full of incident and consistently engaging. As a star of the epigram he's right up there with Tocqueville, and as a story-teller he loses nothing to Theroux.

Tom Keneally

Awards & recognition

The Age Book of the Year Award

Winner  •  2008  •  The Age Book of the Year Award

The Indie Awards

Winner  •  2008  •  The Indie Awards (Non-Fiction)

Walkley Book Award

Winner  •  2008  •  Walkley Book Award (Non Fiction)

Queensland Literary Awards

Shortlisted  •  2008  •  Queensland Literary Awards (Non Fiction)

WA Premier's Literary Awards

Shortlisted  •  2008  •  WA Premier's Literary Award (Non Fiction)

Prime Minister's Literary Awards

Shortlisted  •  2009  •  Prime Minister's Literary Awards (Non Fiction)

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