The Longest Line on the Map
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.

The Longest Line on the Map Details

TitleThe Longest Line on the Map
Author
ReleaseJan 8th, 2019
PublisherScribner
ISBN-139781501103902
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Travel, North American Hi..., American History

The Longest Line on the Map Review

  • David Eppenstein
    January 1, 1970
    I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and I thank them for the opportunity.From the title of this book it appears to be a history of the PanAmerican Highway and it is, however, it also so much more that the book should probably be retitled as it cover 150 years of history and only about half or less deals with the titled highway. About the first 40% of the book covers the initial idea of building a Pan-American Railroad. Since this effort begins shortly after our Ci I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and I thank them for the opportunity.From the title of this book it appears to be a history of the PanAmerican Highway and it is, however, it also so much more that the book should probably be retitled as it cover 150 years of history and only about half or less deals with the titled highway. About the first 40% of the book covers the initial idea of building a Pan-American Railroad. Since this effort begins shortly after our Civil War railroads are obviously the latest technological advance in transportation and the idea and the effort does garner interest and effort. The history of this effort was interesting but it really had very little to do with the Pan-American Highway. I can understand a history giving the titled topic a bit of background information and a picture of an idea's evolution but Mr. Rutkow seems not to have learned the old adage about less being more. The railroad effort suffers from politics, bureaucracy, and greed and it's realization is so delayed that a new technology now gleams on the horizon, the automobile. So does the author now start talking about the Pan-American Highway? Of course not. I think our author is a very diligent researcher and discovered what the automobile needed to be a transportation success was good roads. The author then devotes at least the next 10% of the book to a history of the paved roads in the United States. The Pan-American Highway isn't even specifically mentioned in this book until well passed the midway point of this history. Once the idea of a Pan-American Highway is conceived the railroad plan is completely forgotten. Virtually all the countries in Central America and the U.S. are intrigued by the idea of a highway uniting North and South America and what it could do for the economies of all these nations. This highway is a public works project on the scale of the Panama Canal but unlike the history of that project where the technical and logistical challenges of the builders was the story and was interesting that isn't the case with the highway. While the challenges faced by the builders were daunting the project was only accomplished in piecemeal fashion because the real obstacles the builders faced were human. The story of this highway isn't about the actual building but about the efforts to get it built. We are given detailed treatment of the political intrigues of every Central American nation involved in this project, every American Bureaucratic agency involved, every Congressional committee and its powerful chairman, every Central American coup d'etat and its resulting military dictator and in later years we even get the Sierra Club and the EPA . The story is about the nightmare of getting anything funded and built when dealing with a group of people and entities that all have their own agendas and egos and the author gives us this story in a depth and detail that goes way beyond what is needed. Sadly, while appreciate the research and the writing and I did find much of it unexpectedly interesting there was just too much unnecessary material which made it deadly boring. This is not a book that will attract the general reader and probably not even the dedicated history geek (guilty). If you have an interest in Central American political history or public works projects then you might find this book of value it drained my interest and became a chore to finish.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    The author has clearly done exhaustive research into writing this book. He methodically exposes fascinating details of staggering engineering challenges and political obstacles to achieve the dream of the Americas united, which even after 150 years, remains unfinished with a 60-mile long break called the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia. I commend him for his time and effort into an extremely interesting topic. Thanks to Scribner for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Jeimy
    January 1, 1970
    Like many others before me, I have felt a fascination with the Pan-American highway since I first learned of its existence. Unfortunately, this book was a bit of a disappointment. It spent a lot of time talking about a proposed railroad, then about the history of roads in the U.S., diplomatic snafus on the way to agreeing to build the road. After that the author spent a disappointing amount of time talking about the actual building of the road.
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  • Casey Wheeler
    January 1, 1970
    This book was a major disappointment. The subtitle "The United States, the Pan-American Highway and the Quest to Link the Americas" while addressed in the book, left a great deal to be desired. The first half of the book rambles on about early attempts to link the span with a railroad and only gets to the building of the highway later. The author;s writing style is not engaging and he tends to believe that a great amount of filler is needed to make the book look like more that it should be.I can This book was a major disappointment. The subtitle "The United States, the Pan-American Highway and the Quest to Link the Americas" while addressed in the book, left a great deal to be desired. The first half of the book rambles on about early attempts to link the span with a railroad and only gets to the building of the highway later. The author;s writing style is not engaging and he tends to believe that a great amount of filler is needed to make the book look like more that it should be.I can not recommend this book. There has to be a better one on the subject out there.I received a free Kindle copy of The Longest Line on the Map by Eric Rutkow courtesy of Net Galley  and Scribner, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.I requested this book as the description sounded interesting (and as I learned can be deceiving). This is the first book by the author that I have read.
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  • Dawn Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    Murder. Mayhem. Conspiracy. Lunacy. Betrayal. Competition. Secrecy. Power. And money. Lots and lots of money. This book has all of these aspects and much more [think indigenous tribes and cannibals and bugs and snakes of unusual sizes]. Filled with all these issues, plus several Presidents [sitting and former]. a Secretary of State who's vision was way bigger than himself, Andrew Carnegie and the whole Mexican [and eventually all of Latin America] government, this book tells the story of trying Murder. Mayhem. Conspiracy. Lunacy. Betrayal. Competition. Secrecy. Power. And money. Lots and lots of money. This book has all of these aspects and much more [think indigenous tribes and cannibals and bugs and snakes of unusual sizes]. Filled with all these issues, plus several Presidents [sitting and former]. a Secretary of State who's vision was way bigger than himself, Andrew Carnegie and the whole Mexican [and eventually all of Latin America] government, this book tells the story of trying to build first the Pan-American Railroad and then when that failed, the Pan-American Highway. And did I mention how much money was involved? Filled with some amazing stories of adventure, the racism of the time [there were parts that made me very angry - it was frustrating to once again read about what creeps we American's were to those we deemed beneath us] and the arrogance of the men of the times [past AND present], there were parts of this book that were both amazing and frustrating to read. My main issue with this book [and why it got the 2 star rating] was the way it jumped around - I never was completely sure what era we were in [as each new character was introduced, the backtracking became very confusing and disorientating] - there was just so much back and forth that it got pretty tedious at points to read. There was also a lot of very dry spots - filled with inconsequential facts and tidbits that a couple of times I actually fell asleep while trying to read it. I found myself skimming much of these sections and it truly took away from the better parts of the book. My take from this book is this - there was a grand vision to first build railroad, and when that failed, to build a highway, even in the face of insurmountable offs and when faced with failure over and over again, continued to throw time, resources, and an insane amount of money [close to 1 Billion Dollars when the project was finally abandoned fully] at the project that was never ever going to be successful in the way it was envisioned. It was successful in aiding wars [so many of the Latin America wars came from the easier access due to the railroad and the highway and from the infighting due to both as well], wasting money, and it was successfully a ginormous failure. This book had great promise - the premise is an amazing and interesting one. Unfortunately, the execution of it was less than successful. A thank you to NetGalley and Scribner Publishing for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Craig Pearson
    January 1, 1970
    I thoroughly enjoy books on history that read more like a novel than a dry textbook. this is one of those. Rutkow covers such a wide range of geography and social politics that it is impossible for the normal reader to verify the details he presents. When he covered the importance of theodore Roosevelt to the Western Hemisphere, primarily the Panama Canal, the author mentioned that TR earned his western chops while ranching in the Badlands of South Dakota. This is a jarring error that brings to I thoroughly enjoy books on history that read more like a novel than a dry textbook. this is one of those. Rutkow covers such a wide range of geography and social politics that it is impossible for the normal reader to verify the details he presents. When he covered the importance of theodore Roosevelt to the Western Hemisphere, primarily the Panama Canal, the author mentioned that TR earned his western chops while ranching in the Badlands of South Dakota. This is a jarring error that brings to wonder what other mistakes were made that are not so obvious. There are two Badlands, the other being North Dakota where TR spent his time. The title also implies the use of maps and there wwere none.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    Perhaps useful to students of road building who wish to see how to fail to build a road. Others should stay away.I apologize to the nice people at Netgalley and Simon & Schuster but I cannot give this book a better review. I think that this book's heart is in the right place but it just didn't hold my interest and it was too damn long. I am the sort of tie tack who would normally lap up a history of a road, but this book promised too much and delivered to little. For example, when Jack Kerou Perhaps useful to students of road building who wish to see how to fail to build a road. Others should stay away.I apologize to the nice people at Netgalley and Simon & Schuster but I cannot give this book a better review. I think that this book's heart is in the right place but it just didn't hold my interest and it was too damn long. I am the sort of tie tack who would normally lap up a history of a road, but this book promised too much and delivered to little. For example, when Jack Kerouac and Che Guevara are mentioned in the introduction, one could reasonably expect that they would appear elsewhere in the narrative. Maybe they wrote about a moment when they were travelling along the road? Anyway, even if Jack and Che are not particularly interesting to you, they are still far more compelling than the parade of self-regarding civil engineers, tyrannic Latin American strongmen, dishonest construction contractors, whoring laborers, and short-attention-span politicians who otherwise populate these pages. Long blockquotes from the speeches and official statements of the ever-changing parade of squabbling characters march by with mind-numbing regularity. In addition, the initial 40 percent of the book is not actually about the attempted construction of the Pan-American Highway. First, there is a long chapter on unsuccessful attempts to build a Pan-American railroad, and then there is a comparatively short chapter on the political machinations exclusively in the US when the rise of automobile caused a demand for driveable roads. These chapters could have been cut by 80 percent -- they have little or nothing to do with the Pan-American Highway.This book is a real disappointment.
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  • Brandon Bierley
    January 1, 1970
    If anyone should have liked this book, it's me. I work in trucking logistics for a railroad supplier. Why is that relevant? The first half of this book is about railroads - surprise! No mention of (automobile) highways comes in until halfway through the book. This book tries to do too much and does none of it well. I enjoy dry history books, but this book is painfully slow and unfocused. I took a break after slugging halfway through it to read another book and gave up when I tried to pick up the If anyone should have liked this book, it's me. I work in trucking logistics for a railroad supplier. Why is that relevant? The first half of this book is about railroads - surprise! No mention of (automobile) highways comes in until halfway through the book. This book tries to do too much and does none of it well. I enjoy dry history books, but this book is painfully slow and unfocused. I took a break after slugging halfway through it to read another book and gave up when I tried to pick up the second half.This book doesn't tell a story. It states facts, then restates them with endless quotes. An entire chapter sidetracks on describing the historical composition of United States' roads. Actually interesting rabbit trails such as why the Western world drives on the right hand side of the road are passed over in a single sentence. I may finish this book eventually, but I'll be in no hurry.Copy provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Lynnek
    January 1, 1970
    I saw this book on NetGalley and thought it would be an interesting read. I am not a geography or history scholar just a person that is interested in historical facts and stories. I think as such, this book was just a bit above my head. It was hard to read and slow going for me. There would probably be others more suited to reading and enjoying it.
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  • Kimberly Brooks
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating and thoroughly researched...but also incredibly slow. Crazy (and somewhat sad) how many people, years, and dollars were put into making a Pan-American road a reality, for it not to become one (yet? ever?).
  • Janine Brouillette
    January 1, 1970
    The World’s Longest Line on the Map tells the story about the Pan-American Highway that links North and South America. This was interesting to me due to the fact, this was the first time learning about it. The first part of the book discusses the Pan-American Railroad concept which was the first way the countries discussed connecting, but due to politics and bureaucracy, this never came about. The next plan was the development of roads and the Pan-American Highway. The second half of the book di The World’s Longest Line on the Map tells the story about the Pan-American Highway that links North and South America. This was interesting to me due to the fact, this was the first time learning about it. The first part of the book discusses the Pan-American Railroad concept which was the first way the countries discussed connecting, but due to politics and bureaucracy, this never came about. The next plan was the development of roads and the Pan-American Highway. The second half of the book discusses all the efforts and back channels between all the people and countries to get it built. This was a nightmare, of course, with everyone’s own agenda. It was interesting reading about the politics and geography involved.
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