Cover image for American nomads : travels with lost conquistadors, mountain men, cowboys, Indians, hoboes, and bullriders
American nomads : travels with lost conquistadors, mountain men, cowboys, Indians, hoboes, and bullriders
Grant, Richard, 1963-
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Grove Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
311 pages : maps ; 22 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London: Little, Brown.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E169.04 .G733 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Fascinated by the land of endless horizons, sunshine, and the open road, Grant spent 15 years wandering throughout the United States, and getting to know America's nomads. In a richly comic travelogue, Grant uses these lives and his own to examine the myths and realities of the wandering life, and its contradiction with the sedentary American dream.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Grant, an English writer who has written for GQ and Esquire, has penned a travelogue par excellence, cloaked in the robes of a sociological examination of the American nomad. Resolved to leave his own sedentary life, the author spends time with an assortment of truckers, rodeo cowboys, RV-ers, and wanna-be Indians (usually white computer geeks looking for escape). He examines, too, records of some of the genuine nomads of our past, such as the explorer Cabeza de Vaca, the Indian hunter horse tribes, and the legendary frontiersmanoe Walker. Readers may feel a certain sadness about the artificiality of some modern versions of nomadism, especially during a passage in which, at a gathering of would-be American Indians, Grant searches for the genuine article. This is a wondrous essay, documenting a style of life that eschews government authority--property taxes, drug laws, gun laws, nudity laws, truancy laws, and sexual age-of-consent laws. For all the problems inherent in such a lifestyle, readers may still fantasize about what life could be like away from the rat race. --Allen Weakland Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this cogent but uneven meditation on American wanderers past and present, British writer Grant, who has written for GQ and Esquire, parallels his own travels through the American Southwest with those of earlier explorers, conquerors, cowboys, Indians, bikers and hoboes. In 1985, the author, without prospects and sick of London's dreary weather, escaped to the U.S. He's spent the past 15 years feeding his "wanderlust, restlessness, itchy feet, antsy pants, white-line fever," crisscrossing the country, but sticking mainly to the Southwest. Along the way, he has grappled with certain questions, internally and in the articles he has written to finance his travels. As he puts it in his prologue, "What drove a man to spend his life in motion? Was it a natural human impulse, recognised and obeyed, or was it a disease of the soul? Why was the type so prevalent in America...?" To find the answers, he hung out at all-night truck stops, chatted with grizzled hitchhikers and rail tramps, and attended love and peace fests (including the popular Rainbow gatherings). He also spent time in libraries, researching the history of the wanderers-both native and European-who came before him. While certain profiles (e.g., of early Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca and mountain man Joe Walker) do absorb, Grant occasionally strays into the extraneous (a too-long chronicle of the horse's introduction into North America and a spotty history of the notorious Freight Train Riders of America are particular examples). It makes for a lively, though sometimes tiring, pastiche of travelogue and regurgitated history. Agent, Johnny Geller. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Grant, a young Englishman who has spent the better part of 15 years wandering somewhat aimlessly through the Western states of America, here offers his views. His definition of America as a "restless land" is a good one; he has spoken, bunked, ridden, and wandered with a variety of "restless" Americans, including truck drivers, rodeo performers, tramps, hippies, and grandparents. His writing is as restless as his travels; a description of how horses were introduced to the West leads to a look at prehistoric ancestors of the modern horse and then at a discussion of contemporary Mormonism. He often describes the seedy side of American life, but he maintains a wicked sense of humor throughout the book that makes it consistently entertaining and informative. Recommended for public libraries of all sizes.-Joseph L. Carlson, Allan Hancock Coll., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.