William Least Heat-Moon

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William Least Heat-Moon
William Least Heat-Moon (2008)
William Least Heat-Moon (2008)
BornWilliam Lewis Trogdon
(1939-08-27) August 27, 1939 (age 79)
Kansas City, Missouri
OccupationTravel writer, historian
EducationBachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees in English
Bachelor's degree in photojournalism
Alma materUniversity of Missouri
GenreDeep map travel literature
Notable worksBlue Highways

William Least Heat-Moon (born William Lewis Trogdon August 27, 1939) is an American travel writer and historian of English, Irish, and Osage ancestry. He is the author of several books on unusual journeys through the United States, including cross-country trips by boat (River Horse, 1999) and, in his best known work (1982's Blue Highways), about his journey in a 1975 Ford Econoline van.[1]


Least Heat-Moon has Osage and European ancestry. The Trogdon family name comes from his Euro-American lineage, and the Heat-Moon name reflects his Osage lineage. William's father is Heat-Moon, his elder brother is Little Heat-Moon, and he is Least Heat-Moon.[2] Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Least Heat-Moon grew up in Missouri. He attended public schools and the University of Missouri, where he earned bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees in English, as well as a bachelor's degree in photojournalism. Heat-Moon was a member of the Beta-Theta chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon. He served as a professor of English at the university.

Least Heat-Moon resides in Rocheport, Missouri. This small town in Boone County is located along the Missouri River, approximately 10 miles west of Columbia.


Blue Highways is a chronicle of a three-month-long road trip that Least Heat-Moon took throughout the United States in 1978 after he had lost his teaching job and been separated from his first wife. He tells how he traveled 13,000 miles, as much as possible on secondary roads (which he points out were often drawn on maps in blue, especially in the old-style Rand McNally road atlas), and tried to avoid cities. Living out of his van, he visited small towns such as Nameless, Tennessee; Hachita, New Mexico; and Bagley, Minnesota, to find places in America untouched by fast food chains and interstate highways. The book records memorable encounters in roadside cafés, as well as his search for something greater than himself. This memoir was highly popular, making the New York Times bestseller list in 1982–83 for 42 weeks.

PrairyErth is a deep map account of the history and people of Chase County, Kansas.

River-Horse is Least Heat-Moon's account of a four-month coast-to-coast boat trip across the U.S. in which he traveled almost exclusively on the nation's waterways from the Atlantic to the Pacific. During this nearly 5,000-mile journey, he followed documented routes recorded by early explorers such as Henry Hudson and the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Columbus in the Americas (2002) is a brief history of Christopher Columbus's journeys.

Roads to Quoz (2008) is another "road book." This covers "not one long road trip, but a series of shorter ones"[3] taken over the years between books. Robert Sullivan of the New York Times Book Review commented that Least Heat-Moon celebrates "serendipity and joyous disorder."[3]

Here, There, Elsewhere (2013) is a collection of Least Heat-Moon's best short-form travel writing.

He edited An Osage Journey to Europe 1827-1830 (2013), which contains the accounts of six Osage people who traveled to Europe in 1827, accompanied by three Americans. Least Heat-Moon and James K. Wallace translated these works into English.

Writing 'Blue Highways' (2014) is an account of how Least Heat-Moon wrote his best-selling book Blue Highways. In reflecting on the journey, he also discusses writing, publishing, personal relationships, and many other aspects that went into writing the book. It won an award for Distinguished Literary Achievement, Missouri Humanities Council, 2015.

Celestial Mechanics: A Tale for a Mid-Winter Night (2017) is William Least Heat-Moon's debut novel.


  • Blue Highways: A Journey Into America. Fawcett, 1982. ISBN 0-449-21109-6
  • The Red Couch: A Portrait of America. With Kevin Clarke and Horst Wackerbarth. Olympic Marketing Corp, 1984. ISBN 0-912383-05-4
  • "A Glass of Handmade." The Atlantic, November 1987.
  • PrairyErth (A Deep Map). Houghton Mifflin, 1991. ISBN 0-395-48602-5
  • River Horse: The Logbook of a Boat Across America. Houghton Mifflin, 1999. ISBN 0-395-63626-4
  • Columbus in the Americas (Turning Points in History). Wiley, 2002. ISBN 0-471-21189-3
  • Roads to Quoz: An American Mosey. Little, Brown and Company, October 2008. ISBN 978-0-316-11025-9
  • Here, There, Elsewhere: Stories from the Road. Little, Brown and Company, January 8, 2013. ISBN 0316110248
  • An Osage Journey to Europe 1827-1830: Three French Accounts. University of Oklahoma Press, October 2013. ISBN 0806144033
  • Writing Blue Highways: The Story of How a Book Happened. University of Missouri Press, May 2014. Hardcover, 978-0-8262-2026-4 / E-book, 978-0-8262-7325-3.
  • Celestial Mechanics: A Tale for a Mid-Winter Night. Three Rooms Press, April 2017. Hardcover, 978-1-941110-56-0 / E-book, 978-1-941110-57-7.


  1. ^ "Ghost Dancing: The Blue Highways Van". Museum of Anthropology.
  2. ^ Blue Highways, p. 4.
  3. ^ a b Sullivan, Robert (December 14, 2008), "On the Road Again, Again", New York Times Book Review, p. 8

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