THE GREAT RIVER - Boyce Upholt in conversation with Nathaniel Rich

Come join us for a special evening with award-winning journalist Boyce Upholt celebrating his new book, THE GREAT RIVER: The Making & Unmaking of the Mississippi. He will appear in conversation with writer Nathaniel Rich.

"The Great River is easily one of the best books ever written about the Mississippi. It brings depth of scholarship to everything from geology to history to current politics, all of it elegantly written."
-John M. Barry, author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America
"With tributaries of history, geography, engineering, and environmental science, Boyce Upholt’s The Great River brings clarity and cohesion to a topic that intermixes complex stories across, quite literally, a million square miles. Using elements of travelogue and including fine maps, this compelling book takes readers through the making and unmaking of the Mississippi River, and leaves them with a hunch that, in the end, the river will remake itself."
-Richard Campanella, author of Draining New Orleans

A sweeping history of the Mississippi River—and the centuries of human meddling that have transformed both it and America.

The Mississippi River lies at the heart of America, an undeniable life force that is intertwined with the nation’s culture and history. Its watershed spans almost half the country, Mark Twain’s travels on the river inspired our first national literature, and jazz and blues were born in its floodplains and carried upstream.

In this landmark work of natural history, Boyce Upholt tells the epic story of this wild and unruly river, and the centuries of efforts to control it. Over thousands of years, the Mississippi watershed was home to millions of Indigenous people who regarded “the great river” with awe and respect, adorning its banks with astonishing spiritual earthworks. The river was ever-changing, and Indigenous tribes embraced and even depended on its regular flooding. But the expanse of the watershed and the rich soils of its floodplain lured European settlers and American pioneers, who had a different vision: the river was a foe to conquer.

Centuries of human attempts to own, contain, and rework the Mississippi River, from Thomas Jefferson’s expansionist land hunger through today’s era of environmental concern, have now transformed its landscape. Upholt reveals how an ambitious and sometimes contentious program of engineering—government-built levees, jetties, dikes, and dams—has not only damaged once-vibrant ecosystems but may not work much longer. Carrying readers along the river’s last remaining backchannels, he explores how scientists are now hoping to restore what has been lost.

Rich and powerful, The Great River delivers a startling account of what happens when we try to fight against nature instead of acknowledging and embracing its power—a lesson that is all too relevant in our rapidly changing world.

Boyce Upholt is a journalist and essayist whose writing has appeared in the Atlantic, National Geographic, the Oxford American, and Virginia Quarterly Review, among other publications. He is the winner of a James Beard Award for investigative journalism, and he lives in New Orleans..

Nathaniel Rich is the author of the novels King Zeno and Odds Against Tomorrow and two works of nonfiction: Losing Earth, a finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Award, and Second Nature, which features the story “Dark Waters,” adapted into a film starring Mark Ruffalo. Rich is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and teaches at Tulane.


Event date: 

Thursday, June 20, 2024 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm

Event address: 

Octavia Books - 513 Octavia Street
New Orleans, LA 70115
The Great River: The Making and Unmaking of the Mississippi By Boyce Upholt Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393867879
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - June 11th, 2024

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