The brilliant, award-winning author of American Canopy presents a dazzling account of the epic quest to link North and South America with the world’s longest road—the Pan American Highway—and how its construction and evolution reflected the divergent fates of North, Central, and South America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The Pan-American Highway is the longest road in the world, running the length of the Western Hemisphere from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in South America. It represents a dream of friendship, commerce, mobility, of the Americas united. Our collective imaginations have been forged along its path: Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the iconic Argentine revolutionary, traveled it northward in The Motorcycle Diaries; Jack Kerouac, the voice of the beat generation, followed it southward in On the Road. Many adventurers have journeyed the highway’s distance, but the road itself still remains shrouded in mystery. Why was it built? And why does it remain unfinished, with a sixty-mile long break, the famed Darien Gap, enduring between Panama and Colombia?
In Eric Rutkow’s “richly detailed examination of efforts to build a highway from Alaska to the tip of Argentina…[this] fresh, well-documented account” (Kirkus Reviews) chronicles the full story of the highway’s long, winding path to construction, which reshaped foreign policy, cost US taxpayers a billion dollars, consumed countless lives over a 150-year period, and changed the destinies of two continents. Fully illustrated with photographs, documents, and maps, The Longest Line on the Map offers readers a bird’s eye view of the incredible highway that snakes through more than a century’s worth of US and Latin American history, ending in a triumphant ideology that insists the Americas share a common destiny and mutual interests.
Eric Rutkow is an assistant professor of history at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and the author of The Longest Line on the Map. His first book, American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation (2012), received the Association of American Publishers’ PROSE Award for US history and was named one of the top books of the year by Smithsonian magazine. He earned his BA and PhD from Yale and his JD from Harvard.
“Rutkow offers a richly detailed examination of efforts to build a highway from Alaska to the tip of Argentina… A fresh, well-documented account of U.S.-Latin American relations.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Rutkow’s excellent, thoroughly researched, and unusual look at this complicated mix of infrastructure innovations and international relations will engage a variety of reading tastes.” —Booklist
“Everybody loves a shaggy dog story. A good one should be long and implausible but still on the edge of possibility. The chronicle at the heart of Eric Rutkow’s The Longest Line on the Map seems to qualify. The story involves the decades-long attempt to construct thousands of miles of railway—and, later, highway—to ‘link the Americas.’” —The Wall Street Journal
“Rutkow's fascination with the Pan-American highway is evident in this meticulously researched and vividly recounted drama. He combines a historian's eye for detail with a storyteller's skill at bringing to life the dynamic political and social forces that conceived and constructed the international corridor.” —Shelf Awareness, starred review
“A powerful argument against Washington’s growing embrace of isolationist policies at home and abroad. Highly recommended for U.S. and diplomatic historians, geopolitical scholars, and general readers.” —Library Journal, starred review
“At times The Longest Line on the Map resembles a relay race, with smart, young, hardy engineers and diplomats thinking they can tame this infrastructural beast, only to cede their ground decades later as death, disease, or sheer weariness overcome them. It’s a testament to Rutkow’s skills at distilling information that he keeps the dozens of players clear in your mind as his narrative proceeds.” —Boston Globe
Get our latest book recommendations, author news, and competitions right to your inbox.
More books from this author: Eric Rutkow
Thank you for signing up, fellow book lover!
Tell us what you like, so we can send you books you'll love.