Path Between the Seas

McCullough, David. The Path Between the Seas: the Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914. Read by Edward Herrmann. New York: Simon & Schuster Audio, 2003.

One might think that the historical retelling of the construction of the Panama Canal would be as dry and boring as five day old stale bread but David McCullough makes the process from start to finish fascinating. Being one of the seven man-made wonders of the world, the Panama Canal is an example of ingenuity, technology and sheer grit at its best. What is not as well known is all the controversy that surrounded the who, what, where, when of the project (everyone knew the why – sailing around Cape Horn was not only time consuming but it was also extremely dangerous. McCullough maps out every step of the process from the vision birthed in 1870 to the triumph of the first successful trial lockage of September 1913. From the French preliminarily attempts to the eventual success of the United States, every trial and tribulation is accounted for. The book version has wonderful photography while the audio version is entertaining for long car rides.

Reason read: Even though the French started construction much earlier I chose to focus on America’s involvement with the Panama Canal. U.S. construction on the Panama Canal started in May. On my dad’s birthday, as a matter of fact. Full disclosure – I hadn’t planned on it, it I listened to the abridged version of Path Between the Seas. Bummer.

Book trivia: Path Between the Seas won a National Book Award.

Author fact: David McCullough is better known for his biography of John Adams (it won a Pulitzer).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Presidential Biographies” (p 192). I know you are scratching your head because this book doesn’t really have anything to do with a biography of a president. This is, in fact, one of the those, “I don’t really need to read this book” books because it’s mentioned as an aside. Pearl is talking about David McCullough’s biography of John Adams but adds he is the author of Path Between the Seas. I should have started a category called “unrelated to the chapter” and kept track of how many books Pearl throws into the mix; books that have nothing to do with the topic she is covering. I have a feeling all three Lust books would be a lot shorter.

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