Book Review: Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry by Craig Heimbuch

Author: Craig Heimbuch
Title: Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry: Travels in the Footsteps of the Commodore Who Saved America
Publication Info: Cincinnati, OH : Clerisy Press, c2010.
ISBN: 9781578603459


I obtained this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.  I was drawn to it because of its mix of history and travel which is on of my favorite kind of writings. Heimbuch grew up in Ohio and gained a lifelong fascination with Oliver Hazard Perry, hero of The Battle of Lake Erie during The War of 1812 and famously reported “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”  Heimbuch plans out a trip to circumnavigate Lake Erie to visit sites related to the battle and learn more about Perry and his place in American history.  Heimbuch models his writing on the works of Bill Bryson and Tony Horwitz, and while not quite the writer that Bryson and Hortwitz are he shows promise.  One infuriating thing is that Heimbuch despite being a journalist seems to have not done a basic web search to see the hours of the historic sites or when a campground will be open.  Yet the lack of preparation leads to some of the funniest parts of the book, so I guess it’s serendipitous.  This book is mostly travelogue with bits of the Perry story and a lot of Heimbuch’s life and worries.  It strikes a nice balance as even a short journey (his travels are less than a week) lead to revelations about himself, his family, and the lake he loves.  Heimbuch also has some insightful conversations with park rangers, museum guides, and historical interpreters as well as pay a visit to a Cleveland microbrewery that has a beer named for Perry.

Recommended booksSnowshoeing Through Sewers: Adventures in New York City, New Jersey, and Philadelphia by Michael Aaron Rockland, Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson and Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz.

Rating: ***1/2