Two New Books Published by Big River Entertain and Inform

Reviewed by Gloria Peck

Having grown up in Eastern Iowa, I have always been fascinated by the Mississippi River. Often on Sunday outings we headed for the River with our picnic and the binoculars. Once in a great while someone who owned a boat would take us fishing there; what a treat! My husband and I had a boat on Lake Pepin, a widening of the Mississippi, for several years. Now as a downtown Minneapolis office worker, when I need a good break, I hike to a historic walking bridge and gaze at St. Anthony Falls. So I am reviewing these books with prejudice; I LOVE the Upper Mississippi River.

Big River, a publisher in Winona, MN, has released two fine books in the last year. The Little Tow-Watcher’s Guide to Towboats & Barges on the Upper Mississippi by Pam Eyden, gives the reader all the tools needed to be an expert at this slow, relaxing pastime. Ms. Eyden provides the reader with a glossary of towboat terms, a river traffic chart, a list of good tow-watching spots on the Upper Mississippi, and a three-day journal of the life of a towboat deck hand. The book ends with an alphabetical list of the towboats that can be sited on the Upper Mississippi and a short biography of each.

The second book, Big River Reader, is an anthology of stories about the Upper Mississippi. These stories are all taken from Big River, a monthly newsletter that has been regularly published since January, 1993. The book attempts to give a representative sampling of all the subjects covered by the newsletter, omitting the charts and calendars of current events.

I am fascinated with this book. Essays cover boating, wildlife, ecology, fishing, history, work and play on the River. The stories caused me to reminisce, learn, dream, and laugh. Many writers have contributed to this captivating book, all of whom have a close connection of some kind to the Upper Mississippi.

My suggestion? On a sparkling morning, pack a picnic, a good lawn chair, binoculars and these two books and head for a good spot overlooking the River (see suggestions in Tow-Watcher’s Guide). Between towboats, your time will pass pleasantly reading delightful short articles and watching and listening to the many birds that live in the area or use the Mississippi as a flyway.

The Little Tow-Watcher’s Guide is $7.95 and Big River Reader is $15.95. To order call Big River at 1-800-303-8201.