The Big Roads

Now in paperback

A New York Times editors' choice.
"Swift has added texture and nuance, as well as narrative economy, to a story containing volumes, and he makes for an ideal traveling companion." --Tom Vanderbilt in The New York Times Book Review

“Objects in the rearview mirror prove eerily close on every page of this lively, eminently sensible history of the guardrailed monument to American mobility.” –John R. Stilgoe, author of Train Time: Railroads and the Imminent Reshaping of the United States Landscape

Well-focused and lively. . .Swift has a clear-eyed view of the interstate system's benefits. . .and drawbacks." –Los Angeles Times 

Man-made wonders, economic pipelines, agents of sprawl, uniquely American sirens of escape--the interstates are all of these, and after a half-century snake into into every aspect of modern life. The Big Roads charts the creation of these landmark highways. From the speed demon who inspired a primitive web of dirt auto trails, to the cadre of largely forgotten technocrats who planned the interstates years before Ike reached the White House, to the thousands of city dwellers who resisted the concrete juggernaut when it bore down on their neighborhoods, The Big Roads follows a winding, fascinating route through twentieth-century America.

"Engaging, informative. . . .appears to be the first thorough history of the expressway system." --Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post 

"Swift makes the story one worth reading in The Big Roads, which manages to bring to life the planners, builders and salesmen responsible for the massive system of highways." --Dallas Morning News

"Spins the whole grand yarn of how this country's federal highways came to be. The story could be dry, it could be dull--but Swift seizes on strong characters and the conflicts they encountered to propel his narrative. . . .so skillfully crafted." --The (Raleigh) News and Observer

“Brilliantly contextualizes the development of the American superhighways. . . .extensive and well-researched.” –The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot

“A well-told story about a defining American feature.” –Publishers Weekly

“A joy ride. Earl Swift has written the best kind of popular history—one that paints vivid portraits, debunks myths, and brings to life the fascinating and appalling stories behind the creation of that massive mixed blessing known as America’s interstate highways.” –Bill Morris, author of Motor City

"A well-researched and evenhanded picture
of the remarkable evolution of the United States roads during the 20th century. . .Swift's crisp writing makes The Big Roads a fascinating and engaging read. And he keeps digging up obscure pearls that have been overlooked by other historians. . . .Highly recommended." --Route 66 News

A top-ten planning book of 2011--Planetizen.com

One of the year's best books--St. Louis Post-Dispatch