Top 7 Books About the Lewis and Clark Expedition

The expedition of Lewis and Clark is more than just an adventure. The Corps of Discovery expedition, as it was officially known, was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, in 1803, shortly after the Louisiana Purchase. Beginning in May 1804, a party led by Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and their Native American guide Sacagawea, began a two-year trek west from St. Louis, across the Continental Divide, to the Pacific Ocean.  Though the mission failed to meet its goal of finding a water route to the Pacific, the historic journey of Lewis and Clark is thrilling to consider, even two centuries later.

Here are some books about the journey of Lewis and Clark:

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Undaunted Courage

Undaunted Courage
Simon & Schuster

by Stephen E. Ambrose. Simon & Schuster. Considered the definitive telling of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Undaunted Courage is based largely on the two men's diaries. Ambrose, a preeminent historian, nicely fills in the gaps of Lewis' and Clark's personal accounts, giving insight into their companions on the journey, and the backdrop of the then-uncharted American West.

From the publisher: "High adventure, high politics, suspense, drama, and diplomacy combine with high romance and personal tragedy to make this outstanding work of scholarship as readable as a novel."

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Across the Continent

Across the Continent
University of Virginia Press

Edited by Douglas Seefeldt, Jeffrey L. Hantman, and Peter S. Onuf, University of Virginia Press. This collection of essays provides the context for Lewis and Clark's expedition, looking at the global politics of the time, how Jefferson justified the mission in the first place, how it affected Native Americans, and its legacy.

From the publisher: "An obscure undertaking in its own time, the Lewis and Clark expedition has grown in the American imagination, acquiring an almost mythic stature. Arriving as the country commemorates the expedition’s bicentennial, 'Across the Continent' is not an exercise in demythologizing; rather, it is an examination of the explorers’ world and the complicated ways in which it relates to our own."

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The Essential Lewis and Clark

The Essential Lewis and Clark

by Landon Y. Jones. HarperCollins.

This book is a distillation of some of the most interesting passages from Lewis' and Clark's own journals of the expedition, giving first-hand perspective on the details of the trip and the people the explorers encountered along the way.

From the publisher: "Here is a concise, breathtaking record of Lewis and Clark's legendary journey to the Pacific, written by the two captains—under unspeakable stress and the threat of constant danger—with an immediacy that startles to this day. Through these tales of adventure we see the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains and western rivers the way Lewis and Clark first observed them—majestic, pristine, uncharted, and awe-inspiring."

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Why Sacagawea Deserves the Day Off

Why Sacagawea Deserves the Day Off and Other Lessons
Bison Books

by Stephanie Ambrose Tubbs. Henry Holt & Company.

This collection of vignette-like stories from the trail seeks to personalize the people who made the Corps of Discovery journey. The daughter of preeminent Lewis and Clark scholar Stephen Ambrose, Tubbs puts forth several insightful theories about what it was really like out on the trail. She suggests that Sacagawea bore "the burden of being a national icon," and that Lewis had Asperger's syndrome.

From the publisher: "What really motivated Thomas Jefferson to send out his agents of discovery? What 'mutinous expressions' were uttered? What happened to the dog? Why did Meriwether Lewis end his own life? In the resulting trip through history, Tubbs recounts her travels along the trail by foot, Volkswagen bus, and canoe—at every turn renewing the American experience inscribed by Lewis and Clark."

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Encyclopedia of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Encyclopedia of The Lewis and Clark Expedition
Checkmark Books

by Elin Woodger, and Brandon Toropov, Checkmark Books.

An alphabetized, categorized, exhaustive chronicle of every detail of the Lewis and Clark trip, this work is correctly categorized as an encyclopedia. It even includes plants and animals the party encountered as well as people and places.  attempts to cover every aspect of Lewis and Clark's transcontinental.

From the publisher: "Containing more than 360 informative A-to-Z entries, as well as an extensive chronology with mileage markers, an introductory essay, lists of sources for further reading following each entry, a bibliography, a subject index, a general index, 20 maps, and 116 black-and-white photographs, this must-have reference details a fascinating and important event..."

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Lewis and Clark: Across the Divide

Lewis and Clark: Across the Divide

by Carolyn Gilman and James P. Ronda. Smithsonian Institution Press.

Comprised of documents from the Smithsonian and the Missouri Historical Society, Across the Divide takes pains not only to show what became of many of the artifacts of the journey, but to avoid sugarcoating the treatment of women and minorities over the course of the expedition. The title suggests both the literal Continental Divide, as well as the divide between Lewis and Clark's accounts of the journey and the experiences of their companions.

From the publisher: "Lewis and Clark: Across the Divide expands and transforms this familiar story by exploring the social and cultural landscapes the expedition traversed. Lewis and Clark: Across the Divide also follows the explorers' steps by reconstructing the richly physical worlds of the expeditions."

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The Fate of the Corps: What Became of the Lewis and Clark Explorers

The Fate of the Corps
Yale University Press

by Larry E. Morris. Yale University Press.

What became of the 33 members of the Corps of Discovery expedition after it ended? We know Lewis died of a gunshot wound, believed to be self-inflicted, three years after the mission ended, and Clark went on to serve as Superintendent of Indian Affairs. But the others in the group had interesting second acts; two were charged with murder, and several went on to hold public office.

From the publisher: "Engagingly written and based on exhaustive research, The Fate of the Corps chronicles the lives of the fascinating men and one woman who opened the American West."