Book Review: “Eighty Days: Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around The World”


“Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World” by Matthew Goodman is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read.

Do you like action?  Is international travel one of your favorite topics? Are you a big fan of history, journalism or women’s rights?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then “Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World” by Matthew Goodman is definitely a book you should check out.

Commentary by Opinion Editor Abbie Reetz

This book is a masterpiece of nonfiction, detailing the race between Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, two of America’s first famous female journalists, to see who could travel all the way around the world first.

In a time where it was uncommon enough for women to leave the house without a chaperone, Bly and Bisland both traveled the entire distance around the globe alone, Bly was traveling as a newspaper reporter for the “New York World,” and Bisland was traveling on behalf of “Cosmopolitan” magazine, a completely different publication from how we know it today, competing to see who would make it back to New York first.

I don’t often read nonfiction books, as I’m a much bigger fan of novels, but I really loved this book.

Goodman included a lot of actual dialogue and interesting information that made it read like a work of fiction. As a journalism nerd and lover of history, the topics were right up my alley.

There is plenty of action. I was on the edge of my seat as I read about harrowing train rides, characters rushing to catch ships on time and all of the other trials that travel brings. The descriptions of the places Bly and Bisland traveled to are enough to make anyone come down with a bad case of wanderlust.

The details about the characters and the places they travel are colorful and exciting. You really feel like you get to know Bly, Bisland and many other historical figures.

Another thing I thought was extremely interesting was the intimate look at what life was like for women in the late 1800s.

One of the main comments Goodman says newspapers of the time made about Bly as she traveled was that it was amazing she was able to travel around the world with only one bag instead of the ten trunks another woman would have typically used.

There are also a lot of interesting details about what it was like for women in the workplace and how women first broke into the journalism industry.

The only thing that led me to give the book four and a half stars instead of five was the pacing. There were some points where, in order to fill in important bits of back-story, the excitement was interrupted, and the pages dragged along.

I completely understand the necessity of doing this, but it really slowed down my reading as I trudged through descriptions of important people and their lives and waited to get back to the exciting travel.

Despite that minor flaw this book is amazing. If you enjoy well-written nonfiction books, journalism or world travel, I would definitely recommend picking it up at your first opportunity.