Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around The World


A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection

An Indie Next “Great Reads” selection

A USA Today “New and Notable” book

A Parade Magazine Top Pick

An iTunes Best Book of the Month

An Amazon Best History Book of the Month

A BookBrowse Editor’s Choice

A Goodreads Choice Award finalist

An Indie Next paperback selection

On November 14, 1889, Nellie Bly, the crusading young female reporter for Joseph Pulitzer’s World newspaper, left New York City by steamship on a quest to break the record for the fastest trip around the world. Also departing from New York that day—and heading in the opposite direction by train—was a young journalist from The Cosmopolitan magazine, Elizabeth Bisland. Each woman was determined to outdo Jules Verne’s fictional hero Phileas Fogg and circle the globe in less than eighty days. The dramatic race that ensued would span twenty-eight thousand miles, captivate the nation, and change both competitors’ lives forever.

The two women were a study in contrasts. Nellie Bly was a scrappy, hard-driving, ambitious reporter from Pennsylvania coal country who sought out the most sensational news stories, often going undercover to expose social injustice. Genteel and elegant, Elizabeth Bisland had been born into an aristocratic Southern family, preferred novels and poetry to newspapers, and was widely referred to as the most beautiful woman in metropolitan journalism. Eighty Days brings these trailblazing women to life as they race against time and each other, unaided and alone, ever aware that the slightest delay could mean the difference between victory and defeat. Along the way, their journey takes them into the back alleys of Hong Kong, onto a Ceylon tea plantation, through storm-tossed ocean crossings, and to many more unexpected and exotic locales from London to Yokohama. 

A vivid real-life re-creation of the race and its aftermath, from its frenzied start to the nail-biting dash at its finish, Eighty Days is history with the heart of a great adventure novel.


“Two pioneering women hurtle across the globe — and into a changing future — in this stimulating true-life adventure story. . . . Goodman vividly recreates their stormy, sea-sick travels and exotic Eastern ports of call while examining the revolutionary 19th-century culture of journeying: the proliferating webs of railways and luxury steamships; the swaggering might of the British Empire that guaranteed safe passage; Westerners’ sense of wonder at encountering unfamiliar peoples — and their casually bigoted sense of entitlement to rule over them. He also draws fascinating portraits of two self-made women who captured America’s imagination by defying its gender stereotypes. Deftly mixing social history into an absorbing travel epic, Goodman conveys the exuberant dynamism of a very unfusty Victorian era obsessed with speed, power, publicity, and the breaking of every barrier.”
Publishers Weekly

“This one has it all — a race between two formidable adventurers, visits to foreign lands, encounters with nature’s foibles, and 19th century society in all of its glory, full of hope and clamoring for recognition. A wonderful read!”
Indie Next “Great Reads”

“[A] marvelous tale of adventure, determination and newspaper ‘reality show’. . . . The 28,000-mile race is covered in meticulous detail as the story of these two pioneering women unfolds amid the excitement, setbacks, crises, missed opportunities and a global trek unlike any other in its time. Who won? You can Google it, of course, but why would you want to miss out on the incredible journey that takes you to the finish line page after nailbiting page?”
Chicago Sun-Times, Best Books of 2013

“In a stunning feat of narrative nonfiction, Matthew Goodman brings the 19th century to life, tracing the history of two intrepid journalists as they tackled two male-dominated fields — world travel and journalism — in an era of incredible momentum. Jules Verne, train and ship travel, and international snapshots are included as Goodman laces biography with history in a book that has something for everyone.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Terrifically engaging. . . . What Goodman is writing about more than anything is the round-the-world voyage as a cultural phenomenon, and his book functions exceedingly well on that level. His pages are consistently informed by close and judicious use of all relevant sources and a commitment to lapidary narrative. His digressions are never too digressive; his transitions never jolt or jar.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“Lively and vivid. . . . Goodman is a master storyteller, with no agenda to push, and his armchair tour is a treat to read.”
Columbus Register

“Brilliantly researched and detail-packed. . . . Marvelous. . . . an armchair journey you won’t want to miss.”
Columbia Daily Tribune

“Reading Eighty Days is like taking your own journey around the world in 1889-90. . . . Well-researched tales of the trips and the times make for enjoyable reading.”
Christian Science Monitor

“Goodman’s snapshot of the late 1800s skillfully highlights not only the various ports of call the two women passed through but also sheds light on the social backdrop of the Victorian era. Fans of travel writing or the works of Laura Hillenbrand are sure to enjoy this sometimes nail-biting and always engaging adventure.”
Shelf Awareness

“It’s a wonderful story, made all the more compelling by fine writing and exceptional historical detail.”

“The true story of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, two journalists racing to see who could circle the globe first — and faster than any man before them — is as riveting now as it was when it captivated the nation in 1889.”
Parade Magazine

“It’s a dazzling tour of the world at a time when travel routes were just opening up; a look at sensationalist journalism and pop culture in pre-Kardashian America; and a testimony to how hard women had to fight to get work and achieve respect as journalists.”

“What a delight to circumnavigate the globe with pioneering journalists Nelly Bly and Elizabeth Bisland. Matthew Goodman’s lively writing and detailed research brings the story of these two remarkable women to life as they race around the world, full steam ahead, giving us an intimate look at a late 19th century world that is suddenly shrinking in the face of rapid technological change. Only one of these two remarkable women can win the race around the world, but the reader of this fascinating tale will be certain of a reward.”
–Elizabeth Letts, bestselling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation

“Vividly imagined and gorgeously detailed, Eighty Days recounts the exhilarating journey of two pioneering women, Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, as they race around the globe. Matthew Goodman has crafted a fun, fast, page-turning action-adventure that will make you wish you could carry their bags.”
–Karen Abbott, bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and American Rose

“What a story! What an extraordinary historical adventure!”
–Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire