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“A genuine road book should open unknown realms in its words as it does in its miles. If you leave a journey exactly who you were before you departed, the trip has been much wasted, even if it’s just to the Quickee Mart.” William Least Heat Moon in Roads to Quoz: An American Mosey.
While you could fill a library shelf with American Road Trip books, the 5 most outstanding American road trip books would fit on the nightstand.
(Note: For many more great books for the road trip, follow The Great American Road Trip every Wednesday here at A Traveler’s Library. It started with Blue Highways.)
- Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck
- Blue Highways: A Journey into America , by William Least Heat Moon
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac
I would agree with those who also list:
To follow Travels with Charley, San Jose State University Center for Steinbeck Studies suggests
- Sideways by Rex Pickett (2004) (and the movie of the same name)
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
- Loop Group, by Larry McMurtry (2004)
- I Dream of Microwaves by Imad Rahman (2004)
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957) (also named 7th in 10 best travel books of 20th century by International Society of Travel Writing)
- American Nomads: Travels with Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers, and Bullriders by Richard Grant (2004)
- Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon (1982) (also named 2nd in 10 best travel books of 20th century by International Society of Travel Writing
- South of Haunted Dreams: A Memoir by Eddy L. Harris (1993)
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (1974)
And here are some miscellaneous others:
- The Drifters by James Michener 1960’s young people traveling.
- Through Painted Deserts:Light, God and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller
- Anywhere but Here by Mona Simpson (mother-daughter road trip)
- Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own by Doreen Orion. (with a title like that, you gotta read it.)
- The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson
- Roads by Larry McMurtry (reviewed here along with Steinbeck’s Travel’s With Charley–linked above)
- Autumn Across America by Edwin Way Teale (A Naturalist’s 20,000 mile trip)Teale also wrote North with the Spring, and Journey Into Summer and Wandering Through Winter.
- Roads to Quoz by William Least Heat Moon (2008—seems to be sinking without much fuss)
Many other road trip books have been written about horseback journeys, bicycle journeys, walking journeys, and journeys in other countries. But for now, let’s stick with the U.S. and motorized transportation. Got more to suggest? Want to argue with my top five? Let’s talk.
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