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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    Default Are there any "must read" books for road trippers?

    After reading dozens of references to Jack Kerouac's famous On the Road in books about Route 66 I figured I should read it to understand road trip culture. Yesterday I finished it and discovered it was not a must read (unless one were researching horny, doped-up beatnik guys crisscrossing the continent in the late 1940s).

    Are there any books you've read that really got your traveling juices flowing? Are there any that make you want to get out there on our great highways and byways?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Tucson, AZ
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    Default For the Names Alone

    Although I admit haven't read it, William Least Heat-Moon's "Blue Highways" spent 42 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The title is a reference to the way 'back roads' were depicted on the road maps of the '50s and '60s, and the work is a chronicle of a three month RoadTrip that the author (his real name, by the way) took in the '70s.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Melbourne, Australia
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    Default Note everything you read.

    Although I have quite a few books I use as reference... not for reading from start to end... I get most of my information from what I read in papers, magazines, see on telly, hear on the radio, find on the internet or just from talking with folk who have been there, done that. I keep a notebook with a page(s) for every State, and write down all the details of that which interested me. When I happen to find myself in the vicinity, or when there are several entries for the same region, it becomes a destination. (There's more in that book than I will ever have a chance to see.)

    Lifey

  4. #4
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    Mar 2005
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    Default I've read a few...

    There are quite a few books in the genre out there, although I have to admit that I haven't read many that were published recently (within the last decade or so).

    Some of the titles that I've read and enjoyed are:

    "Travels with Charley: In Search of America" by John Steinbeck.

    "Blue Highways" by William Least-Heat Moon.

    "Charles Kuralt's America" by Charles Kuralt.

    "Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip" by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns.

    I think there are certain books which lend a different perspective to travel, and thus could be considered "road books" even if that is not their primary focus. If nothing else, books of this type can help to lend an understanding to why certain areas of the country have developed in particular ways. One example is "The Geography of Nowhere" by James Howard Kunstler.

    Your comment about "On the Road" is understandable. But "road trip culture" can encompass many sub-cultures such as that depicted in the book. I find myself attracted to natural, historic, and architectural sites. Another traveller may be more interested in "world's largest" places. Still another might want to follow an old trail, or visit a group of baseball stadiums.

    I also keep a journal for every significant trip I take, and I find those old journals can be inspiring. Also, many of the posts here on RoadTripAmerica are quite inspiring, in particular those written in the journal format.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
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    Las Vegas, Nevada
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    10,059

    Default A couple of my favorites

    There are dozens of such books on my list, but a couple to mention:

    Tim Cahil's "Road Fever"
    Road Fever is a vivid and laugh-out-loud funny account of a high speed road race from the southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego to the nothernmost terminus of the Dalton Highway in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Author Tim Cahill and his companion, professional driver Garry Sowerby, succeed in making the 15,000 mile run in a record-breaking 23½ days, a fact you can check in the Guinness Book of World Records. Road Fever is one of our all-time favorite road reads.
    A couple of old favorites are listed here... Although I must say, that knowing that John Steinbeck "faked" his travels with Charlie dimmed my appreciation for that book (apologies to Mass Tim).

    Blood & Thunder for driving in the American Southwest

    And I am not a big shopper, but I like Laura Morelli's
    Made in the Southwest: A Shopper's Guide to the Region's Best Native American, Hispanic and Western Craft Traditions.

    And don't forget Tim Steil's classic... Highway 61 Revisted!

    I probably have a top 50 -- maybe I'll compile such a list some day.

  6. #6
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    Mar 2005
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    Western/Central Massachusetts
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    Although I must say, that knowing that John Steinbeck "faked" his travels with Charlie dimmed my appreciation for that book (apologies to Mass Tim).
    True - it should be mentioned that this book should be read as fiction. But it still is enjoyable to read.

    No need for apolgies.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    South Central Orange County
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    Default

    Thank you for the responses.

    I'd forgotten about Travels With Charley. I'll see if I have it in a volume of collected Steinbeck works.

    One of my favorite travel narratives is Mark Twain's Roughing It. My 12-year old thought it boring at first, but she grew to enjoy it once she understood Twain's sense of humor.

    Edward Hoagland's Notes from the Century Before is an interesting read about his travels in northern British Columbia. I enjoyed it because I love that part of the country, even though it's not really a "road trip" book. He does some of his traveling by plane and boat to get to remote areas.

    I recently bought my own copy of Up and Down California by William H. Brewer. It is a narrative of his travels thorugh California between late 1860 and 1864, and it fascinates me to compare the California of his day with the present. I find I enjoy my visits to various towns, monuments, and scenic areas if I've read about how they used to appear.

    I enjoyed the documentary, Horatio's Drive.

    I think I'll buy a copy of Road Fever, also.

    Thanks!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
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    Default

    A favorite book as a youngster, which would make good read-aloud to kids, is called RUNAWAY HOME. It's probably out of print now, but you may be able to find it on a used book store database such as abebooks.com. It's fiction; a story about a family who was going to move from their home in New England to their uncle's place in Washington State. They bought a trailer and had adventures while moving. The book was published in either the 50s or 60s, so the trailer cracks me up. But the story is excellent none-the-less. I read it aloud years back, to my children, who enjoyed it.

    I will second the motion about Charles Kuralt's book. Loved it!



    Donna

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    South Central Orange County
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    Default

    I haven't found a copy of Runaway Home, but I've read portions of Blue Highways and Road Fever on Google Books. I've ordered copies of each so I can read them in their entirety. Thanks again for the recommendations. I have at least a couple of books to keep me occupied during rest stops on my next road trip.

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