We are kicking off our holiday reading lists with this one, from author Java Davis, whose website The Road Trip Writer is a fun place to visit on the web-- and makes her the ideal person to recommend great road trip reading for the holidays. Enjoy!
As a self-described expert on good road trip reading, I’m happy to give you the benefit of my years of wisdom. First and foremost, the best road trip books are non-fiction accounts of the adventures of real people. Naturally, as is true of any rule, there are exceptions.
Here is my "ten best" Best Road Trip Reading list:
Wanderlust and Lipstick:The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo by Beth Whitman.
This book is essential for the squeamish woman traveler.
Perelman was best known as a humor writer for The New Yorker. He wrote autobiographical pieces about becoming a Pennsylvania gentleman farmer, as well as books, plays, and screenplays. He and an artist friend were asked to travel around the world, writing humorous pieces, including illustrations. This book from the 1940's is funny, and the drawings are charming. In a politically correct world, there are things that can make a person cringe. Be warned!
Shereen Travels Cheap by Shereen Rayle and Nancy Jennings.
Rayle has done her homework, and she practices what she preaches. Lots of good travel information, plus links to helpful sites.
So Much S’More to Do: Over 50 Variations of the Campfire Classic, by Becky Rasmussen.
If camping is your source of road trip joy, this is a fun camping cookbook. Rasmussen is a lifelong camper and has perfected the art of the s’more.
Cross-Country: Adventures alone Across America and Back by M.M. Justus.
In 2009, the author needed to shake up her world, so she quit her job, bought a car, and lived off savings as she drove from Seattle across the country and back. She is a fine observer of both natural sites and road food. This book would make an excellent traveling companion.
Stories of a TravelingBellydancer by Zaina Brown.
Growing up in Scandinavia, Brown knew that she wanted to be a bellydancer. Unlike other Scandinavian girls, she took dance lessons, and then took off to see the world. This book is the story of her travels, compiled from notes and emails. Her friendly,positive attitude made her a multitude of new friends along the way; she had amazing adventures. Brown’s life is worth a read.
Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga by Hunter S. Thompson.
One of Thompson’s earliest works. Thompson was a recreational motorcyclist who decided to find out what the real deal was with the Hell’s Angels. He rode with them for a while, documenting their alternative lifestyle. It was both romantic and hideous, as he says, “a strange and terrible saga.” This story is decades old, but it is an incredible snapshot of a little-understood slice of life.
Thompson is so good, he gets two spots on the 10-Best list. He made “Gonzo journalism” famous, and this book is its anthem. Thompson and his attorney hop in a car and drive to Las Vegas, presumably so Thompson can write an article for a magazine. Drugs, booze, strange women, insanity, and a complete lack of inclination to write the article make for a “long, strange trip.”
Travels with Charley: InSearch of America by John Steinbeck.
Steinbeck and his poodle Charley hop into a camper and hit the open road. Hey, it’s Steinbeck, so what could be bad?
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.
This is the be-all and end-all of road trip books. It is the exception that proves the rule. Although it’s usually billed as fiction, the book appears to be based on Pirsig’s life. (In later editions, Pirsig notes the death of his own son at a young age.)
The story’s framework: a former English professor is sent to a mental hospital for schizophrenia. He has an alter ego named Phaedrus who had taken over. The professor is released when doctors believe that he has Phaedrus under control. He feels the schism between him and his son, and decides that they need a road trip to get reacquainted. The road trip itself, and the spiritual and metaphysical ruminations of the professor (and Phaedrus), make for an extraordinary journey.
Hopefully, there will be something for everyone on this short list.
Find Java Davis books at her author page on Amazon
Follow her on Twitter @javadavis