12 Exhilarating Books That Chronicle Life On The Open Road

Road trips provide a unique perspective of the world around us. Zooming through the air in a plane, it's easy to focus on the destination and forget the journey. But traveling along the road gives people a keen awareness of not only where they're going, but where they're passing through along the way. The twelve books listed here provide all kinds of stories, both true and fictional, about life on the open road. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Books About Road Travel: Our 12 Picks

Title Author
1. Live from the Road P.C. Zick
2. Fear and Clothing Cintra Wilson
3. Did You Ever Have a Family Bill Clegg
4. New Europe Michael Palin
5. What I Found in a Thousand Towns Dar Williams
6. Not Without My Father Andra Watkins
7. Stupid and Contagious Caprice Crane
8. Tropic of Capricorn Simon Reeve
9. Northland Porter Fox
10. The Travel Auction Mark Green
11. Herself When She's Missing Sarah Terez Rosenblum
12. Less Andrew Sean Greer

Useful Things To Get For Your Next Road Trip

If reading these books makes you long to get in a car and explore, you'll want to make sure you're prepared before you leave. These products will keep you safe and comfortable for mile after mile:

8 Great Road Trip Movies

  1. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
  2. The Road Within (2014)
  3. Thelma & Louise (1991)
  4. A Goofy Movie (1995)
  5. It Happened One Night (1934)
  6. We're the Millers (2013)
  7. Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
  8. Due Date (2010)

Why Do Americans Love Road Trips?

In Depth

From a memoir about a long hike with a grumpy father, to a novel about two neighbors traveling across the country to pitch a new Starbucks drink, the books on this list bring readers along for the ride on exciting adventures. Some of the tales are educational, some are motivational, and some are bittersweet. Presented in no particular order, here are twelve books that describe life on the road.

Leading off at #1 is "Live from the Road" by P.C. Zick. To break the monotony of everyday life, close friends Meg Newton and Sally Sutton decide to embark on a road trip. Accompanied by their daughters, they take off on Route 66. On their journey they meet a handful of interesting people who decide to tag along, including a Marine and a gun-carrying mother. It's not always fun, as Meg is coping with the death of her son, and Sally's husband files for divorce while she's travelling. But the trip also helps them discover new things about themselves and brings them closer together.

#2 is "Fear and Clothing" by Cintra Wilson. The clothes that we wear are a reflection of ourselves. Our style is a product of our dreams, politics, sexuality, and socioeconomic class. That's the case that Wilson makes as she chronicles a three-year road trip in which she studied and observed fashion trends all over the United States. From cowboy hats in Wyoming to the eccentric costumes worn by those attending the Kentucky Derby, the author describes how our daily fashion choices shape who we are.

Our style is a product of our dreams, politics, sexuality, and socioeconomic class.

At #3 is Bill Clegg's debut novel "Did You Ever Have a Family." Just one day before her daughter's wedding, tragedy strikes June Reid. An explosive accident takes the lives of her child, ex-husband, boyfriend, and future son-in-law. With her family suddenly gone, June decides to leave Connecticut and drive across the country. As she grieves and travels, she grows closer to others dealing with heartbreak. Slowly she begins to rebuild her support system and move on with her life.

#4 on the list is "New Europe" by Michael Palin. After traveling all over the globe, Palin realized how much foreign land was waiting right next to where he lived. No longer closed off by the Iron Curtain, Eastern Europe was available for him to explore. He quickly found out that heading a few hours east was just as exhilarating as visiting distant continents. From hanging out with lumberjacks in Romania, to trekking the old trade route on the Adriatic coast, he experienced fascinating adventure everywhere.

At #5 is "What I Found in a Thousand Towns" by Dar Williams. A successful folk singer and songwriter, Williams has traveled all over the United States. But instead of visiting big cities, she's primarily gone to small towns. By performing at intimate venues and stopping at the local watering holes, she's seen both hardship and good times in rural America. Combining her travels with opinions from urban theorists, she writes about the importance of these communities.

But instead of visiting big cities, she's primarily gone to small towns.

Coming in at #6 is "Not Without My Father," a memoir by Andra Watkins. Hiking the 444-mile Natchez Trace isn't an easy task, but Watkins was determined to become the first living person to do so, following in the footsteps of early pioneers. Unfortunately for her, no one else wanted to join her on the trip. The only person she could convince to come was her father, a gaseous and grumpy man in his eighties who embarrassed her. With every miscommunication, she found herself wondering whether they would make it through their crazy adventure.

At #7 is "Stupid and Contagious," a novel by Caprice Crane. Neither Heaven Albright nor Brady Gilbert have had much career success, and they don't particularly like each other. But the Manhattan neighbors grow close after Heaven saves Brady from a psychotic ex. With what they believe is a million-dollar business idea for a new coffee beverage, they embark on a road trip to the West Coast, where they hope to track down the founder of Starbucks and pitch him their drink.

#8 is "Tropic of Capricorn" by Simon Reeve. With a desire to visit the parts of the world that tend to get overlooked by tourists, Reeve took off around the globe, following the 22,835-mile Tropic of Capricorn. On his trip he saw beautiful, heartbreaking, and dangerous sights. From spending time with bushmen in the Kalahari Desert, to cooking with teenagers in a dangerous Brazilian neighborhood, his encounters range from wild to strange to beautiful.

On his trip he saw beautiful, heartbreaking, and dangerous sights.

At #9 is Porter Fox's memoir "Northland." Despite being the longest international boundary in the world, the northern border of the United States is largely unexplored and undeveloped. So Fox spent three years traveling the 4,000-mile-long region, crossing roads, trails, and bodies of water. After exploring the land and the people that live around it, he shares his story, as well as the history of this important area.

Coming in at #10 is "The Travel Auction" by Mark Green. Jonathan Cork is ready for an adventure through South America with his girlfriend Kate Thornly. He's already bought the tickets, quit his job, and rented out his apartment. But at the last minute, his partner leaves him. Left with a non-transferable ticket and an allergy that prohibits him from traveling alone, he auctions off his spare flight on eBay, in search of a woman with the same name. Another Kate Thornly sees the listing and decides not to get involved, but her friend secretly applies for her.

#11 on the list is "Herself When She's Missing" by Sarah Terez Rosenblum. Andrea has a borderline obsession with the band Cry Wolf. At one of their shows she meets Jordan, a fellow groupie with an unruly side. The two women quickly fall for each other and hit the road together, following the band around. But as Jordan starts to become emotionally abusive, Andrea realizes that the relationship is another addiction for her. She tries to break free, but it's harder than she thought.

She tries to break free, but it's harder than she thought.

Finishing the list at #12 is "Less," a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Andrew Sean Greer. There's no easy way to RSVP to the wedding of a man you dated for nine years. So failed novelist Arthur Less hatches a plan to say no without looking cowardly. He simply accepts every invitation he receives to literary events spanning the globe. On his trip he nearly dies in Berlin, visits a remote island in the Middle East, turns fifty, and experiences both loneliness and love.