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Road Stories for Reading On The Road

A friend of mine just recommended that I read “The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America” by Bill Bryson:

“A real pleasure read makes me want to hop on my Harley which ain’t there no more and roar again across America.”

Now that’s a recommendation. I’ll definitely be tracking down Bill Bryson. (Thanks, PN!)

I’m really interested these days in books about travel, as well as books with a strong sense of place. I’m especially interested in books that come in ebook editions so we can load them onto our ebook reader, and in historical travel stories that are available for free in the common domain through sites like Project Gutenberg.

What other “travel” books, fiction or non-fiction, do you recommend? I care a lot less about “great books” and much more about “books you love.”

What road stories do you love to read on the road?

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1 pepe nero { 07.24.08 at 8:39 pm }

‘Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War’ by Tony Horwitz

Anything by Bryson esp. ‘A Walk in the Woods’ and ‘The English Language and How It Got That Way.’

Italian Days’ by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

‘She’s A Bad Motorcycle’ (Short Stories) edited by Geno Zenetti

2 Shaula { 07.24.08 at 9:26 pm }

Hurray! Thank you for dropping in, Pepe. (And I love the picture on your site. I haven’t seen nearly enough of your work.)

All of these books go on our list. Thank you very much!

I have a feeling that “She’s a Bad Motorcycle” will be right up Neil’s alley, too.

3 Mike V. { 07.25.08 at 11:07 pm }

Blue Highways: A Journey into America, by William Least Heat-Moon:
A literal road-trip book, Heat-Moon ventures across America avoiding interstate highways in favor of back roads, discovering Americans at their best, worst, and greatest ‘tensile strength.’
‘When the mystical young Black Elk went to the summit of Harney Peak to see the shape of things, he looked down on the great unifying hoop of peoples. I looked down and saw fragments.’

On the Road, by Jack Kerouac:
Possibly the most widely read and best known of American travelogues, Kerouac’s rambling, stream-of-consciousness style and unique, offbeat descriptions came to define the Beat Generation.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle, you see the blue center-light pop, and everybody goes ahh”

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, by Robert M. Pirsig:
Pirsig explores the concept of values in the form of a ‘Chautauqua’ a traveling talk in the Socratic style. More an exploration of interpersonal relationships and the nature of philosophy and thought than a novel, Zen is a classic work that cannot help but appeal to deep thinkers and seekers of every stripe. One reviewer describes it as ‘mountain climbing for the mind,’ and I think this is a particularly apt description.
What follows is based on actual occurrences. Although much has been changed for rhetorical purposes, it must be regarded in its essence as fact. However, it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It’s not very factual on motorcycles, either.

Flight of Passage, by Rinker Buck:
The true story of Kern and Rinker Buck’s cross-country flight in a vintage Piper Cub. Equally entertaining and familiar, Flight of Passage crosses familial and geographical boundaries as it explores relationships among competitive siblings and between fathers and sons. A good, engaging read.
– Sorry, no compelling quotes handy at the moment –

Biplane, by Richard Bach:
Another road trip without roads, this literal and literary deviation by Richard Bach stirs the solitary adventurer in all of us. In choosing to cross the U.S. in a restored 1929 biplane, Bach rediscovers the essence of solo travel and independence.
‘It is like opening night on a new way of living, only it is opening day, and instead of velvet curtains drawing majestically aside there are hanger doors of corrugated tin, rumbling and scraping in concrete tracks and being more stubborn than majestic. Inside the hanger, wet still with darkness and with two wide pools of dark underwing and evaporating as the tall doors slide, the new way of living. An antique biplane.’

Holy Shit!, by Oliver Benjamin:
In which “history’s major prophets make their long-awaited return” to announce the arrival of the apocalypse, only to discover they are passé in an era of always-available entertainment. The solution? Hire a television production firm to spice up the presentation! The author describes the book as being ‘where eschatology meets scatology, [and] the whole world goes down the toilet.’ Fun, and available as a free ebook download.
After the obligatory hemming and hawing that even the most enlightened are compelled to do at times, they decided that yes, they would make their surprise reappearance somewhere in a town called Pasadena.
The waitress brought them their menus.
As it turned out, deciding what to eat was far more difficult than deciding where to stage the Second Coming.
“It’s like they’ve never heard of mutton nowadays,” complained Krishna.
“We should have gone to Denny’s,” said Moses. “They’ve got those nice pictures on the menu. It makes it so much easier.”

Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, by Robert Rankin:
A detective novel in a novel setting, one populated with stuffed animals, nursery rhyme characters, and living toys. Silly in the best way, odd in a cock-your-head-sideways-and squint-through-one-eye-to-get-it sense, the story follows Jack as he makes his way from the country to the city, there to embark on a new life. Great fun, excellent imagery, and an entertainingly compelling read.
“The moon, shining down upon the city, shone down also upon Jack, shone down upon the body of Jack, that was lying strewn in an alleyway. The moon didn’t care too much about Jack. But then, the moon didn’t care too much about anything. Caring wasn’t in the moon’s remit. The moon was just the moon, and on nights when there wasn’t any cloud about, it just shone down, upon anything and everything really, it didn’t matter what to the moon. The moon had seen most things before, and would surely see them again. And as for all the things that the moon hadn’t seen, well, it would see them too eventually. On nights when there wasn’t any cloud about. Not that it would care too much when it did. It was a moon thing, not caring. The moon couldn’t help the way it was.”

American Gods: A Novel, by Neil Gaiman:
A clash of the titans as old gods battle new in modern times, separated from man only by diaphanous abstractions. When the number of believers defines the strength of gods, how are the ancients to compete? And how does the protagonist Shadow feature in the equation?
“Shadow’s lists got shorter and shorter. After two years he had it down to three things.
First, he was going to take a bath. A real, long, serious soak, in a tub with bubbles. Maybe read the paper, maybe not. Some days he thought one way, sometimes the other.
Second, he was going to towel himself off, put on a robe. Maybe slippers. He liked the idea of slippers. If he smoked he would be smoking a pipe about now, but he didn’t smoke. He would pick up his wife in his arms (‘Puppy’ she would squeal in mock horror and real delight, ‘what are you doing?’). He would carry her into the bedroom, and close the door. They’d call out for pizzas if they got hungry.
Third, after he and Laura had come out of the bedroom, maybe a couple of days later, he was going to keep his head down and stay out of trouble for the rest of his life.”

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction, by Jon Stewart:
Equal parts education, satire, and hilarity, Stewart puts American history and politics under his trademark lens of sarcasm. This trip is through time and philosophy rather than across any nation, but travel you will. I highly recommend the audio version, read by several members of the ‘Daily Show’ cast including Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
“As heirs to a legacy more than two centuries old, it is understandable why present-day Americans would take their own democracy for granted. A president freely chosen from a wide-open field of two men every four years; a congress with a 99% incumbency rate; a Supreme Court comprised of nine politically appointed judges whose only oversight is the icy scythe of death—all these reveal a system fully capable of maintaining itself. But our perfect democracy, which neither needs nor particularly wants voters, is a rarity. It is important to remember there still exist many other forms of government in the world today, and that dozens of foreign countries still long for a democracy such as ours to be imposed on them.”

4 Shaula { 07.27.08 at 3:38 pm }

Wow, Mike. Quite a collection.

I’ve read the Pirsig (natch), and other books by Bachman and Gaiman but not the titles you’ve listed.

Onto the list they go!

And now I have to ask: why is it that you don’t have your own blog again? (And please don’t try to tell me it is because you have nothing to say!)

5 Mike V. { 07.27.08 at 5:30 pm }

I have no blog mostly because I have no blog. I don’t really know where to begin in setting up a blog/blogsite.

6 pepe nero { 07.27.08 at 9:02 pm }

Don Quixote
The Odyssey
St. Augustine’s Confessions
Pilgrims Progress
Alice in Wonderland
The Aeneid
A Journey Around My Room (Alain de Botton)
Gulliver’s Travels
The Divine Comedy
‘Moby Dick’ and ‘The Confidence-Man’ (Melville)
On The Road
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
and now:
The Road (Cormac McCarthy)

Samual Clemens comes in with a number of them:

Huckleberry Finn
Life on the Mississippi
Tom Sawyer Abroad
A Tramp Abroad
and several others

Then there is the book about what these metaphorical journeys are all about, highly recommended is Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’ a person from whom I have shamelessly lifted lines and placed them in some of my poetry, i.e., ‘Venus and Apollo stand today at 42cd Street and 5th Avenue waiting for the light to change.’

7 Shaula { 07.27.08 at 9:03 pm }

This is going to be some kind of a journey of literary self-improvement.

I’ve read a few of your heavy-hitters, but not all of them, Pepe. They go on the list!

This is going to have to be a long trip…