The best books on losing and finding ourselves via wanderlust

Who am I?

I began my writing career over forty years ago, pausing in boxcars, under streetlamps, and in hobo jungles to record the beats and rhythms of the road as I caught freight trains and vagabonded around the Pacific Northwest and Canada. In the years since, whether hiking the Camion de Santiago, traversing the length of Hadrian’s Wall, or backpacking in the high Sierra, I’ve been privileged to indulge my wanderlust all around the world, and to share those adventures with others.

I wrote...

The Last Professional

By Ed Davis, Colin Elgie (illustrator),

Book cover of The Last Professional

What is my book about?

This is a story of America! Lynden Hoover, a young man on the brink of a new beginning, cannot embrace it without confronting the traumas of his past. Help comes from The Duke, an old loner who calls America’s landscape his home. He clings to an honor code, but in fleeing from Short Arm, his merciless enemy, his code is being tested.

At the end of the 20th century few Knights of the Road still cling to their vanishing lifestyle. The Duke mentors Lynden, enlisting old traveling friends to keep himself and his apprentice just ahead of Short Arm’s relentless pursuit. When two of those friends are murdered, the stakes become life or death.

The books I picked & why

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The Dharma Bums

By Jack Kerouac,

Book cover of The Dharma Bums

Why this book?

Though Jack’s most well-known work is On The Road, for me The Dharma Bums best illustrates and illuminates Kerouac’s intimate relationship with the transformative nature of travel. Horizons beckon. How he reaches them is every bit as meaningful as what he finds when he gets there. The descriptions are vivid, the writing style organic and original, and the experiences unforgettable.

Travels with Charley in Search of America

By John Steinbeck,

Book cover of Travels with Charley in Search of America

Why this book?

Steinbeck’s embrace of the nomadic impulse that runs through our country, our history, and ourselves, finds its fullest, most personal expression here. Who hasn’t wanted to pack the camper, hit the two-lanes, and penetrate the thickening veneer of hyperbole that threatens to mask who we truly are? And what better companion on his quest than his dog, Charley!

The Road

By Jack London,

Book cover of The Road

Why this book?

London is famous, not only for the gripping quality of his prose, but for his larger-than-life globe-hopping adventures. For me, The Road reduces all of that to a personal, intimate level. Though written over a hundred years ago, these experiences of the young London making his way as best he can, without means or motive – other than survival – echoes perfectly the plight, and the challenges, and the choices so many face today.

Travelogue From an Unruly Youth

By D.C. Jesse Burkhardt,

Book cover of Travelogue From an Unruly Youth

Why this book?

All of us who survived our own version of an Unruly Youth will find much to admire, and much that resonates, in this riveting account of one young man’s quest for identity, and for answers to his fundamental questions about life. He journeys along a “pipeline to freedom" on a bed of steel, ties, and gravel, never sure where his path will carry him from day-to-day. Travelogue From an Unruly Youth carries us into a hidden and unconventional world, weaving a romantic tale of roadside mystery and the universe-altering power of love.

Search and Rescue Alaska

By Tracy Salcedo,

Book cover of Search and Rescue Alaska

Why this book?

Sometimes wanderlust makes us wander farther than we should. I devoured this book! Part history, part thriller, part downright unbelievable, there is adventure and heroism on every page. I'm not sure that truth is always stranger than fiction, but in Tracy’s able hands it is every bit as exciting. Strap on your snowshoes!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in wanderlust, Beat Generation, and travel?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about wanderlust, Beat Generation, and travel.

Wanderlust Explore 8 books about wanderlust
Beat Generation Explore 8 books about Beat Generation
Travel Explore 149 books about travel

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Overstory, On the Road, and Blue Highways if you like this list.