The best books on road trips in the USA and beyond

Who am I?

Like many road warriors, Kevin Shay experienced his first taste of highway travels through his family, piling into a station wagon at a young age to journey several thousand miles in a week or so. He learned how to entertain himself for long hours without an iPod or cellphone. As a journalist, he wrote travel articles for a variety of publications, as well as a travel guidebook on North Texas. He has traveled through 48 states and more than 30 countries, logging more than 200,000 miles in a variety of vehicles and his own feet. He also produced a 19-minute documentary, Searching for Something in the Middle of Nowhere, based on the Mad, Mad Trip book.


I wrote...

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Trip: On the Road of the Longest Two-Week Family Road Trip in History

By Kevin James Shay,

Book cover of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Trip: On the Road of the Longest Two-Week Family Road Trip in History

What is my book about?

In the summer of 2013, journalist Kevin James Shay was ready for a different kind of two-week family vacation. His kids had reached the ages where they sought their independence. They had been to Disney and the likes. A single dad, Shay wanted to take his kids on a trip they would really remember. So they left the Washington, D.C., area in Shay’s trusty 2001 Honda CRV that had about 165,000 miles, with the rough idea of somehow reaching the Pacific Ocean. Covering 6,950 miles in 17 days, they set a record for the longest family road trip in a roughly two-week span, certified by RecordSetter, the Wikipedia generation's version of Guinness World Records.

The book attempts to humorously recall that odyssey, while offering historical references, tips, resources, and other information to help others plan their own Great American Adventure. 

The Books I Picked & Why

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Blue Highways: A Journey into America

By William Least Heat-Moon,

Book cover of Blue Highways: A Journey into America

Why this book?

Considered a travel writing classic, this book derived from a series of major changes to William Least Heat-Moon. After separating from his wife and losing his job as an English professor, he decided to drive alone in 1978 along the back roads of America, the roadways that are usually marked in blue on maps. He met an array of characters that could fill a novel, from an evangelical hitchhiker to a rural Nevada call girl. And it was all true, unlike novelized classics such as Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.


Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways

By Jamie Jensen,

Book cover of Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America's Two-Lane Highways

Why this book?

Providing more of a guidebook than a rich travelogue, Jamie Jensen uses his experience in covering some 400,000 miles to give readers thinking of new road adventures more fuel for thought. The guide provides color-coded and cross-referenced routes, places to visit along the way, colorful photos, and seasoned advice. Jensen wrote his first Road Trip USA guide in 1996 and has been updating it ever since.


Travels with Charley in Search of America

By John Steinbeck,

Book cover of Travels with Charley in Search of America

Why this book?

In the multitude of travelogues by famous writers, this one stands out as one of the more endearing works. John Steinbeck thought he was in his last years when he hit the road with his dog, Charley, in 1960; he would go on to live another eight years. Traveling in a specially-made camper, the pair journeyed about 10,000 miles roughly along the outer border of the United States, gaining newfound perspective and appreciation for fellow Americans.


Don't Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip

By Richard Ratay,

Book cover of Don't Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip

Why this book?

It’s one thing to take a road trip alone or with a partner or friend. It’s quite another to take the family, especially younger kids. Richard Ratay, an advertising copywriter, details the history of the family road trip in an entertaining and vivid manner. His anecdotes from years on the road with his family are at times comical, heart-warming, and awkward. Ratay puts the love-hate relationship many have with such adventures on full display, lending more clues why these journeys are perhaps best recalled from the perspective of time.


Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Road Trips

By National Geographic,

Book cover of Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Road Trips

Why this book?

This guidebook broadens travelers’ perspective beyond the United States, unearthing a whole new world in a wide variety of countries. Written by National Geographic travel writers, they cover everything from the ancient Silk Road in Central Asia to the perimeter of Puerto Rico. There are plenty of scenic photos, colorful maps, and tips to help navigate the roads of foreign lands.


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