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The book attempts to humorously recall that odyssey, while offering historical references, tips, resources, and other information to help others plan their own Great American Adventure. 

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The books I picked & why

Blue Highways

By William Least Heat-Moon,

Book cover of Blue Highways

Why did I love 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.

By William Least Heat-Moon,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Blue Highways as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation's backroads.
William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about "those little towns that get on the map -- if they get on at all -- only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi."
His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Jamie Jensen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Road Trip USA as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Criss-cross the country on America's two-lane highways with the 25th anniversary edition of the ultimate guide to the classic road trip. Inside Road Trip USA you'll find:

* 11 routes through the heart of America, colour-coded and extensively cross-referenced to allow for hundreds of possible itineraries
* Mile-by-mile highlights celebrating the best of Americana, including roadside curiosities, parks, diners, and the local history and personality that makes each small town and big city unique
* Over 125 driving maps covering more than 35,000 miles (56,000 km) of two-lane American blacktop
* Full-colour photos and illustrations of America both then and…

Book cover of Travels with Charley in Search of America

Why did I love 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.

By John Steinbeck,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Travels with Charley in Search of America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An intimate journey across America, as told by one of its most beloved writers

To hear the speech of the real America, to smell the grass and the trees, to see the colors and the light-these were John Steinbeck's goals as he set out, at the age of fifty-eight, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years.

With Charley, his French poodle, Steinbeck drives the interstates and the country roads, dines with truckers, encounters bears at Yellowstone and old friends in San Francisco. Along the way he reflects on the American character, racial hostility, the…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Richard Ratay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Don't Make Me Pull Over! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A lighthearted, entertaining trip down Memory Lane" (Kirkus Reviews), Don't Make Me Pull Over! offers a nostalgic look at the golden age of family road trips-before portable DVD players, smartphones, and Google Maps.

The birth of America's first interstate highways in the 1950s hit the gas pedal on the road trip phenomenon and families were soon streaming-sans seatbelts!-to a range of sometimes stirring, sometimes wacky locations. In the days before cheap air travel, families didn't so much take vacations as survive them. Between home and destination lay thousands of miles and dozens of annoyances, and with his family Richard Ratay…

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

Why did I love 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.

By National Geographic,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Drives of a Lifetime as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This lavishly illustrated travel planner features 500 of the world's most memorable driving experiences, from legendary Highway 1 in California to Japan's famous Irohazaka Winding Road.

Compiled from the favorite trips of National Geographic's legendary travel writers, Drives of a Lifetime spans the globe to reveal the best celebrated and lesser-known road trips on the planet. Inside this fully updated and revised edition--featuring more than 20 new drives--you'll find routes through spectacular landscapes, ideas for quick getaways, leisurely journeys of discovery, and revelations of secret worlds beyond Google Maps. Some are legendary long-distance odysseys; others are easy day trips close…

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