The best American books on travels with dogs

Mark Derr Author Of Dog's Best Friend: Annals of the Dog-Human Relationship
By Mark Derr

Who am I?

Mark Derr is an independent scholar and author of three books on dogs, a biography of Davy Crockett, and a social and environmental history of Florida, as well as a co-author with photographer Cameron Davidson of Over Florida. His work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Scientific American, Audubon, Smithsonian, Natural History, The New York Times, and other publications. His poems have appeared in Kansas Quarterly, Partisan Review, and other journals. He has had a lifelong relationship with dogs.  Having known and mourned a number of outstanding dogs, he has told friends, "They are always with me in my thoughts, and I miss them very much." He and his wife currently share their domicile with a Jack Russell Terrier and a Miami Beach street cat.


I wrote...

Dog's Best Friend: Annals of the Dog-Human Relationship

By Mark Derr,

Book cover of Dog's Best Friend: Annals of the Dog-Human Relationship

What is my book about?

A comprehensive, humane, and bemused tour of the dog-human relationship, Dog's Best Friend combines anecdote, research, and reportage to illuminate our complex rapport with our cherished canine companions. Tracking our national obsession with an animal that now outnumbers children in American households, Mark Derr chronicles the evolution of "the culture of the dog" from the prehistoric domestication of tamed wolves to the modern horrors of overbreeding and inbreeding.

The books I picked & why

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The Journals of Lewis and Clark

By John Bakeless,

Book cover of The Journals of Lewis and Clark

Why this book?

Arguably, people and dogs—initially in the guise of wolves—have been wandering the world together since they first met on the trail of the big game they were both hunting. Dogs were generally more amicable, low-maintenance traveling companions, serving as camp guards, hunters, bed warmers, social secretaries, and occasional sneak thieves.  

A prototype for traveling dog in American letters is Seaman, a young Newfoundland Meriwether Lewis obtained to accompany the corps of discovery on its westward explorations. Seaman and his exploits dot the pages of The Journals of Lewis and Clark (1814), a great resource and compelling read for anyone hoping to understand the history of the American West. 

The Journals of Lewis and Clark

By John Bakeless,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Journals of Lewis and Clark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An in-depth look at Lewis and Clark's historic expedition through the explorers' journals-America's "first report on the West" (Bernard DeVoto).
In 1803, the great expanse of the Louisiana Purchase was an empty canvas. Keenly aware that the course of the nation's destiny lay westward-and that a "Voyage of Discovery" would be necessary to determine the nature of the frontier-President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis to lead an expedition from the Missouri River to the northern Pacific coast and back. From 1804 to 1806, accompanied by co-captain William Clark, the Shoshone guide Sacajawea, and thirty-two men, Lewis mapped rivers, traced the…


Travels with Charley in Search of America

By John Steinbeck,

Book cover of Travels with Charley in Search of America

Why this book?

A modern subgenre of dog literature features people who have traveled extensive distances with dogs, often in exploration but sometimes just for the hell of it. Among the best of these is John Steinbeck’s classic Travels with Charley in Search of America, Charley being a standard poodle with roots in Paris. Steinbeck’s journey in search of America in a custom camper comes Steinbeck set out in an effort to reconnect with America. He and Charley traveled in a custom camper at the height of the Kennedy-Nixon presidential race of 1960, whose echoes reverberate to this day. In 1962 Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

Travels with Charley in Search of America

By John Steinbeck,

Why should I read it?

10 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…


A Tramp Across the Continent

By Charles F. Lummis,

Book cover of A Tramp Across the Continent

Why this book?

Nearly a century earlier, people relied on their own feet to travel long distances. These often solo efforts were known as “vagabonding”. A classic from this era was the transcontinental walk of Charles Fletcher Lummis, recounted in his A Tramp Across the Continent. Lummis, who eventually became the first City Editor at the Los Angeles Times, took up with an abused greyhound named Shadow, whom he had rescued from a group of immigrant miners in Colorado. Shadow and he had a number of adventures on the way to California. Unfortunately, the dog, whom Lummis loved dearly, contracted rabies, and Lummis had to shoot him. Lummis’s account of the shipment of Apache from their homes in the southwestern desert to the swampy morass of Florida is particularly wrenching and the mindless slaughter of Apache dogs by white settlers is deeply disturbing.

A Tramp Across the Continent

By Charles F. Lummis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Tramp Across the Continent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Charles F. Lummis tells of an America long departed, when the western and southern frontiers were wilderness, nature untrammeled and settlers rugged in the face of unforgiving conditions.

Written as a retrospective of the adventurer's youth, A Tramp Across the Continent, through its varied events and encounters, transports the reader to an era lost to time. The tale begins in 1884, when the author - disgruntled and unhappy with the tedium of everyday life - sets off from Ohio with the intention of reaching California on foot. His trek, spanning some 3,500 miles and 144 days, is filled with joy,…


The Wild North Land: Being the Story of a Winter Journey, with Dogs, Across Northern North America

By William Francis Butler,

Book cover of The Wild North Land: Being the Story of a Winter Journey, with Dogs, Across Northern North America

Why this book?

A book that falls between Lummis and Steinbeck chronologically is William Francis Butler’s The Wild North Land: Being the Story of a Winter Journey, with Dogs, Across Northern North America, an account of his retracing of the route of the 18th-century Scottish explorer Alexander McKenzie who traversed much of Canada from Lake Chipewyan in Alberta to the Pacific Ocean. Butler had a dog team whose leader was Cerf-Vola, who distinguished himself for his sagacity and strength. Ultimately, Butler retired him from sled duty to dog companion. That relationship did not prevent Butler from giving the dog to an acquaintance when he returned to England, saying that it broke his heart when he had to lay aside his emotions for “the sterner stuff of civilization.”

The Wild North Land: Being the Story of a Winter Journey, with Dogs, Across Northern North America

By William Francis Butler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wild North Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. To ensure a quality reading experience, this work has been…


A Journey Through Texas: Or a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier

By Frederick Law Olmsted,

Book cover of A Journey Through Texas: Or a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier

Why this book?

The great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted was a journalist before he found his true calling - he designed New York’s Central Park, Roland Park in Baltimore, and many other green spaces across the U.S. Olmsted toured East Texas in the early 1850s as a correspondent for the New York Daily Times. An ardent abolitionist, he reported on the cruelty of slavery, which he found permeated the society. The white slaveholders lived in almost constant dread of their insurrection and escape, which were constant. Occasionally, the slaves themselves had dogs who would engage the hounds used by slave owners and overseers to track and capture the runaways. Olmsted used the nom de plume Yoeman and he compiled his reports and journals into a trilogy that looks at the institution of slavery in its last decade.  His companion for much of his journey was a bull terrier named Judy, a muscular dog who struck fear into the hearts of many people he met and was sought after by the slave owners themselves. In 1857, he published a volume on his adventures, A Journey Through Texas: Or a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier.

People, of course, continue to travel with dogs and find them the most companionable of beings. In 1981, my wife and I traveled across the country from Baltimore to the West Coast with our 80-pound Chesapeake, Seneca, who happily hung partway out the window and snapped at approaching vehicles all the way of the Pacific Coast Highway. Today, many travelers record their travels on social media, but these old accounts still speak to the special bond between dogs and people.  We are both social, big-brained animals with—as the last year-plus of forced incarceration at home have shown us—a yearning to roam.

A Journey Through Texas: Or a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier

By Frederick Law Olmsted,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Journey Through Texas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Before he became America's foremost landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) was by turns a surveyor, merchant seaman, farmer, magazine publisher, and traveling newspaper correspondent. In 1856-57 he took a saddle trip through Texas to see the country and report on its lands and peoples. His description of the Lone Star State on the eve of the Civil War remains one of the best accounts of the American West ever published. Unvarnished by sentiment or myth making, based on firsthand observations, and backed with statistical research, Olmsted's narrative captures the manners, foods, entertainments, and conversations of the Texans, as well…


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