Travels with Charley in Search of America

By John Steinbeck,

Book cover of Travels with Charley in Search of America

Book description

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…

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Why read it?

12 authors picked Travels with Charley in Search of America as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

John Steinbeck's iconic memoir Travels with Charley chronicles his cross-country journey with his loyal pooch. (Following in Steinbeck’s footsteps, I found my own travel companion – a Toyota Prius named Belinda.)

This travelogue captures the essence of America in the early 1960s, as Steinbeck explores the country in a similar moment of cultural upheaval to the one we’re facing today. With Steinbeck's signature wit and keen observations, this book remains a classic road trip narrative with a gravitas that only Steinbeck can bring.

Although I had read this classic many years ago, I decided to revisit it recently and found it even more enjoyable this time around.

Steinbeck’s real-life journey across America drew me into an older era in America and brought a fresh and immersive experience to the reader. Charley, the poodle, was an absolute delight.

This is the story of Steinbeck traveling around the country for three months in a truck camper with his dog Charlie. The aging writer set out to rediscover the real America that he had been writing about his whole career. In the process he not only gains a new understanding of the country but of himself. For me, it was fascinating looking at the United States through 1960 eyes and realizing that while much has changed, we still face many of the same issues they dealt with then. Like my own experiences it was also a wonderful reminder that we…

Leaving his wife at home, Steinbeck outfitted a camper in the 1950s and took off on an extended adventure with a large standard poodle named Charley. He was already a famous, award-winning author by this time, so it was easy for him to find people to talk to and learn what was going on across the United States. Although the book was intended for adults, I read it as a child, so I assumed that easygoing encounters with strangers were normal for everyone!

From Margaret's list on getting you talking to strangers.

I still recall reading Of Mice and Men in one sitting in my bedroom as a teenager. It was the start of a lifelong passion for Steinbeck that has never wavered. In 1960 he set off in a camper van with his poodle Charley to re-discover his own country. He leaves his Long Island home in a raging storm and traces a circular route across to the Pacific Northwest, down to California and Salinas where he was born, and back through Texas and the south. The Nobel Prize-winning novelist pitches up at campsites and chews the fat with whoever he…

My most formative moments in life came about when I was traveling. I have always had a passion for exploring new and fascinating places. My curiosity has not always worked to my benefit, as a stint in the Foreign Legion proved, but I still live my life with a wanderlust and a mild addiction to adventure. My passion for travel and adventure stemmed from my reading habits. The best travel books open the window to novel perspectives on life, people, and attitudes. Join me. 

To hear the voice of the real USA, to smell the grass and the trees, to…

John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature shortly after Travels with Charley was published, and this travel narrative is almost certainly part fiction but no less interesting or valuable as a portrait of America in the 1960s. Charley, the standard poodle, is incidental to the narrative but provides a convenient listener to some of Steinbeck’s musings. This was the first book that I read when I first came to live in Boston in 1964 and I loved it. John Steinbeck is incapable of writing mundane prose.

From Hilary's list on travel with animals.

It’s a classic. Travels with Charley may have been published in 1962, but many of Steinbeck’s observations of America, collected during his journey from Maine to California’s Monterey Peninsula, are as relevant today as they were six decades ago. And then there’s Charley, the French-born Standard Poodle who served as Steinbeck’s sidekick and sole traveling companion. “A dog,” wrote Steinbeck, “is a bond between strangers.”

From Jacki's list on dogs and their people.

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.

From Kevin's list on road trips in the USA and beyond.

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!

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