100 books like Blue Highways

By William Least Heat-Moon,

Here are 100 books that Blue Highways fans have personally recommended if you like Blue Highways. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Desert Solitaire

Maya Silver Author Of Moon Zion & Bryce: With Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante & Moab

From my list on featuring the American Southwest desert.

Who am I?

Even though I’m from humid DC, I’ve been drawn to the desert since I first set foot there as a kid on a family road trip. Now, I’m lucky enough to live in Utah, home to some of the world’s most legendary desert landscapes. One reason I love the desert is the otherworldly scenery: uncanny arches, bizarre hoodoos, and sand dunes you could disappear into. Before your eyes, layers of geologic time unfold in epochs. The desert is a great place for contemplating the past and future—and for great adventures, with endless sandstone walls to climb, slick rock to bike, and sagebrush-lined trails to hike.

Maya's book list on featuring the American Southwest desert

Maya Silver Why did Maya love this book?

The late Edward Abbey might be a controversial figure, but you can’t write about desert literature without mentioning this iconic book.

In this book, Abbey captures his experience as a winter caretaker of Arches National Park (before it was a national park and before the road in was paved). In 18 chapters that read like short stories, he chronicles long days on horseback, jaw-dropping tales of flash floods, journeys up remote canyons, and more adventures that do an uncanny job of conveying the spirit of the desert and what it was like to explore it mid-century.

Abbey’s writing is blunt, colorful, and engaging, and this book is a romp of a read. 

By Edward Abbey,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Desert Solitaire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'My favourite book about the wilderness' Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

In this shimmering masterpiece of American nature writing, Edward Abbey ventures alone into the canyonlands of Moab, Utah, to work as a seasonal ranger for the United States National Park Service.

Living out of a trailer, Abbey captures in rapt, poetic prose the landscape of the desert; a world of terracotta earth, empty skies, arching rock formations, cliffrose, juniper, pinyon pine and sand sage. His summers become spirit quests, taking him in search of wild horses and Ancient Puebloan petroglyphs, up mountains and across tribal lands, and down the…


Book cover of Into the Wild

M. R. Reed Author Of Enthrall

From my list on doing what is right when others are against you.

Who am I?

I’m drawn to the idea of doing what you think is right when others are against you because I’ve always felt the desire to row against the current and just do my own thing. I tend to avoid following the crowd because oftentimes I simply don’t agree with them. Am I being purposely difficult? Maybe. But I fear a society that goes with the flow simply because it’s easier and it doesn’t require them to think for themselves. It’s okay to listen to other people, but before you make any major decisions, ask yourself a question: Is this right for me?

M. R.'s book list on doing what is right when others are against you

M. R. Reed Why did M. R. love this book?

Here’s my confession: I hated Chris McCandless by the time I finished this book. I hated his cockiness and lack of respect for the power of the wilderness.

But you know what I give him credit for? His ability to leave his life of privilege and the courage to go out into the world and forge his own destiny. He did what he thought was best for him despite the pushback he received from his friends and family.

I think I hated him so much because I wanted him to succeed, and he doomed himself through his own hubris. 

By Jon Krakauer,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Into the Wild as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Krakauer’s page-turning bestseller explores a famed missing person mystery while unraveling the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.

"Terrifying... Eloquent... A heart-rending drama of human yearning." —New York Times

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all…


Book cover of On the Road

Christopher Corr Author Of The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

From my list on for travelling vagabonds.

Who am I?

I started travelling to paint and draw when I was an art student, first in Manchester and then at the Royal College of Art in London. I applied for drawing scholarships to help enable my travels. I wanted to see and draw the world in my own way. I’ve never really liked reading travel guidebooks. They date so quickly and can be too limiting but I’ve always enjoyed reading books by people who travel. You get a much truer sense of a place from someone who has followed a passion to somewhere remote. When I travel I look for stories on my journeys, something to bring home.

Christopher's book list on for travelling vagabonds

Christopher Corr Why did Christopher love this book?

This is the bible for the Beat generation and a glimpse into the jazz poetry road trip art world of 1950s America.

I read it before travelling to the US on a scholarship to help give me a sense of the Americana and youth culture I hope I would find.

I travelled all around the States excited by motels and road signs and railroad stations and telegraph poles laden with cables running off to disappear over the horizon. And those big old cars…

It’s such a physical story, so full of vigour and sweat.

By Jack Kerouac,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked On the Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The legendary novel of freedom and the search for authenticity that defined a generation, now in a striking new Pengiun Classics Deluxe Edition

Inspired by Jack Kerouac's adventures with Neal Cassady, On the Road tells the story of two friends whose cross-country road trips are a quest for meaning and true experience. Written with a mixture of sad-eyed naivete and wild ambition and imbued with Kerouac's love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz, On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope, a book that changed American literature and changed…


Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

By Bruce Tate,

Book cover of Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

Bruce Tate

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The plan was insane. The trap seemed to snap shut on Bruce and Maggie Tate, an isolation forced on them by the pandemic and America's growing political factionalism. Something had to change.

Maggie's surprising answer: buy a boat, learn to pilot it, and embark on the Great Loop. With no experience, and knowing little about seafaring, diesel motors, or navigation, Maggie, Bruce, and the family dog decided to take on the six-thousand-mile journey down inland rivers, around the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and across the Great Lakes. They would have to navigate canals, rivers, seas, and locks. But along the way, they made new lifelong friends and were forever changed.

For nine months, Bruce and Maggie navigated shallow rivers, bottomless lakes, joy, and loss. Against all odds, they conquered the Great Loop, and along the way, found common cause across political divides with new friends while blowing the walls off their world.

Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

By Bruce Tate,


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Book cover of Travels with Charley in Search of America

Ryan Bernsten Author Of 50 States of Mind: A Journey to Rediscover American Democracy

From my list on nonfiction about the great American road trip.

Who am I?

I’m a Midwest-based speaker, writer, and theatre-maker. I received my Creative Writing Master's from the University of Oxford where I was given a grant to travel to all 50 states to research my first book, 50 States of Mind: A Journey to Rediscover American Democracy and started the companion podcast 50 States of Mind. I'm a contributor for The Infatuation and have been published in USA Today, The Fulcrum, and The Oxford Political Review. You may have seen me chatting with Helen Mirren as a Slytherin contestant on Harry Potter: Tournament of Houses. I’m currently the Senior Managing Editor at The Trevor Project, overseeing editorial strategy to end suicide among LGBTQ young people.

Ryan's book list on nonfiction about the great American road trip

Ryan Bernsten Why did Ryan love this book?

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.

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 Division Street: America

Peter Laufer Author Of Up Against the Wall: The Case for Opening the Mexican-American Border

From my list on the middle of america from New Jersey to Oakland.

Who am I?

As a child, I moved with my family. I've moved for school. And I am not sure I could resurrect how many times my family moved for my journalism work. These books help me try to understand my wanderlust. Peter Laufer is an independent journalist, broadcaster, and documentary filmmaker working in traditional and new media. He is the James Wallace Chair in Journalism at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.

Peter's book list on the middle of america from New Jersey to Oakland

Peter Laufer Why did Peter love this book?

The oral historian and radioman Studs Turkel takes us around American without leaving his Chicago via Division Street America. Sparsely contextualized by his interstitial commentary, Turkel exercises his embracing interviewing skills to bring poignant stories of the non-celebrity class into sharp, relevant focus. This same type of unornamented approach earned a Nobel Prize in literature for Belarussian journalist Svetlana Alexievich and her Chernobyl.

By Studs Terkel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Division Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Division Street, Studs Terkel's first book of oral history, established his reputation as America's foremost oral historian and as "one of those rare thinkers who is actually willing to go out and talk to the incredible people of this country" (in the words of Tom Wolfe).

Viewing the inhabitants of a single city, Chicago, as a microcosm of the nation at large, Division Street chronicles the thoughts and feelings of some seventy people from widely varying backgrounds in terms of class, race, and personal history. From a mother and son who migrated from Appalachia to a Native American boilerman, from…


Book cover of Democracy in America

Peter Laufer Author Of Up Against the Wall: The Case for Opening the Mexican-American Border

From my list on the middle of america from New Jersey to Oakland.

Who am I?

As a child, I moved with my family. I've moved for school. And I am not sure I could resurrect how many times my family moved for my journalism work. These books help me try to understand my wanderlust. Peter Laufer is an independent journalist, broadcaster, and documentary filmmaker working in traditional and new media. He is the James Wallace Chair in Journalism at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.

Peter's book list on the middle of america from New Jersey to Oakland

Peter Laufer Why did Peter love this book?

And no such list is complete without Alexis de Tocqueville's classic from the 19th century, Democracy in America. Weighing in just two pages short of Don Quixote's 937 (paperback both, the ECCO Grossman Quixote translation and the Penguin Gerald Bevan de Tocqueville edition), Tocqueville ponders a question most of us contemplate and plenty of us act on: "Why Americans are so restless in the midst of their prosperity..."

By Alexis de Tocqueville,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Democracy in America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

French nobleman Alexis de Tocqueville's classic treatise on the American way of life.

Over 175 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, an astute political scientist, came to the United States to evaluate the meaning and actual functioning of democracy. Here, Tocqueville discusses the advantages and dangers of majority rule—which he thought could be as tyrannical as the rule of a monarchy. He analyzes the influence of political parties and the press on the government and the effect of equality on the social, political, and economic life of the American people. He also offers some startling predictions about world politics, which history…


Book cover of The Road

Stephen Benz Author Of Topographies

From my list on the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Who am I?

Traveling, meeting people, hearing stories, learning about places and landscapes—this is what my writing is all about. Sometimes it takes the form of nonfiction, sometimes poetry. I’ve had a wandering spirit from early on, finding joy and wonder as a child while sitting in the backseat on road trips, or taking the bus cross-state, or (best of all) riding on a train going anywhere. Reading Kerouac’s On the Road brought everything together: heading out with no particular destination in mind other than finding oneself on the road. And then writing it all down, telling the story. Here are some books that have rekindled the Kerouac spirit for me.

Stephen's book list on the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Stephen Benz Why did Stephen love this book?

Jack London lived and died before Kerouac was born, so it’s more accurate to say that On the Road channels the spirit of London’s book, published some 50 years before Kerouac’s masterpiece. The Road is a compelling memoir about tramping across the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. London anticipates Kerouac’s bohemian spirit as he rides the rails with vagabonds, hoboes, and tramps (as London explains, there’s a difference among them). To my mind, The Road is an underappreciated American classic, poetically evoking that quintessential American characteristic, restlessness—the deep-seated desire to “follow the breeze.” Fifty years later, Kerouac stuck out his thumb and followed in London’s footsteps.

By Jack London,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"I went on 'The Road' because I couldn't keep away from it; because I hadn't the price of the railroad fare in my jeans; because I was so made that I couldn't work all my life on 'one same shift'; because — well, just because it was easier to than not to."
Jack London's "road" is the railroad, and these reminiscences paint a vivid portrait of life in the United States during the major economic depression of the 1890s. His compelling adventures include a month-long detention in a state penitentiary for vagrancy, as well as his travels with Kelly's Army,…


Book cover of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Kayla Anderson Author Of Moon Northern California Road Trip: Drives along the Coast, Redwoods, and Mountains with the Best Stops along the Way

From my list on embarking on epic adventures from your armchair.

Who am I?

I was born and raised in Northern California, right on the banks of the Sacramento River. While I didn’t realize it growing up, it was an epicenter for outdoor adventures. Along with skiing, snowboarding, hiking, wakeboarding, and camping, I always read a lot. My dad was worried that I would have no sense of direction because I was always in the back of our van or RV reading a book. That led to writing…and I had my first article published in a wakeboarding magazine when I was 15 years old. Traveling always took a backburner to reading, but now it’s front and center of my writing. 

Kayla's book list on embarking on epic adventures from your armchair

Kayla Anderson Why did Kayla love this book?

Anyone who has ever worked in the food or hospitality industry—as a cook, a waitress, a hostess, a barista, or otherwisecan identify with this book.

The restaurant business is a different beast, and Anthony Bourdain took a huge risk in writing this and burning bridges with his bosses and coworkers. But in doing so, he unlocked the universal hidden language that food and hospitality workers share.

As a former hostess/waitress myself who spent most of her college years with a part-time job at IHOP and the Golden Waffle, I could relate to a lot of what Bourdain experienced working in NYC, especially with minority groups and how they were treated during that time. He was a huge inspiration to a lot of people, including me. 

By Anthony Bourdain,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Kitchen Confidential as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE CLASSIC BESTSELLER: 'The greatest book about food ever written' 'A compelling book with its intriguing mix of clever writing and kitchen patois ... more horrifically gripping than a Stephen King novel' Sunday Times 'Extraordinary ... written with a clarity and a clear-eyed wit to put the professional food-writing fraternity to shame' Observer _____________________________ After twenty-five years of 'sex, drugs, bad behaviour and haute cuisine', chef and novelist Anthony Bourdain decided to tell all - and he meant all. From his first oyster in the Gironde to his lowly position as a dishwasher in a honky-tonk fish restaurant in Provincetown;…


Book cover of Old Glory: An American Voyage

Mike Gerrard Author Of Snakes Alive and Other Travel Writing

From my list on US travel writing chosen by a travel writer.

Who am I?

I always wanted to be a writer but never thought I’d become a travel writer. And like many British teenagers, I also had a passion for the USA – its movies, its music, its writers – but never imagined I would end up living in Arizona. I’ve now traveled in the US widely and understand why its landscapes, its people, and its culture have produced so much good travel writing. It’s a country that’s inspiring and surprising in equal measure, ever-changing, vast, and even though I didn’t grow up there it certainly made me who I am. 

Mike's book list on US travel writing chosen by a travel writer

Mike Gerrard Why did Mike love this book?

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see deeper into a country. Raban was a respected English novelist and critic when he moved to the USA and settled there – something I would later do myself. He proceeded to produce a series of brilliantly vivid travel books about his new homeland, of which this was the first. Avoiding the inevitable road trip (though he did those later), he takes a motorboat for a solo journey down the Mississippi River. Long periods alone allow him the chance to reflect on the river, nature, and the USA, but he also has lively encounters with the people who live by the river, revealing their passions and their pains.

By Jonathan Raban,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Old Glory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Jonathan Raban is one of the world's greatest living travel writers.' William Dalrymple

'The best book of travel ever written by an Englishman about the United States' Jan Morris, Independent

Navigating the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to New Orleans, Raban opens himself to experience the river in all her turbulent and unpredictable old glory. Going wherever the current takes him, he joins a coon-hunt in Savana, falls for a girl in St Louis, worships with black Baptists in Memphis, hangs out with the housewives of Pemiscot and the hog-king of Dubuque. Through tears of laughter, we are led into the…


Book cover of Coming Into the Country

Mike Gerrard Author Of Snakes Alive and Other Travel Writing

From my list on US travel writing chosen by a travel writer.

Who am I?

I always wanted to be a writer but never thought I’d become a travel writer. And like many British teenagers, I also had a passion for the USA – its movies, its music, its writers – but never imagined I would end up living in Arizona. I’ve now traveled in the US widely and understand why its landscapes, its people, and its culture have produced so much good travel writing. It’s a country that’s inspiring and surprising in equal measure, ever-changing, vast, and even though I didn’t grow up there it certainly made me who I am. 

Mike's book list on US travel writing chosen by a travel writer

Mike Gerrard Why did Mike love this book?

Before I went to Alaska for the first time, I did some background reading and thankfully discovered this book and the writing of John McPhee. He and Alaska were made for each other. He’s the kind of writer who is interested in everything, and everyone, and conveys his curiosity and his discoveries with enthusiasm. Alaska is unique, as is McPhee’s style of writing, jumping from topic to topic as the mood – and his journey – takes him, and hauling the reader along with him. He’s the kind of traveling companion who’s forever saying: let’s see what’s down there, I wonder how that works, let’s go talk to that guy.

By John McPhee,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Coming Into the Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Coming into the Country is an unforgettable account of Alaska and Alaskans. It is a rich tapestry of vivid characters, observed landscapes, and descriptive narrative, in three principal segments that deal, respectively, with a total wilderness, with urban Alaska, and with life in the remoteness of the bush.

Readers of McPhee's earlier books will not be unprepared for his surprising shifts of scene and ordering of events, brilliantly combined into an organic whole. In the course of this volume we are made acquainted with the lore and techniques of placer mining, the habits and legends of the barren-ground grizzly, the…


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