100 books like Travels with Charley in Search of America

By John Steinbeck,

Here are 100 books that Travels with Charley in Search of America fans have personally recommended if you like Travels with Charley in Search of America. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”

John Staddon Author Of The New Behaviorism: Foundations of Behavioral Science

From my list on how science works, fails to work and pretends to work.

Why am I passionate about this?

John Staddon is James B. Duke Professor of Psychology, and Professor of Biology emeritus. He got his PhD at Harvard and has an honorary doctorate from the Université Charles de Gaulle, Lille 3, France. His research is on the evolution and mechanisms of learning in humans and animals, the history and philosophy of psychology and biology, and the social-policy implications of science. He's the author of over 200 research papers and five books including Adaptive Behavior and Learning, The New Behaviorism: Foundations of behavioral science, 3rd edition, Unlucky Strike: Private health and the science, law and politics of smoking, 2nd edition and Science in an age of unreason.  

John's book list on how science works, fails to work and pretends to work

John Staddon Why did John love this book?

Richard Feynman was unique. A brilliant theoretical physicist, humorous, eccentric, and independent.

Feynman’s genius gave him a certain freedom, which he exploited to the full. The book is autobiographical and shows his often irresponsible behavior but also a relentless curiosity, and willingness to try anything, the essence of a successful scientist.

One cannot hope to imitate Feynman (and perhaps we should not: he was often mischievous, even mildly malicious); but any scientist should envy the way he approached problems in engineering as well as science—and the book is fun!

By Richard P. Feynman,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard P. Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, thrived on outrageous adventures. In this lively work that "can shatter the stereotype of the stuffy scientist" (Detroit Free Press), Feynman recounts his experiences trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and cracking the uncrackable safes guarding the most deeply held nuclear secrets-and much more of an eyebrow-raising nature. In his stories, Feynman's life shines through in all its eccentric glory-a combustible mixture of high intelligence, unlimited curiosity, and raging chutzpah.

Included for this edition is a new introduction by Bill Gates.


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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 On the Road

Adam Kuper Author Of The Museum of Other People: From Colonial Acquisitions to Cosmopolitan Exhibitions

From my list on books that helped me to grow up.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in white South Africa, a racist, philistine, authoritarian, and puritanical society. The first four books I have chosen appeared in the 1950s, and I read them in my teens. Catch-22 was published in the ‘60s, but all five heroes–or anti-heroes–of these novels were of the same generation, about ten years my senior, so they were perfectly placed to be role models. They were rebels and mavericks, and except for Yossarian, they were all would-be writers. I recognised a kinship with them and took them as my guides into adulthood. And so I left for Paris and became a writer and an anthropologist. No regrets.

Adam's book list on books that helped me to grow up

Adam Kuper Why did Adam love this book?

This classic Beat Generation novel narrates a road trip by two young Americans, Sal Paradise (obviously Kerouac himself) and his friend Dean Moriarty. They ride from coast to coast without a plan, looking for adventure, calling on like-minded friends, and hoping to find some meaning in their lives.

Kerouac and his pals had a lot in common with the other heroes—and anti-heroes—of my youth, and like them, he was a joyful, fearless writer. 

By Jack Kerouac,

Why should I read it?

10 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…


A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of A Beggar's Bargain

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Avid reader Lover of Music Astral Traveler Tarot Reader Grandmother

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Historical Fiction Post WW2.

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.
Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger. If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

What is this book about?

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father's dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time-a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an…


Book cover of Blue Highways

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

This is classic literature in the realm of American travel.

I had no idea that “blue highways” existed, and even though Heat-Moon went cross-country back in the 1970s in his van equipped with his igloo cooler and makeshift bed (not like the $100k fancy campers you find today), the type of people you meet and experiences you have in this amazing country are still relevant today.

In Blue Highways Revisited, I was shocked to read how long it took for this book to get published and the stacks of printed-out drafts he had of it (I think it was like four feet high). If there are any travel writing classes taught as part of a creative writing program, then Blue Highways better be on the list. 

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 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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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 Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes: And Other Travel Writings

Hilary Bradt Author Of A Connemara Journey: A Thousand Miles on Horseback Through Western Ireland

From my list on travel with animals.

Why am I passionate about this?

Until I did my own animal-accompanied journey with Mollie and Peggy in 1984, my only association with animals on the trail was inadvertently with a collection of cockroaches in my backpack. It was when Bradt decided to add to their anthologies with a collection of stories about travelling with animals in 2018, Beastly Journeys, that I was able to read a wide variety of books on the topic. A delightful exercise!

Hilary's book list on travel with animals

Hilary Bradt Why did Hilary love this book?

Like Tschiffely’s Ride this is a travel narrative, given heightened interest and amusement by the addition of Modestine the donkey who carried Stevenson’s luggage. Modestine, like all donkeys, was a master at manipulating her inexperienced new owner, but the two forged an understanding that took them nearly 300km through some of France’s wildest landscapes. Written in 1879, this is a fascinating account of a vanished France, beset by religious conflict, where lodging might be found in the corner of a field as well as a flea-ridden inn. The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail is now a popular walking route through the Cevennes. I walked it earlier this year and enjoyed nightly readings from the book.

By Robert Louis Stevenson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Temperament and poor health motivated Robert Louis Stevenson to travel widely throughout his short life, and before he was celebrated as the author of Treasure Island, A Child's Garden of Verses, and other immortal works, he was known for his travelogues. This collection presents some of his finest writing in that vein, starting with "An Inland Voyage." This 1878 chronicle of a canoe journey through Belgium and France charmingly captures the European villages and townspeople of a bygone era.
Other selections include "Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes," a humorous account of a mountain trek, and "Forest Notes," a…


Book cover of A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Jim Landwehr Author Of Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir

From my list on the trials and joys of outdoor adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a lover of all things outdoors since I was a boy. After my father was killed at a young age, my brothers and I took his love for outdoor adventure and made it our own. Fully aware of all that can go wrong, my brothers and I went into our ventures with a keen sense of humor. Camping, fishing, and kayaking all come with their own challenges and requisite hilarious moments. It is these moments of adversity, and personal risk, that are sometimes lightened by a good dose of laughter and levity.

Jim's book list on the trials and joys of outdoor adventure

Jim Landwehr Why did Jim love this book?

This book minces no words about the difficulties of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Bryson does a brilliant job laying out the reality that despite extensive planning and, in the case of his hiking partner, Steven Katz, differing motives, things can go wrong.

Bryson does an amazing job keeping the story light with side-splitting humor. The blend of humor and adventure play roles as some of the primary inspirations behind my own writing.

By Bill Bryson,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked A Walk in the Woods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of "Notes from a Small Island" and "The Lost Continent" comes this humorous report on his walk along the Appalachian Trail. The Trail covers 14 states and over 2000 miles, and stretches along the east coast of America from Maine in the north to Georgia in the south. It is famous for being the longest continuous footpath in the world. It snakes through some of the wildest and most specactular landscapes in America, as well as through some of its most poverty-stricken and primitive backwoods areas.


Book cover of The Journals of Lewis and Clark

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

From my list on travels with dogs.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Mark's book list on travels with dogs

Mark Derr Why did Mark love 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. 

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…


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