If you read a good book, it can make you want to go on a trip with the author. It can also make you want to go on a trip by yourself. These books about road trips are sure to keep you busy for a while and make you want to start packing.
You should check out my own road trip book, The Road Always Leads West. I put together this list as I prepare to launch it.
Even though this is mostly for fun and inspiration, be sure to check out my road trip planning guide if you need more detailed and practical information about logistics and organization before you go.
Best Road Trip Books
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
We might as well get this one out of the way first, because it’s probably the most well-known road trip book ever written. It’s also been copied by generations and many other books.
Kerouac’s book On the Road is a classic that tells the story of how he and his friends traveled across the United States. The book was very much a part of the jazz and poetry culture at the time. It is thought to be the most important work of the Beat Generation, which had a big impact on the counterculture movement of the 1960s.
Depending on which version you buy, you can get the original version, which was written by Jack Kerouac on a single sheet of paper 120 feet long and which includes the real names of his friends.
Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon
Set out on the open road to forget the past. In the book, he travels along the smaller roads, marked blue on the map, to find small-town America. This is the main point of the book.
His trips to small-town America show a country that is on the verge of change because of things like fast food and strip malls.
It’s a great job by Heat-Moon to show us what it’s like to live in “those little towns that get on the map, if they get on at all, only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill.” The people he meets along the way are all very interesting.
Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
In September of 1960, John Steinbeck, a well-known author, set out to find an America that he thought he had forgotten about. Because he knew he was going to die, Steinbeck set out on his trip to see the country one last time. This is what his son told me.
New York to Maine, across to the west coast, down to California, back across the southern half of the states and up the East Coast. Steinbeck set out on a huge cross-country trip. Basically, you’ve made a huge loop through the United States.
To help him get through the “New America” that he was visiting, he took his French poodle Charley with him. The country was on the verge of major change.
In this case, Steinbeck was 58 when he set out on this journey alone (with a dog), which shows that it’s not just for young people who don’t know what they want to do.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
It’s part philosophical treatise and part road trip through the northern part of the United States and then down to California.
A father and son go on a motorcycle trip with two of their friends. The book also talks about important questions about how to live your life and tries to find a way to mix science, religion, and more.
A powerful book that will not only make you want to go on a trip, but it will also make you think about how you think about some of the most important things in life.
The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America by Mike McIntyre
Instead of a typical road trip book, Mike hitched a ride across the country from San Francisco to Cape Fear, North Carolina, which would be difficult on its own. This is not a typical road trip book. Mike, on the other hand, decided to do it without even a penny.
A complete stranger on the road would have to help him find rides and food, as well as a place to sleep.
During this journey, he meets a lot of people who share their stories and are kind.
A lot of books? Five isn’t enough for you. Well, I’ve got another 10 great road trip books down below, and then a lot of reader suggestions.
More Great Books About Road Trips
The New American Road Trip Mixtape by Brendan Leonard
People like Brendan Leonard are talking about road trips and how nature and the great outdoors can change people.
Post-breakup On his own, Brendan set out to see the American West. He lived in the back of his station wagon while he went on this trip. This book talks about the American Dream and the call of the open road in a way that is both funny and unique.
One of the best books he has written is called Sixty Meters to Anywhere, and it talks about how he overcame alcoholism and found himself through climbing.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
He doesn’t write a book about road trips, or a book about a first-person account of a road trip. Instead, he talks about Chris McCandless and his nomadic wanderings, which are very interesting.
In the end, Chris gave away what was left of his college fund and drove west, eventually giving up his car and hitchhiking across the west for a long time. A Walden Pond-style life led him to live in the Alaskan wilderness, which is where he was found dead.
The book has a sad ending, but Chris’ story and Krakauer’s writing will make you want to go on a road trip like him. I know it helped me. You should read this book. It’s one of my favorite books ever.
The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson, is about a continent that was lost.
Bill Bryson is one of the best travel writers out there. He can make even the most simple or seemingly boring ideas into insightful, interesting, and sometimes humorous stories.
After living in the United Kingdom for a long time, Bryson wants to go back to the United States and see what it’s like to live there. He wants to do this by going to small towns.
He wrote a book about hiking the Appalachian Trail called A Walk in the Woods. It hasn’t changed.
Drive Nacho Drive by Brad Van Orden
Drive When Brad and Sheena quit their jobs, they gave up on the American Dream and drove south in their old, rusty Volkswagon van named Nacho.
In Patagonia, the Pan-American Highway comes to an end. It goes through all of Central America, across the Darien Gap to South America, and then ends in Patagonia.
A book that might make you think about going on a road trip around the world (like we did).
The Cruise of the Rolling Junk by F. Scott Fitzgerald
With his wife Zelda, F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, drives for a long time through the country.
Each of these short stories was put together into a book that tells the story of a younger America through their journey in a broken-down car (the rolling junk).
Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman
It was Chuck Klosterman’s idea to go on a road trip across the United States to find out about the deaths of famous musicians.
He walked more than 7,000 miles as he went to the places where Buddy Holly’s plane crashed, Kurt Cobain killed himself, or Jeff Buckley drowned in a river.
As someone who likes music, this would make for an interesting road-trip book.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
It was a wild and drug-fueled trip to Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson and his friends.
It shows a different side of Las Vegas, one that hasn’t been taken over by big hotels and casinos. The book shows a different side of Vegas, one that hasn’t been taken over by big hotels and casinos.
While Vegas isn’t my favorite place, it’s a good place to start for some great road trips from Las Vegas.
American Nomads by Richard Grant
A photographer named Richard Grant spent more than 15 years traveling the American West with people like hobos and truckers. He documented the lives of people who travel the American West.
Grant looks at the myths and realities of the open road, as well as the sedentary nature of the American Dream.
He compares the stories of today’s wanderers to the stories of the frontiersmen and conquistadors who roamed this same land a long time ago.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
When Kerouac wrote “On the Road,” Neal Cassady was a big part of the story. He set out to drive Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters’ bus across the United States on an LSD-fueled trip that took the term “road trip” to a whole new level.
The book gives a look at the hippy and counterculture movement of the 1960s through the eyes of someone who was there.
Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon
Ted Simon spent four years riding around the world on the back of a motorcycle in the late 1970s, which is a very long time. I met Ted at the Overland Expo, and we had a chance to talk.
There were 45 countries on his trip: Africa, South America, Australia and Asia. He left London and traveled more than 63,000 miles before he came back.
Amazing things happened back when there were no cell phones or the internet, and they all happened on their own without any help from anyone else.