Sunday, May 29, 2011

Road Trip Essentials - Books (At Least One!)

It can be tough to sit down and dig into a book when unfinished projects, phones, Angry Birds, Netflix instant play, Facebook, and a multitude of other compulsive habits are within arms reach. It took me an unemployed seven months to finish War and Peace.

Here are a five of my personal favorites that mesh well with life on the road. Keep in mind that many of the short story collections recommended can be found in bits and pieces online or in most libraries. While I prefer to have a physical copy to mark up with a pen, I know that buying books can be a low priority for a climbing trip.

1. Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes

400 years since it was first published, and it is still one of the funniest books ever written. Roam the countryside with The Man from La Mancha and his surly squire as they attack windmills, wear shaving basins as helmets, and cartwheel naked in the woods.

2. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexander Dumas

Betrayal. Revenge. Adventure. Treasure. Pirates. Prison breaks. This book has it all, written with wonderful momentum.

3. Tortilla Flat - John Steinbeck

A great summer read. A group of friends in Monterey, California enjoying the small pleasures of life. Wine, sun, and warm sea air emanate from the pages of this quiet, yet understated novel.

4. In Our Time - Ernest Hemingway

A couple summers back I was hitchhiking may way up to San Francisco from San Diego. I had reached Big Sur, spending most of the day hiking in the sun wearing a giant backpack with a couple cardboard signs. One read North and the other had a peace sign colored in permanent marker. An American flag salvaged from a gutter flew from the top of my pack.

By the time I reached camp that night my feet were exhausted and my head hung low. When I lifted my eyes I saw a camp with a couple young guys drinking and laughing. At their feet were backpacks, a stove, and a cardboard sign that read South.

That night I traded a my copy of In Our Time for a collection of Raymond Carver stories. I knew that the Nick Adams stories, so American and full of life needed to travel, to keep the adventure alive, and as my journey was ending I knew I had to pass it on.

5. The Great Shark Hunt - Hunter S. Thompson

Jump into the deep end. This 600 page collection serves as a telling cross section of the iconic writer-turned-celebrity's development as a journalist.

I'd love to hear books that you have enjoyed on the road or off!



  1. Travels with Charley is at the top of my list.

  2. Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain) will keep you on the edge of your seat, and force you to polish up your Spanish. Filled with life, vibrant prose, the grit of the Southwest, love, and brutal (yet not gratuitous) violence.

    What about Vonnegut?? I read Slaughterhouse Five for the first time several seasons ago in Hueco ... found a copy in the barn a the Rock Ranch. Always recommended.

    Also, if you're into poetry that perhaps celebrates the beauty and splendor of nature and perhaps the opposite of that in mankind, check out Robinson Jeffers, the 20th Century's greatest forgotten poet (IMHO).