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The Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Reading List

Books to put you in that cross country state of mind.

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Denis Johnson, Train Dreams

A short, kinda lonesome book about a drifter-type character in the American West during the late 19th century. The prose is sparse, but it's surprisingly emotional and poignant.

William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways: A Journey Into America

"Blue highways" are non-interstate roads on older U.S. maps. Heat-Moon traveled these backroads to write about places like "Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi."

John McPhee, Coming into the Country

Okay, so not every U.S. road trip includes a drive through Alaska, but McPhee (a long revered New Yorker staff writer) has a meticulous and deeply engaging prose style.

Cheryl Strayed, Wild

A reflective and ultimately triumphant memoir about overcoming grief and "figuring it all out" that manages to avoid seeming self-indulgent or precious. The reviewer for the New York Times says it "pretty much obliterated [him]."

Richard Wright, Black Boy

Wright's autobiography, with powerful portraits of both his childhood struggles in the racist south of the '20s and his fitful political and intellectual awakenings after a move to Chicago.

Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find

A stone-cold classic set of short stories that are dark and feverish and redemptive. Wrestles with that conflicted, twisted American moral compass.

Sherman Alexie, Reservation Blues

Alexie's writing is steeped in a very American brand of magical realism. Reservation Blues orbits around the legend of delta blues legend Robert Johnson and life on a Spokane Indian reservation.

Chuck Klosterman, Killing Yourself to Live

The account of a road trip across America loosely organized around investigating the deaths of rock stars. Not everyone loves Klosterman's goofily irreverent style, but Killing Yourself is an undeniably inventive modern American travelogue.

BONUS: Dashboard Books

Going cross country, the car is your home and the dashboard is your coffee table.

Robert Frank, The Americans

Frank traveled around America for two straight years (1955-57), taking nearly 28,000 photos in the process. The result is maybe the most definitive snapshot of the country and its citizens in their own time.

See some of the photos here.

Paul Fusco, RFK

Fusco traveled on the train carrying Robert F. Kennedy's casket from New York City to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, taking photos of the onlookers crowding the tracks. Elegiac and moving.

See some of the photos here.

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