On the Read
December 19, 2010 1:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm taking a roadtrip through the United States and am looking for book recommendations - books that have been written by authors who are from the cities I'm visiting, books that take place in some of the cities I'm visiting, or even book about travel in general.

The question is pretty self explanatory - I'm driving through the east and parts of the south next week and would love some novel/non-fiction recommendations.

Here's a list of the cities I'll be stopping in:

Washington, D.C.
Princeton, NJ
New York City
Hartford, CT
Arlington, MA
Boston, MA
Philadelphia, PA
Asheville, NC
Nashville, TN
Dallas, TX
Austin, TX
Sante Fe, NM
Denver, CO
Boulder, CO
Las Vegas, NV

And that will bring me back home. There won't be too much down time, but I'd love to bring a book or two (or five) with me. The relevancy might make the novels even more enjoyable/relatable. I'm ready for anything you might throw at me.
posted by makethemost to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
if you're interested in roadtripping and Denver, then On The Road was written for you. Hartford -- read some Mark Twain! and then visit the Mark Twain house while you're there. You might want to pick up "State By State" for a nice travelogue-type book exploring the USA. You can pick up Dan Brown's latest crap-fest, "The Lost Symbol" for some basic, flaky Washington DC facts.
posted by custard heart at 1:30 PM on December 19, 2010

A great book, that is a huge part of the history of the north-east, is 1776.

It is non-fiction history, but it is VERY readable. It will bring alive several of the cities you are visiting: New York, Boston, Princeton, Philly, Baltimore. Plus, as you drive, you will see the signs for other places from that year, like Trenton and Heightstown.
posted by Flood at 1:37 PM on December 19, 2010

Methland. Heartbreaking, about small town America. A friend of mine snapped it up off my bookshelf after completing his cross country road trip back in June. He said it really resonated.
posted by mollymayhem at 1:38 PM on December 19, 2010

For Asheville let me recommend Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again and Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain. Bonus points for reading Bartram's Travels.

Santa Fe, Las Vegas and other parts of the American Southwest should be taken with a liberal dose of Ed Abbey, I prefer Down the River but some will vote for Desert Solitare.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:39 PM on December 19, 2010

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America by Bill Bryson. It's not his best work, but is a fairly modern cross-country travelogue, and readable if you like his style. Steinbeck's Travels with Charley in Search of America is excellent and ruminates a lot on the psychological experience of a road trip, though the bulk of the book takes place on the northern leg of his journey.
posted by apparently at 1:48 PM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's more Los Alamos than Santa Fe, but I highly recommend 109 East Palace, since you're traveling though nuke country (New Mexico/Nevada). It's about the people of the Manhattan Project and it's an absolutely fascinating read. Also tons of the places in it are still there.

This is kind of a weird one, since I don't think I've read it since I was 10, but I do remember Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes as having some of the most beautiful scenes set in the American Southwest that I've ever read. It's set in Los Alamos. If you have any interest in young adult literature (or censored literature, since it's frequently on those lists) it'd be a good one to pick up.
posted by NoraReed at 1:53 PM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Anything by William Least Heat-Moon. I've read Blue Highways and River-Horse, both were really really interesting.
posted by mareli at 1:54 PM on December 19, 2010

Seconding On The Road. Also, Lolita, the greatest American road trip novel.
posted by willbaude at 2:12 PM on December 19, 2010

Seconding Travels with Charley- I read it last summer and was pretty shocked to see how old it is. It's held up really well.
posted by aint broke at 2:50 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon.

On the old highway maps of America, the main routes were red and the back roads blue. Now, even the colors are changing. But in those brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk — times neither day nor night — the old roads return to the sky some of its color. Then, in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue, and it's that time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest, when the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.

“You think Nameless is a funny name,” Miss Ginny said. “I see it plain in your eyes. Well, you take yourself up north a piece to Difficult or Defeated or Shake Rag. Now them are silly names.”

posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:42 PM on December 19, 2010

Boston historical fiction:

Back Bay, by William Martin

Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes (it's a children's book, but a classic and the 1944 Newbery Award winner)
posted by initapplette at 6:09 PM on December 19, 2010

Nthing Travels with Charley and Blue Highways - both made me want to get on an American road and drive.
posted by lvanshima at 7:23 PM on December 19, 2010

Driving Mr. Albert is a great non-fiction road trip book about two men traveling from Princeton, New Jersey, to California with Albert Einstein's brain in tow. The pair + brain go through Philadelphia and Santa Fe, and they stop in Las Vegas.
posted by TheCavorter at 7:35 PM on December 19, 2010

For something different, New York + Boulder + Las Vegas is Stephen King's The Stand. There's lots of traveling in the story, but it's not really about travel... but travel stories rarely are, right?
posted by Houstonian at 9:02 PM on December 19, 2010

Around Boston, there is of course so much early American history you can take your pick -the House of Seven Gables, The Crucible, etc. Two poems:
Concord Hymn (Emerson's poem about the start of the American Revolution)
The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (Longfellow's poem about Paul Revere's ride to the villages around Boston to alert colonists that the British were invading)

A standard tourist thing in Boston:
Make Way for Ducklings is a children's book set in Boston's Public Garden , and there is a statue commemorating it there.

Wikipedia has pages on most cities like this:Baltimore in fiction - (For Baltimore, the tv show The Wire is the new standard. John Waters' movies (Hairspray, etc) are also set/influenced by Baltimore of an earlier era.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:00 PM on December 19, 2010

For the Texas piece, I'd recommend most anything my Larry McMurtry. I prefer his nonfiction, so perhaps In a Narrow Grave or Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen. His essays give a wonderful feel for his corner of small-town Texas.

Also, State by State was a good read for a unique essay for each state in the country. I'd imagine that it would be a great travel companion.
posted by owls at 8:49 AM on December 20, 2010

For Asheville, you could do Thomas Wolfe's mainly autobiographical Look Homeward, Angel. While you're in town, you could stop by his mom's boardinghouse which features heavily (albeit in a modified form) in the book.
posted by RyanAdams at 10:51 AM on December 20, 2010

One more recommendation for Boston: The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane. Fantastic historical fiction. One of my favorite books this year.
posted by lillygog at 6:57 PM on December 20, 2010

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