book recommendation for armchair vacation
February 13, 2012 11:32 AM   Subscribe

i am hoping you guys can help me find a great book to read. i loved bill bryson's "a walk in the woods." do you know of one that would be in that vein (travel/ humor) but dealing with car camping, or national parks, or maybe even driving with your family cross country? alternately, how about something similar to Annie dillard's "pilgrim at tinker creek" but more specific to the canyonlands area? thank you!
posted by orangemacky to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Travels with Charley isn't exactly humorous, but it does deal with US cross country travel. Blue Highways is pretty funny at some points.

If you like Bill Bryson, I can't help but suggest The Sex Lives of Cannibals. It's not US-based but it's worth it, I promise.
posted by oxfordcomma at 11:49 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Stopped in to suggest Blue Highways so count this as a vote for William Least Heat-Moon.

But did you say canyonlands?

Edward Abbey!

Fiction: The Monkey Wrench Gang. Not a travelogue, but the deserty southwest setting is a key component of the book (as it would be in a novel about enviro-activists).

Non-fiction: Desert Solitaire:
Here, the legendary author of The Monkey Wrench Gang, Abbey's Road and many other critically acclaimed books vividly captures the essence of his life during three seasons as a park ranger in southeastern Utah. This is a rare view of a quest to experience nature in its purest form -- the silence, the struggle, the overwhelming beauty.
posted by notyou at 12:05 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

He mainly does essay/article collections rather than full-length books, but Tim Cahill is quite fun.

He did have one full-length book, which is fantastic but may not be what you're looking for -- it's his account of the drive when he and another adventure driver set a Guinness World Record for the fastest time driving the Pan-American Highway. Not so much with the nature, but it's a hoot of a travel book (when I need a giggle, I still sometimes turn to the section where he and his partner descend into exhastion-fueled giddy delerium somewhere in the middle of Venezuela and start inventing their own language).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:15 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another Bryson you might like would be The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America, which is a car trip through the country.
posted by PussKillian at 12:15 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Guillible's Travels by Cash Peters.
posted by mibo at 12:22 PM on February 13, 2012

I enjoyed Beyond Belfast: A 560-Mile Walk Across Northern Ireland on Sore Feet by Will Ferguson, he also wrote Beauty tips from Moose Jaw which is a good Canadian portrait.

On a similar wilderness humor vein there is also Sid Marty, he was a park warden in Banff/Yoho, and has some amazing books, Men for the Mountains and Switchbacks.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 12:24 PM on February 13, 2012

My Mercedes is not for Sale" was an interesting read. Dutch guy buys clunker Mercedes, drives it to Africa to resell it, has adventures along the way.
posted by cosmicbandito at 12:35 PM on February 13, 2012

Ernie's America: The Best of Ernie Pyle's 1930's Travel Dispatches.
posted by JanetLand at 1:04 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

More travel/family adventure (via vehicle) than humor: Arctic Homestead

Helen Hoover's A Place in the Woods.
posted by Sassyfras at 1:47 PM on February 13, 2012

As oxfordcomma noted, William Least Heat-Moon's Blue Highways is definitely a worthwhile travel narrative, and the audiobook, read by the wonderful Frank Muller, is a great car trip accompaniment. Muller brings the varied voices that Heat-Moon captures to a full and rich life.

Though it's been three decades since Heat-Moon's book came out, it continues to attract new readers, and wears well for many re-readers.

I've since become a fan of two other Heat-Moon books, River-Horse and Roads to Quoz, which are also travel stories. River-Horse tells the story of a transcontinental journey, but one done entirely on the water, as opposed to Blue Highways' road-based journey. Roads to Quoz is a successor (of sorts) to Blue Highways, and entirely enjoyable even on its own.

In the same way that I fell in love with Blue Highways, I did it again with Peter Jenkins A Walk Across America. Jenkins is another wonderful narrator, and as his tale (of the same thirty-year-old vintage as Blue Highways) is based on a walking journey, he brings a different pace to the effort.

Jenkins, like Heat-Moon, has continued to satisfy readers with additional tales of travel. The Walk West, which continues in the spirit of his first book but adds pictures, and Along the Edge of America, which sees him taking to the water to partially circumnavigate the eastern and southern coastline.

Larry McMurtry wrote Roads, in which he tells us about the America he sees when he's driving on our various interstates. I've read a lot of McMurtry, and his tale here is strongly influenced by Steinbeck's often-referenced Travels with Charley.
posted by dott8080 at 3:40 PM on February 13, 2012

If mysteries would be OK, I recommend the Anna Pigeon books by Nevada Barr. The main character is a National Park ranger and each book takes place at a different national park.
posted by SisterHavana at 3:59 PM on February 13, 2012

Response by poster: you guys are the best! i think i might start with blue highways, but i know i will get to all of these eventually! i would have to give them all best answer! thanks again! ok that was too many exclamation points.
posted by orangemacky at 7:28 PM on February 13, 2012

You might also consider the letters of Everett Ruess written during his journeys in the Southern Utah and Northern Arizona areas. There are several books about his story, but I found this one to be the most compelling--he was a beautiful and expressive writer, and the letters really capture his personality and his relationship with that wildernesss. In his letters he also mentions a lot of books that moved him, which might also give you new ideas for what else to read.
posted by gubenuj at 7:53 PM on February 13, 2012

Sarah Vowell's American History books are great. Not specific to the area you'll be in, but she writes about presidents, touring battlefields, the colonization of Hawaii, the Pilgrims....
posted by elizeh at 8:13 PM on February 13, 2012

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