14 Best Road Trip Books to Read While Exploring the U.S.

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Living in an RV, I’ve been on an endless road trip since 2016. One of my favorite ways to relax at the campground is kicking back in a hammock with a great book.

Books enhance my road trips in many ways. They provide history about destinations visited, inspire new trips and provide an escape from the realities of RV living. Here are the 14 best road trip books that will enhance or inspire your travels.

Best Road Trip Memoirs

Travels with Charley in Search of America

The quintessential USA road trip book! In Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck takes to the road with a small camper and his French poodle. During his journey to discover America, Steinbeck encounters a variety of people and landscapes across the country.

Current road trippers will be inspired to pay more attention to the people they meet along the way. This is also one of my favorite travelogues, because I love any road trip memoir that includes a dog.

Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World

Grounded is the ultimate road trip story recounting the author’s circumnavigation of the globe without ever leaving the ground. Seth Stevenson and his girlfriend took a trip around the world using boats, trains, cars and bikes.

This humorous account of their trip, reminded me to slow down and enjoy the ride not just the destination. Grounded is also a great read for anyone traveling for an extended period with their spouse.

Blue Highways

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon is a book about a big adventure on the small roads of America. Imagine you have a map. The big, busy roads are red, but the little ones, the ones where you see more trees than cars, are blue.

In this memoir, the author describes his decision to travel on these blue roads and the adventures that follow. After reading this book, I was inspired to get off the beaten path.

A Walk in the Woods

In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson recounts his attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail. He brings his out of shape friend, Stephen, along for the journey. The book includes hilarious anecdotes from their hike, as well as, informative history about the Appalachian Trail.

It is one of best road trip books because it will inspire you to hit the trails, while making you laugh at the same time.

In a Sunburned Country

Another Bill Bryson book, In a Sunburned Country, details the author’s travels through Australia. Despite all the dangers presented (snakes, sharks, deserts, etc.), Bryson finds much to love about this foreign land.

Readers get to ride along on every step of his journey and will be inspired to explore new places themselves. As with any of Bryson’s books, the journey will include a good dose of humor.

Best Road Trip Novels

On the Road

The most expected novel on our list of the best road trip books is On the Road. Kerouac’s stream-of-consciousness narrative captures the highs and lows of road-tripping across America during the 1950s.

This novel invites you to throw caution to the wind and embrace the unpredictable nature of life on the road. It’s a reminder that the journey is more about the people we meet, the experiences we share, and the self-discovery that happens along the way than about the destination itself.

Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a post-apocalyptic road trip novel. The story is set in the wake of a devastating pandemic that wipes out much of the world’s population.

The novel weaves together the stories of a traveling symphony and Shakespeare troupe as they navigate the remnants of civilization, performing for scattered communities of survivors.

Station Eleven is not just a story about survival; it’s a celebration of the small beauties and moments that define our humanity. It encourages us as readers to reflect on what we cherish most and the legacies we leave behind as we travel.

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a book by Jesmyn Ward that takes you on a deep and moving road trip through Mississippi. The story shows how the past and the present mix together, especially for a young boy named Jojo and his little sister, Kayla.

They go on a trip with their mom to pick up their dad from prison, and along the way, they meet ghosts from their family’s past. This book is like a song that’s both beautiful and sad, telling a story about how families stick together through tough times.

Best Books about U.S. Road Trip Destinations

American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West

American Wolf is a riveting story about the reintroduction and plight of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. The book details the lives of individual wolves and the people who love them.

Reading this book inspired me to stop at Yellowstone in hopes of seeing a wolf firsthand. We successfully spotted multiple wolves during our visit to the Lamar Valley. I highly recommend reading this book before or while visiting the popular national park.

The Emerald Mile

The Emerald Mile tells the true story of a 1983 attempt to record the fastest ever trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The book is full of heart pounding adventure as the characters race down the river in wooden “dory” boat.

However, the detailed histories of the river and the Glen Canyon Dam are what makes this the best road trip book to read before visiting the Grand Canyon.

The Overstory

The Redwood forests in California is my all-time favorite road trip destination. Walking among these living giants is a life-changing experience. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Richard Powers should be read by anyone visiting these ancient giants.

A book focused on trees might seem dull at first glance, but trust me, it’s anything but boring. In fact, The Overstory turns the natural world into an epic adventure, celebrating the intricate dance of life that forests embody.

Powers masterfully depicts the trees not merely as backdrop to human activity but as vital, sentient beings with stories and histories of their own.

Best Road Trip Books for Kids

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is a great reminder of the reasons we should explore the world. While this is definitely the best road trip book for young kids, it is also a worthwhile read for adults.

This Dr. Seuss classic always inspires me to explore more and drive further. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

This delightful tale follows Ralph, a young mouse with a thirst for adventure, who discovers a toy motorcycle. When Ralph meets Keith, the boy who owns the motorcycle, they become friends, and Ralph gets to experience the thrill of riding.

Their adventures together are both heartwarming and thrilling, making it a perfect road trip read for elementary school kids, sparking their imagination about friendship and exploration.

Walk Two Moons

In this captivating story, 13-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle tells the story of her road trip with her grandparents to find her mother. Along the way, Sal tells the story of her friend Phoebe Winterbottom, which becomes a story within a story, full of mystery and surprise.

Walk Two Moons is not only about the physical journey but also about the emotional journey of understanding and acceptance, making it an enriching road trip book for preteen readers.

Have other recommendations for great travel reads? Leave your list of best road trip books in the comments.

If you are looking for something to listen to on your drive, check my list of the best road trip podcasts.

Happy Camping!

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