There is a bit of a theme developing here with these blogs. A yearning to get back out into the world. Not surprising really. Anyway this month’s blog is about Road Trips.
Stories often involve a ‘quest’, and therefore there are many brilliant books which feature road trips – The Stand by Steven King or Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill for instance, but I’ve tried to narrow this list of favourites down by only focussing on books where the road trip is the actual point.
1. To be Continued by James Robertson. This is a road trip novel to treasure. A 50-something has-been journalist takes a road trip, by bus, to the rain drenched West of Scotland, accompanied by a talking toad. Funny and endearing, and also a damn good read.
2. The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford. You may have seen the Disney film “Homeward Bound,” which is mostly pretty faithful to the book, apart from the move in location and the addition of step-families. Two dogs and a cat cross the wilderness of Ontario to make their way home. Heart wrenching and gripping; it’ll make you yearn to stay at home and keep your pets close by.
3. The Hundred Year old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Allan Karlsson’s retirement home is about to celebrate his 100th birthday, but Allan is not interested. He climbs out of the window and heads to the local bus station where he ends up taking a suitcase full of drug money onto the bus and thus being chased by a gang. There are flashbacks to previous episodes in Allan’s fantastical life which shed light on the whole history of the twentieth century. Translated from the original Swedish, the tone is dry and witty, and very engaging.
4, The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Perhaps the bleakest book I’ve ever read; the entire novel is a road trip post apocalypse. Nevertheless it is a must read.
5. Farewell Tour of the Terminal Optimist by John Young. Another down to earth Scottish road trip completely lacking glamour and hype – why is this the type of road trip novel the Scots produce? I’ve blogged before about this fabulous debut novel involving teenage cancer sufferer Connor escaping from a young offenders institution and setting out on a road trip which involves camping on roundabouts and dodging the police.
6. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Sal is taken on a road trip by her grandparents; the final destination is meant to be where she also finds her mother, but as the journey unfolds, and Sal reflects on her own friends and their problems, we begin to see that all might not be as appears on the surface, and that the exuberance of Sal’s voice disguises something far darker.
7.Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. A short book, published in 1899, it is probably better known to readers through the film Apocalypse Now, and while both focus on the protagonist’s journey into the jungle to find and stop a crazy western leader called Kurtz, the orginal is set in Africa and the journey is on the Congo. I think it is worth a read if you haven’t come across it before and even if you have seen Copplola’s masterpiece.
My last three are non-fiction but cannot be left off the list.
8. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. Less of a road trip and more of a long distance walk, nonetheless this autobiographical account of walking the South West Coastal Path has all of the ingredients of the best road trip novel, and is beautifully written to boot. When Raynor and her husband lose everything they own – including his health – they set out to walk this long distance footpath, with no resources and no money, and like all the best road trip books, the journey is also about personal discovery as well as destination.
9. On Roads by Joe Moran. Did you know that every year, thousands of unread books are shredded and made into roads? A mile of motorway takes 50,000 books. Or that when the first motorway service station opened – Newport Pagnell on the M1 – it was considered a tourist attraction and you could buy postcards of it? These are just two of the fascinating facts from this entertaining history of roads. It’s such an entertaining book I guarantee you won’t want to put it down.
10 Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson. There are at least a dozen Bill Bryson books which could’ve made this list, but I’ve selected one of his early trips; where he recalls interrailing round Europe in 1972 with his friend Katz – who later also accompanied him on the hilarious A Walk in The Woods (navigating the Appalacian trail.)