Sixty Years of On the Road


September 5th, 2017 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, a novel that captured the spirit of the Beat Generation and continues to seduce readers today with its impulsive energy - a carefree adventure of hedonism and spirituality unencumbered by planning, unconcerned with consequences.

The idea of the American Road Trip popularized by Kerouac is very appealing - crossing the vast country, sampling the many pockets of existence (and food!) this land has to offer, living out of a suitcase, leaving stifling routines behind, propelled by the romantic idea of freedom the road trip promises.

There are already a bazillion lists of road trip books - many curated by travel agencies and publishers - featuring both fiction and nonfiction titles, and On the Road is on each and every one of them, along with Travels with Charley, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, etc etc. And while I loved Travels with Charley (and all Steinbeck ever), the lists I have found are kind of limited to the white male experience. And that's fine - white men have every right to manifest their destiny, but I have chosen to celebrate the anniversary of On the Road with a selection of road trip novels offering a broader range of perspectives. Kerouac may have inspired a generation, but that generation is not our generation, and a little variety is always appreciated.

Not every road trip depicted here is going to make you want to grab your car keys and follow in its characters' footsteps - some are very bad trips, indeed. But who wants to go on an actual road trip - you can't read and drive at the same time, after all. So stay put, travel vicariously with these books and save yourself the gas $$ and road rage.