It’s summer and that means it's time for vacation! I just got back from a road trip to Las Vegas and when I asked for a reading recommendation on the SCCL Facebook’s Reading Recommendation Friday, lovely librarian Klara recommended The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I loved the crazy antics of Kesey and his gang and it made the long drive more enjoyable. Here is a list of more books featuring real-life epic road trips that you can take with you on your own summer adventure.
In 1964, Ken Kesey hit the road with a “magic bus” painted in psychedelic colors and loaded with tape recorders, speakers, and hallucinogenic drugs. Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, including Neal Cassady, inspiration for Jack Kerouac’s Dean Moriarty, believed they were on a mission to set the country free by opening the collective consciousness of everyone they encountered. Journalist Tom Wolfe went along for the ride, chronicling the strange mix of philosophy and insanity that was the result of Kesey’s trip.
On the Road has long been described as one of the quintessential works of the Beat Generation. Jack Kerouac himself coined the term Beat Generation, describing the counterculture of the 1950’s. The Beats embraced experimentation experimentation in self-expression, sensuality, spirituality and life and believed it was important to remain open to any experience. On the Road is a fictionalized account of Kerouac’s real journey across America with Neal Cassidy, now known as the infamous Dean Moriarty, and the experiences and people they encountered across the way.
This is one of my all-time favorite books. Hunter S. Thompson’s alter ego, Raoul Duke, embarks on a journey from L.A. to Las Vegas in search of The American Dream. The novel at first may seem like one extended drug-frenzy full of hilarious antics from Duke and his attorney Dr. Gonzo. On closer look, the novel is also a pensive retrospection on the sixties counterculture and the hopes and dreams Thompson watched crumble as the age of the hippie came to a crashing halt. With such a bizarre mix of introspection and hilarity, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of the most quotable books I have ever read. Bring this with you on your road trip and you won’t be able to resist shouting at the driver: “We can’t stop here! This is bat country!”
John Steinbeck has long been known as one of the most astute observers of American life and American people. In 1960 he set out to drive across America with his dog Charley, and his experience turned into this classic travelogue. Anyone who loves to travel can relate to Steinbeck’s description of the “travel disease,” and the accompanying urge to be anywhere but where you are. This is also a must read for dog-lovers; Steinbeck's meditations on Charley are just as accurate as his monologues on America. This book truly is a journey, with many side-trips and meanderings through Steinbeck’s thoughts and observations, but it is a trip worth taking and will keep you laughing until the end
Before Che Guevara became the revolutionary figure he is known as today, he was simply another twenty-something-year-old trying to discover himself. The Motorcycle Diaries is a beautifully written account of the young Che’s journey across Latin America in search of adventure and in search of a purpose. The diary opens with a meditation on the fluidity and impermanence of identity. Che describes life as an ever-moving journey; the experience you have at one point in time will be different than the memory you retain later because you will no longer be the same person. Che warns readers that one person’s memories can never be fully experienced in the same way by another, but that each will understand a memory in their own way. Che’s beautiful prose transforms his intricate diary entries into an experience that is just as much a journey of discovery for readers as it once was for Che himself.
Upon his first visit to Ireland, Tony Hawks looked outside of his car window and noticed a strange hitchhiker on the side of the road waiting for a ride with a fridge by his side. Hawks found it bizarre that a hitchhiker would be carrying a fridge around, but he was even more surprised by his Irish host’s reaction. His friend was neither surprised nor judgmental, he merely acknowledged the man’s fridge and left it at that. Rather than letting this brief incident fade from his memory, Hawks took the incident as proof of the Irish people’s friendly nature. Years later, in a drunken bet, Hawks claimed that he too could hitchhike through Ireland with a fridge in tow since the Irish people were truly that welcoming. His journey is packed with hilarious anecdotes and unique characters as Hawks completes his journey, becoming somewhat of a local celebrity and making many new friends along the way.