10 Great Books About Road Trips (for Those Who’ve Read Jack Kerouac)

Everyone loves (or pretends to love) On the Road. Yet there’s a library’s worth of great, off-the-beaten-track road-trip literature to be discovered. We’ve picked out the lesser-read tales of pioneering women travellers and stereotype-busting stories that take you on journeys far beyond the “great American road trip”. Join us for the ride.

On the Road? Read that. Travels with Charley? So secondary school. There are stacks of road trip novels, but as good as some of the classics are, they do begin to feel a tad overdone on lists of chart-topping, bestselling novels.

We've dug a little deeper through the back catalogue of road-trip literature and picked up a few newer titles to find tales by boundary-pushing women travellers, stereotype-busting stories and even a tome that has a hint of eco-thriller about it.

We're going far beyond the well-beaten tracks of the "great American road trip" to the roads less travelled. Join us for the ride.

10 of the best, underrated books about road trips

America Day by Day

by Simone De Beauvoir

There are plenty of books on the "great American road trip"; there are not so many as deliciously told as this, however. In 1947 the French writer spent four months travelling by car, Greyhound and train between New York and LA - and back again - tucking into the states' diverse customs and cultures en route. She encounters Chicago's underworld of morphine addicts, gambles in Reno and smokes her first joint at the Plaza Hotel.

Flaming Iguanas

by Erika Lopez

Subtitled "an illustrated all-girl road novel thing", this offbeat, graphic tale of Tomato Rodriguez's sea-to-sea motorcycle journey is just the ticket for those who just can't seem to get properly stuck into a book for one reason or another. Written in reaction to the typical "white man's road trip", this story is a wild, raunchy ride. Think Alice in Wonderland meets Easy Rider. Buckle up.

Around the World in 72 Days

by Nellie Bly

Around the world in 80 days? Yawn. Less than two decades after Jules Verne's fiction became a bestseller, 24-year-old journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane (under the pseudonym Nellie Bly) chronicled her round-world trip for a New York tabloid. It's not a road trip in the "road" sense - she travels through England, Amiens, Brindisi, Penang, Japan and more via rail and steamship - but we're taken with the fact that she travelled with just a few changes of underwear, toiletries and a bag of cash tied around her neck. Her souvenir? A monkey.

The Routes of Man

by Ted Conover

Roads are more than ways to get from A to B; they can be tools of connection, unity, hope and fear. Following six trucks on six different byways - rare mahogany being transported across the Andes, East African truckers linked to the spread of AIDS, those crossing West Bank checkpoints and others on Lagos' congested streets - this book reflects on how roads shape our physical and social landscape.

Revolutionary Ride: On The Road in Search of the Real Iran

by Lois Pryce

It's 2011 and tensions are high between the British and Iranian governments when travel writer Pryce finds a note left on her motorcycle outside the Iranian Embassy in London. "WE ARE NOT TERRORISTS! Please come to my city, Shiraz." So, against official warnings, she does. On a 5,000km solo ride across the country, she meets carpet sellers, war veterans, housewives and doctors who are full of energy and hope in the face of oppression.

The Death of Grass

by John Christopher

Most road-trip novels centre around soul searching or escapism in one form or another. This is a bit different. Think of it as road-trip-meets-eco-thriller written more than half a century before eco thrillers were a thing. When a virus kills a species of grass in Asia and Europe, and the US and Australia close their borders, an engineer and his family drive across Britain in chaos, trying not to starve along the way.

We All Loved Cowboys

by Carol Bensimon

Translated from Portuguese, this story of queer love on the run follows friends Julia and Cora who have fallen out, reunite for a long-planned road trip through Brazil, and emerge with something a little more than friendship. It's a short but moving read, and one for which Granta named Bensimon one of Brazil's best young novelists.

Lovecraft Country

by Matt Ruff

This is a portrait of a country in the grip of racism and demons. A young African-American army veteran travels across the Jim Crow-era US - from Chicago to New England - searching for his missing father. Think of it as a sci-fi, pulp-esque take on Get Out. One that's so thrilling, in fact, that it's about to be released (on 16 August) as a series on HBO.

Jupiter’s Travels

by Ted Simon

In the days before mobile phones and internet, support teams and social media, Ted Simon embarked on a four-year, 100,000km journey from London, crossing 54 countries around the world, passing through prisons, war, natural disasters and revolutions en route. He was treated as a spy, welcomed as a stranger, even worshipped as a god. If you need some no-fuss escapism, this is it.

Catfish and Mandala

by Andrew X. Pham

Road trips needn't be defined by four wheels - or leaving a big carbon footprint for that matter. Vietnamese-born and California-raised Andrew X. Pham returns to Saigon having sold all his possessions in the wake of his trans sister's suicide. From here he sets off on a bicycle ride of self-discovery through the country's ghost-ridden landscape, across the Mexican desert and around Japan.

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