20 MUST-READ ROAD TRIP BOOKS
- 20 Curations
- May 24, 2022
A dual timeline is one of my favorite formats for a novel, so one with a road trip woven in is sure to catch my attention. This novel alternates between 1968 and 1928. In the latter timeline, audacious Aunt Daisy is rescuing her pregnant niece, Frankie, from her abusive marriage by escaping along Route 66. Meanwhile, we follow young Daisy in 1928 Hollywood, chasing her journalism dreams by writing for Black-owned papers. This compelling story is ideal for anyone who enjoys a family saga steeped in Black history.
A YA romance road trip story that takes place on an influencer tour bus? Yes. Moon Fuentes is in the shadow of her famous twin sister, but agrees to sling merch for her over a summer. The forced proximity with her new nemesis, Santiago, blooms into something unexpected in this gorgeous book tinged with magical realism.
This book highlights the ways religious pilgrimage intersects with the road trip format. Following three sisters who’ve drifted apart in adulthood, the novel reunites them in India. There they are carrying out their mother’s last wish to carry out her final rites at the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This poignant novel navigates the complexities of tradition and modernity for the three British-born women while providing them with unexpected moments of discovery that are by turns humorous and heartbreaking.
The sad truth is that most road trip books set in America forget whose land they’re driving through. This heartwarming novel, however, provides readers an education in Indigenous history as the main character, Jimmy McClean, gets a lesson in his Lakota roots from his grandfather. Their travels bring them to sites relevant to the life of Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse.
This might be my desert island romance novel. Minerva and Colin’s journey from Spindle Cove to Scotland, with Minerva’s fossil in tow, is the very best in historical road trip romance. It’s a nerdy woman meets charming rake story, and even writing this little blurb makes me sure it’s time for another reread. The entire Spindle Cove series is top tier romance, but it’s perfectly fine to start with this one.
by Tessa Dare
Road trip books do turn up among graphic novels as well. Are You Listening? chronicles the journey across West Texas for Lou and Bea, two women struggling with grief and trauma. There’s a touch of magic in this book, represented by a cat who joins the trip. This is a demonstration of the opportunities for connection and real listening provided by a long, lonely road.
I love when novels can provide two opposing characters with equally compelling motivations. When a letter arrives notifying Billy Beede, poor and pregnant, that a supermarket is going in where her mother’s body is currently resting, Billy takes action. She needs to find out whether Willa Mae Beede really was buried with a fortune’s worth of gems. Meanwhile, Dill Smiles, Willa’s love, wants to keep her in the ground. It’s a twist on William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying that deeply examines desire, need, and greed.
While road trips are one of my favorite settings for books, characters discovering they never really knew someone close to them is one of my favorite plots. So All My Mother’s Lovers is right in my wheelhouse. In it, Maggie hand delivers letters on behalf of her suddenly deceased mother. The recipients of these letters upturn everything Maggie thought she knew about her family. This story’s meditation on grief, identity, and family is powerful and bittersweet.
by Ilana Masad
There is a simple way to describe the road trip in this novel. Two poets in Mexico City, Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, travel to the desert to find another poet who has vanished. But that simple goal turns into a much more complex story that tracks Belano and Lima’s lives 20 years later. This novel, jam-packed with characters and ideas, is the ideal book for when you want a challenging book whose impact will travel with you through the decades.
Walter Dean Myers knew that kids deserve stories with real complexity, filled with believable characters and symbolism younger readers can grasp. Somewhere in the Darkness features the cross-country trip of 14-year-old Jimmy and his father Crab. Crab’s on the run from the law, but he’s seeking the man who can exonerate him. The road trip does not magically fix their troubled relationship, but it shows how understanding can blossom into forgiveness.
As the old saw says, wherever you go, there you are. This is true for Maria Griffiths, a trans woman living in Brooklyn. When she feels like her life is falling apart, she steals her ex’s car and heads west. When she meets someone at a pivotal moment in their life, she finally realizes what she’s avoiding. This is a book that resonates with many trans readers for its honest depiction of the experiences, emotions, and thought patterns of its trans main character. Likewise, cis people can benefit from reading such a nuanced character study.
Among nonfiction road trip books, Love Is an Ex-Country is vital for showing how travel in the United States functions very differently depending on what you look like. Jarrar is a fat, queer, Muslim, Arab American who recounts her trip from California to Connecticut in 2016. She encounters hostility, but as a victim of abuse as well as online threats against her life, she knows well how survival mode functions. It’s a brazen book that doles out plentiful laughs along with copious tears.
by Randa Jarrar
Road trip books provide the perfect backdrop for character development, unexpected adventures, and scenic settings. Here are some of the best.