Here is a selection of road- and roadside-related books. Click on the link for more information, and to buy the book from amazon.com.
I've actually read, and recommend, every title listed below. If you have questions about any of them, ask me.
Or, if you prefer, search amazon.com directly:
Jamie Jensen, Road Trip USA (3d edition). The best one-volume guide for road-tripping across America -- and I'd say that even if the book didn't use some of my photos and maps.
Jamie Jensen, Road Trip USA: California and the Southwest. A regional version of the national guide, with much more detail from California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
Jamie Jensen, Road Trip USA: New England. 300 pages following all the U.S. Routes across six states collectively smaller than North Dakota.
Jan Friedman, Eccentric America. The weird stuff, with directions.
Doug Kirby, Ken Smith and Mike Wilkins, The New Roadside America: The Modern Traveler's Guide to the Wild and Wonderful World of America's Tourist Attractions. The weird stuff, with attitude but without directions. Don't miss the Roadside America Website.
Jane Bernard and Polly Brown, American Route 66: Home on the Road. Photo essay from the Museum of New Mexico Press, with profiles of some of the characters along the way.
Spencer Crump, Route 66: America's First Main Street. Self-published, profusely illustrated history/memoir of Route 66 and its communities.
Lewis Davies, Freeways: A Drive West on Route 66. A Welshman's account of his journey along 66 from Tulsa to California.
Nick Freeth, Traveling Route 66: 2,250 Miles of Motoring History from Chicago to L.A. Formatted like a stack of postcards, this colorful guide dispenses bite-sized travel tidbits.
Shellee Graham, Tales from the Coral Court: Photos and Stories from a Lost Route 66 Landmark. The Coral Court (the motel on my home page) was St. Louis's most beautiful Route 66 motel. Its enclosed garages attached to each unit also made it the region's most popular illicit rendezvous. Great stories about both sides of the Coral Court's history.
Shellee Graham, Return to Route 66: Postcards. Some of the author's outstanding color photos of 66 landmarks, in convenient oversized postcard form.
William Kaszynski, Route 66: Images of America's Main Street. Nice combination of historical text and historical images, following the Mother Road across America.
Gerd Kittel, Route 66. Beautifully produced trade paperback with over 80 full-color images of Route 66 scenes.
Gerald M. Knowles, Route 66 Chronicles vol. 1: Shadows of the Past Over Route 66, Arizona-New Mexico. Self- published, often rambling but usually interesting local history of 66 and vicinity in the Southwest.
Lisa Mahar, American Signs: Form and Meaning on Route 66. A combination Route 66 photo gallery and graduate-level monograph on the evolution of roadside signage from the 1930s through the 1970s. Fascinating for the aficionado of the roadside, but not easy reading.
Richard K. Mangum and Sherry Mangum, Route 66 Across Arizona: A Comprehensive Two-Way Guide for Touring Route 66. Self-explanatory; better quality, and with more information about nearby off-66 digressions, than one might expect.
Jerry McClanahan and Jim Ross, Here It Is! The Route 66 Map Series. Best available state-by-state collection of folding maps.
Thomas Arthur Repp, Route 66: The Empires of Amusement. Volume 1 of Repp's illustrated history of roadside attractions along Route 66, covering Illinois through Texas.
Thomas Arthur Repp, Route 66: The Romance of the West. Volume 2 of Repp's account of the places you nagged your parents to stop at, focusing on the Southwest.
Jack D. Rittenhouse, A Guide Book to Highway 66. A University of New Mexico Press reprint of the first full-length guidebook to Route 66, published in 1946. Fascinating stuff!
John G. Robinson, Route 66: Lives on the Road. "The faces of Route 66," profiling not just the pioneers but many of today's preservationists.
Jim Ross, Oklahoma Route 66. Comprehensive guidebook, with turn-by-turn directions for following the various routings of 66 across the Sooner State.
Quinta Scott, Along Route 66. Hundreds of black and white photos of 66 landmarks, photographed by one of the photographers most responsible for the 66 revival (see next entry).
Quinta Scott and Susan Croce Kelly, Route 66: The Highway and Its People. The first book-length historical treatment of Route 66, published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1988. Now out of print, but worth tracking down.
Tom Snyder, Route 66 Traveler's Guide and Roadside Companion (3d edition). The first edition of this book was the first modern guide to driving old 66. It's still useful, though other works are more detailed. One of its best features is a set of vintage- 1933 maps showing Route 66 from end to end, over the modern Interstates have been superimposed.
Tim Steil, Route 66. Illustrated paperback in MBI's "Enthusiast Color Series," with lots of photos and interviews with prominent 66ers along the route.
Tom Teague, Searching for 66. Dozens of tales from the Mother Road, many from 66 pioneers who have since died. Good stuff.
Don J. Usner, New Mexico Route 66 on Tour: Legendary Architecture from Glenrio to Gallup. Paperback, sponsored by the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, spotlighting Route 66 landmarks across the state.
Michael Wallis, Route 66: The Mother Road. The book that did more than any other to jump-start the Route 66 revival in the early 1990s: a well written, profusely illustrated account of Route 66 and its people.
Michael Karl Witzel, Route 66 Remembered Well-produced Route 66 nostalgiafest: lots of period maps, photos and postcards accompanying a celebration of the American roadside. Excellent bibliography, including many long out-of-print titles I highly recommend to anyone interested in the books listed here.
Kirk Woodward, Motorcycle Guide to Historic Route 66. The standard guidebook for following 66 on two wheels.
Mary Elizabeth Anderson, Link Across America: A Story of the Historic Lincoln Highway. Paperback intended for use in elementary schools; also a painless introduction to the Lincoln for adults who don't know the importance of this historic road.
Brian A. Butko, Pennsylvania Traveler's Guide to the Lincoln Highway (2d ed.). An exemplary guide to the history and scenery along the Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania -- including the stretch from Chambersburg to Ligonier which may be my favorite drive along any of the old roads.
Pete Davies, American Road: The Story of an Epic Transcontinental Journey at the Dawn of the Motor Age. An account of the U.S. Army's 1919 convoy across America, and the efforts of the Lincoln Highway Association and others to build roads suitable for driving.
Drake Hokanson, The Lincoln Highway: Main Street Across America. The standard history of the Lincoln, with fascinating excerpts from period accounts of early motoring.
Bill Roe, All the Way to Lincoln Way: A Coast to Coast Bicycle Odyssey. Entertaining day-by-day account, profusely illustrated, of the author's 1999 bicycle trip from San Francisco to New York along the Lincoln.
Joseph V. Tingley, Traveling America's Loneliest Road: A Geologic and Natural History Tour Through Nevada Along U.S. Highway 50. US 50, dubbed the "Loneliest Road in America" by Life Magazine in the mid-1980s, is also the route of the Lincoln across most of the state. This book turns miles and miles of, apparently, nothing into something.
Note: All of these books focus on Route 40 from Maryland to Illinois, the stretch originally constructed by the federal government as the Cumberland Road/National Road. Frank Brusca, who created the remarkable route40.net, is working on a modern book.
Karl Raitz et al., eds., A Guide to the National Road. Half of a two-volume set published by Johns Hopkins, this book is a modern guide to what became US Route 40 in 1926, from Baltimore to the Mississippi River.
Karl Raitz et al., eds., The National Road. The other half of the Johns Hopkins set, presenting the history of the National Road, first federally-funded "highway." Even in the early 19th century, politics and road construction went hand in hand...
Thomas J. Schlereth, Reading the Road: U.S. 40 and the American Experience. The author, a university professor, uses Route 40 across Indiana to show much a traveler can learn by watching the cues along the side of the road. (This doesn't work if you're on an Interstate, of course.)
Curt McConnell, Coast to Coast by Automobile: The Pioneering Trips, 1899-1908. Wonderfully detailed reconstruction of the very early days of American motoring, when in most of the country a "road" was any relatively flat, relatively dry, relatively rock-free path without a fence across it.
Harold A. Meeks, On the Road to Yellowstone: The Yellowstone Trail and American Highways 1900-1930
Alice A. Ridge and John Wm. Ridge, Introducing the Yellowstone Trail: A Good Road from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound.
Until the year 2000, no one had written about the Yellowstone Trail in more than 70 years. Then both of these books arrived in my mailbox within two days of one another. The Ridges' book is intended as an introduction to the Trail while they prepare a longer work on the subject; Meeks' longer, larger-format book is complete in itself, with more maps and photos.
Peter Genovese, The Great American Road Trip: U.S. 1, Maine to Florida. For those of us who live in the Boston-Washington megalopolis, calling a drive the length of Route 1 "the great American road trip" is like calling a root canal without anesthesia "the great American dental procedure." But there's much more to Route 1 than bumper-to-bumper urban traffic, and Peter Genovese's engaging text and photos bring it out. Highly recommended.
Jim Lilliefors, Highway 50: Ain't That America. Coast to almost-coast on US 50, from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California, with numerous stops along the way to chat with the locals.
Jill Livingston and Kathryn Golden Maloof, That Ribbon of Highway I: Highway 99 from the Oregon Border to the State Capital
That Ribbon of Highway II: Highway 99 from the State Capital to the Mexican Border.
That Ribbon of Highway III: Highway 99 Through the Pacific Northwest
A three-volume paperback history of Highway 99, the former US 99, which served as the main street of California and the Pacific Northwest until the construction of I-5, with directions for following the old route.
Warren James Belasco, Americans on the Road" From Autocamp to Motel, 1910-1945.
John A. Jakle, Keith A. Sculle and Jefferson A. Rogers, The Motel in America. This is part of Johns Hopkins' "Gas, Food and Lodging" trilogy, essential to any serious study of how these mainstays of the American roadside evolved over time.
Michael Karl Witzel, The American Motel. More a photo book than the other titles, with competent writing and an eye-pleasing mixture of modern photos and antique postcards to illustrate the topic, reproduced in full color on glossy paper. It's a good read and a delightful browse.
John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle, The Gas Station in America. Part of Johns Hopkins' definitive "Gas, Food and Lodging" trilogy on the evolution of the American roadside. This is the scholarly book on the subject; the other titles are geared toward enthusiasts.
Tim Steil and Jim Juning, Fantastic Filling Stations.
Michael Karl Witzel, The American Gas Station
Michael Karl Witzel, Gas Stations Coast to Coast
John Baeder, Diners (Revised Edition). Baeder is a painter; the originals of the photorealistic studies of diners reproduced in this book sell for thousands of dollars. If you're at all interested in the artistic side of roadside culture, you need this book.
Brian Butko, The Diners of Pennsylvania.
Peter Genovese, Jersey Diners.
Richard J.S. Gutman, American Diner Then and Now (rev. ed.).
Robert O. Williams, Hometown Diners.
Michael Karl Witzel, The American Diner.
John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle, Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age. Part of the Johns Hopkins "Gas, Food and Lodging" trilogy -- not a nostalgiafest like the other titles in this section, but a scholarly analysis of how the automobile affected the American restaurant industry. Informative, but not light reading.
Michael Karl Witzel, The American Drive-In Restaurant
Elizabeth McKeon and Linda Everett, Cinema Under the Stars: America's Love Affair with the Drive-in Movie Theater
Jim Heimann, California Crazy and Beyond: Roadside Vernacular Architecture
David B. Jenkins, Rock City Barns: A Passing Era
Lucinda Lewis, Roadside America: The Automobile and the American Dream. An oversized hardcover featuring dozens of gleaming, full-color photos of classic street rods parked at classic roadside destinations. If there's such a thing as automotive porn, this is it.
John Margolies, Fun Along the Road: American Tourist Attractions
Karal Ann Marling, The Colossus of Roads: Myth and Symbol Along the American Highway. In addition to the great pun in the title, this book offers a near-complete catalogue of oversized Paul Bunyans and similarly supersized statuary along the roads of Minnesota.
An awful lot of books have been written about cross-country drives, backroads journeys and similar Momentous Events in the lives of the authors. Here are some of the ones still in print which I wouldn't mind reading again, starting with the least likely author of the lot to have written an American travelogue:
Simone de Beauvoir, America Day by Day. Mlle. de Beauvoir spent four months touring America in 1947. Her account of her stay was published in France the following year, but wasn't published in America for another 50 years.
Tim Brookes, "A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow": An American Hitchhiking Odyssey
Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Bryson is one of the funniest writers alive -- I'd buy his account of a drive to the grocery store.
Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America>Bryson, a native Iowan, was sure in a bad mood when he set out to rediscover his roots on this trip...
Sean Condon, Drive Thru America.
Dayton Duncan, Out West. Duncan followed the route of the Lewis & Clark Expedition in the mid-1980s, long before the recent revival of interest in their journey.
Dayton Duncan & Ken Burns, Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip. Illustrated account of the first cross-country drive, in 1903; companion to the recent PBS special.
Martin Fletcher, Almost Heaven: Travels Through the Backwoods of America
Ian Frazier, Great Plains.
Shainee Gabel and Kristin Hahn, Anthem: An American Road Story. A change of pace here: two young women set out together on their epic journey, which also includes a film project and numerous interviews with celebrities. Thelma & Louise notwithstanding, I don't know of a similar nonfiction account since Beth O'Shea's A Long Way from Boston (1946), which recounts a trip taken in the early 1920s.
Gary Gladstone, Passing Gas: And Other Towns on the American Highway. This is primarily a collection of offbeat photographs taken in oddly-named towns across America, accompanied by short essays about each photo. The dog vigorously scratching itself in Fleatown, Ohio is a personal favorite.
Bill Graves, On the Back Roads: Discovering Small Towns of America
Brad Herzog, States of Mind: A Search for Faith, Hope, Inspiration, Harmony, Unity, Friendship, Love, Pride, Wisdom, Honor, Comfort, Joy, Bliss, Freedom, Justice, Glory, Triumph and Truth or Consequences in America. Like Gary Gladstone, Herzog sought out towns with weird names -- in his case, to write about them.
Peter Jenkins, A Walk Across America.
Peter Jenkins, Along the Edge of America.
Robert Kaplan, Empire Wilderness: Travels Into America's Future. Much more serious/analytical than most of these titles -- and much more pessimistic. Two years before the 2000 election, Kaplan described how in his travels, he found Americans becoming increasingly divided from one another.
Jack Kerouac, On the Road. The Bible of the Beat generation, a semifictional, speed-fueled cross-country dash banged out on a single scroll and famously dismissed by Truman Capote: "That's not writing, it's typing."
David Lamb, Over the Hills: A Midlife Escape Across America by Bicycle
William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways: A Journey Into America. If you're reading this book list, you're probably familiar with Blue Highways. If not, buy it. Now. There's a reason the publisher of every backroads travelogue written in the past 20 years has described the book as "in the spirit of Blue Highways."
William Least Heat Moon, River Horse: The Logbook of a Boat Across America.
Pascale Le Draoulec, American Pie: Slices of Life (And Pie) From America's Back Roads
William McKeen, Highway 61: A Father-and-Son Journey Through the Middle of America
Larry McMurtry, Roads: Driving America's Great Highways
Henry Miller, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare. Miller, the expatriate author of Tropic of Cancer and other oft-banned works, returned to the United States shortly after World War II. He didn't like what he found.
Tom Miller, Jack Ruby's Kitchen Sink: Offbeat Travels Through America's Southwest
V.S. Naipaul, A Turn in the South. The renowned Indian novelist tours the American South in the mid-1980s.
Jonathan Raban, Bad Land: An American Romance. Raban writes beautifully about the rise and fall of settlements on the eastern Montana prairie. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Jonathan Raban, Hunting Mister Heartbreak: A Discovery of America.
Jonathan Raban, Old Glory: A Voyage Down the Mississippi.
Steve Rushin, Road Swing. Rushin, a columnist for Sports Illustrated, hilariously combines the two Great Young American Male obsessions: sports and driving.
Beppe Severgnini, Ciao, America! An Italian Discovers the U.S.
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America. The best-known nonfiction road trip travelogue before Blue Highways: aging Nobel Prizewinning novelist tours the country with his dog in the early 1960s.
Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard: From Sea to Shining Sea, Almost. Mark Winegardner's my age. After the Atlantic Monthly Press published this account of his post-college road trip, he wrote two well-above-average nonfiction baseball books, Prophet of the Sandlots and The 26th Man, and several critically successful novels. He was recently chosen by Random House to write the sequel to The Godfather. Not that I feel inadequate or anything...
Some 65 years after their release, the books of the WPA American Guide Series remain the most impressive publishing project in American history, The federal government hired thousands of unemployed or underemployed writers were during the Depression to research and write guides to every state in the Union. The WPA Guides were blessedly free of the Chamber of Commerce "everything is wonderful" rhetoric found in most tourist literature -- and best of all from the modern traveler's perspective, each state volume is organized by road. (Here's Route 66 in Oklahoma. Tulsa and Oklahoma City aren't included because each received its own chapter.)
The WPA Guides go in and out of print. If you're interested in the history of a particular state or region, snap up its Guide as soon as you can find one. Here are the American Guides currently in print:
New York City
Back to roadsidephotos.sabr.org home page