Posted by: Kaite Stover
August is American Adventures Month, celebrating vacationing in the Americas (North, South, Central) no matter how you get there: walking, biking, train, plane, automobile.
Readers know there’s more than one way to travel without leaving your own backyard, through a good travelogue. Consider adding one of these titles to the discussable list for next year. Invite all the participants who are NOT going out of town in August to do the voting.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson–Hikers will appreciate Bryson’s humorous attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail, starting in Georgia with a hiking companion who is overweight and a completely useless Appalachian trail guide. Funny, thoughtful, and a serious call to arms for the preservation of this natural landmark.
Two classic road trip books, On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck shouldn’t be missed. Kerouac’s modern classic of his travels with Neal Cassady explores the mysteries of the open road and defines what it means to be “beat.” A rather convoluted read, expect this one to be a challenge for some book group members.
Charley the poodle is Steinbeck’s silent but observant companion on a journey through America that is eye-opening, tender, and descriptive. By turns delightful and disturbing, expect Travels with Charley to generate good conversation.
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell–Death and history, a heady combo for those families traveling with disaffected teens. This book will get them paying attention. With her trademark sardonic humor and fascination for minutiae and the morbid, Vowell presents history with a delightfully wacky twist.
For another odd odyssey across America, offer the charming The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure. Imagine spending a vacation learning to churn butter, wading in Plum Creek, or attending a summer pageant devoted to the Laura experience. Ultimately this book is a love letter to an enduring classic of children’s literature, an interesting topic for discussion in itself.
Venture beyond the United States border with The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey by Che Guevara as he travels his homeland and falls in love with it. Or go further south with Bruce Chatwin as he explores In Patagonia. A beautiful, isolated, and mysterious region covering Chile and Argentina, readers will be awed by the landscape and intrigued by the Welsh settlements and the legend of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s attempts to lead quiet, respectable lives on the lush ranch land.
An American adventure is as far away as the next page.