August 20, 2014
This week, as summer comes to a close, we celebrate the great American vacation pastime of road trips. Included are books on travel and exploration of the United States, including trips of self discovery and resolution.
Kindle Edition $7.01 – Travels with Charley – In September 1960, John Steinbeck embarked on a journey across America. He felt that he might have lost touch with the country, with its speech, the smell of its grass and trees, its color and quality of light, the pulse of its people. To reassure himself, he set out on a voyage of rediscovery of the American identity, accompanied by a distinguished French poodle named Charley; and riding in a three-quarter-ton pickup truck named Rocinante.
His course took him through almost forty states: northward from Long Island to Maine; through the Midwest to Chicago; onward by way of Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana (with which he fell in love), and Idaho to Seattle, south to San Francisco and his birthplace, Salinas; eastward through the Mojave, New Mexico, Arizona, to the vast hospitality of Texas, to New Orleans and a shocking drama of desegregation; finally, on the last leg, through Alabama, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey to New York.
Travels with Charley in Search of America is an intimate look at one of America’s most beloved writers in the later years of his life—a self-portrait of a man who never wrote an explicit autobiography. Written during a time of upheaval and racial tension in the South—which Steinbeck witnessed firsthand—Travels with Charley is a stunning evocation of America on the eve of a tumultuous decade.
Kindle Edition $9.99 – Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation’s backroads. William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about “those little towns that get on the map-if they get on at all-only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi.” His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation of the true American experience.
Kindle Edition $9.99 – First published in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is Hunter S. Thompson’s savagely comic account of what happened to this country in the 1960s. It is told through the writer’s account of an assignment he undertook with his attorney to visit Las Vegas and “check it out.” The book stands as the final word on the highs and lows of that decade, one of the defining works of our time, and a stylistic and journalistic tour de force. As Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote in The New York Times, it has “a kind of mad, corrosive prose poetry that picks up where Norman Mailer’s An American Dream left off and explores what Tom Wolfe left out.” This Modern Library edition features Ralph Steadman’s original drawings and three companion pieces selected by Dr. Thompson: “Jacket Copy for Fear and Loath- ing in Las Vegas,” “Strange Rumblings in Aztlan,” and “The Kentucky Derby Is Deca- dent and Depraved.”
Kindle Edition $2.99 – Leaving Montana – Saying that Benjamin Sean Quinn had “anger issues” was an understatement. For those who knew him for the shortest amount of time, his life was in order: He was physically fit, had a great job which provided him a house in the suburbs and the material things he desired, a loving, monogamous relationship, two happy, healthy daughters and an established circle of friends. In all accounts, his life seemed perfect. But to those who knew him the longest, they knew he was an idle grenade, waiting for someone to pull the pin.
For decades, Ben did his best to conquer his demons; to suppress the anger he accumulated towards his parents, Carmella and Sean, throughout their tumultuous marriage. Ben was their only child; forced to witness and experience things that most adults couldn’t even try to handle. He could not escape them or the anger, and no matter how hard he tried, as he matured, it became a part of him. Ben strived to end the toxic cycle and avoid adopting their pattern as part of his own life. By the time he reached his early thirties, he finally seemed to have it all under control.
Then Ben’s father told him a “secret”. One left in Montana when he and Carmella were stationed there forty years earlier. It would exhume the painful memories and suppressed anger that Ben had been avoiding for years and force him to relive his past in order to face his future.
Today Benjamin Sean Quinn boards a plane to Billings, Montana. It was time to face the secret head on and let go of the anger that silently ruled his life. It would be the boldest move he ever made, ultimately changing his life and the lives of those around him.
In this fresh and razor-sharp debut novel, teenage angst and evangelical ardor make a pilgrimage across an endlessly interchangeable American landscape of highways, motels, and strip malls. Sporting a “King Jesus Returns!” t-shirt and well stocked with end-times pamphlets, Jess makes semi-earnest efforts to believe but is thwarted at every turn by a string of familiar and yet freshly rendered teenage obsessions. From “Will the world end?” to “Will I ever fall in love?” each tender worry, big and small, is brilliantly rendered with emotional weight. Mary Miller reinvents the classic American literary road-trip story, reviving its august traditions with the yearning and spiritual ennui of twenty-first-century adolescence. As the last day approaches, Jess’s teenage myopia gradually gives way to a growing awareness of the painful undercurrents of her fractured family.
With a deadpan humor and a savage charm that belie a deep sympathy for her characters, Miller captures the gnawing uneasiness, sexual rivalry, and escalating self-doubt of teenage life in America, where the end always seems nigh and our illusions are necessary protections against that which we can’t control.
Kindle Edition $9.99 – In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.
Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless’s short life. Admitting an interst that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the dries and desires that propelled McCandless. Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons. Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, Into the Wild is a tour de force. The power and luminosity of Jon Krakauer’s stoytelling blaze through every page.
And, as soon as Bill Bryson was old enough, he left. Des Moines couldn’t hold him, but it did lure him back. After ten years in England, he returned to the land of his youth, and drove almost 14,000 miles in search of a mythical small town called Amalgam, the kind of trim and sunny place where the films of his youth were set. Instead, his search led him to Anywhere, USA; a lookalike strip of gas stations, motels and hamburger outlets populated by lookalike people with a penchant for synthetic fibres. Travelling around thirty-eight of the lower states – united only in their mind-numbingly dreary uniformity – he discovered a continent that was doubly lost; lost to itself because blighted by greed, pollution, mobile homes and television; lost to him because he had become a stranger in his own land.
The Lost Continent is a classic of travel literature – hilariously, stomach-achingly funny, yet tinged with heartache – and the book that first staked Bill Bryson’s claim as the most beloved writer of his generation.
Kindle edition $8.98 – With “echoes of Of Mice and Men“(The Bookseller, UK), The Motel Life explores the frustrations and failed dreams of two Nevada brothers—on the run after a hit-and-run accident—who, forgotten by society, and short on luck and hope, desperately cling to the edge of modern life.
Kindle Edition $9.99 – Nine days after the towers fall, twenty-year-old St. Germain is told that his mother has been shot and killed, apparently at the hands of her fifth husband, Ray, who has taken the pickup and left town. Years later, having made a new life for himself in California but ultimately unable to move on, St. Germain journeys back to the scene of the crime—Tombstone, Arizona—where he confronts the people and places of his past. NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. In the tradition of Tobias Wolff, James Ellroy, and Mary Karr, Son of a Gun is a stunning memoir of a mother-son relationship that is also the searing, unflinching account of a murder and its aftermath.
Kindle Edition $9.99 – A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize— winning classic, Lonesome Dove, the third book in the Lonesome Dove tetralogy, is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic, Lonesome Dove is a book to make us laugh, weep, dream, and remember.