Although the summer is winding down, many people are squeezing in one more road trip or vacation, as evidenced by Pratt Library customers who continue to peruse the Central Library’s extensive collection of travel guidebooks. If a recent trip has whetted your appetite for armchair travel, check out these nonfiction titles that offer a glimpse of adventures people have experienced in both the United States and abroad—on foot, by camper, or in a floating raft.
The Happiest Man in the World: An Account of the Life of Poppa Neutrino by Alec Wilkinson
New Yorker writer Alec Wilkinson’s profile of William David Pearlman, a.k.a. “Poppa Neutrino,” a musician and wanderer who became the first person to sail a homemade raft crafted from recycled junk across the Atlantic Ocean.
One for the Road: Hitchhiking the Australian Outback by Tony Horwtiz
American journalist and writer Tony Horwitz has authored numerous best-sellers that combine his penchant for travel with a lifelong interest in history. But in the 1980s, Horwitz had moved to his Australian wife’s hometown of Sydney, Australia, and was struggling to find work as a journalist. A dearth of opportunities in the job market—and a growing desire to explore the Australian Outback—prompt Horwitz to head out into the desert on a solo hitchhiking adventure.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Reeling from a series of personal tragedies, Cheryl Strayed launches a solo hike along the 1,100 mile-long Pacific Crest Trail. Readers are as captivated by Strayed’s brutal honesty regarding her lack of outdoors experience and mistakes in her personal life as by her experiences along the trail.
Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck spent his career writing about life in the United States, but in 1960, he lamented: “I’ve lost the flavor and taste and sound of it. I'm going to learn about my own country.” With that declaration, he embarked on a three month-long road trip across the United States in a modified camper with his Standard Poodle named Charley. This now-classic story covers a journey through thirty-eight states and showcases a nation that was on the threshold of modernization.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
In 1990, a young college graduate from Annandale, Virginia named Christopher McCandless donated all his savings to Oxfam, and disappeared. Two years later, moose hunters discovered a decomposing body in an abandoned bus on the Stampede Trail in Alaska. Jon Krakauer’s book tells the story of how McCandless came to an untimely end after hitchhiking across the country, and contains vivid accounts of the people, places, and adventures he experienced along the way.
The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
The summer vacation has not always been a mainstream institution in the United States. But by the mid-19th century, a rising middle class and expanding railway system helped establish the practice—and the resulting tourist industry that soon followed to meet the demand. In 1867, Mark Twain and a group of fellow American tourists embarked on such a “Great Pleasure Excursion” through Europe and the Holy Land. This often-humorous, occasionally bitter, and sometimes biting, account is as much a meditation on one’s cultural identity as an exploration of the tourist destinations themselves.
When the Going Was Good by Evelyn Waugh
Although Waugh is perhaps best known for his fiction, such as Brideshead Revisited, Scoop, and A Handful of Dust, this anthology contains excerpts from four books he had written about his travels through Africa, South America, and the Mediterranean, from 1929-1935. Fans of Waugh will appreciate this personal account, but many readers will delight in his wry, often-satirical descriptions of pre-war colonial Britain.
Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone by Martine Dugard
“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” This book is a must-read for those who have wanted to know more about the fateful encounter that sparked that iconic quote. In 1866, Great Britain appointed legendary explorer and missionary Dr. David Livingstone for an expedition into the heart of Africa with the goal of pinpointing the source of the Nile River. In a matter of weeks, Livingstone had disappeared. Years later, an American newspaper tycoon set out to find him, and hired a young journalist named Henry Morgan Stanley to conduct the search.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
After spending twenty years in England, American travel writer Bill Bryson decided to reconnect with his home country by hiking the Appalachian Trail. First published in 1998, this beloved book is an exploration of friendship, the environment, and the social fabric of America, in addition to a travelogue.