Books take you on a virtual road trip

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


There’s nothing like a road to give you wanderlust. It’s something about the pavement rolling out before you, promising that if you just go a little farther, drive a little longer, you’ll end up somewhere you’ve never been before and see things you’ve never seen.

I love the moment at the start of a trip when the car is packed, the map is ready, and the travel playlist is just beginning the first song as I put the car into gear and roll out. Current circumstances may be putting a spoke in a lot of our travel plans, but with this list of books, you can indulge your armchair traveler with a virtual Great American Road Trip.

Road trips have been an American fascination since American roads existed, so a great place to start is with “Greetings from the Lincoln Highway: A Road Trip Celebration of America’s First Coast-To-Coast Highway” by Brian Butko. This book really encapsulates the feel of a road trip, following the highway step by step and pointing out spots of interest along the way with pictures ranging from vintage postcards to modern snapshots.

With the expected commentary on motels, restaurants and attractions, the text is full of anecdotes and history about the cities and countryside the road passes through. If reading this sparks your nostalgia, you might also enjoy “Americana: Roadside Memories” by Mark Witzel and Tim Stell, a loving, photo-filled tribute to American roads as they used to be, with special focus on the history of gas stations and drive-in diners.

One thing I love to do when I arrive at a destination is browse the racks of tourist brochures for the weirdest, tackiest or just plain most bizarre tourist trap in the vicinity. “Weird U.S.: Your Travel Guide to America’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets” by Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman definitely scratches that itch, as it highlights local oddities across America. Various sections cover everything from unexplained phenomena to bizarre building projects. There’s even a mention of our own Vollis Simpson whirligigs. As you would expect, most of these sights have unusual histories (or myths) associated with them, making for highly entertaining reading.

And if this virtual road trip has you hankering for something a little more real, you can satisfy some of that longing by stirring up something from Southern Living’s travelogue cookbook “Off the Eaten Path: Favorite Southern Dives and 150 Recipe That Made Them Famous” (and its two sequels, “Second Helpings” and “On The Road Again”). Each entry in this book highlights a local eatery and the food, folks and history that make them special. If the text and photos have you drooling, don’t worry — every restaurant has included the recipe for one of its signature dishes, so you can enjoy all these restaurants without having to set foot out of your own kitchen.

Genevieve Baillie is the extension services librarian at the Wilson County Public Library