When you finish a chapter and look up from the page—however slightly changed by what you’ve just read—suddenly noticing the breeze and the faces of passersby, and it escapes your lungs before you can even think to call it a cliché. Or when you park the car and step outside and the world looks so much different than it did just a few hours ago when you started driving, and the varied beauties of the world and your ability to witness them just squeezes the sigh out of you.
My goal for this list is to tell you about the books that can cause that sigh and yet are compatible with the schedule and mobility of a road trip. Something you can read in a couple sittings while exploring the coffee shops in a new city, perhaps. Or something to read in the car, if you’re one of those blessed people who can (please don’t read while driving). Something light, yet cathartic.
The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan - For such a short book with such short chapters, this one packs an astounding emotional punch. Perfect if your road trip is taken with a significant other, or due to a breakup. Yes, it’s entirely applicable to both. Levithan masterfully gives heart and honesty to the highs and the lows of relationships.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton - It’s set in the real world, but it transports you to some other universe. Not at all about travel, this favorite of mine from 2014 is a beautiful, heart-wrenching, charming story. Read if you’re stuck on a family trip to somewhere commonplace and you want to escape to somewhere magical.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed - Strayed’s beautiful writing is possibly overshadowed here by her wise, down-to-earth voice. You want catharsis? Every bit of advice she offers people in this book comes with its own sigh of wonder and admiration. Easy to read a little at a time, and perfect to do so if you’re feeling a little lost (shameless self-plug).
Mosquitoland by David Arnold - Get a little meta and read a story about a road trip on your road trip. I just finished this one on a flight, and it definitely causes the aforementioned sigh. Riddled with humor, warmth and wisdom, this is a feel-good story about a complex character who does not feel so good. Read if you’re running both from something and steadfastly toward something else.
Falling into Place by Amy Zhang - Another favorite from last year, and one I myself read while on a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle. Not the lightest of books, if we’re speaking subject matter, but it’s a book you want to keep devouring. Gorgeous writing, and emotionally powerful. Definitely a book to read in one sitting, in a new city, surrounded by strangers.
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