Four girls. Two weeks. Five Airbnbs. Four states. Five books. Mix them all together and you get a truly unforgettable coast-to-coast cross-country adventure. I was given a wonderful opportunity to travel cross-country with three of my best friends from childhood, and I thought this would be an awesome opportunity to pack a book bag and read my way across the USA. Having zero knowledge of how to drive a manual transmission, I had plenty of reading time in the back of a two-door Jeep for almost 3,000 miles on the road, and I compiled five books that took me from New Jersey to California. So without further ado, buckle up and get read you way from the Atlantic to the Pacific with these awesome reads!
Jersey City, New Jersey
My friends picked me up at 4 a.m. outside my Jersey City apartment, so even though their road trip had started in Boston, mine officially began in the Springsteen state of New Jersey. In his official autobiography, BORN TO RUN, Bruce Springsteen reflects on his iconic career in his signature lyrical style. Known as much for his storytelling abilities as his vocal talent Springsteen has always had a way of captivating people with his story. I mean he pretty much sold out a Broadway theater for more than two months doing just that. Since he is pretty much the personification of the state of New Jersey, it was the perfect companion for our first stop of the trip.
In this time-traveling epic, small-town Maine teacher Jake Epping finds himself suddenly thrust in the past with a grand mission: to stop the assassination of JFK. With each trip resetting the timeline, he must stay rooted in the past, traveling from Maine to Texas throughout the early 1960s. Trying to conquer fate and interacting with historic characters like the infamous Lee Harvey Oswald, he fights to save the president and stay alive. Our first Texas stop of the road trip took us to Dallas, so of course one of our main sites to visit was the chilling spot of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Marked with a truly creepy X in the middle of the road, the place still draws morbid curiosity as well as reverence from the crowds of tourists that make a point to revisit one of America’s darkest days.
“Regardless of what genre of literature one prefers, 11/22/63 comes down to this: it is a gripping, harrowing, tragic, and beautiful story about love, memory, evil, and how the best of intentions can go awry... This is King for the faint of heart, for the history buff, for the romantic—for everyone.”
Moving swiftly through Texas, we also stopped at the truly hip city of Austin. In EMERGENCY CONTACT, Penny Lee moves from her hometown to college in Austin when she begins an intense digital romance with Sam, a creative boy stuck in a stagnant state in his life. Although their first meeting was incredibly awkward, they find solace in each other in a texting relationship, cutting out the stressful need for physical interaction. This is a very interesting take on a modern romance, with interesting and complex main characters that must find themselves while finding comfort in one another. A very cool and vibrant story set in an equally engaging and beautiful city, EMERGENCY CONTACT was absolutely one of my favorite stories I read this year.
In this powerful novel, Pete Hautman examines the ways we cope with grief by following teen Stiggy as he steals his mother’s credit card and his dad’s car and leaves his old life behind. After his girlfriend leaves him and his father commits suicide, he takes off from his hometown in Minnesota to try and find some answers across the American Midwest. Since this book covers some serious miles, I read it on our way from Texas to Arizona. Reading on the road is the perfect setting for this book, traveling with Stiggy as he grows up and experiences America on the open road.
Finally, almost two weeks and intermittent stops later, we arrived in San Diego, California. In THE DIRTY BOOK CLUB, after leaving her seemingly perfect life in New York behind, M.J. Stark finds herself across the country in sunny California. Finding herself in a new beach town, she suddenly becomes involved in a secret book club . . . one that only focuses on erotic novels. As she becomes closer with her newfound group of friends, they grow to learn more about each other and more about themselves. A sweet and funny look at female friendship and a great travel narrative all in one, this was the perfect read to end my trip.