Charlotte Birchall

Charlotte Birchall

Charlotte a Digital Marketing Specialist. She has a wealth of marketing experience under her belt, and there is no-one better at finding their way around automations.

Dive head first into these page-turners and experience the road trip of a lifetime, all from the comfort of your favourite armchair.

There’s something truly magical about losing yourself in the pages of a book. The chance to immerse yourself into another world – to find adventure, escapism or enlightenment in someone else’s story.

We happen to think there’s something even better about losing yourself in the pages of a book that features anything vehicle or journey related. So we’ve asked our team to pick their top classic books for your reading pleasure. It’s a mixed bag but we think you’ll love them.

On the road – Jack Kerouac book novel

1. On the road – Jack Kerouac

Hailed as an important commentary on post-war counterculture, On the Road is set in America in the late 1940s and follows the fortunes of aspiring writer Sal Paradise. Shaken by the death of his father and uninspired by his stagnant career, Sal embarks on a cross country road trip. As he travels, Sal encounters a range of characters whose stories intertwine with his.

The novel is largely recognised as a fictionalised version of Kerouac’s memoirs from a similar trip that took place between 1947 and 1950. During this time, he was known to be associated with some seminal faces in the Beat Generation – a literary and artistic movement that dominated the 1950s and kick-started social and sexual liberalism and free experimentation with drugs.

These themes are clearly explored in the novel, which was received with mixed reviews on its publication in 1957, not least because of its portrayal of same-sex attractions and drug use. However, it was understood to reflect the uprising of a generation in the post-war era and its significance has only been amplified over time.

Having already published a successful book, Kerouac wrote On the Road quite literally in situ. His experiences over his three year period of travelling were recorded in a series of notebooks. Over the coming years, he drafted several versions but was not happy with any of them.

It was at this time that he hit upon the idea of structuring the text like a ‘letter to a friend’ to add to the realism and mimic the ‘improvisational fluidity' of jazz music. Inspired by a rambling letter from a friend, Kerouac’s writing employs a rhythmic approach and stream of consciousness prose that was popular with modernist writers such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. The overall effect is an easily readable tale that touches on themes that are as relevant today as they were then.

A must for anyone with a case of wanderlust!

Around the World in 80 days – Jules Verne book novel

2. Around the World in 80 days – Jules Verne

While technically not a ‘car’ related journey, we just had to include Jules Verne’s classic, which is surely the pinnacle of all adventure journey stories. It’s been revised and reworked for film and television so many times that I’d be amazed if there’s anyone out there who doesn’t know the story. But in brief: wealthy gentleman Phileas Fogg accepts a wager of £20,000 to circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days. Cue a nail-biting race against the clock with a side of mistaken identity, police intervention and various setbacks along the way.

Although this would likely be a fairly unremarkable feat in the light of modern modes of transport, when the book was written in 1872, both Verne and his readership were fascinated by the challenge of global travel. At the time of writing, Frenchman Verne had been conscripted as a coastguard whilst the Franco-Prussian war raged; his father had just died and he was in financial dire straits.

The Industrial Revolution had given rise to a wealth of opportunity and global tourism was a very real and accessible possibility – for the wealthy at least. Given the detrimental situation Jules Verne found himself in, it’s hardly surprising that he turned to escapism and glamourised the idea that the world could indeed be anyone’s oyster. The themes of modernity, wealth and control reflect Verne’s lack of control in his own life.

The subject matter continues to be inspirational to many would-be adventurers and the rich, lively narrative means that this is a delight to readers of all ages.

Definitely one to cosy up with the kids and delve into.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M Pirsig book novel

3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M Pirsig

One for the philosophically minded among you, Robert M Pirsig’s 1974 tome follows the story of a middle-aged man and his son Chris, who venture on a road trip on a 1966 Honda Super Hawk motorcycle.

As the protagonist's journey from Minnesota to California, the unnamed narrator (assumed to be Prisig himself) offers enchanting descriptions of the scenery, people they meet and the nuances of the relationship between the travellers.

The gentle pace of the narrative allows the reader time to also consider the philosophical concepts that Prisig introduces around themes of quality and ‘getting back the gumption’. It was considered a classic virtually from the point of publication, has sold millions of copies and translated into five different languages.

It’s the ideal reading material for anyone feeling that their life is unremarkable and even more perfect for anyone embarking on a road trip of their own.

Travels with Charley - John Steinbeck book novel

4. Travels with Charley - John Steinbeck

From the formidable pen of Steinbeck, author of everyone’s favourite throwback to GCSE English lessons, Travels with Charley is his account of a seminal cross-country trip in a pickup truck with his dog Charley.

Steinbeck’s novels tend to concern themselves with social change in America and Travels with Charley is no different. He is determined to portray an honest account of the average American citizen’s views on society at that point, rather than form his opinion based on journalist accounts.

The result, as with his other works, is a searingly frank depiction of everyday life in the USA. The novel was written in 1962 and explores the issues of the time – including racial integration, American identity and a sense of feeling lost.

What is remarkable about this particular book – which is an autobiographical tale of the author’s actual journey – is Steinbeck’s thinking behind taking Charley with him. When asked, he claimed that it was partly for company but mostly because he felt the public would be more likely to open up to a man with a dog than one who was travelling alone.

Given the social climate of the time, the book received mixed reviews. Some felt it was an inaccurate portrayal of the real attitudes of Americans in the early 1960s but others view it as Steinbeck’s finest work. Whatever your thoughts, this is definitely worth a read.

Great for anyone with an interest in American history.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A savage journey to the heart of the American Dream - Hunter S. Thompson book novel

5. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A savage journey to the heart of the American Dream - Hunter S. Thompson

Possibly most famous for spawning a cult film remake starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Torro, Hunter s. Thompson’s 1971 novel originally appeared in Rolling Stone magazine as a serialisation. It is a semi-autobiographical account that blends fact with fiction and ultimately comments on the failure of the 1960s counterculture.

The plot follows journalist Raoul Duke and his attorney Dr Gonzo as they take a trip to Las Vegas to report on the Mint 400 motorcycle race for a magazine. Their progress, however, is hampered by their regular use of a cocktail of recreational drugs. The book is noted for its lurid depiction of drug-taking, hallucinations and anthropomorphic visions. While under the influence, the characters consider the decline of the American Dream and the flaws of the hippy movement which preceded the era.

Importantly, Duke and Gonzo take to the road in a 1973 ‘Red Shark’ Chevy Caprice – an iconic convertible that is synonymous with Las Vegas and the hedonistic culture of the time.

On its release, many criticised the loose plot and excessive descriptions of drug taking but it was also understood to be an important social commentary. Thompson himself described the book as a failed attempt at Gonzo journalism – a style of writing that is crafted without objectivity and often features the journalist themselves as main characters.

It isn’t the easiest read, but its prose is highly engaging and it’s perfect for those who like a challenge.

christine stephen king book novel

6. Christine - Stephen King

To be honest, no rundown of car-related books would be complete without Stephen King’s creepy tale of a 1958 Plymouth Fury that is possessed by a supernatural force. Unpopular ‘nerd’ Arnie is drawn to the car and buys it from unpleasant vendor Roland d. LeBay against the advice of his best friend Dennis.

As the plot unfolds and Arnie goes about restoring Christine, Dennis observes a change in his appearance and behaviour – almost as if he is morphing into LeBay himself. A series of mysterious deaths occur – notably amongst people who have crossed Arnie in some way and Christine is never far away.

Criticised by some on its 1983 publication for being somewhat formulaic, the book has all of the hallmarks of a King novel. An innocuous object being possessed by a sinister force is fairly standard horror after all. Granted, the whole premise sounds pretty silly out of context but King is the master of taking that formula and making it work somehow.

For horror fans, it may not be the most impressive tome ever written - it’s no Shining, it's true - but for anyone with a vague interest in cars, it’s a must-read. Just keep your wits about you if you ever encounter a red and white Plymouth Fury.

Ready for your own road trip?