Although I have never been to summer camp, I have been on summer road trips. Well, at least that is what I called them—most of them were to the coast, which was a 3-hour drive from my childhood home. Another time, we took a trip to the Redwood National Park—a 7-hour trip, and we drove 10 hours to San Francisco.  

The road trips of my youth were easy. I didn’t have any siblings to fight with (to be clear, I have siblings, but our age gaps are so significant that we were all pretty much raised as only children, plus the fact that we are all half-siblings, so often we weren’t all with the same set of parents at the same time anyway). 

We also didn’t have any set expectations about how much we had to socialize during the trip. If I wanted to chat or play 20 questions, or I-Spy, we would. If I wanted to zone out and listen to Now That’s What I Call Music Volume 2on my portable CD player, I could. When I got older and could bring a friend with me on these trips, the two of us would chat and treat my parents as not much more than chauffeurs. Sometimes I’d try to read, but my terrible car sickness prevented that, even though I always brought a book with me in the car (insert obligatory Goosebumps reference here).  

Other families, of course, have very different experiences: squabbling siblings, seating arrangements, pre-trip arguments that always leave the air in the car feeling… stuffy.  

For some families, driving across the country is an annual event; for other families, traveling at all isn’t something that happens.  

Some families travel by car, some travel in a mini-van, some by camper or RV.  My family’s preference was to rent a car, since we usually all couldn’t fit into my dad’s old Ford pickup truck.  

What I’m getting at is that my trips were unremarkable, at least in a dramatic sense. I would say that seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, the ocean, and the Redwood National Forest were all very remarkable to me. But the ‘getting there’ didn’t include any of the things I read about in books.  

No getting lost. 

No broken-down vehicles. 

No spooky roadside attractions. 

No finding myself during a cross-country trip. 

Not even a case of getting TOO car sick.  

But even though my road trips were nothing novel-worthy, summer road trips are a popular plot device in fiction. Maybe it’s because it’s relatable to some people. Perhaps because it allows people to travel across the country (or another country) from their own homes, maybe it’s because a road trip narrative inspires adventure. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been stuck in our homes, and we’re itching for a road trip—even a fictional one. Maybe the thought of being on the open road gives readers a sense of being free, of discovering something that hasn’t been found before. Road trips are supposed to be unremarkable.  It’s just a way of getting somewhere—the focus is always on the destination, and not the journey. Reading, on the other hand, is sort of the opposite. It’s the journey that makes the experience worthwhile. Maybe that’s what makes a road trip read so special.   

No matter your reason for wanting to read a road trip book—here is a list for you to explore! Just maybe don’t read them in the car if you get too car sick.

Rad Road trip Reads – Youth | Main library (