We have published several pop-culture truck-referring texts on Neotrucks blog. So far we have made an expertise on must-see trucking movies, we have written about some important cult trucking songs, as well as the most popular trucking TV-shows.
Taking into account the fact that truck drivers are often ultimately exhausted and they need a lot of rest when not they are off the road, we did make a more relaxing and entertaining choice of movies and songs. TV-shows we wrote about, on the other hand, have educational value, since they can help truckers improve their driving skills to a certain extent and in the end even inspire some ordinary people to take up a trucking career (e.g. Ice Road Truckers).
Drive and read
This time we have decided to enter the world of the written word. When you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, tired of all the traffic signs, trucks and other vehicles you have come across on your trip, you deserve a full-time rest. So, after you have listened to the complete playlist made of songs we recommended during your ride and spent many nights in a motel, watching the movies we told you should, now it is time to get yourself a good night lamp and read some of the books we are going to deal with in this text.
Reading is an activity that sometimes seems tiring and exhausting, particularly when you have just been through a rough and demanding day, but if you start with the right book, you will find yourself on a reading quest you will not be able to stop.
It is always important to make the right choice what to read in what situations. If you are a literature student or an avid reader who devours everything that has pages (including supermarket brochures; you never know what the author of a brochure might have misspelled), you will often reach for more demanding literary works. Moreover, if you read for a living and you are a lit professional, the way you read and the content is definitely going to be much more complex.
However, if you read out of a hobby, your reading activity will certainly be more relaxed and you will not be forced to do some additional activities, such as writing down the main characters and events or your personal conclusions and perception of a book. As an amateur reader, you are allowed not to remember all the main characters, or what was the name of main character’s sister-in-law’s dog. Reading for pleasure is one of the most relaxing and mind-recuperating activities known to humans. It enables you to boost your imagination, gather information on the world, nations and cultures around you and, finally, keep your brain active and in good shape.
Training your brain is the same as keeping any other muscle on your body fit. This advantage of reading becomes even more obvious if you are thousands of miles away from home, and you and your truck have already traveled for tens of thousands of miles. The condition your mind and your body is in at that moment can be compared to that of a lemon squeezed to the last drop of juice for someone’s lemonade. That is the right time to grab a book and begin with the reanimation of your mind.
Kerouac’s On the Road
The main question is what to start with? There is a book that serves as ABCs of every dedicated roamer and trucker. It is Jack Kerouac’s beat novel On the Road. It was finished in 1951 and published in 1957. The story follows two friends, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, on their trips across the USA in the post-WWII America. The book is written as a paradigm of the beat generation of the 1950s and their nomadic lifestyle, but at the same time it talks about some everlasting social questions, like individual freedom, sexual oppression, political attitudes, all wrapped up in miles and miles of tripping.
On the Road is a book that every reading-eager trucker should keep in his cab.
Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley
The Viking Press – the same publishing house that published On the Road in 1957 – deserves praises for another cult road book – Travels with Charley, by John Steinbeck. The book was published in 1962, only five years after Kerouac’s On the Road. It was in a way, literary speaking, a sequel to Kerouac’s novel. Just like Kerouac, Steinbeck actually traveled across the USA from east to west, like some 19th century trailblazer, and described his conclusions and observations in this book. The trivia is that Charley from the title of the novel was actually Steinbeck’s poodle. Another interesting fact is that he named his camper Rocinante, after Don Quixote’s horse, which might have been Steinbeck’s symbolic message that his adventure was the one similar to Don Quixote’s quest. The books itself has the form of travel dialogues between him and people he meets along the way. It is clear now that many of his dialogues were made up and that it is closer to the fiction than to a piece of documentary literature.
The Grapes of Wrath
Twenty years before Travels with Charley Steinbeck published his seminal work, the novel The Grapes of Wrath. It is a story about the Joads, a family living in Oklahoma during the Dirty Thirties and the Dust Bowl – a period of heavy dust storms raging in the area of the Great Plains during the 1930s, which were occurring simultaneously with the Great Depression. The novel follows the Joads as they decide to move from their home in Oklahoma, which had been devastated by the Dust Bowl and the economic crisis, to California, in a pursuit of their personal El Dorado and better life.
On their trip to California they drive their old Hudson truck, which is the symbol of their hope and persistence in the pursuit of their American dream. Their journey, which is largely set along the Route 66, is moving but encouraging, especially if you are reading the book while being in a truck somewhere between Amarillo, TA and Santa Monica, CA; think about making a stop at the nearest bookstore and get yourself a copy of The Grapes of Wrath.
You will find unbelievably similar the picture of the Okies from the 1930s moving west to your current journey along Route 66.
Che Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diries
The Motorcycle Diaries, by the Cuban politician and revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, is a memoir that talks about Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Granada’s trip across South America. In 1952, when Guevara was a medicine student, he and his Sancho Panza, in the character of Granada, decided to start an odyssey through the southern part of the American continent. Wishing to get to know the Latin American culture and customs, they traveled for nine months on their 1939 Norton 500cc motorcycle and other means of transportation.
This book of reminiscences is a tripping classic, because of their protagonist’s will and determination to meet his part of the world, seek his personal and internal freedom and start changing his life and the lives of others. In 2004, an eponymous biopic based on this book was made, starring Gabriel Garcia Bernal as Che Guevara. It had a positive critical reception and got praiseworthy reviews. Both the movie and the book are inspiring and they can broaden your horizons about the space you are surrounded with and make you want to roam and meet different people, landscapes and roads. And is there a better way to do all that, while even earning your salary, than starting your truck and get on the road?
H.S.Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is another tributary in the flow of writing begun by Jack Kerouac. The author of the book, Hunter S. Thompson, collected some autobiographical events which were later issued by the Rolling Stone magazine in 1972.
The plot unfolds the storied of Roul Duke and his lawyer, Dr. Gonzo, on their adventure trip to the heart of American vice: Las Vegas. The novel doesn’t the classic narrative, but is a set of memory chunks and experiences under the influence of drugs. This book is also a kind of deconstruction of the American Dream and the wear-down of the counterculture in the 1960s. While some more conservative truckers won’t be too happy to read about Duke and Gonzo’s drug-stimulated observations, they will certainly find amusing their (road) trips and the philosophy of traveling without a specific cause, but just for personal pleasure.
In 1998 Terry Gilliam directed the big-screen version of this movie, starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro. The movie was received well by both the critic and the public.
Bill Bryson’s Travels in Small-Town America
We will finish this insight into the world of the road literature with Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America. This book was written in 1987 and 1988, when Bryson made more than 13,000 miles across the USA in his car. The journey started from his hometown Des Moines, IA. The book is a kind of a revelation he makes in front of the eyes of his readers. He often goes back to his childhood days in des Moines, praising the relaxed and peaceful way of living in province he and his compatriots had back then in Iowa.
The author traveled through and described all the areas of the USA, starting from Iowa, traveling through the Midwest, the East Coast, New England, the West Coast, the Great Plains, the South West, Rocky Mountains and as well as the unique and specific (Steinbeck’s) El Dorado – California. Bryson concentrated on every-day American life and provincial America, far from the clichéd lights of the big cities, with the struggles and joys this way of living brings.
No matter how fond of reading you are and what types of books you like to read, having a book in your truck can really be a relaxing and soul-recovering therapy after a weary day in a truck. So, park your truck by the road, put yourself into a comfortable position and enjoy the benefits of the written word.