Awesome Audiobooks for the Open Road

by Kara Kaloplastos

I have always been an avid reader. When I was kid, you could not pull my nose out of a book for anything. As I’ve gotten older and a little busier these days, I’ll admit it—I really haven’t been picking up books as much as I should. Don’t blame me for being behind the eight ball, but I’ve been recently obsessed with audio books. I used to think that they were a cop out for not finding time to quiet my mind, find a quiet spot, and read. But, recently I’ve found that this is not the case.

It all started this summer while I began working as a summer shelver in my local library. Again, I don’t have time to browse through the library normally, and prefer to just download the books to my Kindle or pick up my own copy at the bookstore if it suits me. But while shelving, I noticed the multitude of books available on CD. I decided to check out a couple for my long commutes to and from work, and what a nice little break it was from repetitive radio, or my iTunes library, which I am also sick of.

Now I find myself facing the beginning of a road trip all the way from Massachusetts to California. As daunting as it seems, I’m still finding time to focus on the smaller matters. For instance, my friend’s car only has a CD player. I’m sure that even if I burn everything I have on discs, we’ll still tire of the music we collectively have by the time we reach Texas. Therefore, I’m stocking up on some audio books I’ve been excited to sit down and listen to while driving. I’ve been compiling a list, and what I have here is several books I think are perfect for the open road:

Travels with Charley by John Steinback

“In 1960, at age 58, John Steinbeck set out with his French poodle, Charley, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years. Together they crossed America from the northernmost tip of Maine to California’s Monterey peninsula, stopping to smell the grass, to see the lights, and to hear the speech of the real America. Steinbeck dined with truckers, encountered bears at Yellowstone, and reflected on the American character, racial hostility, and the unexpected kindness of strangers. Lyrical, perceptive, and surprising, it’s an indispensable portrait of our national identity.” (Amazon).

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac’s years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, ‘a sideburned hero of the snowy West.’ As ‘Sal Paradise’ and ‘Dean Moriarty,’ the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience. Kerouac’s love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz combine to make On the Road an inspirational work of lasting importance.” (Amazon)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the ne plus ultra of Hunter S. Thompson and the whole gonzo clan he spawned. Written in the lurid afterglow of the 1960s, Fear and Loathing is a loosely connected series of mad dashes across the desert, trashed hotel rooms, and goofs on the brutish, naïve, or merely unhip, perpetrated by Thompson and his mammoth Samoan attorney. The pair start out high on a medicine cabinet’s worth of elixirs, powders, and pills, and stay that way for 200 pages. They careen through an unsettling landscape of paranoia and alienation, but that doesn’t mean the book isn’t a riot. Here’s a small taste: ‘By this time, the drink was beginning to cut the acid and my hallucinations were down to a tolerable level. The room service waiter had a vaguely reptilian cast to his features, but I was no longer seeing huge pterodactyls lumbering around the corridors in pools of fresh blood.’.” (Amazon)

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

“Despite its lascivious reputation, the pleasures of Lolita are as much intellectual as erogenous. It is a love story with the power to raise both chuckles and eyebrows. Humbert Humbert is a European intellectual adrift in America, haunted by memories of a lost adolescent love. When he meets his ideal nymphet in the shape of 12-year-old Dolores Haze, he constructs an elaborate plot to seduce her, but first he must get rid of her mother. In spite of his diabolical wit, reality proves to be more slippery than Humbert’s feverish fantasies, and Lolita refuses to conform to his image of the perfect lover.

“Nabokov delights in exploring the intercourse between cultures, and the passages where Humbert describes the suburbs and strip malls and motels of postwar America are filled with both attraction and repulsion, ‘those restaurants where the holy spirit of Huncan Dines had descended upon the cute paper napkins and cottage-cheese-crested salads.’ Yet however tempting the novel’s symbolism may be, its chief delight—and power—lies in the character of Humbert Humbert. He, at least as he tells it, is no seedy skulker, no twisted destroyer of innocence. Instead, Nabokov’s celebrated mouthpiece is erudite and witty, even at his most depraved.” (Amazon)

I’m excited to pop in the CD for each one of these books. Although I’ve read them all before, I do believe that they will each have a new context of their own when played on the open road on my journey across the country. Each story has an underlying theme of transience and I’m hoping that these works will continue to be a vessel for my desire to voyage. Happy reading, and happy travels!