53. On the Road – Jack Kerouac (100 book challenge)

Finally something completely different! And written within the last 100 years.

Compared to the Hugos and Austens and Dickens and Hardys I’ve been reading lately, this epic road trip novel was a refreshing and modern change.

Yes, it’s almost 80 years old, so I do use the term ‘modern’ loosely. But the people in this book are driving cars, talking on the telephone and using electric refrigerators. Which is significantly more advanced than most of the other classics on this 100 book list.

I think my issue has been that when I started the 100 Book Challenge, I was so desperate to read books that seemed ‘easy’, so I gravitated towards the ones that had shorter wordcounts and were written in language that was easy to read. Four of the five first books I read were written in 1995, 1984, 1979 and 1932 (granted, there was also Shakespeare’s Hamlet in there, which upped the average age significantly).

Now that I’ve passed 50 books and I’m on the downward stretch, I’m having to tackle all those older classics I’ve been avoiding for years. But On the Road was a surprising exception to that.

Sal Paradise is a young American with a sense of adventure who is never happy staying still. He has a wild, uncontrollable friend called Dean who shares his journeys criss-crossing America in the 1940s. It is raw, detailed, honest and written in a way that sounds like Sal simply spoke into a dictaphone for ten hours then hit print. It captures what life on the road was like when you had nothing but one good friend who would back you to the end.

After sharing a car with Sal and Dean for the last 10 days, speeding between Frisco and Denver and Mexico City, I myself feel exhausted and in need of a hot shower and a good meal.

A great read for anyone wanting a view of America from a unique (and very entertaining) perspective.


In July 2014 I set myself the challenge to finish 100 must-read books before I die. For my ongoing tally click here.

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