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Let the Good Times Roll: A Cars In Fiction Reading List

Rory O'Connor By Rory O'Connor Published on February 21, 2016

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The title is a little misleading, but it’s catchy, so I’m keeping it. Not all of these cars and/or car rides are enjoyable, so “good times” is not unanimously applicable, but times are being had and the wheels are certainly rolling. There’s no question that cars often feature prominently in literature, from Jack Kerouac’s classic On the Road to the road trip from hell featured in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, but which ones are worth reading? That’s a good question, and while I’m tempted to answer “All of them!”, I’ll narrow is down to my ten favorite. I love automotive literature – give me a scintillating car manual any day – as much as the next person, but I do prefer my reading to be of the fictional, rather than instructional sort, so this list is limited to fiction only.

10. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. This novel has been making Christmas creepy since 2012. Hill’s epic battle between Victoria McQueen and Charles Talent Manx prominently features a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith. It is one car you do not want to ride in.

9. Drive by James Sallis. Sometimes you just need to drive. Splitting his time between stunt driver and getaway Driver, the lead character has a life that mostly satisfies him – until he is double crossed. The resulting novel is gripping.

8. From a Buick 8 by Stephen King. Taking its title from a Bob Dylan song (“From a Buick 6”), this novel is the first of two King books to make this list. Pennsylvania state troopers take possession of a vintage automobile, but they soon realize there is more to the car than meets the eye. On occasion, the doors open to another universe with creatures you don’t want to meet...

7. Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon. This is a novel that illustrates that sometimes the trunk is best left closed. On a more serious note, the story illustrates the fine line between youth and maturity, as aging professor Grady realizes he is not quite as young as he thinks he is. To find out what ends up in the trunk, read the book.

6. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman writes one of the most enthralling road trip novels I’ve read, where the characters see the alternate side of America.

5. Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts. Superstitious Novalee hates sevens. So at 17, while seven months pregnant, the decision to take a road trip to California may not be the best idea. With $7.77 in change from a Wal-Mart in Oklahoma, she finds she’s been abandoned by her boyfriend, but it may be the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

4. Christine by Stephen King. Jealousy is a dangerous emotion, and nothing highlights that like a horror novel.

3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling. To round out the supernatural cars on this list, Rowling makes a car that flies. Although you should make sure you pick up book one in the Harry Potter series first.

2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. It’s a trip. Do you see what I did there?

1. The Spark and the Drive by Wayne Harrison. An overlooked coming of age novel featuring a teenage boy who finds his calling, his idol, and his first love at a mechanic’s shop.

Happy reading! I hope you found at least one new road trip book for your reading pleasure. 

Science librarian, blogger, and nature lover. Survival is insufficient.

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