I’ll be staying home for Thanksgiving this year, but I’ve certainly spent plenty of holidays on the road, which I don’t regret a bit. So, in honor of the traveling I won’t be doing this year, I’m going to talk about one of the most famous travel books in American literature: Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

Hopefully by the time you read this, those of you who are traveling for Thanksgiving will have arrived safely and left at least part of your journey behind you.

But if you did drive, fly, or otherwise GO somewhere for the holiday, chances are that you still have to get back from wherever you went, and that’s where part of the inspiration for today’s column came from.

I’ll be staying home for Thanksgiving this year, but I’ve certainly spent plenty of holidays on the road, which I don’t regret a bit. So, in honor of the traveling I won’t be doing this year, I’m going to talk about one of the most famous travel books in American literature: Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

I have to admit that I’m not quite finished with it, but what I’ve read so far is engaging, although certainly worthy of a minor content advisory in places. I’m intensely curious about how many people reading this column have also read the book, but for those of you who haven’t, I can provide some further information.

“On the Road” is a tough book to do justice to in summary for a number of reasons, but the essential story is a rambling, real-time narrative about Kerouac’s own multi-directional, unpredictable travels across North America in the late 1940s. He chases various distant destinations with widely varying reasons, although almost all of the travel involves friends and companions, both new and old.

There’s a tremendous amount of culture and geography packed into the sketches and glimpses of Kerouac’s inventive prose, and the idea that travel and friendship are as vital a part of American identity as the country itself is an important underlying theme throughout the work.

I’ve met some people who cherish this book like a long-lost friend, and while I’m not enamored with it to quite that extent, I’ve definitely enjoyed and identified with plenty of Kerouac’s experiences of the road. For several reasons, I opted to listen to the audio book first, but the farther I get into the book, the more I find myself wanting to re-read certain bits for closer examination. I think this book might be a rare exception to my general affection for recorded books: In spite of the flowing, conversational structure, I can’t help feeling that it involves enough internal, individual processing that it really should be read from the page if at all possible.


In any case, if you find yourself with extra time on your hands during your Thanksgiving weekend, or if you just need something to help pass the time on a long flight or cross-country drive, you could do a lot worse than bringing a copy of “On the Road” along.

Happy Thanksgiving!