My reading


My local library in Canberra
I’ve only been to the United States once before and that was quarter of a century ago. To increase my knowledge of the country and bring myself up to date, I’ve done some reading in the year and a half since I began to think seriously about doing this ride. In addition to The New York Review of Books every fortnight, I’ve read or re-read the following books.

Kenneth Allsop, Hard Travellin’: The Hobo and His History
Stephen E. Ambrose, Undaunted Courage: The Pioneering First Mission To Explore America’s Wild Frontier (about the Lewis & Clark expedition of 1804-1806)
Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins, Every Second Counts (a champion racing cyclist)
Joe Bageant, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War
Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America
--------------, A Walk in the Woods (the Appalachian Trail, which intersects my route)
David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries (musings inspired by cycling in world cities)
Peter N. Carroll and David W. Noble, The Free and the Unfree: A New History of the United States
Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work
George Crile, Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History (CIA intervention in Afghanistan in the 1980s)
Dave Eggers, Zeitoun (Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, 2005)
Edmund Fawcett and Tony Thomas, America and the Americans (30 years old but I had it on my shelves)
Amanda Foreman, A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided (the Civil War from a British perspective)
Ian Frazier, Great Plains
Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History (the American war in that country)
Thomas Keneally, Lincoln (biography of President Abraham Lincoln)
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (a naturalist in Wisconsin)
Steven Levy, In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives
James M. McPherson, The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
Gary E. Moulton (ed), The Lewis and Clark Journals: An American Epic of Discovery
Anne Mustoe, A Bike Ride: 12,000 miles around the world (includes cycling from San Francisco to New York City)
--------------, Amber, Furs and Cockleshells (includes cycling from Independence, Missouri to Albuquerque, New Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail)
Francis Parkman, The Oregon Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky Mountain Life (first published in 1849)
Jonathan Raban, Old Glory (a voyage down the Mississippi in 1979)
--------------, Hunting Mister Heartbreak: A Discovery of America
Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco: the American military adventure in Iraq
Simon Schama, The American Future: A History from the Founding Fathers to Barack Obama
Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres (a re-telling of King Lear set in rural Iowa)
Jean Edward Smith, FDR (biography of President Franklin D. Roosevelt)
Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big To Fail: Inside the Battle to Save Wall Street
Don Watson, American Journeys (by rail and road)
Karl Weber (ed), The Best of I.F. Stone (a Washington-based reporter of the mid 20th century)

I have watched Alistair Cooke’s classic 13 part television series from 1973, America: A Personal History of the United States, and listened to all 90 parts of David Reynolds’ 2008 radio series, America: Empire of Liberty. Both are BBC productions. Of Hollywood films I’ve seen in recent times, the only one I can think of with a location along my route is Winter’s Bone (2010), set in the Ozarks.

The accounts of other touring cyclists are more directly relevant to my journey. Some are listed in the Ride Registry maintained by the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA). Undoubtedly the most important repository of day-to-day narratives by cyclists who have ridden the route before me is, however, Neil Gunton’s invaluable website Crazy Guy on a Bike. Among the many journals I have read there, I have learned most from those by Mike Aris, Sholto Douglas, Curtis HunterJeff Lee, Bill Maxwell, John Meiners, Bruce Moore, Mike Weingarten, and Al Nordstrom/Keith Wilson. For a woman’s experience, I recommend Joy Santee’s journal. The route maps supplied by the ACA are the final item on my list of preliminary reading.

Please use the comment space below to suggest further reading for after the trip.

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