Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Travels with Charley: In Search of America

by John Steinbeck
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Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck

To hear the speech of the real America, to smell the grass and the trees, to see the colors and the light—these were John Steinbeck's goals as he set out, at the age of fifty-eight, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years.

With Charley, his French poodle, Steinbeck drives the interstates and the country roads, dines with truckers, encounters bears at Yellowstone and old friends in San Francisco. And he reflects on the American character, racial hostility, on a particular form of American loneliness he finds almost everywhere, and on the unexpected kindness of strangers that is also a very real part of our national identity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553029666
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/1977

About the Author

John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).

After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.

Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.

The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.

Date of Birth:

February 27, 1902

Date of Death:

December 20, 1968

Place of Birth:

Salinas, California

Place of Death:

New York, New York


Attended Stanford University intermittently between 1919 and 1925

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Travels with Charley: In Search of America 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 132 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck with his poodle, Charley, sets out to rediscover the country he is known for writing about. In their pickup truck and camper, the duo embarks on a journey that spans from New England to California, from Midwest to Southwest, and from Yellowstone to New Orleans. On his journey, Steinbeck reflects on what makes America "America" and how our country had changed in the 1960's. As you may have guessed from the other reviews, this was overall a good read, it's John Steinbeck writing it after all. He gives plenty of details about all of the sights he sees and uses his great word choice to describe them, plus it's pretty entertaining, especially if you have a dog like Charley (I do). However, as a high school student, I found it hard to relate to. It deals with pretty universal themes, travel and what makes America "America". But, it also deals quite a bit with less universal themes, like aging and changing times. These themes are evident by Steinbeck's crotchetiness towards things like highways and vending machines. So as you could imagine, I couldn't always pay attention whenever he was complaining about plastic wrap or just being old. I suppose then the target demographic I would be referring to is anyone who can relate to a world that has changed dramatically in their adult lifetime, so you'd probably have to be a bit older than I am. Some major events have happened since I was born, but I was just a little kid who didn't really understand it and what it meant as far as change goes. You'd have to be someone who is old enough to compare one decade to another because you've lived as an adult through them. But don't lose hope if you're not old and crotchety! You will enjoy it if you're the kind of person who likes to travel or just are interested in the history of America in the 1960's (like I am), but maybe not as much as the former. If you do like Travels with Charley, it'd be worthwhile to read Steinbeck's other works or anything by similar authors, specifically Earnest Hemingway and The Old Man and the Sea.
DLB2 More than 1 year ago
I'm sure that at some point in one's life Steinbeck was a mandated read for any student who found themselves thrown into a high school literature course. Like most, I, too, received the dreaded assignment and begrudgingly cracked open the book, struggling to get through the mind numbing task in an effort to at least gain enough knowledge for the following week's class discussion, or the even more dreaded written book report. Now, decades later, with s few gray hairs and approaching the same age as Mr. Steinbeck when he penned this story, I have made my own choice to return to Steinbeck. In all truth, I chose this book as I believe all visionaries and dreamers like myself have, at least at one time in their life, planned a trip to explore beyond their immediate borders; whether the borders are real or imagined, and whether the trip comes to fruition or only remains in their mind. I also happen to like dogs. :) This story, however, is more that simply a journal of a man and his dog on a 3 month trek across the country. Steinbeck paints a picture with his words that you can visualize with such clarity, as if you were a stowaway in his customized van and were personally witness to all that he experienced. He describes places and people that are from a different era than we now know, and yet, these descriptions also hold elements that ring true today. Steinbeck takes you through the sad, scary, laughable, heart-warming and awesome moments with the people and landscapes he met along the way, along with the feelings for a love one left behind and the anxious yearning that we all feel when we've been away from home too long. Steinbeck's vocabulary has a richness and depth that is so singular in style that there is no doubt he rightfully earned his title as one of the Great American Writers. DLB2
claraone More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love this book. I enjoyed very much everything that John Steinbeck wrote, but it was all fiction. This is a more or less a factual account of one trip across America. Apart from the fact that I am planning such a trip myself, I could not put the book down, he is so entertaining, you laugh, you muse and you enjoy the beautiful stops with him along the journey. I recommend this book to everyone that enjoys traveling.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
 Reading the work of a literary giant is an experience in understanding what writing truly can be.  To have the occasion to hear the words of a legend read aloud adds to the experience while lowering “the fourth wall” between the writing and the reader.  When John Steinbeck gave expression to his thoughts, they were found to be concise, intelligent and had the ability to bring the reader to explore parts of her/him that were previously unknown.  When I found this audiobook in one of my sources, I was expecting a quality “read,” and one that would bring hours of reflection, frequent smiles and a few moments of “oh, My!”  I was not disappointed. When he was nearing 60, John Steinbeck purchased a 1960 GMC pick-up truck, had a custom camper made for it (maybe the first such camper in existence), took his Blue Standard Poodle, Charley, on a eleven-week, 10,000 mile journey across America.  He hoped to learn “what America really is (was)” by traveling the small roads, visiting the towns and talking to the people he met.  The unique camper and his “ambassador” (Charley) opened the way for him to meet people whom he would have had little opportunity to meet. What he found on this journey was that Americans were people, unique as individuals but not distinctive from other Americans. On this trek, he meet: Canadian migrant workers in New England, farmers in Wisconsin, an actor in the Northern Plains, old friends in Salinas, family in Texas and bigots and civil rights workers in the South.  All were people very real and very much alive. The majority of the book was delightful.  His conversations with Charley are the stuff of cherished friendships.  His thoughts on the things he saw reflect his powers of observation and his ability to effectively convey those thoughts to his readers.  The nights he spends in “Rocinante” (the name of Don Quixote’s horse and the moniker given his truck) were relatively few (the book indicates he suffered insomnia as well as he frequented motor courts) but it served as a place to entertain his new friends.   The painful part of the book was his account of his experience in the segregated South.  My “home” region has much to offer – beautiful landscapes, great food, distinct music, exceptional literature – but its history is not without serious stains.  When Mr. Steinbeck visited on this trip, the South was in the early skirmishes of the Civil Rights movement.  He saw the ugliness of those who were frightened of equality because they knew only how to be slaves to themselves.  He met quiet heroes who “forgot” to see color and therefore saw only fellow human beings.  He witnessed kindness and cruelty, beauty and depravity, tranquility amid chaos.  Then he wrote of what he saw so well the reader could feel the humidity, see the craziness and hear the groans of the labor pains of a culture being reborn. I look forward to reading many (perhaps all) of Mr. Steinbeck’s 32 published books.  But I doubt any will top the road trip I completed with him and Charley.
Guineasaurusrex More than 1 year ago
In this book, Steinbeck decides to cure his "restless urge" to travel and drives cross-country in a camper top attached to three-quarter-ton pick up truck with companion, french poodle, Charley. His journey spans from New England to California, from Midwest to Southwest, and from Yellowstone to New Orleans. All throughout, Steinbeck attempts to "re-discover" America and realizes all the common changes throughout the country and also the attributes that make each destination unique. The book also highlights the relationship between Steinbeck and Charley as well as Steinbeck's fascination with the concept of travel. Overall, I thought this book was pretty good but it was not what I was expecting. after reading Of Mice and Men, I was expecting a book with awesome use of literary devices and allusions as well as powerful twists (I now realize this was a lot to expect from a non-fiction novel, but I thought Steinbeck could pull it off). The fact that Steinbeck was traveling with a dog made it even more appealing to the avid animal lover that is me, however, I thought the book was excruciatingly boring at parts and had an inadequate amount of references to Charley (not enough for me, anyway). I did like Steinbeck's opinionated, artistic point of view, however. I also agreed with a lot of his opinions about America in the 60's. I think the book could be appreciated more if it were read slowly, to savor all the details, but am not a slow reader and frankly, would not recommend this book to anyone looking for a short-read, or anyone with a limited amount of patience either. However, if you choose to give this book the time it requires to be enjoyable, then you may think otherwise.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ryebread2713 More than 1 year ago
In the final chapter of John Steinbeck’s novel: Travels with Charley In Search of America, he states that “people don’t take trips--trips take people.” Throughout this book, I feel as though I became acquainted with Mr. Steinbeck and his faithful French counterpart, Charley. This book represents the road trip you never had, and the adventure you always wanted. The most fantastic thing about this book is the amount of truth imbedded in it. While John crosses the United States in search of the true definition of “America,” you get to see the good and bad sides of every area that he visited. While this could incite rage in the most avid patriots, it shows the truth, especially in the 1960s, which the book is set. This book touches on the carefree fun that comes from going around with your best pal, creating memories wherever you can, but it also touches on important subjects like racism, segregation, and how prejudice is learned rather than inside you since birth. Unlike most of Steinbeck’s other books, this is a nonfiction book, and could be classified as a memoir. Through this book, you get to experience more of Steinbeck’s writing style, and his personality. I don’t often read nonfiction books, because I prefer fiction, but this book was fantastic. The only thing I did not like about this book was the vulgar language at one part, but the language was portrayed as wrong, and vulgar, so it wasn’t like they were saying it was a good thing to say. Overall, this is a fantastic book about adventure, experience, and friendship (albeit dog friendship) and I recommend it to everyone with a taste for thrill. As John Steinbeck said in this wonderful novel, “people don’t take trips--trips take people,” and this book is definitely a trip worth letting take you.
toniFMAMTC More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book because I needed a road trip book to fill a participation requirement in a book challenge. I'm so glad that I did. The author took time off from everything to drive across the country with his dog. He met all different types of people and had good and bad experiences. Politics and beliefs came up often and varied person to person. Elections, war and racial desecration are just a little of what was on the minds of many. He's pretty good at giving mostly unbiased opinions of his interactions. He describes many popular geographical spots also. I felt that I received a pretty accurate and interesting look at the U.S. of the past.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Big Steinbeck fan and I thought I'd read everything he'd written. Discovered this and it's probably my least favorite of his works. However, it is enjoyable and I'm not sorry I read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An exceptionally & easy to read book by one of the finest authors America has ever produced.  It is meant for all ages but I often give it to 12 & 13 year olds as it gives them an opportunity to read exceptionally literature rather than almost all of the other things they read in their daily lives.  It is funny & touching.  I completely disagree with the young person who said it was for old people.  It describes things that have been lost in America and gives the reader an opportunity to "live" in a different era, but one we have built upon. The antecedents of today's America.  A fact that is missed or mis-interpreted is Stanford's days at Stanford.  They suggested that he leave Stanford & go out and write before he was ruined by a formal education.   They recognized his excellence as a writer.  One can not go wrong with this lyrical tale of Steinbeck & his Charley.  It was not meant to be factual.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorites books. If you are a traveler at heart you will be able to relate to the feelings of being out on the road.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in school and ended up liking it a lot. Steinbeck surprises me with his interesting encounters in a journey across America, an impressive cornerstone of literature. I would recommend this product along with Eighteen In Cross-country Odyssey by Benjamin Anderson, a tale about an eighteen-year-old’s journey across the United States between his high school and college careers, fraught with quirky encounters and beautiful scenery. Make sure not to miss either book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another of Steinbeck's amazing writings!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it. If you don't like Steinbeck but have never read this. Read it. I thought I would never say I actually had fun reading something Steinbeck wrote. BUT I DID. GASP.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“Travels With Charley: In Search of America” is a nonfiction book written by acclaimed author John Steinbeck, who has published many works including “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men”. The story documents Steinbeck’s adventures beginning in September, 1960, when the 58-year old author set out on an expedition across the country in a box truck he calls Rocinante with his French Standard Poodle, Charley. The motivation behind the aging, heart-disease afflicted author’s journey across America is as interesting as the story itself. Written in 1960 as he drove, Steinbeck documents the country he had experienced years before and subsequently written about numerous times in his work. On a mission to re-discover the soul of America, a concept integrated into national identity by the Beat generation of the 1950s, Steinbeck references the changes that he sees both within the landscape, and within the people he observes and meets along the way. He acknowledges how the enlightenment provided by the prior decade has left its impact on the moral and integrity of a country rapidly advancing toward an age of modernization and revolution. He mentions the differences he sees in the country he once knew so well as a young man but now seems unfamiliar to him—these include massive superhighways, industrialized and built-up cities, and unusual new manners of living, such as mobile homes. Steinbeck also places a large emphasis on the condition of the people that he meets. He observes individuals from all over the country, and states explicitly the differences he encounters from region to region. He mentions a decline in people’s overall intrest in each other. He states that “people used to help each other out” and that “theres absolutely nothing to take place of a good man.” When he reaches California, his state of prior residency after driving from New York, Steinbeck admits with despondency that everything he observes is painfully different than what it once was, and for all those things and people that hadn’t changed, he had—therefore altering his perception. With a reference to Thomas Wolfe’s novel, Steinbeck writes “you cant go home again because home ceases to exist except in memory.” While traveling from state to state, Steinbeck notices the pride that people take in their home state, and the love they feel for their country—and most of all the rights that they have as Americans. As he journies, he mentions some of the scenes that left an impact on him as a result of the trip—one of these being the story of young African-American girl Ruby Bridges, the first black child to integrate a all-white school. Steinbeck is taken aback by the hatred that can stem from human to human—especially hatred based on something so negligible as the skin color of a child. Apart from his monologues regarding the philosophies and morals put forth by the American people, Steinbeck also makes monumental references in regard to elusive concepts such as the emotional aspects of a journey in comparision to the physical ones, and the importance of experience—especially experience involved in the ability to understand a generation. Steinbeck’s companion on his journey, his French Standard poodle Charley is portrayed as a sophisticated and intelligent animal—which contrasts with the stereotypes of the breed of dog Charley is. He conducts himself in a very humanistic manner, although Steinbeck never regards him as more than a dog—a dog he has raised since puppyhood and has an immense amount of respect for as a creature. Steinbeck shares his assumptions of Charley’s perception of the adventure just as often as he documents his own, making the book all the more intriguing. The book, from cover to cover, is not only a wholly accurate and astute representation of mid-20th century America, it is an entertaining and un-paralleled missive that presents as many contemplations as it resolves. Not only does this work give readers an insight into the mindset and intellect of an important figure in American literature, it lets readers from any time period take a brief glimpse back into time. Chronologically frozen and documented for posterity, Steinbeck’s assumptions and accusations remain as accurate now was they were at the time they were written. “Travels With Charley” is a wonderful literary work that is sure to please readers of all ages who possess a perceptive mind and a passion for adventure, I was thoroughly impressed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this is an excellent and very enjoyable book. It is so well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To the "honors english" student, if you can only read one of those six books, read the Steinbeck (and don't listen to that other young person who couldn't identify with aging because it's not a "universal"issue--you bet your buttons that it IS!) But why not read all, or at least more than one? When I was your age, admittedly a day or two ago, my dad had me reading bunches of the classics. Start now, there are more every generation! Steinbeck is one of the best but they're all great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am going 2 be in honors english next year and there are 6 books i can choose from and i don't know which 1 2 go with. HELP the books are: Dawn by Elie Wiesel Travels with Charley by John Steinback All Quiet on the Wesrern Front by Erich Maria Remarque Roots by Alex Haley The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain Why cant we wait by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plz help i have 2 read 1 before school starts in august.... Thanks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago