road trip usaNow in its seventh edition, Jamie Jensen’s best-selling Road Trip USA is better than ever.

Inside, you’ll find cross-country routes and road-tested advice for adventurers who want to see the parts of America that the interstates have left behind. Jensen also includes mile-by-mile highlights celebrating major cities, obscure towns, popular attractions, roadside curiosities (if you’re looking for the world’s largest jackalope, you’re in luck), local lore, and oddball trivia. With full coverage of more than 35,000 miles of classic blacktop, Road Trip USA will take you off the beaten path and into the heart of America.

Features include: A flexible network of route combinations, extensively cross-referenced to allow for hundreds of possible itineraries; essential tips for the road; survival guides for two dozen cities; call letters of the liveliest radio stations; details on where to eat and sleep; full-color interior with more than 140 meticulously detailed maps. (description from publisher)

flyover lives For those of you not familiar with Diane Johnson, she is a writer who grew up right in the Midwest, in Moline, Illinois to be specific. Her Midwest roots can be found throughout her writings, specifically in her memoir, Flyover Lives.

Johnson grew up in Moline and writes that the Midwest was a place she wanted to escape from. She  eventually ended up in California and then in France, where the idea for this book sprang forth. At a house party in France, Johnson’s friend told her that Americans had an “indifference to history,” that that was why Americans were naïve and didn’t have as much of a grasp and pride in their history as the French did. When Johnson eventually made her way back to California, this conversation stayed stuck in her head. What if the people in the Midwest, otherwise known as the flyover states, also flew over their family history with little thought given to where they came from and the struggles of their ancestors? This bothered Johnson and she set out to find out more about her genealogy. This book serves as her rebuttal.

Accompanied with pictures from her life and her ancestors’ lives, Johnson weaves together a story about the hold that home has on us all and our twin desire to escape to other places and make a name for ourselves. Johnson and her readers will find similarities between their own lives and the descriptions of her ancestors and their eventual journey to the Midwest. The letters and memoirs Johnson discovered serve as the backdrop to her exploration of a proud family history that ends up in the Midwest with the potential to leak around the world.

Looking for more books by Johnson? You’re in luck! The library has a number of books by her like Le divorce, Le mariage, and L’affaire. Some of these books are also available in large print, e-books, and audio books. Le Divorce was also made into a movie. Interested in finding copies of those, either click on the titles or visit the library catalog and search.

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Psst, hey there, would you like to see something cool? Down by the arboretum in Dubuque, if you hike to the very back, climb over the old barbed wire fence and head west (watch your step for sink holes) you’ll find what remains of an old park, destroyed 100 years ago by a flash flood that killed five people. Here’s the old limestone bandstand and pavilion, and, if you look hard enough, the decaying remains of the roller-coaster. Be careful, though, since no one is sure if anyone’s allowed here.

Intrigued? So was I, way back when my curiosity easily overruled my common sense. It led me and my friends to the old Union Park, abandoned houses and zinc mines, caves and the subterranean network of cisterns and cellars underneath my neighborhood (don’t tell my mom, though.) It’s the same curiosity that drives the book “100 Places You Will Never Visit: The World’s Most Secret Locations,” by Daniel Smith. The places photographed and described in Smith’s book tend to fall more into the “you’ll never visit because it’s illegal/top-secret/destroyed/radioactive” and not “you’ll never visit because you’ve never heard of it” category, but the locations described are interesting, especially if you’re a fan of government conspiracies.

The book is heavy on speculation when describing places such as The Skunk Works, Mount Weather and – of course – Area 51. Smith also takes a turn at the politics of some off-limits areas, like Bohemian Grove (a California camp where the world’s most powerful meet, away from the public eye), the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The more interesting places described are those not located in North America (or, at least, are outside of the U.S.’s collective imagination) like La Basse Cour (“The Farmyard”) in Belgium, the unidentified structures in China’s Gobi Desert or the temple vaults of Sree Padmanabhaswamy in India. Again, most of these places are known, just off-limits to the public. But, the photographs, maps, and illustrations give the reader enough to at least pique curiosity.

If you looking for more lost cities and urban exploration, check out “Hidden Cities: Travels to the Secret Corners of the World’s Great Metropolises” by Moses Gates or “Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City” by Bradley Garrett. Or, if abandoned places are more your style, try the TV series “Life After People,” Abandoned America” by  Matthew Christopher or my personal favorite “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman.

Toured to Death

In Toured to Death, mystery writer Hy Conrad launches the exploits of Amy and Fanny Abel, a mother-and-daughter team of New York City travel agents unexpectedly turned sleuths.  Join this promising start to the Amy’s Travel Mystery series on the Monte Carlo to Rome Mystery Road Rally, the first European tour offered by our heroines’ fledgling niche-travel business.

With her mother Fanny’s support from across the Atlantic, Amy leads a group of twenty-four tourists through stylish French and Italian destinations as they hunt for clues to solve a fictional murder mystery.  Amy’s ambitious idea to combine a game of Clue with an Amazing Race-like competition unfolds smoothly…until actual murders begin to take place!  When one of of the tourists and the man hired to write the plot line for the mystery excursion are found dead, Amy and Fanny must put their heads together to keep the killer from striking again.  They soon learn that the writer’s story was based on a real-life murder case involving two of their current tour customers.  Working in tandem to solve the crimes, mother and daughter begin to overcome the loss of their partners, strengthen their relationship, save their agency’s reputation, and prepare for their next adventure!

If, like author Hy Conrad, you enjoy both mysteries and travel writing, pack your bags (including a magnifying glass) for Toured to Death and the Amy’s Travel Mystery series. Readers of “cozy” mysteries will be interested in this book’s unique take on the genre, and fans of TV’s Monk can compare how Conrad (a writer and producer for the series, as well as the author of novels based upon it) develops his detectives and other key characters for different formats.

100 placesEver wondered what it takes to get into Fort Knox? Fancied a peek inside the Coca-Cola Safety Deposit Box? Would you dare to visit Three Mile Island?

The world is full of secret places that we either don’t know about, or couldn’t visit even if we wanted to. Now you can glimpse the Tora Bora caves in Afghanistan, visit the Tucson Titan Missile Site, tour the Vatican Archives, or see the Chapel of the Ark. This fascinating guide book takes a look at 100 places around the world that are either so hard to reach, so closely guarded, or so secret that they are virtually impossible to visit any other way. (description from publisher)

fluent in three monthsBenny Lewis, who speaks over ten languages—all self-taught—runs the largest language-learning blog in the world, Fluent In 3 Months. Lewis is a full-time “language hacker,” someone who devotes all of his time to finding better, faster, and more efficient ways to learn languages.

Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World is a new blueprint for fast language learning. Lewis argues that you don’t need a great memory or “the language gene” to learn a language quickly, and debunks a number of long-held beliefs, such as adults not being as good of language learners as children. His proven techniques break down language learning myths and replaces them with practical “language hacks” that take advantage of the skills we already possess.

Fluent in 3 Months provides everything you need to make learning a new language fast, intuitive and fun. (description from publisher)

travels with caseyA moody Labrador and his insecure human take a funny, touching cross-country RV trip into the heart of America’s relationship with dogs.

“I don’t think my dog likes me very much,” New York Times Magazine writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis confesses at the beginning of his journey with his nine-year-old Labrador-mix, Casey. Over the next four months, thirty-two states, and 13,000 miles in a rented motor home, Denizet-Lewis and his canine companion attempt to pay tribute to the most powerful interspecies bond there is, in the country with the highest rate of dog ownership in the world. On the way, Denizet-Lewis-known for his deeply reported dispatches from far corners of American life – meets an irresistible cast of dogs and dog-obsessed humans. Denizet-Lewis and Casey hang out with wolf-dogs in Appalachia, search with a dedicated rescuer of stray dogs in Missouri, spend a full day at a kooky dog park in Manhattan, get pulled over by a K9 cop in Missouri, and visit “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan in California. And then there are the pet psychics, dog-wielding hitchhikers, and two nosy women who took their neighbor to court for allegedly failing to pick up her dog’s poop.

Travels With Casey is a delightfully idiosyncratic blend of memoir and travelogue coupled with an exploration of a dog-loving America. What does our relationship to our dogs tell us about ourselves and our values? Denizet-Lewis explores those questions-and his own canine-related curiosities and insecurities during his unforgettable road trip through our dog-loving nation. (description from publisher)

I’m pretty sure that if a cute stranger offered to take me to a romantic European city for the day, I would probably say “No, but thank you. I’m just too awkward for that.” And I wouldn’t even fret about possibly missing out on an experience of a lifetime because, luckily, there are plenty of young adult romances that can satisfy my “but what would have happened?!” curiosity. Just One Day by Gayle Forman (and its companion book, Just One Year) is the perfect choice for armchair travel because the heroine just happens to be quite introverted herself, and thus, very relatable to us classic Librarian-types 😉

Just One Day begins with sensible, quiet Allyson feeling ready for her graduation trip around Europe with a teen tour group to be over so she can go home to the States. Yeah, that whining-about-being-in-Europe part isn’t that relatable to me, but granted her best friend has gotten a little bit wild/annoying, and the tour skipped over Paris–the one city Allyson wanted to see on the tour. But then she runs into a cute street actor who had flirted with her during his performance the night before…AND HE OFFERS TO TAKE HER TO PARIS! YES! YES! YES! So Allyson tells him her name is Lulu and hops on the train to Paris with him (and then promptly has several panic attacks on the train about him leaving her, killing her, making a fool of her, etc–this is actually the moment where I went from liking the book to LOVING the book). Lulu/Allyson and Willem spend an amazing day running around Paris and then live happily ever after. Swooooooon.

Well, until the next morning when Allyson wakes up alone in an empty Paris art studio.

With lots of tears and panic, Allyson finds her way back to London and her tour group and then back home to the United States. We then follow her through her first year of college as she learns to overcome her broken heart and embarrassment. After a long self-inflicted isolation, new friends help Allyson discover that she needs to revisit Paris and find Willem–partly because she believes that there is a mystery surrounding the morning Willem left her and partly because she needs to prove to herself that she is in control of her life.

Sorry, I can’t tell you if she finds Willem…BUT I will tell you that the companion book Just One Year tells the story of what happened to Willem during his year apart from Lulu. He does quite a bit more traveling…that is all I will say.

These two books are a must read for fans of Stephanie Perkins, John Green and Maureen Johnson and anyone else who likes a little independence and a little travel with their romances.

last trainA decade ago, Paul Theroux’s best-selling Dark Star Safari chronicled his epic overland voyage from Cairo to Cape Town, providing an insider’s look at modern Africa. Now, with The Last Train to Zona Verde, he returns to discover how Africa and he have changed in the ensuing years. On this trip, Theroux is journeying through West Africa for the first time. From Cape Town, South Africa, to Namibia to Botswana, he covers nearly 2,500 miles before he is forced to give up what is to be his final foreign trip, a decision he chronicles in a delightfully curmudgeonly and unsparing chapter titled “What Am I Doing Here.”

Vivid, witty, and beautifully evocative, The Last Train to Zona Verde is a fitting final African adventure from the writer whose gimlet eye and effortless prose have brought the world to generations of readers. (description from publisher)

longest roadIn The Longest Road one of America’s most respected writers takes an epic journey across America, Airstream in tow, and asks everyday Americans what unites and divides a country as endlessly diverse as it is large.

Standing on a wind-scoured island off the Alaskan coast, Philip Caputo marveled that its Inupiat Eskimo schoolchildren pledge allegiance to the same flag as the children of Cuban immigrants in Key West, six thousand miles away. A question began to take shape: How does the United States, peopled by every race on earth, remain united? Caputo resolved that one day he’d drive from the nation’s southernmost point to the northernmost point reachable by road, talking to everyday Americans about their lives and asking how they would answer his question. So it was that in 2011 Caputo, his wife and their two English setters made their way in a truck and classic trailer (hereafter known as “Fred” and “Ethel”) from Key West, Florida, to Deadhorse, Alaska, covering 16,000 miles. He spoke to everyone from a West Virginia couple saving souls to a Native American shaman and taco entrepreneur. What he found is a story that will entertain and inspire readers as much as it informs them about the state of today’s United States, the glue that holds us all together, and the conflicts that could cause us to pull apart. (description from publisher)