Tuesday 17 June 2014

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Ok this is my attempt to have at least one entry into the Estella Project before the baby arrives and the whole world goes insane!! I actually picked up Travels with Charley before the reading list for this project was announced so was half way through it when it began, but it still counts! In case you haven't been reading my blog lately and seen how many times I've referenced the awesomeness of this book, let me just say flat out that I LOVED it from pretty much page one.

You guys, I have got such a list of quotes from this book, it's silly. I honestly don't know how to talk about its' awesomeness without just resorting to a list of them, but I shall try. So Travels with Charley is non-fiction, and it's about Steinbeck's journey around America with his dog, Charley. He pretty much does what Rhys and I talk about all the time, which is to get a camper van and just drive around, seeing things and visiting random places and chatting to people. Consequently the book is packed full of his observations on everything from the countryside to racism to politics and stylistically it's beautiful. 

When I read East of Eden I was amazed by the depth of Steinbeck's description, and it's no less in Travels with Charley, although it does have a more conversational tone to it. I don't know if I would have enjoyed the book as much if I didn't agree with so much of what he said, but pretty much every observation he made I was like 'YES' to. I should have taken a picture of what the book looked like before I wrote the quotes down and unfolded the pages, because I swear it was probably every other page which was folded. The book was twice as thick by the time I finished it! It also (as Laura said it would!) really really made me want to road trip across America, but that's a bit of a pipe dream for now I think, unless I go all Hideous Kinky and decide to homeschool my kids from a van, which I think would probably require Rhys to have a personality transplant! 

So anyway, really all I have to say about this book is that it was seriously great. A really relaxing, inspiring, though provoking and beautiful read and perfect for summer as it's fairly short. It's going on my list of favourites and staying firmly on my keeper shelf! 

Here are a few of the absolute best quotes from the book:

  • "For how can one know color in perpetual green, and what good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?" (p29) - talking about Florida, but also about the need for variety in life in general. 
  • "I think today if we forbade our illiterate children to touch the wonderful things of our literature perhaps they might steal them and find secret joy" (p31) - this guy clearly understands both kids and the awesomeness of literature
  • "I had the fear that I might somewhere run out of butane gas, and how would I read in bed then?" (P42) - Oh John, this would be a fear of mine too, and totally justifies buying a kerosene lamp!
  • "Maybe everybody needs Russians. I'll be even in Russia they need Russians. Maybe they call it Americans" (p110) - everybody needs somebody to blame for their problems! So true!
  • "From start to finish I found no strangers. If I had, I might be able to report them more objectively. But these are my people and this is my country. If I found matters to criticise and deplore, they were tendencies equally present in myself" (p159)
I cut out about two pages of what I had written just to spare you a huge list of quotes, but I hope this little list will make you see why it was that I found this book so fascinating!


  1. I LOVE this book! The amount of underlined passages I have in it! I was reading bits of it out loud to anyone who stood still long enough :)

  2. I always forget about Steinbeck, and I don't know why. Every time I read something by him, I love it. This seems like a good one for summer. Sounds great!

  3. Oh yay, you loved it! Not that I've read it, but I'm FAIRLY sure it's that book I almost bought for your birthday, then was really relieved I hadn't because Laura DID. Is that right? Anyway I still feel semi-responsible for you reading it, and therefore very happy that you liked it so much. :)

    This is definitely one of those Steinbecks that's on my 'definitely want to read sometime' list rather than my 'meh, maybe one day' list. WE ALL HAVE THEM DON'T PRETEND YOU DON'T.

  4. Ahahaha, everything everyone says about Florida makes me really really not want to go there. I'M SO GLAD YOU LOVED THIS, money well spent, is what I say! I had a weird thing with this book where it took me literally months to start it properly (I picked it up... read a page. Picked it up... read a page, and so on) and then when I actually read it I was like YES JOHN I LOVE YOU TAKE ME AWAY ACROSS AMERICA.

    Which is a pretty weird reaction to have to someone who died more than 20 years before I was born, but whatever. This is amazing.