Book Review: Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck

Book: Travels With Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
Published: Penguin, 2002 (originally 1962)
Genre: Non-fiction/ Travelogue
Pages: 214 pages
Where I got it: the library
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): With his dog Charley, John Steinbeck set out in his truck to explore and experience America in the 1960s. As he talked with all kinds of people, he sadly noted the passing of region speech, fell in love with Montana, and was appalled by racism in New Orleans.

My thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. I read East of Eden recently and fell in love with Steinbeck's writing, plus I love traveling so I figured this would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, Travels With Charley fell flat for me. I was expecting more stories from the places he visited but instead found it was more filled with small snippets of interactions with people he met along the way. I had a lot of trouble finishing it and have been putting off writing this review because I'm really not sure what to say about it. I should note that I've been sick for over a week now and also had 6 people visiting from New Hampshire over the weekend so I took a little hiatus from reading in the middle. I think that added to my difficulty in getting through Travels With Charley. I'm not saying I hated it, but I just found it to be nothing special. I think I had hyped it up way too much and it ended up being a short book without enough detail for my liking.

Now for things I liked about it. I found the relationship between John and his french poodle, Charley, to be so endearing. I've never had a dog but reading a book like this is exactly why I'm anxiously anticipating the day I have a place that allows pets. His love and dedication to his dog is really what kept me reading. My favorite part of Travels With Charley was when they went to the national park to stay for the night and John is warned about bringing in Charley because of the bears. John assures the park ranger that Charley would never hurt a fly and should not be worried about the safety of the bears. Charley's surprising reaction upon seeing a bear for the first time is a great piece of this story that had me laughing out loud. Overall, I thought Travels With Charley was okay but lacking in parts.

The verdict: 2 stars

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