Under the Influence (of books)

(photo from Georgia's Crafts)

In general, I avoid the Inspirational genre when it comes to my literary choices.  Call me a cynic, but those saccharine  cup-of-soup missives just aren’t for my (jaded) soul.  But that’s not to say that other books–reference books, even–can’t inspire someone with a heart as shriveled and black as mine!  Leave it to me to find inspiration in the pages of…an ATLAS.

Maybe it speaks to my OCD tendencies for all things neat and orderly that some of my fondest childhood book-related memories revolve around a hard-cover, over-sized 1960s Rand McNally atlas.  With heavy pages, colorful maps loaded with details, and an extensive index, this book–the intrigue its pages held– captivated me, shaping me into the traveler I am today.

I whiled away whole hours with that atlas, tracing routes from New Jersey all the way to  California.  I scrutinized the pages like a rabbinical scholar with a holy text, committing to memory names of the towns as my finger passed them by.  Youngstown, Ohio, zoom!  South Bend, Indiana, zoom!  Des Moines, Cheyenne, Elko, Reno, Sacramento, zoom, zoom, zoom!  I wondered what life was like in the 49 other states and vowed to visit them all.

By age 30, I’d visited a respectable number of states–about 20–but my wanderlust was far from sated.  In late 2006, I proposed the idea of a road trip to my husband.  Sporting fellow that he is, he readily agreed (anything to avoid travel by airplane!) and our 8,000+ mile odyssey soon became reality.

We had so much fun that we did it again (albeit on a more southerly course) in 2008.

We traveled on interstates and local roads visiting large cities and tiny towns.  We tubed the Yellowstone River, visited Mount Rushmore, spray painted our names at Cadillac Ranch, and rode trolley cars in Memphis, New Orleans, and San Francisco.

I know that my local bookstore would never shelf an atlas in the Inspirational/Motivational section, but for me, that’s exactly what an atlas is!

Has a book ever inspired or motivated you?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Under the Influence: What have books inspired you to do?

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  • At 2010.04.10 19:20, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

    You need to make a trip to Florida, because that way you’d have to pass by us!

    • At 2010.04.10 20:48, nat @book, line, and sinker said:


      i’m always zipping down to florida by plane and car–my parents have a house on the west coast near sarasota. 🙂 i don’t count those drives as road trips because i do them a few times each year. i’ll swing by for lunch next time!

    • At 2010.04.10 21:01, Jena said:

      Under the Tuscan Sun makes me itch to make home improvements. If we’d bought a house that needed major renos, I was planning to make it our next Read to Me book (my husband hasn’t read it).

      I’ve made a few cross-country road trips, too–all of which seem to involve us getting stuck in a city while our vehicle is fixed (twice now it’s been an engine replacement) and we end up spending an easy $10,000 in that week. Crazy. I never knew I could spend money that quick (but car repair is costly). We’ve decided to play it cool for a while and probably rent the next road trip vehicle ’cause we don’t relish the thought of losing another vehicle to another patch of ice.

      By the way, I don’t recommend driving through Wyoming in winter. There’s a nasty patch on I-80 just east of Wamsutter that keeps the hospital and tow companies pretty busy when it’s cold.
      .-= Jena´s last blog ..Hamlet & Ophelia by John Marsden =-.

      • At 2010.04.11 22:03, Kerri said:

        I love to find new places to travel from my reading – although I find a plane very ‘luxurious’ – at least until my legs start to cramp up … Like you – you can’t go wrong with a little Bill Bryson to get the travel maps started.
        .-= Kerri´s last blog ..Read the Book, See the Movie: New Moon =-.

        • At 2010.04.12 00:31, Jess - A Book Hoarder said:

          Let me start by saying I am in love with the map made from license plates. I have a fake picture of one I bought at target but it is my life goal to make one. I also love your road trips. 8000 miles in 25 days, that is hardcore!

          I am planning what is most likely going to be my final cross-country road-trip (at least for a while) from NC to CA in May and I am so sad about it. Who knew that I would have so much fun driving through random places. Before my first one, I bought the book Road Trip USA and it was so much fun to read. I have to admit that I didn’t go to half the places I picked out of the book but it was still fascinating.

          Out of all the books I’ve read, one of the ones that made me want to travel the most was The Historian. Istanbul, Bulgaria, Dracula…I am so there. Also…Eat, Pray, Love. Oh how I want to go to Bali.
          .-= Jess – A Book Hoarder´s last blog ..A Book Signing & A Giveaway =-.

          • At 2010.04.12 10:13, Care said:

            Ack – you missed Kansas?! (I love Missouri, too) We have the 1000 Places to See Before You Die book and it’s depressing to realize I may never see a half percent of all the stuff in it. But we consult it every time we go to a place and see it mentions something we must see. And of course, Guy Fieri’s TripleD inspires us to visit restaurants…
            .-= Care´s last blog ..Read-A-Thon MidPoint Spring 2010 =-.

            • At 2010.04.12 13:44, Jenners said:

              I love long road trips … I’ve tried multiple times to convince my husband to try one but he refuses. I’m waiting until my son gets a bit older and then I envision a long cross-country road trip. I did several with my mom and I loved it. I think it is great that you’ve done so many! You really get to experience the country that way.
              .-= Jenners´s last blog ..Show Me 5 Saturday: "Whacked" by Jules Asner =-.

              • At 2010.04.12 15:52, Unapologetically Mundane said:

                I really hope someone says “the Bible”.

                .-= Unapologetically Mundane´s last blog ..Booty POP! =-.

                • At 2010.04.12 18:46, Ti said:

                  Well, Bill Bryson made me take up hiking.

                  The Game On Diet had me losing 20 lbs (that stayed off, lost more but gained some back..shhhh).

                  Those are just the ones that comes to the top of my head but I am influenced by books and reading all the time.

                  You need to make another trip to California.
                  .-= Ti´s last blog ..The Sunday Salon: Sluggish, Windy, Rainy and COLD =-.

                  • At 2010.04.13 09:48, Dishy said:

                    Guess which vote’s mine…
                    .-= Dishy´s last blog ..The Kitchen Project. =-.

                    • At 2010.04.27 12:55, Kari said:

                      I am so jealous. I have been dying to road trip across the country for years…and I can never find anyone willing or able to go with me! I have a book called Road Trip USA that I bought senior year of college when my roommate and I were pondering what to do for spring break, and since it’s never been used, I just grab it every now and then and plan out my future trip.

                      How do you find the time to do it??
                      .-= Kari´s last blog ..It’s a Party, I’ll read about the world if I want to! =-.

                      • At 2010.04.27 22:01, Natalie said:

                        i work in a high school and have plenty of time each summer. my husband gets oodles of days off each year and saves them up for july. 🙂 we didn’t take our first big road trip until i was 34 and he was 35…you have time, but i’d definitely recommend the experience.

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