Long before the comforts and reliability of smartphones, GPS, and 24/7 gas stations, Jack Kerouac took several cross-country journeys with friends that would become the basis of his semi-autobiographical novel, On the Road. A literary artifact from the dawn of what would become known as the “Beat Generation,” On the Road is the tale of Sal Paradise, a free spirit who travels around North America, detailing his experiences with friends, strangers, poverty, sex, and tea (aka marijuana).
Sometimes On the Road gets bogged down in minutiae, but the spirit of the time (the late 1940s) and the historical aspect of the novel make it worth reading. Kerouac delivers an interesting travelogue that gives us insight into how society was in this period of American history, warts and all. While Sal probably isn’t the most reliable of narrators, his thoughts and feelings about his experiences are more than likely 100% Kerouac.
The edition I read has a wonderful introduction and analysis by Ann Charters, a professor and Beat Generation scholar. If your copy includes this, I highly recommend you read it before you delve into the book. The intro provides some context and identifies the real people fictionalized in On the Road.
A word of warning: On the Road is a product of its time and does contain depictions and language regarding minority groups that some may find offensive.
On the Road is a piece of American literary history and a book I definitely recommend.