Book Beat: Route 66

Submitted by J. Alder on

On my bucket list is a trip along the entirety of Route 66. Yes, much of it is now under various interstate freeways, but the spirit, scenery, and even some of the landmark structures still live on.

U.S. Highway 66 officially was born in 1926 with the first Federal highway system. It was cobbled together with existing local, State, and Federal roads. It became popular quickly, partly because of advertising done by the U.S. 66 Highway Association. Ironically, the businesses along Route 66 saw increased traffic during the Great Depression as destitute people were fleeing their homes westward. World War II brought less tourist travel, but Route 66 acted as a military transport corridor and served those moving to Washington, Oregon, and California for defense industry jobs. The 1950s and 60s saw families with more cars and free time heading to the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, and other vacation destinations. Route 66’s boom led to its demise as the Interstate System was conceived, built, and diverted traffic away from its businesses.

A new movement is afoot to memorialize Route 66 and its landmarks. In the meantime, here are some books to help envision what it was like, or even plan a trip of your own.

  • Abandoned Route 66, Arizona : where the road came to an end by Blue Miller. Arizona embraced the Mother Road, clinging to it long after any other state and making sure the world didn't forget it. Today that heritage is marked along the roadside by abandoned places that all tell a story, a narrative picked out in trading posts, motels, and ordinary people.
  • Main street : the lost dream of Route 66 by Edward Keating. This book contains 84 photographs taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning, former New York Times photographer Edward Keating along Route 66 from 2000 to 2011, telling the stories of those who traveled its length and those who settled along the way.
  • Route 66 : the people, the places, the dream by Sal Santoro and Bob Walton. Two retired guys live their dream by driving coast to coast, including all 2,448 miles of historic Route 66, in a 1968 Cadillac convertible. During their 38-day, 7,292-mile odyssey they meet interesting people, enjoy the sights, and understand why the legend of the Mother Road continues.
  • The American dream? : a journey on Route 66, discovering dinosaur statues, muffler men, and the perfect breakfast burrito by Shing Yin Khor. An illustrated comic travelogue of an American immigrant’s journey through the remains of The Mother Road.
  • Route 66 road trip by Moon Handbooks. This is your guide to the hidden gems of history, culture, landscape, and geography of Route 66. Includes maps, important stops, travel tips, and side trip information.

Library tip of the month: If you want to explore a little closer to home, check out our Experience Pass. You can get free passes to area attractions and museums with your library account. Learn more and schedule passes on our Experience Pass page.