There’s something about the romance of the road that writers — and readers — can’t resist. We certainly couldn’t. Missing Parsons is a community of fans, friends and followers engaged around the book Live Fast, Die Young by Chris Price and Joe Harland, a true story of two radio professionals and music obsessives on the road searching for the spirit of rock and roll America. We asked the community to suggest and vote for their favourite road books.
After much debate about such things as whether Homer’s The Odyssey counts as a road book, we settled on the Top 10 you see here. The comments alongside each book are from the Parson who suggested each one. (The Top 10 was whittled down from a short list of thirty. The full list is here.)
by Hunter S. Thompson
Voted the ultimate road book by the Missing Parsons community, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas is arguably the only book on the list to have spawned a whole new literary genre: Gonzo. For anyone in search of misadventures in rock and roll America, Thompson's classic novel is a great place to start.
by John Steinbeck
From Parson Smith: The only book I ever re-read immediately upon finishing. I had just moved to California at the time (1967), and knew most of the places after driving cross-country. The movie with Henry Fonda was one of my favorites, and it became even more so after I found out that G.W. Bush used to refer to it as "that Commie movie". Icing on the cake.
by Jack Kerouac
Whether On The Road is the first book of the Beat Generation remains the subject of much debate. That the phrase — and possibly the genre — was invented by Kerouac is beyond doubt. Parson Amable says this is his favourite book ever.
by Tom Robbins
Parson Gary Meekins says: The first of many very entertaining stories from one of America's most original and entertaining authors.
by Tom Wolfe
Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll — all here in abundance. Parson Amable says: What can I say about this? More than a road book, it's the chronicle of the rising philosophical movement that buried Illustration and positivism. Always with me.
by Bill Bryson
A personal favourite of Chris and Joe’s, The Lost Continent is the only non-fiction book on the list. Bryson's light touch and dazzling turn of phrase is a master class in travel writing. Wonderful.
by Eddy Joe Cotton
After a fight with his father, 19-year-old Zebu Recchia hitchhiked out of Denver, changed his name and didn't turn back. Twenty-three notebooks and a book contract later he rented a room in Las Vegas and wrote a memoir of his six years on the road.
by George Orwell
Orwell’s first book, Down and Out... is a fictionalized but autobiographical account of his picaresque existence in the slums of two cities. Parson Hollinshead says: My absolute all time favourite Orwell (and that's a tough choice) and one of my all-time favourite books too.
by John Steinbeck
The quintessential American writer, Steinbeck is the only author who appears twice on this list. Travels with Charley is the last word in road books, and in more ways than one: According to Thom Steinbeck, the author's oldest son, the real reason for the trip described here was that Steinbeck knew he was dying and wanted to see his country one last time.
by Mark Twain
Parson Sean Smith says: One of the earliest American road novels, and one of the best. Tackles class and race issues head on. Good thing those are no longer issues for any of us.
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About Chris Price, Joe Harland & the Missing Parsons Community
Chris has been shaping the music landscape for his entire career, first at BBC Radio 1, the UK’s national music radio station, and later as Director of Music at MTV. He once asked legendary road manager and Gram Parsons body-snatcher Phil Kaufman to explain the rules of the game 'elbow tit'. Joe Harland is also an award-winning producer at Radio 1, respected despite once telling Cher she looked like a witch and being dubbed a 'superficial nonsense' by PJ Harvey. Missing Parsons is a community of fans, friends and followers who, like Chris and Joe, love music a bit too much.
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