The Longest Road


One of America’s most respected writers takes an epic journey across America, Airstream in tow, and asks everyday Americans what unites and divides a country as endlessly diverse as it is large.

Standing on a wind-scoured island off the Alaskan coast, Philip Caputo marveled that its Inupiat Eskimo schoolchildren pledge allegiance to the same flag as the children of Cuban immigrants in Key West, six thousand miles away. And a question began to take shape: How does the United States, peopled by every race on earth, remain united? Caputo resolved that one day he’d drive from the nation’s southernmost point to the northernmost point reachable by road, talking to everyday Americans about their lives and asking how they would answer his question.

LONGEST ROAD map fragmentSo it was that in 2011, in an America more divided than in living memory, Caputo, his wife, and their two English setters made their way in a truck and classic trailer (hereafter known as “Fred” and “Ethel”) from Key West, Florida, to Deadhorse, Alaska, covering 16,000 miles. He spoke to everyone from a West Virginia couple saving souls to a Native American shaman and taco entrepreneur. What he found is a story that will entertain and inspire readers as much as it informs them about the state of today’s United States, the glue that holds us all together, and the conflicts that could cause us to pull apart.

Praise for The New York Times Bestseller THE LONGEST ROAD

“It is a joy it is to read these stories. I mean that: pure joy. The Longest Road is the best thing to come along since Blue Highways and Travels With Charley.”
—Doug Stanton

“[Caputo] keeps the narrative moving with his observant eye and mordant sense of humor.”  —The New York Times Book Review

“… A skilled and seasoned reporter, Caputo strikes small veins of storytelling gold….  An easy, entertaining and at times provocative summer read.” —The Miami Herald

LONGEST ROAD map fragment

“A perfect vacation book that’s funny and erudite at the same time.” —New Haven Register

“A new book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Caputo…is always an event. Pithily capturing their characters and opinions about the state of America, Caputo snares reading devotees of a classic American theme, the road trip.”
Booklist, starred review

“A new travelogue for a new millennium.” —Kansas City Star

“[Caputo] gives us a view not only of the 17,000 miles he traveled but of the many people with whom he spoke. The novelist and multi-award-winning journalist, whose Rumor of War was one of the defining books of the Vietnam era, should get it just right.”
Library Journal

“A continental tale that is always engaging and frequently reassuring.”
Publishers Weekly

 Longest Road with Leslie

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Comments (40)

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  1. Erik Borne says:

    I loved this book when I read it as soon as it came out! So much that when we revamped our English 3 curriculum where I teach and we agreed that our overarching course question would be “What does it mean to be an American?” I pushed for the opening unit’s question to be “What unites and divides a country as endlessly diverse as it is large?” Half of my students are reading and annotating Caputo’s masterpiece for this question, and the other half are reading/annotating Travels with Charley for the same question; they will then switch books, respond to their partner’s annotations, and engage in conversations that I hope will really get them to grapple with such a significant question and consider how America has–and has not–changed over 50 years. I am so excited to share this book with my scholars and learn from them as they journey with Caputo and Steinbeck in search of America! Thank you for taking this trip and sharing it with us, Mr. Caputo; I hope to take such a trip in the future. Erik Borne–IL

  2. Betsy Allinson says:

    My husband and I and our aging and ailing English Springer Spaniel just drove from our home in eastern PA to southwest Florida and back again. Your amazing book kept us enthralled through much of the trip. (A trip of a paltry 2,550 miles, btw.) When the last CD ended, we started the book again to reacquaint ourselves with the inspirations of your adventure, and because we couldn’t face being finished just yet! Throughout the narrative we kept wondering what you could possibly be thinking about the divisions in the country in this new political landscape…. My favorite of your subjects was the shaman, Wooden Knife; I cannot get his words out of my head and heart (I am very happy to say). Thank you, thank you, thank you–for embarking on the journey and writing about it.

  3. Gene Martel says:

    Hello, The Longest Road has kept me company on my commute to work for the past couple of weeks. We also travel in our motorhome, vacations since we are not retired, about forty night a year and thousands of miles. It is truly amazing the people you meet, some different then others in their views, mainly because of their demographics and how that influences them. I absolutely loves this book, hearing the tails of holding tanks, town names and the people you meet. Thank you for your work..Gene

  4. Ed Fitzgerald says:

    Mr Caputo: I knew a Jake Levy when I was a student at New York Military Academy in 1955. I think his full name was Walter Levy.He was in high school when I was in eighth grade and was a great mentor to me. He was a great guy even at that age. I read your book ” A Rumor of War” and saw your reference to your friendship with Walter Levy who died a hero in Vietnam Nam. Can you tell me if he was the same man?

    Ed Fitzgerald

  5. wajih says:

    here is the updated list of top 10 longest roads

  6. Tony Baker says:

    To Jennifer Baseden: You will be very happy with The Longest Road, and perhaps surprised, perhaps not, by the breadth of skill of this fine writer we both enjoy and support. The book has a point and comes to it,but only after it has shown you the giant tapestry of our amazing country.

  7. Jennifer Baseden says:

    Hello Mr. Caputo,

    I read a ton and keep my favorites, so I’m currently re-reading A Rumor of War and got online to see how you’ve been doing. Was very interested to read about The Longest Road and reading about it spurred a question for you, preceded by a brief explanation.

    The book I read* just before re-reading Rumor contained this seemingly visionary quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

    “There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism…. The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.”

    As a first-generation immigrant and one-time journalist now working for the VA, I found TR’s assertion both fascinating and disturbing. So here I am a week later on your website, reading this description of Longest Road:

    (For Caputo). a question began to take shape: How does the United States, peopled by every race on earth, remain united? … in 2011, in an America more divided than in living memory…. What he found is a story that will entertain and inspire readers as much as it informs them about the state of today’s United States, the glue that holds us all together, and the conflicts that could cause us to pull apart.”

    Maybe I just need to make the kind of trip you made (since I’m nearing retirement) and find those answers for myself. But from the unflinching honesty you exhibited in Rumor, I’m hoping this new book might provide provocative insight as opposed to pat answers. So, might you have time and inclination to render comment, encourage me to read Longest Road and/or refer me to other enlightening materials? Regardless of whether or how you respond, I’ll still love your work. ☺


    * The Goliath Stone, by Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington (2013), p.69.

    • I think you’ll find The Longest Road very different from A Rumor of War. It’s a semi-serious, semi-light-hearted travelogue. It doesn’t provide an answer to the question, What holds this vast, diverse country together. But it present the thoughts that the people I met along the way have on that issue.

      Thanks for the praises.


  8. Gail Andrews says:

    A cinnamon bun has your name on it waiting for you here at Tetsa River:))) A friend brought in your book to our lodge and showed myself and my husband Ben (3rd generation here at Tetsa). We were so surprised and touched to see your write up about our buns! Thrilled to be truthful.
    Ben is the true master chef whose recipe has brought our little lodge such fame…hes pretty damn amazing if I say so myself….but ,,,,sigh,,,I am biased.
    Would love to sell your books ere as we have 100 other titles.
    anytime you are here…buns are on us.
    Best regards.
    Gail Andrews
    Tetsa River Lodge, Alaska Highway Mile 375

  9. paul cahill says:

    Just re-read Rumor of War. Caught the Dominican education reference this time around and i thought perhaps being from Westchester you went to Fenwick as did I. And you did. I knew your talent had to come from somewhere haha. Have ordered The Longest Road and it will, after reading it of course, sit in my library next to Blue Highways, Travels with Charley, On the Road, and the books of Paul Theroux.

  10. Phil True says:

    Dear Mr. Caputo…A daughter-in-law sent me your appearance at the Moth and the moving comments made there about “why me.” I am a WWII vet, USAAF B-29 navigator with combat missions over Japan, and afterwards I often thought about why did this plane get shot down and others did not, the impartiality of “who lives; who dies…” in combat. I had read many years back your “Rumor of War” and consider it one of the very best books written about the Vietnam War, and I have used one of the incidents in it in a course I’ve given: “America’s Wars: Wars of Necessity; Wars of Choice”. I look forward to your recent “Longest Road” book, since I reviewed years back travel books including “Travels…Blue Highways..Winter Beach” and a couple of others.

    Thanks…and best,

    Phil True [an excellent first name, right?]

    • Thank you for writing. You’re last name is also excellent. We are going to see “Unbroken,” which speaks to your comments about the arbitrary nature of war: Why did this plane get shot down and the other did not? The book upon which the film is based is a splendid read, and I recommend it if you haven’t read it yet. Have a happy New Year.

  11. thomas g barker jr says:


    I met you several years ago in Patagonia Az
    where I have property at the Rail X Ranch
    You told me about your coming trip and the Air Stream
    out on Harshaw Road
    I had just read Crossers which was very exciting
    since I am familiar with the Patagonia Sonoita area

    The Longest Road was selected as our book of the month club for January 2015
    We are a small book club of Stone Canyon CC members located in Oro Valley Az

    We were wondering if you could meet with us for an hour in Janusry or February 2015 to discuss the book?
    We would like to pay for any travel or lodging expenses incurred

    I will be in Patagonia sometime between December 8 and December 15
    I uusually stay at the Duquene House
    I live in the summer in Jackson Hole Wy and have several friends coming down to quail hunt

    I would like to meet you again and hope you could journey to Tucson to meet with our book club

    Thanks again for a great book
    I would like to do the same sort of trip
    I’m 68 years old and love road travel
    fly fishing and bird hunting

    Tom Barker

    I already subsribe to your email site

  12. Dave Antrobus says:

    Mr. Caputo, I thoroughly enjoyed The Longest Road. It has stirred up feelings of wanderlust inside of me and hope to make an epic voyage across America as you and your wife did. The book really captured how vast our country is in terms of people and places. I am looking forward to reading your other titles as well.

  13. Steve Cuddy says:

    Just finished listening to The Longest Road while driving from Chicago to Iowa and back . It is perfect for a long road trip.

    A few years back I worked with Winnebago Industries on motor home marketing. You captured the travails of working with a moving “campsite” well. I interviewed many people about why they liked “camping” in a motorhome. They all said they liked the people you meet once the chairs are out no matter where you park. And when asked if they ever had any problems they would first say no — works great. Then tell stories of transmission failures and electrical system challenges but they held few grudges about the problems. Mostly they like tinkering and figuring out how they work. I agree the classic Airstream is the best… an icon..

    Thanks for capturing some of the fabric of the spirit of America. I think you found some of the basic thinking that binds us together. The fact so many people can have such divergent notions of how things are (often based on bad data) and yet have the freedom to argue and discuss and yell their position from a street corner. Then sit at the coffee shop together and share a story with a stranger. I think it’s more than Hope .. it’s Trust.

  14. Joe Terrana says:

    (Where are the road trip Kerouacs?) You won’t find us in convertibles often, but in vans towing trailers traveling/gigging the country with our band mates barely making gas and beer money loving the long, strange trip that it is. And then on to cruise ships out of Miami to play in the cheesy show band as an excuse to travel the Caribbean for yet more life adventures. Top it off with hopping a trawler with a neo-hippie band to play at Marina Hemmingway, Cuba and you have one possible answer to where we are.

    Thanks for the great read and virtual trip. I’m getting the itch again.

  15. mark rastatter says:

    I just read your book,Great trip!!! At 53 with a wife a 6 children, this is my dream.,he best part of the book is when you ask everyone about America.Everyperson has a different idea, that is what America is.
    Your comments about the average worker in corporate america is so true, the Volkswagen Plant in Tenn. is a perfect example, the local republicans want the workers to be happy at 17.000 per hour- that is not even 40.000 per year. Keep on writing!!!

  16. Greg Johnson says:

    Mr. Caputo,

    My words cannot adequately express the hundreds of hours of pleasure reading your books have given me. A simple thank you will have to suffice.


    Greg Johnson
    Faithorn, Michigan

  17. Margaret Hoyle says:

    My husband and I have loved every word of this book. We took the Alaskan trip (via Yellowknife)…from Kansas in 2006. We hope to do it again. We drive a Pleasureway Class B conversion van…and have visited every province in Canada(except Nunavut of course), and every U.S. State…we also rented a van for a month in New Zealand (highly recommend that to you)…anyway, we howled so many times and read to book aloud. You and Leslie are kindred spirits and thank you for writing such a fun, meaningful book. Page 185 and the GPS trail story could have been copied from our travel journals. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  18. Caig Buchanan says:

    Mr. Caputo:
    What a fun ride! Much to my wife’s dismay, like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, your book has reignited my desire for a grand road-trip.

    I’m certain that we’ll remain united if the people you met along the way represent the majority (I think they do).

    Blessings on your journey,

    • Philip Caputo says:

      One of the oldest and one of the biggest of the Big Questions. If the universe is the work of an all-benevolent Creator, why does evil exist? Or, why do bad things happen to good people? Philosophers have offered a thousand answers, which fall into two broad categories: The ways of the Creator are inscrutable. There was no Creator, benevolent or otherwise; the universe is a brute fact, and pointless suffering is built into its very nature. But try telling that to the parents of the children butchered a year ago in Newtown, Connecticut.

    • Philip Caputo says:

      And blessings on yours, if you take it. “The world is a book, and he who does not travel reads not even one page.”

  19. Dan Fox-Gliessman says:

    I loved this book. Just finished it and want to start over again. Maybe just envying your trip and adventure. Certainly reminds me of Travels with Charley. It was also my first eBook and helped me discover Rumors of War which I am starting today. I introduced The Longest Road to my 88 year old Mom who started it yesterday. I guess I have 13 or other books of yours that will keep me busy. Thanks for such a good read.

  20. John Bottger says:

    Can’t wait to read it but would like to obtain a Signed copy. How might I go about getting one? Thanks, John Bottger – Richmond, Va.

  21. John Hinsdale says:

    Mr. Caputo: Very much looking forward to reading this. PS: re: community/family… my mom (Mrs. Hinsdale) is 90 coming, and still living on Suffolk Ave. to this day back in Westchester(!).
    — John Hinsdale, Princeton Junction, NJ

  22. Tony Baker says:

    I’ve read everything ya got.

    Dyin’ to get my hands on this one.

    Pre-ordered and waiting with eager urgency.

    Come on July!

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