William Kaszynski's The American Highway was hugely acclaimed when it was published in 2000. Demand quickly overwhelmed supply and those of us who sought our own copies were asked by used book sellers to pay multiples of the original suggested price.
Fortunately, publisher McFarland & Co. and author Kaszynski have gotten together to publish a reprint of the 8x10 format history not only of the roads on which we drive daily but analysis of their impact on our national culture and lifestyle.
Since Kaszynski wrote his book, others -- notably Earl Swift with his The Big Roads (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) and Tom Vanderbilt with his Traffic (Knopf, 2008) has expanded on Kaszynski's extensively researched words, but have not supplanted his original volume with its wonderful and historic photos.
Kaszynski starts with the world's first roads -- built by the Incas, the Egyptians, and the Romans -- writes about travel in the United States from colonial times through westward expansion and then begins his history of roads as we have known them -- roads built to carry our automobiles and its passengers smoothly across town or across the country.
The book spans 237 pages, which are packed not only with historical narrative but with 313 photographs that illustrate just how far we've truly traveled in the past century.
And it's not only the roads, their funding and construction, about which Kaszynski writes, but about what's alongside those roads -- the history of refueling stations, roadside restaurants, motels, and even the billboards and advertising painted on barns -- told in words and shown in photos.
Nor is it only the history of our road which captures Kaszynski's attention. The book ends with a look at the road ahead, where the decades-old promise of automated highways, where even the "driver" merely sits back and enjoys the trip -- hands off the steering wheel and feet off the pedals -- finally becomes reality.