Fallen apart from long use, the front cover of my 1986 Penguin edition of Travels with Charley is paperclipped on. Frail and well worn, the entire volume is held together with a rubber band. Faded sticky notes mark items of special interest for past research and future reference. On the inside back cover are jotted random subjects that fascinate—including such items as Steinbeck’s long devotion to writing, design, and technique, and his early interest in the land and the environment. This random listing shows Travels with Charley to be a treasure trove of riches for scholar or reader:

I picked up this copy of Travels—a personal reference book and a touchstone—to peruse when Susan Shillinglaw and I began editing a collection of essays on Travels with Charley. But although Travels is a treasure beloved across the years by a variety of readers as well as by me, why...

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