Finding the right book to take on holiday can be almost as stressful as scaling down your wardrobe to fit into a suitcase. If you’re lucky enough to be jetting off for a while, taking a sizeable paperback, and maybe on old favourite, is the best way to ensure you’ll never be bored while waiting for flights, food or family members!
Whether you’re travelling to Europe or one of the further corners of the globe, we’ve found a book to match your destination. If you’re struggling to think of the perfect book to take on holiday, look no further – our list of summer reads includes old classics, new bestsellers and hilarious memoirs from all the continents (except Antarctica!) to get you in the mood for your well-deserved getaway.
This award-winning novel follows a concierge, Renée, who has supervised an apartment building in an upscale area of Paris for 27 years. She deliberately conceals her intelligence to avoid sparking the building tenants’ curiosity, but one young girl living in the building suspects that there’s more to Renée than meets the eye.
Babary’s evocative prose describing the elegant lives of the Parisien elite is the perfect read to take on your French getaway.
Written at the turn of the 20th century, the story follows a young girl, Lucy, who travels to Italy with her older cousin and chaperone, Charlotte, as part of a traditional European tour expected of upper middle class women at the time. At their guesthouse, the pair are given rooms overlooking the courtyard rather than out over the river Arno. A fellow guest, Mr. Emerson, kindly offers the rooms belonging to him and his son George, who has eyes for young Lucy.
Forster’s account of a woman’s struggle between independence and love will transport you straight to the cobbled streets of Florence.
The celebrated American author tells the story of a group of American and British expats who travel from Paris to Pamplona to watch the famous running of the bulls. The novel, considered by many to be Hemingway’s finest work, depicts the excitement of post-World War I Europe and is loosely based on the author’s own trip to Spain in 1925.
Australia – Jessica by Bryce Courtenay
Courtenay’s novel is based on true story of Jessica, a young girl working on a family farm in Australia with her father during the onset of World War I. This compelling tale of murder, justice and love rivalries has been likened to a mix of ‘Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy’, and received rave reviews when it was published in 1998.
New Zealand – The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
In 1866, prospector Walter Moody travels to Hokitika, near New Zealand’s goldfields, to make his fortune. Instead he finds himself in a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. Catton’s gripping tale won her the 2013 Man Booker Prize at the age of 28, and at a hefty 832 pages, it’s the perfect book to take on a long trip away.
Portugal – The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
This posthumous book of Pessoa’s unfinished and unpublished works is the ‘autobiography’ of Bernando Soares, one of the writer’s many alter egos. Written as part diary, part poetry and part descriptive narrative, The Book of Disquiet “gives to Lisbon the haunting spell of Joyce’s Dublin or Kafka’s Prague,” according to prolific literary critic George Steiner.
Canary Islands – More Ketchup Than Salsa by Joe Cawley
Joe and his girlfriend Joy ditch their life in Lancashire to run a bar in Tenerife imagining a world of beaches, cocktails and siestas. However, their sun-soaked daydreams turn out to be as ‘exotic as a west Monday morning’ as they discover eccentric locals, cockroach-infested hotels and an expat culture they can’t quite get to grips with. Cawley’s travel memoir is a hilarious read to take on your trip to the Canary Islands, providing your experience isn’t quite as disenchanting as theirs!
Greece – The Island by Victoria Hislop
On the cusp of a life-changing decision, 25-year-old Alexis Fielding longs to discover her family history that her mother has kept secret from her. All she knows is that she grew up in Crete before moving to London. It is only when Alexis decides to visit the island that she discovers the shocking truth about her family’s association with the leper community of Spinalonga. Hislop’s acclaimed bestseller won several awards including Newcomer of the Year at the 2007 British Book Awards and was also adapted into a successful Greek TV series.
Kemal is engaged, but falls for a beautiful shop girl, Füsun, whilst out shopping for a handbag for his fiancée. In his romantic pursuit of Füsun over the next eight years, Kemal builds up a collection of objects that chronicle his heartbreak, and creates a ‘museum of innocence’. Set against the backdrop of Istanbul’s burgeoning modernity and vast cultural history, this gripping tale of loss and betrayal was Pamuk’s first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in 2006 and received widespread critical acclaim.
Adichie’s story charts the hope, promise and chaos during the Biafran war in the 1960s as the state struggled to gain independence from Nigeria. This evocative novel won the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction, and is one of many incredible reads by the celebrated author.
Based on a Mexican folk tale, Steinbeck’s tale follows the life of Kino, a pearl diver who struggles to provide for his family. One day, he unearths a pearl as large as a seagull’s egg and, in the belief that his life will transform, becomes blinded by greed. This short but sweet novella is only 96 pages, so just the thing to pack when you’re out of luggage space.
Caribbean – An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof
Desperate to break away from their career-driven lives, the author and her husband quit their jobs in Canada and move onto a sailboat to travel to the Caribbean on a two-year voyage of culinary and cultural adventure. You can almost taste the sweet, heady West Indian rum punch as Vanderhoof describes the sights, tastes and smells of the Caribbean in delicious detail.
Against the backdrop of sunny California, the author writes a contrastingly dark account of the year following the death of her husband John Gregory Dunne in an ‘attempt to make sense of the weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness, about marriage and children and memory, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself’. Although it isn’t the most light-hearted book to take on holiday, it’s a thought-provoking read that’ll help you appreciate the good things in life.
India – The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Balram Halwai is the White Tiger; growing up as a poor villager in Laxmangarh, Balram’s life changes forever when a rich man hires him as a chauffeur and takes him to live in Delhi. As he drives around the city, Balram becomes aware of the opportunity around him, but knows that he will never be able to gain access to that world – unless he kills his master. Adiga’s provocative debut novel portrays the contrasts between rural life by the Ganges and the booming business in Bangalore, and won him the Man Booker Prize in 2008.
Far East – Peony in Love by Lisa See
Peony has never seen or spoken to any man other than her father, a wealthy Chinese nobleman, or been outside the women’s quarters of the family home. She’s engaged to be married to a stranger, but as her sixteenth birthday approaches, Peony has dreams of her own. Her father hires an acting troupe perform in their garden, and although unmarried girls are not permitted to sit amongst the audience, Peony’s father allows them to watch from behind a screen. Here, Peony catches sight of a handsome man – and so begins her journey of love and sorrow. This romantic page-turner gives an insight into the traditions and rituals of women in 17th Century China, and at 416 pages, will fill in the hours on your long-haul flight.