What to Read on Vacation: The Perfect Book for Your Travels
Just another essential to add to the carry-on.
You’re just about ready to go on a highly anticipated vacation, but there’s one thing you didn’t tick off the packing list: a book! You know you need a great book to keep you company while on your trip. Eat, Pray, Love? No, no, no, definitely not. Been there, done that. You need something a little more inspired.
You haven’t quite bought your ticket yet and you’re looking to spring your wanderlust into action? These books will come in handy for you too. Just crack one open and embark on a different kind of adventure.
Whether you’re heading to a lazy beach, a hike, a road trip or simply a long flight, here is a bit of direction as to what will make the perfect paperback travel companion for your next adventure.
In a hurry? Jump straight to:
The Best Books for a Solo Hiking Trip
You’re feeling well and truly exhausted from the day’s hike … what’s better than taking out a headlamp and diving into a good book? A solo hiking trip is a great place for some deep soul searching, but sometimes it can also be good escape into an author’s world.
Wild by Nature: One Woman, One Trek, One Thousand Nights by Sarah Marquis is worth the added weight in your pack. This is the story you need to read on a solo hiking trip.
Marquis herself went on the journey of a lifetime: a solo ten thousand mile hike starting in the Gobi Desert, passing through Siberia and Thailand and so many others, and ending in the Australian outback. The author went through so many insane experiences that are just begging to be recounted by the campfire. Without spoiling anything, amongst them are mafia encounters and exotic bugs. Wild by Nature recounts dangerous tales and might just inspire your next adventure.
If this isn’t the hiking novel for you, fear not! Here are two other options that are bound to fulfill your wildest dreams: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. Really, what’s with wild being in all of those trek-centric titles?
On the off chance that your heart isn’t set on a destination yet and you’re looking for a place to pitch your tent, here’s an idea.
The Best Book for the Solo Female Traveler
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman is what Eat, Pray, Love may have been before it became a huge cliché. Newman saw her family and friends go down the traditional road: get married and have kids. She, however, took the road less travelled. Her novel is a mix of hilarious tales, amazing locations and food for thought, and it’s a little sexy too. It’s the perfect novel to keep company to the woman travelling by herself. Coincidentally, it’s the perfect novel to toss people’s way when they question your choice to travel solo.
If you still need a bit of a push to become the solo female traveller you’re meant to be, read this.
The Best Books for a Foodie Adventure
A big part of travelling is tasting. Tapas in Spain, soba in Japan, soufflé in France, arepas in Colombia, gelato in Italy, hot pot in China—there’s just too many! Through food you can experience so much of a culture, but if you need something to do in between eating and sightseeing, might we suggest a book?
Some classics, like spaghetti bolognese, never go out of style: Under the Tuscan Sun is exactly that. The Frances Mayes novel takes you to Tuscany where her descriptions take you through an abandoned villa, lively town markets, vineyards, and more importantly, right at the table during decadent meals. Whether you’re heading to Italy or not, this book is sure to make you salivate.
If you prefer a good old croissant over pasta, My Life in France by Julia Child might be what you’re craving.
The Best Book to Read in a City Café
Is there anything better than to sit down at a café with a good book? Yes, there is: doing it in a whole new city. In between sips of the local speciality and a healthy amount of people-watching, cracking open a novel feels like a slice of heaven.
A novel by Lauren Elkin is perfect for the occasion. Flâneuse is a French word that roughly translates to someone who strolls or dawdles, often in a city—but specifically for a woman. On this read, you’ll be taken through New York, London, Paris, Venice and Tokyo following the steps of women who strolled through at one point or another in history. A story of cities and creativity—perfect to day dream about while you wander cobblestoned streets.
The Best Books for a Train Journey
Traveling by train can be an amazing way to go about your journey, scenic and economical! It can also be extremely long and tedious depending on a myriad of factors. Horrible weather makes the scenery impossible to discern? Or it’s simply a night train and you can’t sleep? You weren’t lucky enough to snag a window seat? You’ve been on this train for 5 hours already and frankly are a bit over it? It sounds like it’s time for you to get your nose in a book.
Agatha Christie is a name many associate with mystery and Hercule Poirot is the best detective to put a little life (or death) into your locomotive adventure. Murder on the Orient Express has inspired many murder-mystery dinners and you’ve got the perfect ambiance to enjoy it fully. A despicable man is found dead on a train and the oh-so-famous Belgian detective has thirteen suspects. Who did it?
The Best Books to Read on the Beach
Most travel habits revolve around beaches, and for good reasons, the salty breeze and turquoise water are about as enchanting as a mermaid’s song. Once you’ve found the optimal place to put down your towel and curl your toes in the warm sand, there are only two ways to go from there: read a thrilling page turner or go for the relaxed no worries beachy read.
For the thrill-seeking reader, Jaws by Peter Benchley, is an obvious choice . This terrifying read about a man-eating great white shark might make you second-guess jumping into the ocean, but what’s a vacation without a dose of healthy thrills? If you ever find yourself having some fun in the sun in Martha’s Vineyard, make sure to pick up a copy of the famous story.
Alternatively, beach reads are often associated with light summer books that are just good old fun. Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians is exactly that. The first installment of this trilogy is the perfect lighthearted book for your vacation. Set mostly in Singapore, the novel is a window into the world of the uber-rich. It’s a retelling of a classic tale: normal girl falls in love with a prince. Except here, the prince is the heir to a huge fortune and the family drama is off the charts!
The beach is really one of the best places there is to plop down with a good book. Just like there are too many good beach-y reads to count, there’s also a wide variety of beaches begging for you to visit: why not give a try to this one and this one?
The Best Books for a Road Trip
If you find yourself out of the drivers’ seat and don’t suffer from motion sickness - you’re sure to read plenty during a road trip. If you aren’t one of the unicorns who can read in a moving car, a good book is key for any pit stop or morning when you wake up before your road-tripping companions.
If you’re the kind of person who prefers the movie to the book, click here for the perfect road trip and maybe give a go at audiobooks!
Kourac’s story, while fictionalized to a certain degree, is gritty and real. The novel features the author and his friends as they travel around postwar America and then south to Mexico. It’s just a couple of drifters’ journey filled with booze, drugs and jazz. On the Road is an adventure on paper, it has inspired many a traveller and shows no signs of slowing down.
While Ernesto Guevara might be better known for his Marxist ideologies, there was a before Che. The Motorcycle Diaries is a memoir of Guavara’s youth as he hopped on his motorcycle and traversed South America. All that he witnessed on his journey led to his coming-of-age and shows how traveling can change people, and eventually, history itself.
The Best Book to Read Up in the Air
Surviving a long flight is no joke. While the journey is part of the adventure, being stuck in this giant metal bird can be a drag. Once you’ve exhausted the usual distractions, a good book is the only way to go. Recline your seat, get as comfortable as is possible in an economy seat and jump into this one:
Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet by Heather Poole is a dream come true for curious (read nosy) minds. Written by an actual flight attendant, this novel is a peek at what goes on behind closed (airplanes) doors. From airline crew drama to awful passengers and everything else in between, this novel will make you look at the crew with a different set of eyes. Just let your imagination run wild on what’s going on behind that dingy curtain where you saw that attendant go a minute ago.
The Best Book to Read on an Endless Layover
We’ve all been there: your flight was cancelled, you missed your connection or you saved a couple hundred bucks by picking this route. Long layovers are the not-so-fun part of travelling. After having purchased far too expensive airport food and finding a quiet spot near some outlets to hunker down, take out a paperback and escape your current reality for as long as you can.
While endless layovers aren’t the most joyous of experiences, it doesn’t hurt to try to brighten it up a little. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner does just that. This funny travel memoir is the result of a year-long hunt for happy places. With a bit of philosophy sprinkled in, this book looks at the what and the where of joy. It might not help you escape your current predicament, but it will most definitely take your mind elsewhere, somewhere happy. Once this trip is over, consider heading to Iceland next as, according to our grump, it’s one of the happiest spots.
The Best Books to Read at Sea
The gentle lapping of waves against a catamaran, a cruise ship or even a canoe is a feeling that should be experienced as often as possible. Not all travel needs to be a wild adventure, slow travel has its merits and sitting down on deck with a novel is up there in the best ways to recharge your batteries. Once you’ve found your sea legs, it’s time to dive into a story, it’s all smooth sailing from here.
For some, a spine-tingling, page-turning, nail-biting thriller is as relaxing as can be. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware is a mystery set at sea on an extremely luxurious vessel. A journalist, Lo, embarks on a week-long cruise and everything seems picture-perfect … until it no longer is. Lo is the only person to have seen a body thrown overboard, yet, everyone is accounted for. What happened here? The only way to find out is to keep reading, and doing it on a ship seems like perfection.
For the more traditional reader, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne is only appropriate to be read at sea … if you disregard the sea monsters. For a story with a bit less mythical creatures, Ernest’s Hemingway’s last novel, The Old Man and the Sea, is just what you need.
In a lifetime, there are endless journeys we can embark on. Some of those journeys require a plane ticket and some can take you worlds away with a magical combination of words on paper. The best kind of adventures however are the ones that combine both: the real and the magical. Why not make your next trip a two-for-one by packing a novel in your carry-on?
Looking to find the perfect spot to dive into your next read? A hiking trip? A beach vacation? A road trip? Or a solo getaway?
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