It’s already July 23, and we need to have a talk: Have you taken a summer vacation yet? Seriously…have you? For real, Americans are notorious for this gross oversight. Yes, sure—we don’t get enough vacation days in general, but if you’re not taking the ones you DO have, then we don’t have a leg to stand on collectively as a society. I mean, we all want to be like Europe, right, where they get approximately 200 days off per year (just an estimate)? So in order to accomplish this task, we all need to work together to stop working (for at least a week, that is).
To help, here’s a list of vacations AND the books you should bring to each. So go forth! Pack a suitcase full of books and travel-sized shampoos! Live a life of temporary leisure, you won’t regret it! Europe: we’re coming for you:
Camping, Mountains, Wilderness
You + nature + books + maybe animals(?) = never a bad idea, and always a great idea. Whether you’re in the mood to check out from civilization, or simply find yourself wrapped up in nature’s loving arms, we’ve got a few titles on our list to remind you not to get too big for those Eddie Bauer britches—plus a few that’ll warm your heart and make you laugh. Still…leave room for a map. And a compass. And a tent. Let’s not be too cavalier where bears are concerned, okay?
- Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
- Brokeback Mountain, by Annie Proulx
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
- White Fang, by Jack London
- The Fifth Wave, by Rick Yancey
As long as no one gets Legionnaire’s Disease, cruises are basically floating barges of people in surf shorts Wang Chung-ing it 24/7. Morning buffets, alcohol, several pools, afternoon buffets, karaoke, volleyball, evening buffets, pineapples, off-off-Broadway-quality entertainment, midnight buffets. What more could a human want, really? (Enough lifeboats for everyone, if we’ve learned anything from Titanic—but besides that, LITERALLY nothing, because there’s a really high chance you’ll be allowed to wear a captain’s hat.) Bookwise? Anything goes.
- The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen
- Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
- Certain Girls, by Jennifer Weiner
- Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
Whew! If these walls, columns, churches, city squares, statues, monuments, battlefields, paintings, quilts, broken bells, buildings, gargoyles, fountains, parks, murals, sculptures, ruins, theaters, old wooden ships, lighthouses, walled cities, medieval castles, and artifacts could talk, right? The world’s got stories to tell! Which is crazy. These books will get you in the mood to explore, uncover some ancient mysteries, and maybe make a few stories of your own.
- The Ruins, by Scott Smith
- The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
- The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
- Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown
- Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
Every city has a vibe all its own. Cities are like little pockets of magic where everyone dresses really cool and you’ve got all the culture and history you could possibly want right at your fingertips (and all the culture and history you never knew you wanted). Plus, in the summertime most cities smell like hot garbage, which is special.
- The City and the City, by China Miéville
- The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon
- The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
- 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami
- Franny & Zooey, by J.D. Salinger
Some of these novels are set at the beach, some merely mention the beach (maybe?), and others are flashy pieces of glitter that have basically nothing to do with the beach. Surprise! It doesn’t matter. A good beach read only requires an engrossing plot that hooks you immediately, because what do we want? To devour a story while sitting under an umbrella and drinking the rosé we’re hiding in our travel coffee mug. And when do we want it? Now.
- Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
- Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
- This is How You Lose Her, by Junot Díaz
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
- Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann
We’ve already covered the fact that eating out solo is basically the best thing that can happen to a book lover, but going on a trip solo? With no one else’s clipboard of fun to follow? You’ll be reading in bed, at dinner, on a bench, under the moonlight, in a box, with a fox, here, there, everywhere. Bring eight books with you. Bring ten. You’re on a solo vacation—you’re not there to make friends.
- The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
- Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
- A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
- Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed
- The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
This is a time for self-reflection, meditation, and getting the knots rubbed out of your shoulders by a trained professional. Wrap up your hair. Eat fresh fruit. Drink green tea. Breathe. Dance like no one’s watching. You get the drift. This collection of books will help you get into the right mindset to find yourself if you’re lost; and if you’re not lost, then it’ll be the right thing to read while you’re getting your feet massaged or your dead skin cells scraped off.
- The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, by Deepak Chopra
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, by Robert M. Pirsig
- Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
- One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez
Adventure (outback, safari, joining the circus, etc.)
So you wanna live in a treehouse for a few days? DO IT. You have the heart of a lion! This portion of the list runs the gamut from taking down a government conspiracy to swimming with alligators, so you can take your pick of which adventure you’d like to accompany you on your adventure. We’ll be over here, reading quietly in a non-dangerous place.
- The Constant Gardener, by John le Carré
- Swamplandia, by Karen Russell
- The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
- Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen
- Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
As long as you’re not the driver and you don’t get carsick, you can put away a million books while you’re on the open road. Just be sure to look out the window every once in a while to take in the glorious scenery, and to maybe keep your eyes peeled for a Sonic. Plus, you can pretend to be a moody teenager who has big plans (BIG ONES), if only you could get away from your stupid family.
- On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
- The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Killing Yourself to Live, by Chuck Klosterman
Home alone? You’ll wanna laugh. Or cry. Mostly laugh. But maybe cry a little while you look at yourself in the mirror? That’s something some of us might do when we’re alone. No big deal or anything. In any case, you’ll be free to feel all the feelings you wanna feel because you’ll be all wrapped in your enduring solitude. Enjoy your vacation from other people!
- Bossypants, by Tina Fey
- Naked, by Dave Sedaris
- The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
- The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
- Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs
What are you packing to read during your next vacation?