Vacation is one of the few times that we can lose ourselves in a good book with no pressing deadlines, interminable meetings, or mandatory office lunches to distract us. However, after choosing a vacation destination (The Riviera? The Desert? The Big Apple?), a hotel, and figuring out what to pack and what to put on the itinerary, decision fatigue may have set in. Even in daily life, choosing a new book can be downright exhausting.
If you find yourself with book-buying paralysis while standing in the middle of a packed bookstore, we’re here to help. We’ve sorted out 17 different vacations—from trips to Spain to solo adventures, family outings, and beach weeks—and matched them with the perfect reading material. That’s one less decision to make before your trip.
Read: The “Neapolitan” trilogy by Elena Ferrante. This haunting novel has set the literary world ablaze and will get your imagination running.
Other books to add to your Italian reading list include “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter, set on the Ligurian coast, Delia Ephron’s “Siracusa,” which follows two families on their journey through southern Italy, or Cornelia Funke’s young adult novel, “The Thief Lord,” which offers a view of the darker side of Venice. For a more classic read, try E.M. Forster’s refined love story, “A Room with a View.”
Read: “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The award-winning book tells the story of Nigera’s Biafran wars as told by five memorable characters.
Other options would include Beryl Markham’s “West with the Night,” the memoir of the aviatrix and adventurer who grew up in Kenya, or “Homegoing”—the debut novel by Yaa Gyasi, which is set in West Africa. For a non-fiction choice, try Peter Allison’s memoir/guidebook, “Don't Run, Whatever You Do: My Adventures as a Safari Guide.”
Read: “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Set in 1940s Barcelona, the thriller revolves around a secret rare book repository and a special book that sends a boy into the heart of a deep mystery.
It’s also hard to go wrong with the classic “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway or Spanish Nobel Laureate Camilo José Cela’s “The Family of Pascual Duarte.”
New York City Vacations
Read: “Brooklyn” by Colm Toibin, which tells the story of an Irish immigrant trying to find her own American dream in 1950s Brooklyn.
For a more classic New York City read, try F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Beautiful and the Damned” or Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence.” For a grittier look at the city, try Richard Price’s “Lush Life,” which reads like a Law & Order episode, Jay McInerney’s “Bright Lights Big City,” or Patti Smith’s memoir, “Just Kids,” which shares stories from her life coming up in the NYC art world alongside Robert Mapplethorpe.
Read: “Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood” by Fatima Mernissi. As the title suggests, the riveting, illuminating memoir recounts Mernissi’s childhood spent in a harem in Morocco in the 1940s.
If you want to add to your reading list, try Paul Bowles existential classic, “The Sheltering Sky” and Annie Hawes’s travelogue, “A Handful of Honey: Away to the Palm Groves of Morocco and Algeria.”