Books to Read on Your Next Vacation

Sometimes, choosing the book to read on your getaway is just as important as selecting the vacation destination itself. Finding the right read to have on hand at your location—for the beach, or on long train rides, to curl up with before bed, or to devour on the plane ride—has the power to transform the mood of your entire trip. There are hundreds of books—fiction and non-fiction—set in enticing, faraway lands, so we did some of the work for you.

Read It Forward

Here are some recommended books in the Southfield Public Library catalog with commentary by the article’s writer. If you don’t see a copy available, contact a librarian to place an item on hold for you!

Under the Tuscan Sun
Mayes, Frances
Warning: If you read this memoir during your trip, you might just be inspired to swap your current life for one as an expat living in an adorably cozy villa in the Italian countryside. Mayes' tale of doing just that told through lyrical prose that's meant to be read while sipping a morning cappuccino on the veranda. But the best part of Mayes' story is that its' both dream-like and real; settling into her perfect Italian lifestyle after a heartbreaking divorce requires battling loneliness, plenty of hard work, and self-discovery. Even if you don't put the book down and buy your own Tuscan home, her story will stick with you for many future trips to come.
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The Vacationers
Straub, Emma
The next best thing to reading a coming-of-age story about a family with lots of drama? Reading a coming-age story about a family with lots of drama-set in a sparkling beach town. Straub's novel takes place in the Balearic island of Mallorca, off the coast of Spain, where we meet the Post family. There are parents half-heartedly trying to save their marriage, a daughter who falls for her Spanish tutor, and a son with a less-than-liked, much older girlfriend. If that's not enough to draw you in, the author's descriptions of sunny beaches and delicious post-swim Mallorcan meals will.
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The Signature of All Things
Gilbert, Elizabeth
When you think of Liz Gilbert and travel, what most likely comes to mind is her Italy-India-Indonesia travel Memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. But her oft-overlooked novel shouldn't be missed, either. It tells the tale of Alma Whitaker, an intrepid young scholar whose passion for adventure and fierce determination were fearless for a woman in the nineteenth century. We won't give away too much, but know: This book is brimming with rich descriptions of botany, breathless explorations in South American jungles, and, at the core, the familiar, fervent search for the meaning of love and family.
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Eight Hundred Grapes
Dave, Laura
Narrator Georgia Ford grew up on her family's Sonoma County vineyard (couldn't we all be so lucky?), but as an adult who tries to set off and begin her own life, a shocking secret send her back to the same family property she thought she left behind her years ago. More secrets are revealed, family dynamics play out, love is lost and found-all with lots (and lots) of wine that might just inspire you to run to the nearest winery between chapters. Too entranced by this breezy, addictive read to leave your chair? Keep a bottle close by (trust us).
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Dreaming in Cuban
Garcia, Cristina
Now that it's a little bit easier to visit this gorgeous, stuck-in-the-50s island, it's time to go ahead and book your ticket-and if you do, tuck this novel into your suitcase. Garcia's multi-generational tale begins in the 1930s with matriarch Celia del Pino, and continues through to 1980 as her family struggles with Communism, idealism, and poverty in one of the world's most beautiful yet complex countries. And if that's not gripping enough for you, the author includes her own unique touches of magical realism throughout the novel. The only thing that might get you to put this down is an icy mojito.
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Death in Venice and Other Stories
Mann, Thomas
This novella is often acclaimed as one of the best of the 20th century, and for a good reason. It's so twisted and haunting, it's hard to summarize here without any plot spoilers, but a quick overview: The protagonist is an aging German author searching for inspiration. He heads to Venice to find it, but instead discovers a young Polish boy who changes his life. The backdrop is the cold, mysterious, and ethereal Venice, dark yet somehow so alluring that you'll sigh whenever you finish a chapter. Note to the reader: Make sure you pick a well-reviewed translation; Mann's complex German grammar makes some translations hit-or-miss.
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One Hundred Years of Solitude
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel
I don't know about you, but no matter how many time I've read this classic, I could re-read it over and over again. Even it's your first time, the celebrated Colombian author's story that follows a young boy across a hundred-year time span is un-put-downable. There's sex, family dynamics, and magical realism-all set in a hot-yet-fanciful, make-believe Latin American country. This is a vacation read at its best.
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Beautiful Ruins
Walter, Jess
We never knew we needed a book that somehow merged both the glamorous world of Hollywood with the Italian coastline-until this novel. This 1960s-set, sun-drenched story happens at the foot of the Ligurian Sea and it delivers on its title, beautifully introducing you to characters ranging from an innkeeper, an aspiring writer, a Hollywood starlet, and Richard Burton himself. Read this one slowly, you'll be aching for a sequel. (None exist yet, but there are rumors that a based-the-book film might be in the works...)
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Me Talk Pretty One Day
Sedaris, David
The droll New Yorker contributor has released many books of essays of the years that feature his smart, dry wit. But MTPOD is one of our favorites because of its hysterical take on what it's like to be a transplant in a new country-in this case, France. The collection of stories about his attempts to belong are separated into two parts: First, his childhood and early adult life in America; second, his life after a move to Normandy. During the latter, his frustrated-yet-hilarious attempts to learn the enigmatic language of French will have you laughing out loud.
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Seating Arrangements
Shipstead, Maggie
Ok, we're seeing a pattern here: Some of the best, relaxing vacation reads center on the stressful challenges of family. Go figure! Shipstead's novel about the Van Meter clan is no different, beginning on the eve of daughter Daphne's nuptials on the Nantucket-like fictional island of Waskeke. The story is mostly told through the eyes of the father of the bride, with a little help from his wife, his younger daughter, and an escaped lobster, resulting in a fast-paced drama that ends with one memorable wedding. Don't dog-ear this one too hard-you'll want to pass it on to your traveling partner when you're finished.
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All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes
Angelou, Maya
Many people remember Dr. Angelou as a brilliant writer and prolific poet, but what some tend to forget is that she is also an intrepid traveler, picking up in her early 30s and moving to Africa. This seventh volume in her collection of autobiographies begins when Dr. Angelou is 33 and has recently moved to Accra, Ghana. She narrated her encounters with romantic prospects, how she adjusts to life on an entirely different continent, and her search for connections between herself as an African-American woman and her ancestors. In the end, she returns to America, as will the reader-but like Angelou, you'll likely never forget this magical land.
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The Geography of Bliss
Weiner, Eric
The longtime NPR correspondent became a New York Times bestseller with this worldwide exploration of the answer to one question: What makes us happy? His book, divided into chapters by destination, travels to more than 30 countries, everywhere from Iceland to Moldova, to discover how these different communities define happiness. There are some countries that defy the odds-Bhutan and Qatar, both extremely hot, uncomfortable, and hard to reach, are among the happiest, while the contentment levels in places like India and England are more complex. Read this for thought-provoking commentary on the world, which will have you itching to buy a plane ticket and do some exploring of your own.
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