I love to travel during the summer- to go to places I’ve never been and to collect new and exciting experiences! Unfortunately, with my schedule I can’t always up and head to another country or continent for a couple of weeks. As much as I love taking short day trips to local sites, it doesn’t quite scratch the travel itch. Enter: books involving traveling and exotic locales. Reading is the perfect summertime activity because nothing can take you on a mental vacation quite like a good book. As the days get longer and the weather gets hotter, it’s the perfect time of year to relax and curl up in a sunny spot with a good book. To populate your summer reading list, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite summer reads to help you relax and take a mental vacation.
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
I absolutely love this book and I read it every year around the beginning of summertime. Set in the 1920’s, this book follows four unacquainted English women who are dissatisfied with their everyday lives, and who decide to rent an Italian castle for the month of April, away from their husbands, families, and anyone who knows them. Lottie Wilkins has been married only a few years, but she and her husband are rubbing each other the wrong way. Rose Arbuthnot is a highly religious lady who does extensive charity work, but is married to an author of racy popular novels who neglects her. Lady Caroline Dester is a beautiful socialite who is tired of the burden of London society and is beginning to regard her life as shallow and empty, after a man she loved died in WWI. Mrs. Fisher is a pompous, snobbish, highly proper lady who prefers to live in her memories of times past rather than embracing the present. Each experiences their own personal metamorphosis while on the trip, and along the way we get to enjoy lots of descriptions of the Italian seaside.
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path. Australia, the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. The result is a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiosity.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
If you’re really looking to escape this summer, this classic could be just the ticket – it’s basically an adventure-filled travelogue through the made-up world of Middle-earth. Originally written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
The book follows Monsieur Perdu, the proprietor of a floating bookshop on a barge in the Seine River. He purports himself as a “literary apothecary,” prescribing novels to those who frequent his shop to help sooth their hardships. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself: he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared more than a decade ago. Determined to make peace with his loss, Perdu hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France with a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef. Perdu travels along the France’s riversides, dispensing his wisdom and his books, and finding his truth along the way.
The Martian by Andy Weir
In case another country doesn’t feel far enough away to satisfy your wandering heart, this novel will bring you along for all the antics of a botched journey to Mars. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner
Weiner spent a decade as a foreign correspondent reporting from such discontented locales as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Indonesia. Unhappy people living in profoundly unstable states, he notes, inspire pathos and make for good copy, but not for good karma. So Weiner, admitted grump and self-help book aficionado, undertook a year’s research to travel the globe, looking for the “unheralded happy places.” The result is this book, equal parts laugh-out-loud funny and philosophical, a journey into both the definition of and the destination for true contentment. Apparently, the happiest places on earth include Iceland, Bhutan, and India. Weiner also visits the country deemed most malcontent, Moldova, and finds real merit in the claim. From the youthful drunkenness of Iceland to the despond of Slough, a sad but resilient town in Heathrow’s flight path, Weiner offers wry yet profound observations about the way people relate to circumstance and fate.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
If you’re looking for something to pull at your heartstrings and make you feel like an Italian vacation is in order, this is your book. Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later. The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying. The story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.
What are your favorite summer reads? Let us know in the comments below!