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My Vacation Mistake

vintage-beach

Speaking of vacations, I made a mistake last summer…

I packed a book that looked fun. It was about friendship! There were pictures of friendship bracelets on the cover! Surely, I thought, there was a feel-good story to be found inside. But, halfway through, the main character’s dog was killed in a horrible accident. I couldn’t shake the image, and I spent my last few precious days riddled with anxiety as to whether my own dog was safe back at home.

I’m not alone with my experience. Joanna read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter — a candidate for The Darkest Story Ever Told — on her honeymoon.

Since a book can dramatically change the tenor of a trip, choosing a great vacation read is as important as choosing which swimsuit to bring. But what does the ideal book look like? I would say: entertaining but not suspenseful, light but not dumb.

With that in mind, here are three books I’m excited to check out this season:

What are your recommendations for smart, fun books? What are your all-time favorite vacation reads? Are there any books you’re excited to check out this summer? We would LOVE to hear…

  1. Luckily I’ve never had that happen to me, but sometimes I’ve become so wrapped up in a book on holiday that I couldn’t put it down and I really should have been relaxing, so thank you for the advice!

    http://en.emoi-emoi.com/

  2. Mary H says...

    Has anyone read Susanna Kearsly? I read Mariana while on vacation several years ago and have been trying to recreate the experience ever since.

    • Carmen B. says...

      Just looked it up and it sounds so interesting. I’m adding it to my list.

  3. Twyla says...

    A friend who is a big reader highly recommended The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins – which I thouroughly devoured. It’s pretty amazing since it was written around the same time as Jane Eyre, but reads like a very modern mystery. It will keep you hanging until the very last page.

    • ihren says...

      I agree this book is very well written. It was originally written for a radio program and so its very compelling. I agree it feels like a modern read.

      I also liked eat pray love for a vacation read. It feel likes its great for a vacation because it gives you chance to evaluate your own life (which you have time for on a trip away), and in that way its transformative.

      For a non fiction read I also liked Full Catastrophe Living. Its an interesting read about the effects of high stress living on our bodies and health and has great suggestions about changing the way we think about life and approach stressful people.

      Sophies world would be fun for a trip to Europe. It discusses all the world philosophies in a novel form through the eyes of a young woman named Sophie. Its smart girl chick lit

      The heart of goodness (jo ann larsen) is a bit of a radical read. It is filled with hundreds of stories of people doing good for others, in a very authentic and transformative way. The stories are short and organized by subject. It changes the way you think about your relationships with people.

      Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume is a fascinating read about a fragrance and how it was used by different cultures over time. It talks about how different essential oils were procured and even teaches how to mix your own custom scents in one short section. Really great read (even though I have never worn perfume!)

      Peace Like a River is a really interesting novel that is hard to describe. The story itself is not significant its about a family with a lost member, its the journey that the characters take to find him that is really the most interesting.

  4. I really enjoyed reading The Age of Miracles – I didn’t read it on vacation, but it would be perfect.

    I’m also a fan of bringing long mass market paperback books. When we went to Mexico last year I brought the second in a fun fantasy series, The Wise Man’s Fear. Super dorky, but great for really getting engrossed in it over vacation, and it lasted the whole trip. I also have great memories of reading a Robertson Davies book, probably Rebel Angels, on a vacation in Cape Breton.

    We’re not taking any vacations this summer – does anyone have a good book recommendation for pretending to be on vacation?

    • Carmen B. says...

      Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.

  5. Maire says...

    Last year on vacation with my girlfriends at an all-inclusive in Jamaica,
    I read The Girl You Left Behind, The Paris Wife, and The History of Love. All of these reads were fantastic! Currently, I am slowly making my way through The Poisonwood Bible, and I have also become obsessed with Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories and fiction. I just read Interpreter of Maladies, which I adored, and I can’t wait to finish the Poisonwood Bible so I can start on The Namesake.

  6. i cannot not recommend where’d you go Bernadette, it’s sweet and salty and perfect for the beach. It will stay with you (in the best possible way).

    If you like the Gone Girl style, The Good Girl by Mary Kubica is terrific and twisty.

    • I second Where’d You Go, Bernadette! Such a sweet novel.

      I would also recommend anything by Marisa de los Santos (start with Love Walked In)–I guess you could consider them chick-lit but de los Santos is also a poet, and it comes through in her beautiful prose.

      And even though I’m no longer a teenager, I love YA books. All Stephanie Perkins’s novels are excellent, as are Jandy Nelson’s and Rainbow Rowell’s.

  7. Lucy says...

    Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is a great beach read! Really all her books are tailor made for light, but good, reading – but at the same time, they have some heft!

  8. Marylou says...

    Cakewalk by Kate Moses
    a good summer read :)

  9. My most favorite vacation read was The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin. It’s laugh out loud funny and tender in all the right places. It’s only issue being the perfect vacation book is that it might be a little too short for some.

    • Bridget says...

      I agree! I loved this book.

  10. Lauren says...

    Definitely a +1 on This is Where I Leave You and Where’d You Go, Bernadette? The Good Luck of Right Now was fun; quirky and at times heart breaking, engaging but not so much that you would skip out on vacation stuff to read it in your hotel room. I also loved Garlic & Sapphires, written by former NYT food critic Ruth Reichl. She talks about the NY dining scene in the early 90’s, funny disguises she would wear to review a place and interesting food industry gossip. Loved it and would’ve been great on a vacation! Lastly, I’m a fan of using vacations as an excuse to read young adult series; I’ve read all the Hunger Games books over a vacation and recently re-read Harry Potter while in the midst of a busy season of traveling for work.

  11. Lauren E. says...

    I thought I was the only one who did this! I made that mistake in high school and learned my lesson quickly.

    My favorite vacation read ever is Cooking for Mr Latte about NYTimes food writer Amanda Hesser’s courtship with her now-husband. I read it on a girls’ trip to Vegas and loved every minute of it.

  12. My book club recently read Daughter by Jane Shemilt, about a 17 year old who gets abducted – had to stop, my 18 year old daughter goes inter railing in 2 months, too scary.

  13. Mary Anna says...

    I read Gone Girl on my honeymoon last year! My husband kept asking why I was giving him side way glances while we were lounging and reading on the beach. Haha! I’ll take you up on your recommendations this year.

    I also agree with Kaitlyn re: Mindy’s book. Hopefully her new one will be out soon!

  14. Melissa says...

    I know this has already been mentioned but I wanted to chime in with one of my favorite beach reads ever, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (and its sequel, China Rich Girlfriend, coming out next month). I can’t recommend it highly enough. All of my friends have read it and loved it too. Also Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (great cover!) and coming out May 26, The Rocks by Peter Nichols (another great cover!).

    Love your book posts – keep them coming!

  15. You have a strong point here! I can see how a book can alter your vacations.! My favorite for leisure trips are any novel by Cristina Bajo (my favorite Argentine writer) I am sure you can find her books in English, especially “En tiempos de Laura Osorio” is my all time favorite.

  16. I read Eat Pray Love on my honeymoon and the novel opens with the protagonist divorcing from her husband and questioning true love.

  17. Mary says...

    I echo the love for “Beautiful Ruins.” So great.

    Every summer I re-read “Summer Sisters” by Judy Blume. It is the quintessential “beach read” in my opinion. So great. I’m looking forward to her new adult book coming out this summer – Judy can do no wrong in my eyes.

    • Christina says...

      Summer Sisters might be my all time favorite book! I haven’t re- read it in a while, but I think I need to!

  18. joana says...

    hi!
    i actually don’t mind reading “heavy” books on holidays, any kind of book is good for me, being on holidays just means i have more time to read it, whatever it is!
    last summer, for example, i read murakami’s trilogy 1Q84 and in the middle of it the fault in our stars… :)

    • Alison says...

      I agree. I recently read A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara on vacation and even though there were times I was outright sobbing (it’s a heavy, emotional roller-coaster of a read), it became such an integral part of my vacation. I will always associate that book with that trip, more so than something light and fun.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i see your points! i read Still Alice over the holidays and it was such a hazy, dreamy part of the trip.

  19. Sarah says...

    Anything by Barbara Trapido: I read Brother of the More Famous Jack and Noah’s Ark on honeymoon. Both sterling reads!

  20. “Not That Kind Of Girl” by Lena Dunham. It is insightful, funny and refreshing. It’s the kind of non-fiction that is perfect for idle moments in between swimming (when the sun is too hot!) and hanging out with your girlfriends. Her feministic ideas and experiences are worth discussing over beer perhaps?

  21. Judit says...

    I really like reading Gerald Durrell stories on vacation, especially if I’m with my family!

  22. I always take a Marian Keyes book with me when I’m on holidays. Her stories are fun, sometimes heartbreaking but always full of hope. Her books are my feel-good read and that’s why they are perfect for the holidays. And if I don’t have any new book, I take with me one that I’ve already read. I just love her!
    xx,
    E.
    http://www.theslowpace.com

  23. Charlotte says...

    I read One Day in Crete, and it was the perfect poolside & beach book. So perfect that my friend started reading it that vacation too! :) So maybe I should get his latest for my next trip.

    • Cindy says...

      hi Charlotte – who is the author? I can’t find that book title on the web…

  24. Maybe not for a vacation because this book is heartbreaking (and heartwarming!) – ‘Past the Shallows’ by Favel Parrett. I just finished this book and it has quickly become a new favourite. It is eloquent, moving, and tragically beautiful.

  25. Keri says...

    I have made that mistake before! Now I always just take a trusty favourite with me – East of Eden. An amazing read every time.

  26. Emily Kay says...

    Oh this is funny! I remember one holiday where I read The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch and it was SO DEPRESSING. Now I stick to a steady formula of fantasy novels. So much fun to read, compete escapism and a pretty low intellectual load. The cheesier the better!

  27. Rebekah Lozano says...

    Anything by Sophie Kinsella! Always hilarious and fun.

  28. Because when you go to Tokyo for 10 days with your older brother, things have to just be totally bizarre, I suppose. He was kind enough to treat me to the trip, but maintained his charming, brotherly status by giving me a book called “People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo–and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up” to read on the flight over, and then spending the entire trip teasing me about the grave danger I was in. The book is fascinating, though.

  29. Sasha says...

    I love anything by David Sedaris or Carl Hiaasen for travel. The offerings of both are funny, thought-provoking, and consistently good-quality. For those vacationing in Florida, Sick Puppy by Hiaasen may be particularly amusing. Another somewhat guilty pleasure is John Grisham, whose book The Runaway Jury was surprisingly enjoyable.

  30. Anya says...

    Another vote for Judy Bloom’s Summer Sisters! Also, Eleanor & Park and Station Eleven were my favourite new(er) fiction reads in the last few years. I also love a John LeCarre spy story (especially The Spy Who Came in from the Cold). For non-fiction: David Rakoff’s essay collections are my very favourite and I’m still upset there will never be more. Mary Roach’s books are great and make science fun, accessible and fascinating. I also loved reading Born to Run and The Sports Gene, they made me want to never stop reading them and get up and exercise all at the same time!

  31. Such a good topic! Recently, my go-to travel books have been memoirs. Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band both fit the bill. I also like to read stories about the places I’m visiting! In Amsterdam I read Anne Frank’s diary, and in Tokyo I picked up a collection of short stories by Murakami.

  32. Arliss says...

    The Time Traveler’s Wife. I read it on a long drive, and finished it right as we pulled into some little town at supper time. My husband had to drive onto the next town because I was crying too hard. It’s still one of my favorites, though.

    • One of my favorites of alllll time

  33. SilentJ says...

    I made the ultimate worst summer reading choice. I read Gone Girl on a beach while being the buffer on a vacation with my parents who had recently (and definitely not harmoniously) reconciled after an infidelity-induced separation. It was the angriest I’ve ever felt while reading… but I was so into the book at the same time that I couldn’t put it down. It was actually kind of cathartic, but defs not an ideal read. (Sorry for the over-share, but it still blows my mind and makes me laugh that I did that.)

    For anyone traveling pretty well anywhere in the Midwest/Colorado/America, I highly, highly recommend Plainsong by Kent Haruf. It is one of the most zen, peaceful books I’ve ever read. (Salon sells it much better than I do: “[it’s] like being in an expertly piloted small plane, finding yourself flying low and smooth over the suddenly wondrous world below.” Seriously.)

  34. I too loved The Glass Castle. The History of Love is also lovely. I’m in the middle of Dept of Speculation now and am already slowing down my pace as to draw it out. I adore when you write these posts! It’s so much livelier than my goodreads feed!

    • Also Shotgun Loves was great and a quick way read!

  35. Victoria says...

    I weirdly like gloomy books on vacation. I read Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose trilogy in Mexico last year, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom on my honeymoon, and Patricia Highsmith’s Two Faces of January in the Hamptons. It’s one of the few times you can really immerse yourself in the whole reading experience. Although I guess those are all a bit dark but not necessarily upsetting to the point of weeping. Secret History and Rebecca are the sort of the mood I always look for – creepy but not sad.

  36. Ellie says...

    I love short stories, and have found them to be particularly good for vacation reading. They’re dynamic and fun, and easy to put down and come back to later, if some vacation activity pulls you away. “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Adichie (who also wrote Americanah, one of my favorite books ever), “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri, “The Book of Other People” edited by Zadie Smith, and “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Seders are just a few of my favorites!

  37. Annie says...

    Anything by Marian Keyes. She is hilarious!

  38. Alison says...

    I’m excited for UNDERTOW by Michael Buckley. It’s a young adult book but like Hunger Games or The 5th Wave, adults can enjoy it too. It’s about a race of warriors who emerge from the ocean on to modern day Coney Island. It’s been called The Outsiders meets District 9. Perfect for beach reading!

  39. Jennifer says...

    I re-read Flowers for Algernon a few years ago when I was on vacation, remembering that it been a powerful read. I had forgotten how utterly bleak it was, though, and it put me in a funk that took me days to shake. Big mistake.

    One of my best vacation reads lately was Bonobo Handshake by Vanessa Woods. It’s part memoir and part zoology/anthropology text. Truly excellent.

  40. Melissa says...

    I love light-heated books for vacations. I read A Homemade Life and loved every word. But it will make you hungry. :)

  41. Erin says...

    My husband and I took turns reading Like Water for Chocolate aloud to each other on our honeymoon and it was perfect. ;)

  42. Kayla says...

    Ha, I did the same thing. I read ‘what remains’ by Carole radziwill on the beach in Mexico. It’s a pretty bleak read about Carole losing her husband around the time they lose their dear friends– JFK jr and his wife. Great book, poor time to read it!

  43. Stephanie says...

    Old Juvenile fiction faves like the secret garden, pippi longstocking, charlotte’s web,the borrowers. I can read a few chapters aloud to calm the kids if necessary and it makes me fall in love with books all over again.

  44. This. Such good advice! I always delve into the LOTR trilogy on vacation. It will be nice to try something new.

  45. I feel like Jo posted about reading a book that takes place in the country your visiting and I started doing that last year. I think it’s such a great idea. I read Burial Rites before visiting Iceland and it was such an interesting introduction to the country. But recently I visited Bali and read A Little Bit One O’clock (because I had already read Eat Pray Love) and I totally regretted it. I didn’t like the authors voice at all – in fact, I think it kind of ruined my view of the culture and I wasn’t able to have my own experience because I just had his voice running through my head the entire time!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s such a good idea! i don’t think i posted that (i can’t remember?!) but it’s a good idea because then you’re truly in that place while visiting.

  46. Anne of Green Gables. Every summer. :)

    • DITTO!

    • Rebecca says...

      best vacation read! started that tradition while vacationing in PEI! Happy to hear it’s someone else’s favorite too :).

  47. Dorothy DeMaria says...

    Recently read This is where I Leave You and thought it would make a good beach read. Funny without being stupid. Also loved All The Light We Can ot See

  48. Anna says...

    I’m in the middle of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, and I’m hooked. I just took the fourth book on a 2-week trip and it was the perfect vacation read for the long plane rides and evenings.

    Other recent vacation reads: Mindy Khaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and Bee Ridgway’s The River of No Return

  49. Tristen says...

    I read my favorites seasonally: “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the backlog of New Yorker fiction that has been on my desk for months in the summer, Toni Morrison’s “Jazz” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera” in the winter.

    Recent favorites include “All My Puny Sorrows” (sad! but beautiful!), “All the Light We Cannot See” and anything by Junot Diaz, Antonya Nelson, or Yiyun Li.

    Stop me now. I could talk books all day!

  50. Erica says...

    I read “The Vacationers” at the beach last summer. Very easy read about a family coming to terms with some changes in their lives while they vacation on an island. Not exactly the deepest or most enthralling book I’d ever read, but there was something about it being a very “summer vacation” book that was enjoyable!

    I read Tina Fey’s book, “Bossy Pants,” at the beach one summer too and that was awesome.

  51. Anna says...

    I read The Help on our honeymoon and cried so much on the plane ride home. My husband was borderline embarrassed by me bc I couldn’t hold it together on the plane! Still one of my favorites, but hilarious how certain books are better for vacations… Especially honeymoons!

  52. Rachael says...

    That’s why I always bring at least three books on a vacation! So if I don’t like the book I’m reading I can choose a different one!

    That’s funny that you mentioned ‘The Memory’s Keeper’s Daughter’, I was thinking about that book yesterday! I have to read that again.

    Gosh…Oh, I have one! I’m looking forward to reading a book called ‘China Rich Girlfriend’. It’s the sequel to a book called ‘Crazy Rich Asians’. The first book was a very funny fun read. I’m thinking that this book will be funny and fun as well! But that’s just one of many books I want to read! ‘Find Me’ is also one of my books to read as well.

    • Melissa says...

      I loved Crazy, Rich Asians!!! I’m so happy there’s a sequel!

    • Melissa says...

      I’m so glad someone mentioned Crazy Rich Asians! It’s one of my favorites of all time and the perfect beach read. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of China Rich Girlfriend and it is just as good!

  53. I made the mistake of reading “The Atonement” and watching “Marley & Me” on my honeymoon. HUGE mistake!!!

  54. Mei says...

    I’d like to plug The Three Musketeers as a perfect vacation read–it’s got it all: Romance, swashbuckling adventure, friendships, betrayals, and just plain old silliness. Don’t be put off by its size–it goes really quickly.

    (Also yet another +1 on Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and also, State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett.)

  55. Amanda says...

    Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter or The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The first, a love story set in 1960s Italy (need I say more?) and the latter, a fabulous fiction about Hemingway and his greatest love Hadley which is set in jazz age Paris. The best vacation reads!

    • Tyler says...

      Beautiful Ruins! I forgot about that book. So good. Read it while I was in Italy it was perfect!

  56. Maclean Nash says...

    Anything by David Sedaris!

  57. I love reading non-fiction, so a great beach read for me would be something like Einstein’s Riddle (a book of logic puzzles), A Little Book of Language, David Crystal (easy-to-read linguistics book), or Wheat Belly.

  58. Elizabeth says...

    Hi Joanna,

    This is unrelated to the post (although I did enjoy it! :)), but I just wanted to say that I applaud the way you integrated Caroline in your blog, you really did a great job! I’ve noticed on other blogs that when new people are introduced as editors/contributors it seems forced, but Caroline came on so organically and I really enjoy reading her posts! I just love this blog so much and Caroline really adds to the already amazing content.

    Also, this is my first time commenting, I love the redesign! It’s so much easier to leave a comment. Just saying that makes me feel lazy, but it’s the truth :) Keep up the great work ladies!

    • amanda june says...

      agree, the redesign is a big win!

    • Lena says...

      Agreed!!

    • Emily says...

      Agreed on both points!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much! what nice notes!

  59. this is such a good point! I don’t really like feel good books and I want something gripping for my vacation read. But on my recent Vaca I tried reading Girl on the Train by the pool. Some of it was making me anxious and I felt nauseous! Totally not what I want when I’m relaxing.

  60. Beth says...

    I love these suggestions! I’m graduating from college in a couple of weeks and then backpacking in Eastern/Central Europe for a month. Does anyone have any book recommendations for that part of the world in particular?

    • The Russian Debutante’s Handbook by Gary Shteyngart (comedic fiction), Street without a Name by Kapka Kassabova (memoir about the later years of socialism in Bulgaria), Bury Me Standing by Isabel Fonseca (nonfiction–albeit somewhat dated–about the many gypsy/Romani populations in the Balkans), Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles (chick lit).

    • Beth says...

      Thanks, Vonkata!

  61. The Rosie Project (so so good and there is a sequel The Rosie Effect –> haven’t read this one yet but I can’t wait!

    • Jan says...

      I almost suggested this. I really did laugh out loud. I haven’t read the sequel yet because I’m saving it for lift during hospital time this summer.

    • Rachael says...

      I loved ‘The Rosie Project’, and ‘The Rosie Effect’ was good as well! I hope you enjoy it!

    • Carmen B. says...

      Loved the Rosie Project. Haven’t read the sequel yet, but can’t wait to.

  62. Lindsey says...

    I read “Loving Frank” on our honeymoon. I finished it on a beautiful white sand beach while bawling my eyes out. I had to cleanse my palate with a Nicholas Sparks book that I found at the resort. Definitely learned my lesson and now keep it light with David Sedarias, Mindy Kahling, Tina Fey-type books. I’d much rather be bursting out laughing than bursting into tears on vacation.

    • Emily says...

      Oh my gosh, “Loving Frank”! I was SO not ready for that ending. Definitely not a light hearted vacation read!

  63. Emily says...

    Same goes for movies! I went on a romantic getaway to Mexico with my boyfriend (now husband) and he was in charge of loading movies on the iPad for the flight / late night watching. “Milk” and “The Hunt for Red October” are fine movies, but not exactly what I wanted to watch on a tropical vacation…

  64. Rachel A says...

    I’m a librarian and I love taking books on trips. One of the best trips I took was to NOLA and I packed a variety of books that were set in the city. The books and the city came alive! It’s no coincidence what I’m going to suggest, but talk to your local library. They will be thrilled to help you find the perfect read for a vacation whether it’s a beachy romance, something twisty and mysterious, or something deep and serious. Because, for real, no one’s vacation should be a bummer due to a book!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      such a good tip!

  65. Maggie says...

    My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. I couldn’t put it down on my recent vacation so I ended up reading the second book in the series, The Story of a New Name, then starting the third, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. She writes about women and friendships so eloquently. I hoghly recommend them all!

    • Caroline Donofrio says...

      Maggie – My good friend is actually reading My Brilliant Friend right now and has wonderful things to say about it. Can’t wait to check it out!

    • Emily says...

      I’m really excited to read those books – I read about them on the tournament of books and keep hearing good things. They’re on my list for this summer for sure!

  66. Ah so true. On my last holiday my very lovely friend kept trying to get me to read the book she had just finished. Involved dogs and people dying. I am sure it was a beautiful story but not what I was looking for on holiday. I am all for my light cozy mysteries.

  67. Kaitlyn S says...

    I read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me on my honeymoon and it was the best! I kept laughing out loud poolside and reading passages out loud to my husband. He didn’t think it was as funny as I did, but it put me in a great mood the entire time.

    Alternatively – our next beach vacation I was dying to read And The Mountains Echoed (by Khaled Hosseini) and it was depressing! Totally killed the mood – so I started re-reading Mindy Kaling!

    • Jennifer says...

      I love this book. I re-read my favorite essays whenever I need a pick-me-up :).

      Can’t wait for her new book — out in September!

    • Summer says...

      I read that during a trip with friends in Scotland, and had the exact same results. Because I knew they could hear me laughing between the thin walls, I’d volunteer all the funny quotes and….yeah, everyone just needs to read it. :D haha

  68. I just read “The Dog Year” by Ann Garvin, and really liked it! It was a story about overcoming grief/healing, but, miraculously, humorous! I found myself laughing at Garvin’s hilarious descriptions, and the protagonist’s snarky responses. I was able to meet the author (she’s a Wisconsinite like me!) and she is so positive and kind…made the book that much better :)

  69. E says...

    Emma Straub’s ‘the Vacationers’ is also a good bet. As is Molly Wizenberg’s ‘Delancey’.

    • Melissa says...

      I loved Delancey too! I want to go to Seattle just to eat there :)

      If you liked the Vacationers, you must read The Rocks (also takes place on Mallorca) by Peter Nichols, which is coming out the end of this month!

  70. My favorite vacation read is anything – absolutely anything – by Elin Hilderbrand. Her books are all set on Nantucket, making them perfect summer reads.

  71. Emma Balkin says...

    The Rosie Project is a great entertaining read – light but definitely not dumb!

  72. Anything by Malcolm Gladwell! Or I like to look for a “classic” that I never read in school.

  73. Rebecca says...

    haha story of my life! I have definitely done this recently… Thanks for the tips!

  74. I always go with comedy books on vacation. Think Tina Fey, Amy Sedaris, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Chelsey Handler, etc.

    There is NO WAY you will end up accidentally depressed reading any of those!

    • Caroline Donofrio says...

      Yes! That’s an excellent point. Kelly Oxford’s book is another great, funny one.

  75. lizzie says...

    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I read this on vacation in Mexico a couple years ago and it was somehow perfect. Sexy, funny, smart, intense… I spent so much time lounging, totally engrossed in the novel. It was scintillating (sexually and intellectually), provided conversation fodder, and kept me entranced the whole time. HIGHLY recommend.

  76. Ashley says...

    I’ve enjoyed Nora Ephron and David Sedaris books while on holiday.

  77. ewg says...

    My recent vacation-worthy reads:
    The Art Forger (much more enjoyable than I expected – based on the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist);
    Nick Hornby’s latest, Funny Girl;
    Rainbow Rowell’s books: Fangirl and Eleanor and Park were my favorites (plenty of teen angst);
    Megan Abbott books (The Fever was my favorite);
    If you like mysteries, the Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) mysteries are pretty good;
    and finally, for all the Veronica Mars folks, the two books that have come out recently (picking up the story where the movie left off) are much better than books based on a tv show have any right to be!

  78. Diana says...

    i second everyone on “where’d you go bernadette” and tina fey/mindy kaling.

    i recommend “big little lies” by liane moriarty (also wrote “the husband’s secret” which was great), but big little lies was hilarious!! great writing with great characters. it has humor, suspense, friendship, motherhood, romance all rolled into one.

  79. Katie says...

    I love biographies and memoirs on vacation–I loved Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill (her secret service agent!), Donnie Brasco by Joe Pistone, and Elizabeth the Queen, life of the modern monarch. I also enjoyed reading Jenna Miscavige Hill’s account of her escape from Scientology, although it was a little anxiety provoking!!

  80. Kirstin Roides says...

    I like something with “another world” feel, if you can’t match the vacation locale to the setting exactly:
    Molokai
    Love in the TIme of Cholera
    Beautiful Ruins
    A Trip to the Beach
    The Sex Lives of Cannibals
    An Embarrassment of Mangoes

    Or…something light but engaging:
    State of Wonder
    Rob Lowe Stories I tell My Friends (who knew?)
    Not a fan of Chelsea Handler’s books except the last one Uganda be kidding me….hysterical. Laughed out loud which is hard for me.

    I was in a phase for awhile where I devoured every single book written about JKF jr./Carolyn B.

    And I still remember reading Kitchen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain) for the first time in Anguilla in 2008. My husband was so jealous of me laughing and rereading….he forced me to finish it quickly so he could read it!

  81. Katie says...

    Last summer in Santorini I stopped in a really cool English bookstore called Atlantis Books where the owner suggested What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse when I asked if he had any Joan Didion (he did not). Um, neither of those were the sort of beach reading I had in mind, especially ‘Tell the Women We’re Going’ in the Carver collection….without spoiling anything, the ending was super dark and very jarring to read while my friend and I were sunbathing serenely in Amoudi Bay. I actually don’t mind slightly darker, more contemplative novels for vacation reading, but that really threw me. Of the books I’ve brought with me on other trips, I’ve really enjoyed The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., anything by David Sedaris (especially for the plane), and Lolita. I think the right book for the right vacation can make each more memorable, and then they’re always connected for you. It makes rereading those books that much more pleasurable, because it can transport you so vividly back to where you first read it. Lolita for me always conjures sipping a sunset G&T at 17 on an Athenian rooftop. I feel like this is sounding really pretentious (the Lolita anecdote is only from 4 years ago), but I seriously recommend choosing a book that you’re really excited about, rather than just something that seems light and fun. Although that can be good too! Especially when traveling gets stressy and less fun, a funny book can really help.

  82. Amy says...

    I always like reading books by local authors or books that are set in the same part of the world where I’m traveling. Michener’s books are my go-to first choices for the beach.

  83. Haha, I haven’t thought about this but this could definitely happen! I always try to pack a book for my vacations but never ended up reading it… argh :(

  84. I love Caroline’s posts – she has been such a great addition to Cup of Jo! Keep the book recommendations coming!

  85. Rachel says...

    Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen…. Funny, light, and keeps you turning the page.

  86. ya I watched THAT recent Greta anatomy on my recent vacation, and it just about ruined my week! Also I love Emily giffin books on vacay

  87. Julie says...

    i just read a book called “twenty-eight and a half wishes” and loved it. It was mysterious and suspenseful yet light. Predictable but not toooo predictable…

  88. Claire says...

    Joanna, what happened to the post tags that you had on your old design? In the past, I think a post like this would’ve been filed under “books” or “what we’re reading” but now it’s just under design? Could you bring back your old tags? I loved clicking on them to find more old posts on similar topics. :)

    • Amy says...

      Agreed, I’m a little disoriented by the new metadata scheme!

    • Hazel says...

      Totally!!

  89. Meredith says...

    “The Actress” and “Motherland” by Amy Sohn are so juicy!
    If you are in the mood for suspense and a really well told story, “The Light Between Oceans” by M.L Stedmen. Also, “Euphoria” by Lily King is insanely hot.

    • Melissa says...

      Totally agree on Amy Sohn! If you read Motherland, you have to Read Prospect Park West too. And for something similar, I recommend Triburbia by Karl Taro Greenfeld.

      I’m putting the two others you recommended on my to-read list!

  90. Amanda says...

    I am currently reading Kim Gordon’s memoir and so far I really like it.

  91. Julia says...

    I read Girl on a Train while riding a train from Portland to Seattle. It gave me so much anxiety I still think about it.

  92. Sora says...

    Believe it or not, I actually read Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley during my week-long stay in Maui (for a wedding). It’s still on my top 10 list and such a fascinating read.

    • Millie Kronsteiner says...

      I LOVE that book.

  93. Jess west says...

    I love love love when you do book posts. The best books I have read have been recommended by your readers! Thankyou

  94. Noelle says...

    I love “The Cat Who….” mysteries. I think they were written in the 70s, but there’s about 20ish books in the series and they’re all light, fun whodunit mysteries that are also quick reads, so you can read at least one on a vacation.

  95. Ingrid says...

    I love Bill Bryson’s books, and have recently read Kelsey Timmerman’s books, Where Are You Wearing? and Where Are You Eating?, both interesting and good reading while traveling. I don’t like to read good fiction on vacation, because I get too “into” it, and forget to enjoy the trip! Non-fiction gives me something to think about, but doesn’t completely take me away.

  96. Addy says...

    I always bring 1 David Sedaris book, for when I know I will want to read, but won’t be able to concentrate. Perfect for flights where I have a toddler (my own) sitting next to me.

    Ps. Thanks for adding a “reply” button to commenting. So often there are great comments on this site, just begging to start a conversation.

    • Ingrid says...

      I agree with both points: Sedaris and the ability to reply.

    • Shelley says...

      I couldn’t agree more! David Sedaris’ “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls” was a brilliant vacation read. The book of essays was laugh out loud funny, poignant and very often relatable.

  97. Abby says...

    ANYTHING by Elin Hilderbrand…but Blue Bistro is the best one. What Alice Forgot, The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies all by Liane Moriarty would be great for vacation!

    • Christina says...

      I loved The Blue Bistro – my other favorite of Hilderbrand is The Love Season – great beach read!

  98. Tyler says...

    Avoid Herman Koch!! The Dinner, or Summer House with a Swimming Pool – terrible vacation reads. Where’d You Go Bernadette is a fun one! I’m also currently reading The Husband’s Secret and while its a bit dark the story is told in a pretty lighthearted way. Seems like it would be a good vacation book. Now I need a vacation!

    • Jaclyn says...

      Oh man, I actually loved reading The Dinner on vacation! I bought it at the airport on a whim and finished before we headed home. To each, their own, I suppose.

    • Claudia says...

      I have the Summer House with a Swimming Pool sitting on my desk as we speak. Only a few pages in I can’t stop thinking about what I’ve read so far.

  99. Jaclyn says...

    I like to read a destination-based books while traveling.

    A few favorites are these:
    The Book of Tea (Kakuzo Okakura) – Japan
    My Life in Paris (Julia Child) – Provence/Paris
    Gringos in Paradise (Barry Golson) – Mexico
    A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole) – New Orleans

    • Me too! I read a stack of Sheila O’ Flanagan and Patricia Scanlan books before and during our trips to Ireland :)

  100. Laura C says...

    Since I have a Kindle, I always take with me a lot of different books. So I choose a reading by the current mood.
    Anyway, why romance is so underestimate? I love to travel to the Highlands in Middle Ages, haha
    xxx

  101. Gina says...

    I took Girl on a Train on my last getaway, and wasn’t disappointed!
    Another recommendation, if you have children, is The Willoughby’s, by Lois Lowry. A fantastical little book that you can read aloud to the entire family and all will enjoy!

  102. Jenny says...

    Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple is hilarious and so perfect for a vacation. Actually, having said that, you probably wouldn’t get to enjoy your vacation at all because you’ll be too absorbed in the book!

    • Jess west says...

      I read Bernadette on holiday with friends when I was 7months pregnant and they were mostly drunk! I have fond memories of the story against a backdrop of the beaut house we stayed at in France! Perfect holiday book

  103. Rose says...

    I just got back from my honeymoon, where I devoured The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.

    • Aidel.K says...

      I heard Meg Wolitzer interviewed on the radio and picked up The Interestings. I loved it, too.

  104. Meredith says...

    I have so done that – chosen a book based on the cover and the little write-up on the inside flap, and then cried buckets of tears or scared myself silly with a book I thought was going to be a fun story! Anyway, I liked Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (see her book Eleanor & Park for an example of my experience above! It is awesome, though.) A few from the past couple of years that I love are: Station Eleven, The Night Circus, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette? They’re all excellent!

  105. Anna says...

    Where did you go, Bernadette?- I agree with previous suggestions. Great book with intriguing story, wholesome charachters, bit dark, but also has lots of laughs, adventure and light in it.
    The Vacationers- it’s ok, certainly won’t keep you from swimming, cocktails and loved ones.

    I would recommend Summer Sisters by Judy Blume- that book is the essence of summer nights, beach houses, seasonal (and long-term) love and friendships (there will probably be some tears though).

    • Sarah says...

      I love Summer Sisters!

  106. Nina says...

    ‘The Summer Book’ by Tove Jansson is absolutely perfect, wise and beautiful – all about a little girl and her grandmother summering on a tiny Finnish island. And you could try Iris Murdoch’s first novel, ‘Under the Net’, which is really fun but thoughtful and has an excellent central canine character who (spoiler alert…) makes it through the book happily unscathed.

    • Lena says...

      The Summer Book is absolutely beautiful, I agree!

      (Btw, love the reply option on the comments).

  107. Emily says...

    By far the most sparklingly great book I read last summer was The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat Pray Love fame). It’s so enchanting and keeps you hooked in to find out where the character will be next. I might re-read it this summer too!!

  108. The Vacationers is the most recent vacation-appropriate book I’ve read. It’s light and easy, so you can set it down at a moment’s notice to go off and do other vacationy things. It’s funny in parts and a little sad/dramatic in others, but not overly so. And they’re on vacation, too, so it just has that vibe!

  109. Margaret B says...

    I had the same problem a couple years ago! I packed House of Leaves to read while traveling to see my brother in Japan. I knew it was a horror novel, and that was fine. But then a dog violently died in it ! Just out of nowhere! I was so upset. Worse, it was the only book I packed, because it was so big. I still haven’t finished it.

    On a more pleasant note, I polished off Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage on my last work trip– so engaging, and it lasted exactly as long as my 2 1.5 hr flights and one 1 hr layover.

  110. Elizabeth says...

    “Dogs of Babel” by Carolyn Parkhurst. I read it years ago and only vaguely remember it but it was really quirky and a good story.

  111. i really enjoyed This is Where I Leave You. i picked it up at the airport and when i finished it i made my husband read it too.

  112. I read the Memory Keeper’s Daughter on my honeymoon too!!! My husband found me crying on the Costa Rican beach…thank you for the advice.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha the worst!

  113. JJ says...

    I always take a Emily Giffin book. She never lets me down!

  114. Amy says...

    I’d suggest Amy Poehler, Tina Fey or Mindy Kaling’s books as being hilarious, thoughtful and fun reads for something light. I can always appreciate Anne Lamott’s work as well for something a little deeper.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      me too!! such great suggestions. also ruth reichl’s food memoirs are super funny and compelling.

    • tunie says...

      For those who like Ruth Reichel, whose books I really enjoyed for their simplicity and humor, I must recommend “Blood, Bones and Butter” by chef Gabrielle Hamilton as a great read, though actually I listened to the author read it on audiobook. Really excellent if you don’t mind a bit of urban grit!

  115. PM says...

    For me, a (good) book is a voyage all of its own. Last summer I had a staycation and read three books, and I honestly can’t remember a single thing from that week except the characters, plots, themes of those books! I guess I don’t regret it, but…

    If I’m taking a pleasure trip, I think I’ll skip the books and try to be fully present and in the moment.

    I’ll keep books as an escape – and who would want to escape from the beach or the forest or the lake? :)

    • Carmen says...

      PM – I always take a book on vacation for the plane ride, but I agree about enjoying the moment. Perhaps because I don’t travel as much as I wish I that Icould. When I do, I want to completely absorb every moment.

  116. carolanne says...

    Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

    The first of a series. It’s a mystery, the detective is an 11 year old girl, but it’s not kids/teen lit (not that I ever apologize for loving this genre). Set in 1950’s England. It’s like Veronica Mars with British wit. Flavia Forever!

    • Meredith says...

      Oh, I love this book so much, and the rest in the series too…I’m hooked!

    • Kerri says...

      Love this series! Flavia de Luce is so much fun to follow around her little post-war British town! I teach middle school science and really enjoy the characters and the science in Alan Bradley’s series.

  117. A college professor once gave me a copy of Hemingway’s “A Movable Feast” when I left on a cross-country drive, and that was the PERFECT travel book for that trip. Also, my sweetheart and I once traveled to Bali, and carried with us a huge bag of books to donate to a children’s library there. We stayed on the beach for a few days before we got to the library, and both of us loved reading some of the classic kids’ books from the bag, especially “Treasure Island.”

  118. Maybe this says something awful about me as a human, but if an author kills off an animal in a book, I am always way more upset than if a human dies. And sometimes I won’t finish the book. And I possibly regard the author with a little bitterness forever afterward.

    • Melanie says...

      Ugh! Me too! I can’t handle an animal being killed off, it will wreck me for days. They’re so innocent and sweet.

    • PM says...

      Me, too! Same with movies. I still feel a tiny bit mad at Wes Anderson for killing the dog in Moonrise Kingdom and the cat in The Grand Budapest Hotel. :(

    • Alex says...

      Ugh, same! It tears me apart! I recently wondered if I were an awful human for this exact reason.

  119. I love The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets. It’s a vibrant book (light but well-written) , a coming-of-age story of sorts set in 1950s Britain. The characters, pacing, and descriptions (of music, lush parties, and complicated relationships) are just perfect for summer.

  120. tj says...

    So true, Caroline! I recently read Wild by Cheryl Strayed… (spoiler alert?) and the image of the horse scene in that book sent me into a tailspin. I am, admittedly, a very sensitive person, but the description of that event made me feel as though I may have lost the will to live. I was in a funk for days — if I had been on vacation it would have been a complete waste.

    • Alex says...

      Oh my goodness, I was reading next to my husband when I read the horse story and COMPLETELY LOST IT. I went from zero to full on sobbing in a heartbeat, which confused the hell out of my husband. It absolutely shattered me, and it still makes me upset.

  121. Christy says...

    I loved reading The Kitchenhouse–dark, but thought-provoking and intriguing. I also love rereading To Kill a Mockingbird!

  122. Celeste says...

    Last year while on the beaches at Barcelona I finished “The Book Thief.” That was a big mistake. I was crying all over my beach towel, trying to hide my face under my floppy hat and red eyes under my sunglasses.

    Nora Ephron’s essays, “Why I feel bad about my neck” would be a great vacation read! Also, Mindy Kaling, Amy Pohler and Tina Fey’s autobiographies would be great. I like to laugh on the beach (instead of cry).

    • Claire says...

      I definitely echo the Kaling, Poehler, Fey sentiment – they’re so funny to read. Last year while traveling I loved listening to B.J. Novak’s book of witty essays “One More Thing, Stories and Other Stories,” read aloud by Novak and a myriad of funny people. I also read “The Book Thief” on that trip, but, strangely, it didn’t have the power of bringing the mood down. The power of Paris and Edinburgh, I suppose!

    • Ha. I read The Book Thief on a flight… I don’t remember where I was going, but I do remember sobbing, like ugly, can’t stop even though I’m trying to stop, crying. And to make matters worse, I was in the middle seat. The lady next to me looked at me sympathetically (while also probably wondering WHAT was wrong with me!) and offered me her magazines. I took solace in the nothingness of Us Weekly and People.

      Lesson learned: do not read tragically sad books while on a plane.

  123. Lauren says...

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I am leaving tomorrow morning for a work trip to Key West without my husband and toddler. I will have time for reading! And I didn’t want anything stressful! Thanks for the recommendations.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      how fun! what an awesome place to have a work trip. i also loved glass castle, although i think everyone’s probably read it by now!

  124. First time I read The Time Traveler’s Wife I was on vacation in London. Cut to me, bawling my eyes out on a bench in Regent’s Park. No regrets.

    • Kerri says...

      I read that book in London too- and loved every minute of it!

  125. Pretty much anything by Mary Roach! She writes research-based non-fiction about topics in science which have been sorely under-discussed. The best part, they are hilarious, silly, honesty, and witty! I recommend Stiff or Bonk to begin with, but all of her stuff is fantastic.

  126. Sarah says...

    (Caroline, do you have a goodreads account? Have you considered making a Cup of Jo one If you don’t already have a personal account, both of you are always reading interesting books).

    I read The Kite Runner on a romantic getaway to Bali. I was weeping on the beach. I just finished Find Me and to honest with you, I really did not enjoy it. I think her style is better suited to short stories and the plot fell apart in the second half.

    I’m currently on a mini break and trying to read Middlemarch for the first time, which is surprisingly hilarious but requiring a little more brain power than I’d like to use on my downtime. Books I’ve loved recently rgat would make great reads this summer : Euphoria by Lily King, Mandel’s Station Eleven, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Rules of Civility, Life After Life… Jeez there are way too many! My TBR list for summer 2015: The Moor’s Account, The Nightingale abd Hausfrau.

    • Emily says...

      I read the Kite Runner on a romantic trip to Hawaii! I’ll never forget sitting on that gorgeous beach with tears silently streaming down my face and my heart in a zillion pieces.

    • Jan says...

      I second Station Eleven.

  127. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan…all great books!

  128. Tessa says...

    The Shellseekers by Rosamunde Pilcher is a luscious & descriptive family saga. Oldie but a goodie.

    • Cammie says...

      I was going to say Shellseekers! One of the great beach reads. I re-read it every few years.

    • I am so happy to see other “Shellseekers” fans. It was always my mother’s favorite book, and it has surely become mine as well! As of right now, its the only book I bring on vacation. It relieves the stress of looking for that perfect, relaxing read. I already know I love the story; I love to read it again and again. Problem solved!

    • Lori H says...

      YAY Shell Seekers! I have read it many times – perfect! Another favorite by her is Winter Solstice, but it is best read near Christmas time :)

    • Bethany says...

      LOVE LOVE LOVE (!!!!) Shell Seekers! One of my other Rosamunde Pilcher favorites is Coming Home. Oh man, it’s time for a re-read!

  129. Amy H. says...

    P.G. Wodehouse! Always and forever!

  130. Laura says...

    I LOVED Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. A little family drama, a little romance, a little mystery, and a LOT of crazy rich lifestyle fantasy. It was a delightful read and escape.

  131. Sara H. says...

    I love it when the book I read coincides with the place I’m visiting. For my honeymoon to Seattle, my sister-in-law gifted me the book, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” Which also is set in Seattle. It was fun to see the sights the book mentioned, it really came alive. Not to mention, the book is witty and entertaining, light but clever. The author, Maria Semple, has written for several hilarious television shows, including Arrested Development and Ellen. It’s great!

    • I second this rec. Someone gave me a copy of this book, and I read it on a road trip to visit family. It was actually the first time we had been back to visit family after the funeral for my young niece. Just driving the same roads again were so hard – it was such an emotional journey for us because the last time we had driven that way had been at nighttime, and in those initial stages of intense shock and grief.

      For the first hour we just drove and cried. I pulled out this book and started to read it aloud, in the same way that my husband and I used to read books aloud on road trips. It helped us pass the hours on that difficult trip home. A good combination of humor and darkness – not just fluff, but light enough for a happy vacation or even a more difficult journey.

    • Katrina says...

      I love that too! I read a Tale of Two Cities when I went to London and Paris. Perfume when I went to the rest of France, all the Marquez books when I lived in the Caribbean, Wild when I went to California, etc.
      You also have to make sure your books aren’t too engaging… Last summer we made the mistake of bringing Gone Girl on vacation and we didn’t (especially my fellow) socialize with the people around us because we just wanted to read!

    • Jan says...

      I also enjoyed this book, and I agree that reading books that mention places I intend to visit really enhances the trip. My daughter and I read Eugenia Price’s St. Simons Trilogy and then visited. What fun!

  132. Rachel says...

    The Kate Daniels novels by Ilona Andrews. They are FANTASTIC any time of year but they would be a fun read for a vacation. Also the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich :) they are laugh-out-loud funny.

  133. Fernanda says...

    I’m surprised to know you have time to read at all! Enjoy your vacation :)

  134. Allison says...

    Pretty much anything by Sharon Shinn or Georgette Heyer.

  135. I think Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver is the perfect vacation book. It’s set in summer, has beautiful descriptions of nature, and it’s about the seasonal love in the air. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt is an absolutely delightful tale of an outsider learning about Savannah locals.

  136. jill c. says...

    i can so relate to this! i went on a trip years back and brought ‘the lovely bones’ with me b/c everyone said i had to read it. I had no idea what it was about so when i started reading it I couldn’t stop. It ended up giving me so much anxiety that every night all i could do was dream about trying to help that poor girl. It didn’t help that my relatioship at that time was also on the rocks – i swear i was completely depressed that whole week!

    on another note – i loved reading the “the history of love”….

    • The History of Love is my all-time favorite book! I’ve read it many times… it’s just so beautiful and you see new little things each time you read it.

  137. Samantha says...

    Oh, this is so timely and relateable. We’re not going on vacation any time soon but I just had my first child a few months ago and I desperately need safe, light, “not dumb” book recommendations. I thought it might be a good time to finally pick up Grapes of Wrath – horrible idea. Couldn’t get through it. There’s only so much you can take with a helpless baby sleeping in your lap.

  138. I’m currently reading “The Royal We”–by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan of Go Fug Yourself–and it’s the perfect vacation read; it’s light and fast-paced but also smart and snarky. Plus Cocks and Morgan, as those who read their site know, are just good writers. Highly recommend!

    • Kay says...

      I was just going to suggest this! +1!!

    • Danielle says...

      Yes!! The Royal We was fantastic- I’ve read it twice already. The characters are sharp and funny and there are plenty of complications that make the story intriguing. Even if you aren’t Kate & Wills fans, this is a very fun read.

      Plus as a long time reader of their blog, I love all of the inside jokes that The Fug Girls put in! It felt like reading a book your best friend wrote

  139. Kelly says...

    My Notorious Life was a great (recent) vacation read. The Andy Cohen Diaries too – like eating handfuls of sugar.

  140. Amy says...

    I have made this mistake many times! I always find all of Emily Giffins book perfect light vacation reading- her prose is smart and her characters well-developed, but all of her books have a “glossiness” that’s really great for vacation reading.

    Other smart, but glossy reads: Where’d You Go Bernadette (Maria Semple), The Vacationers (Emma Straub), Beautiful Ruins (Jess Walter).

  141. mandy says...

    I’d suggest Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead — I read it on our summer trip last year when we did a safari in Botswana and spent time in Cape Town. I liked it so much I gave it to my mother when I finished it. I highly recommend it!!

    • Meredith says...

      I definitely agree! All the romance and the ballet! Such a good story.

  142. Stephanie Funk says...

    I know this problem! Just read An Untamed State by Roxane Gay while I was on vacation in Oahu (which is a fairly graphic story about a woman who is kidnapped in Haiti). Wouldn’t say it ruined my trip, but it was definitely disorienting to look up from this terrifying book and find myself on some amazing beach surrounded by kids in snorkel gear. Despite that, the book was so gripping I couldn’t put it down.

  143. Addie says...

    in the same vain I read “Marley and Me” on my honeymoon – I was sobbing on the beach at an inclusive honeymoon resort and everyone walking by thought my new husband had been terrible to me…he still tells the story. I like to remind him he was reading “A Clockwork Orange”.. I ended up finishing the book in our room so others wouldn’t see! It didn’t ruin the trip but it wasn’t the best honeymoon beach read :)

  144. Oh man, this post is so true! A couple times I totally nailed it: reading Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me” on my honeymooon–perfect for unwinding after all the wedding stress. And I have such fond memories of reading Anne Lamott’s “Traveling Mercies” on my first trip to Israel many moons ago. Julia Child’s “My Life in France” memoir is perfect for vacationing (or for a staycation) as well.

  145. Carrie says...

    I take vacations to get away from my life as “an adult” therefore, I like to read children’s lit classics whilst on vacation. Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, An Episode of Sparrows, etc.. There are so many that they are fun to revisit. I sometimes read a children’s lit book from The New York Review Children’s collection as well.

    • B says...

      What a wonderful idea! I’m putting your advice to use on my next flight.

    • Laura C says...

      Carrie, I finished yesterday “Anne of Green Gables” for the first time and I think that it’s a delightful reading.

    • Anna says...

      Yes! Summer house and summer evenings- perfect place and time to reread childhood clasics- Anne series and Lindgren’s We on Seacrow Island (or Seacrow Island) about family that spends their vacations on a small island- really lovely and funny book.

  146. lizzie says...

    anything by elin hilderbrand i find can be a great vacation read! some of them are darker than others but the characters are so relatable and likeable and every store takes place on nantucket making the vibes extra summery. My favorites from her :
    The Castaways (abt a group of adult friends and two of them die in a mysterious accident)
    Silver Girl (wife of a character who seems to be based off of bernie madoff has to figure out how to get on with life)
    The Love Season

    • Bethany says...

      I totally agree! I love Elin Hilderbrand for vacation :). I read “Those Who Save Us” by Jenna Blum on my honeymoon, which is a pretty dark and emotional Holocaust story about how far a mother will go to protect her child. It’s a really compelling read, but not honeymoon appropriate. I had extremely disturbing dreams over the entire trip. Lesson learned – I will stick with Elin Hilderbrand and similar from now on :)

  147. MSR says...

    I just read Find Me– I love Laura Van Den Berg– but I wouldn’t recommend it for a vacation! It’s very sad and maybe the most piercingly lonely book I’ve ever read.

    My favourite recommendation for a vacation book is The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. It’s got everything: snooty college cliques, drugs, sex, murder, bacchanals. It’s absorbing but readable, and not too long. My other favourite is The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy, which is ideal to take on a European vacation.

    • Sarah says...

      I second The Secret History! It’s my favorite book.

  148. Eda Lepucki says...

    I liked Find Me–I blurbed it, in fact! But it’s also quite dark, just so you’re warned. I find that most character-driven novels are!