We normally lose ourselves in page-turning thrillers, gripping tell-alls, and can’t-put-them-down books on holiday, but who says you have to save those feel-good reads for vacation?
Getting stuck into a novel that’ll transport you to faraway places through powerful prose and riveting storylines is one of the best (and cheapest) forms of escapism, especially in a time when so many of us are bursting with wanderlust and patiently waiting to travel again after a lengthy hiatus.
It doesn’t matter if your reading locale is a quiet corner of your backyard, a local beach, or your living room couch — these books will whisk you away to far-off destinations and make you feel like you’re embarking on a big adventure (even if you can’t travel just yet).
If you’d rather be in Europe right now, read:
1. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
Taking place in the dreamy Italian Riviera, this coming-of-age story focuses on the love affair between 17-year-old Elio and Oliver, a graduate student and summer guest at Elio’s parents’ villa. The duo’s sudden and fiery romance takes centre stage, but this captivating novel also touches on everything from acceptance to identity and family.
2. Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
England, royalty, and an unexpected fling — it doesn’t get more escapist than Royal Holiday.
Tagging along on a work trip to the UK with her daughter, Vivian finds herself face-to-face with a charming and handsome man named Malcolm (who also happens to be the Queen’s private secretary). Sparks start flying instantly, and their flirtatious banter quickly transforms into a full-fledged holiday romance. The only problem? Vivian’s return flight back to the US is looming, and time is ticking on their steamy affair.
3. From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke
Eat, Pray, Love isn’t the only memoir that’ll have you wanting to run off to Italy to find yourself. From Scratch chronicles a tumultuous story of love, loss, and grief, set against the lush Sicilian countryside. Several poignant messages — including what it means to fight for love, and the healing powers of food and family — shine through the book’s luminous prose.
If you’re pining for a tropical, beachy vacay, read:
4. The Last Resort by Marissa Stapley
If you’ve seen the 2009 rom-com Couples Retreat, this storyline might sound familiar: Two celebrity therapists lead a beautiful retreat at a luxurious resort in the Mayan Riviera for couples on the brink of marriage meltdown. The plot takes a turn when a deadly hurricane descends on the coast, leaving guests trapped at the resort as hidden secrets begin bubbling to the surface.
5. Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras
When social media influencer Sara Vance’s boyfriend cancels last-minute on her family vacation in Florida, she recruits Luis Navarro — a firefighter and dive captain — to act as a stand-in and play the role of her (fake) fiancé.
A fun and flirty story set in Key West, Island Affair has all the makings of a guilty pleasure holiday read, with plenty of humour and relatable family dynamics thrown in for good measure.
If you’re dreaming of a city getaway, read:
6. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Experience the glamour and grime of New York City through the eyes of Vivian Morris, a 90-year-old woman who spent her formative years immersed in NYC’s theatre world throughout the 1940s.
Looking back on her life, Vivian describes her journey of self-discovery in the Big Apple as a naive nineteen-year-old — which involves a whole host of quirky characters and carefree adventures, from eccentric showgirls to all-night parties and an exciting love affair.
7. Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
A dual timeline story, Next Year in Havana unfolds in two different time periods: 1958 and 2017. The modern-day plot focuses on Marisol, a Cuban-American woman who travels to Havana to explore her roots (and ends up unearthing a family secret in the process). The alternate storyline centres around Marisol’s grandmother, Elisa, and her experiences living in Cuba at the time of the revolution.
Part historical fiction, part sweeping love story, this immersive novel reveals a saga of hope, courage, love, patriotism, and — above all else — the story of Cuba and its people.
8. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
Prefer a good fantasy novel over chick-lit or easy beach reads? Look no further than this book.
In The City We Became, five people must join forces to stop an ancient evil that threatens to destroy NYC. Equal parts urban fantasy and an ode to New York City, Jemisin’s immersive novel will draw you in with a tremendously interesting storyline and vivid imagery, while simultaneously speaking to timely themes of race and oppression.
If you’re ready to jet off to just about anywhere, read:
9. Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Following protagonist Arthur Less as he struggles to come to terms with his looming 50th birthday and a painful breakup, this book will take you on a round-the-world journey to places like Berlin and Morocco, India and Paris. A slew of adventures and misadventures unfold throughout his whirlwind travels, and he discovers more about himself than he ever thought possible.
A satirical comedy filled with lyrical, thought-provoking prose, this book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2018.
10. How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior
Take a literary journey to the ends of the Earth through How the Penguins Saved Veronica, a novel that’s oozing with charm and will have you smiling from ear to ear.
After seeing a moving documentary about penguins, 84-year-old Veronica decides to bequeath her fortune to the colony of birds — and travel to Antarctica to meet the scientists who study them. Her icy persona quickly thaws as she helps the team rescue an orphaned baby penguin, and she begins to learn what family, love, and connection truly mean.
See Also: The Best Travel Books, Ranked