Destination Novels for Your Summer Vacation

August 3, 2016

Hoping to escape somewhere exotic, peaceful, or exciting? While away your summer days with one of these novels set in destination locations.

staycation novels

Italy (and Hollywood!): Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Visit the 1952 Italian coast and modern-day Hollywood in Jess Walter’s dreamy novel Beautiful Ruins, which opens with a love affair on the coast of the Ligurian Sea, and reignites the romance fifty years later in a movie studio backlot. The novel follows a cast of characters through the joys and challenges of the artistic life, and was described by the New York Times as “a monument to crazy love.”

Japan: Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima

Explore early 20th-century Tokyo and the inner circles of the Japanese social strata in Mishima’s complex and poetic Spring Snow, the first of a tetralogy that spans from 1912 to 1975. Full of young love, blackmail, and political intrigue, the story raises the tension between old aristocracy and new-money families, and provides insight into the westernization of Japanese society.

Greece: Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy

A taverna in Greece is the meeting place for four travelers on holiday from England, Ireland, Germany, and America, each carrying their own burdens, all thrown together by one town tragedy. A charming, breezy novel that features newly formed bonds of friendship between diverse characters, this book will fill your craving for a light beach read.

Africa: Come to Africa and Save Your Marriage by Maria Thomas

This collection of fourteen short stories explores the adventures, challenges, and misunderstandings of American expatriates who have journeyed to Africa. Called a “paradox of suffering and eerie beauty” by the LA Times, the collection focuses on the search for identity in a land and culture that is far removed from the American travelers, but illuminative all the same.

Spain: All That Followed by Gabriel Urza

If you’re looking for something politically relevant, try this grim tale of a small town in the Basque region of Spain, where the residents must come to terms with their violent past in the shadow of the horrific Madrid train bombings. This prismatic novel especially deals with the memories of the main characters, and events coloring the lenses through which they view the world.

Turkey: A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk

Pamuk’s masterful epic tells the story of an unfortunate street vendor who has come to adore the diverse and lively city of Istanbul. Themes of love, longing, and mental separation weave into this melancholy story that is grounded in the life and history of Istanbul, the birthplace of the Nobel-Prize winning author, Orhan Pamuk.

Caribbean Islands: Ode to a Fish Sandwich by Rebecca M. Hale

Looking for a short, quirky yarn? Try this tale of a young man who heads for the Caribbean on a solo honeymoon after being rejected by his bride, and ends up with a series of adventures and a new favorite meal at a local restaurant: a fish sandwich. Humorous, quick, and offbeat, this will make for a fun read while dreaming about island vacations.

English Countryside: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

Described by the Washington Post as “a novel to cure your Downton Abbey withdrawal,” this WWI tale is set in a Sussex coastal town rich with sophisticated British customs. It mixes small-town society with wartime reality through the story of a beautiful young teacher who comes to the town to teach Latin, and is thrown into the fraught period before the First World War.

India: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Lovers of magical realism and allegory will enjoy this historical fiction set at the transition into India’s independence and partition. The story will take you all over the Indian subcontinent, letting you dive into Indian culture and history. Saleem and 1,000 other children were born at the exact stroke of midnight on the day of India’s independence—and possess supernatural powers. Saleem also finds that the course of his life mirrors the course of his country, for better or worse.


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